When most people think of anime, they imagine expansive action-packed works like the Naruto series, One Piece and the Dragon Ball franchise. However, when new anime watchers gradually become more interested in the media and start exploring sites like MyAnimeList, it’s easy to discover thousands of anime that do not fall under the action or shounen category that is generally marketed to male viewers. Outside of shounen, another category of anime is shoujo, which generally targets female viewers. However, outside of the two main genres, there are thousands of anime that fall under other categories that are perfect for any niche.
I first discovered anime from my older brother, who was watching Naruto on Cartoon Network, when I was four years old. By the time I was in elementary school, I became a full-blown otaku: I watched at least one episode before going to school, doodled anime characters on the side of my schoolwork and read my favorite series’ light novels. However, because I was so open with my passion for anime, many of my classmates teased and made fun of me, so I learned to repress it and, at one point, stopped watching anime.
After years of becoming more comfortable with myself, I started watching anime again, and I picked up right where I left off. Now, as anime becomes more mainstream, I’m excited to discuss and recommend some of my favorite shows to those who are interested.
Toradora! focuses on the lives of high schoolers Ryuuji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka, who is also known as the Palmtop Tiger for her fiery personality. Like many rom-com and slice of life anime, Toradora! follows Ryuuji and Taiga’s everyday lives as well as their friends’ lives, specifically their friendships and romantic relationships, with light-hearted and comedic scenes that never fail to put a smile on your face.
For new anime watchers, Toradora! is beginner friendly, and I recommend it to all who want to explore anime outside of the shounen and action genres.
- School Babysitters (Gakuen Babysitters)
If you ever need a pick me up, Gakuen Babysitters is the perfect show to watch! The anime follows recently orphaned Ryuuichi Kashima and his younger brother Kotarou as they live with their new caretaker Youko Morinomiya, the chairwoman of an elite academy. As part of their responsibilities of living with the chairwoman, Ryuuichi must partake in the school’s babysitter club that cares for the academy staff’s toddlers.
Gakuen Babysitters is a great show if you’re just beginning to watch anime, and it’ll definitely put you in a great mood! Plus, in my opinion, the adorable animation and aesthetic are enough alone to watch the show. If you aren’t convinced you should watch it yet, here’s the opening song.
- Cells at Work! (Hataraku Saibou)
When we study biology, outside of the usual notes and PowerPoints, we’ll often turn to YouTube videos like Crash Course. However, I bet you never thought to watch anime to study the human body.
Cells at Work! depicts the body’s cells as personified characters that work vigorously 24/7 so that the body can function. It follows the daily tasks of the clueless Red Blood Cell AE3803, as she gets lost delivering oxygen and other nutrients, and her companion White Blood Cell U-1146, who works hard to fight any germs that invade the body
Despite being an anime, Cells at Work! accurately depicts the human body’s daily functions in a cute and fun way that will teach you a few things about biology while keeping you entertained. It’s currently available on streaming platforms like Netflix and Crunchyroll. I highly recommend this show to any new anime watcher that wants to explore beyond general action anime.
Most anime in the slice of life genre focus on high schoolers’ daily lives and relationships. However, Nana is different. It is one of the few anime that depicts adult relationships realistically and humanly.
It follows the story of two girls, Nana Komatsu and Nana Osaki, who are opposites of one another. Nana Komatsu, also known as Hachi, is a naïve, hopeless romantic that follows her boyfriend, Shouji, to Tokyo. In contrast, Nana Osaki is a headstrong punk rock vocalist that travels to Tokyo to further her career as a musician in her band, Black Stones (Blast). They coincidentally meet on the same train bound for Tokyo and become roommates in the city.
Although Nana is an older anime – it was released in 2006 – it is still one of the most beloved manga series to date. Many claim it’s an instant classic because of its realistic themes, characters and aesthetics. I highly recommend Nana to any anime watcher that wants to enjoy an amazing story with a beautiful soundtrack about two young women attempting to find their way in the world as adults.
- Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
In the anime community, Anohana holds a special place in many fans’ hearts. Anohana follows the story of a recluse high schooler named Jinta Yadomi. On a summer day, his deceased childhood friend Meiko Homma (known as Menma) appears and asks him to grant a forgotten wish.
In the beginning, he thinks that Menma is a hallucination brought about by the summer heat, but he later realizes that she is indeed real. Jinta reunites his and Menma’s childhood friend group in hopes of achieving Menma’s wish.
Anohana is a beautiful anime that discusses themes like loss and decaying friendships in a realistic, simplistic, and almost childlike manner. Each of Menma’s childhood friends dealt with her death as kids in different ways, and that carried on to their adolescence.
Anohana is currently available on Netflix and Crunchyroll, and it’s definitely worth a quick binge. However, if you do watch it, I recommend having a box of tissues nearby.
- Wotakoi: Love is Hard for an Otaku (Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii)
If you’re already familiar with anime and otaku culture and want to watch a show about otakus, Wotakoi is the perfect anime for you. It follows the story of Narumi Momose, a salarywoman hiding the fact that she is an otaku that started working at the same job as her childhood otaku friend, Hirotaka Nifuji. The anime follows their day-to-day lives as well as the lives of their two colleagues, who are also otakus.
Wotakoi is only 11 episodes long on Amazon Prime Video, but it’s definitely worth a watch whether you want to binge it or watch it in moderation. Its lighthearted and joking atmosphere is refreshing to watch because, at the end of the day, it is about four friends that love anime and otaku culture and want to share it.
Because Wotakoi features numerous anime references and jokes, it may appear intimidating to a new anime watcher, but if you want to learn more about the different niches of otaku culture, Wotakoi is a great place to start!
- Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (Seishun Buta Yaou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai)
Based on the light novel series of the same name by Hajime Komoshida, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai follows the story of a third-year high school student named Sakuta Azusagawa and the various female characters in his life who fall victim to a supernatural phenomenon known as Adolescence Syndrome. The anime focuses on each of the girl’s individual stories regarding the phenomenon.
Due to the clickbait title, before watching the show, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai appears like another run-of-the-mill anime that caters to the male audience due to its deceptive appearance of scantily clad anime girls in Playboy Bunny costumes, harems and promise of ecchi themes. However, these themes are not as prevalent as it seems. Instead, it focuses on the difficulties of puberty and its lasting effects on a person’s overall character.
Although it’s a great show, I wouldn’t recommend Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai to someone who just started anime due to its niche themes. However, I suggest it to anyone familiar with anime and otaku culture that wants to continue exploring the medium.
Although slice of life anime may appear mundane compared to other dramatic and action-packed anime, there are numerous shows that are just as entertaining. Some of my honorable mentions include: Fruits Basket, I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying, Hanasaku Iroha and Clannad.
As you venture into the world of anime, I hope that this list inspires you to look beyond the mainstream genres and find a show that works for you!