So I browse /r/anime a lot among other forums and one of the terms that I have seen become ever more frequently used is “Healing Anime”. For context, this term is typically applied to shows such as Aria, Haibane Renmei, Natsume’s Book of Friends and really anything with what the critics call “atmosphere”…
Well, that’s pretending there is only kind of atmosphere, which succinctly explains the entire problem with the term healing anime. Simply put, you’re not actually saying anything when you say it’s healing. Even if we unpack the term, it still only refers to something that made you feel good, which fails to address what actually made it feel good in the first place, or whether the good feeling you are getting is even from the work itself. After all, does an edge-of-your-seat thriller not also make you feel good? Does an upbeat romantic-comedy not also emotionally uplift a viewer? Does a blood filled action horror not also heal through cathartic pleasure?
I hope at this stage you’re starting to see my point.
I’m not demanding that you stop using the term but remember how nondescript it is. Simply calling it a healing anime reflects nothing of the qualities it possesses. If you want to continue using it then I implore you to expand on the meaning behind it. Is Aria a healing anime because of the dreamlike and mellow setting? or perhaps the melancholy world design and artistic direction invites positive reflection on a subject?
You tell me! Just say…something…anything…healing on its own can not and will not get your point across. Specifics are the key to understanding and with understanding comes expression. By all means express yourself, just frame it a way that allows for conversation.
So a fellow writer currently under the name Kindle- who can be found here – gave me some resources to expand my thoughts on the topic. In particular he talked around one article by this user. To read these thoughts either look at the comment section below or preferably check out their own websites.
Pretty sure it’s coined in reference to a relaxing/soothing show. The iyashikei genre often is placed side by side with that of slice of life to both being subtle and non-fuss in nature.
The problem is that those terms just don’t go far enough in describing a show. It doesn’t tackle the nature of what makes those shows relaxing or subtle. After all escapism comes in many forms that often overlap with this definition of ‘healing’. It’s to that extent that iyashikei is too broad a ‘genre’ to really be identifiable, there is simply too many similarities between the definition of healing and more specific genres such as comedy and romance or even psychological. I prefer it when people avoid painting in broad strokes and instead get down into the nitty-gritty of how and why it makes the audience feel that way. Hence why I feel the term as it is currently used is insufficient.
| Note: The essay is long and summarizing it might twist the authors intentions, so in the interest of being fair I ask you read the post in full. |
Not to be derogatory but it reads like a walking contradiction. That being, the writer makes indications as to the genre but fails to provide concrete goal posts for what precisely it is. For example it talks about the focus on the emotional rather than the intellectual despite heavily thematic and dense anime being used as examples (Mushishi, Haibane Renmei). They provoke thought more dominantly than emotional healing because the entry level for even understanding some of events is to toil over the possible meanings. If anything classifying them as healing anime misses an entirely fundamental part of the experience.
The writer reiterates the word cathartic as an argument for why healing shows can’t simply fit labels like romance, comedy, slice of life yet all those genres are fully capable of delivering a cathartic experience on par with these healing shows. It seemingly places an artificial (and incorrect) limiter on what shows can excel as stress relief.
Having seen Only Yesterday unlike the author, I can attest to it fitting an alternative genre(s)- romantic drama. At lot of the themes in that film deal with distress and dramatic tension that works against the purpose of tranquil relaxation.
If classifying anime into this genre requires personal dictation (e.g. my individual approach to this show relaxed me under the circumstances ergo it’s a healing anime) then that might not even be applicable to the next person along. It nullifies the meaning behind the genre right from the get-go.
I actually do agree with you for the most part. I believe it just so happens that an anime that have a subtle and relaxing atmosphere can easily evoke that sense of healing. Mushishi, despite its dichotomy between its light and dark themes, still has that taste of a green tea, so to say, due to its sublime portrayal of nature’s quintessence. The very same attribute or characteristics can be found on shows that takes iyashikei as its bread and butter: Aria, Tamayura, Flying Witch. All three of which doesn’t necessarily require drama, comedy, nor conflict for a viewer to start feeling he’s on cloud 9.
I’m a huge fan of the iyashikei genre — much like the author of the said post is — but I’ll have to disagree with his commentary about iyashikei needing to focus on moving the viewers emotionally. Iyashikei is only a sub-genre, after-all, and even K-ON can be called a non-iyashikei without anyone raising an eyebrow. K-ON’s emphasis obviously is on the ‘cute-girls-doing-cute-stuff’ rather than the relaxing bit. As such, anime that heavily focuses on drama, romance, comedy usually slips past that category.
The easiest way for me to differentiate what’s what is probably knowing what the end goal of the anime is basing on how it presents itself. Flying Witch has magic in it, but that magic was never intended to look flashy. Mushishi may be angtsy at times, but its lightearted and laidback side feels properly balanced. Non-Non Biyori has cute characters doing cute stuff but it uses a rural setting effectively to its advantage. Iyashikei reminds of those ASMR inducing videos prevalent in Youtube (check em out if you have time to waste). I believe both works the same in principle.
I hope this conversation interested you and gave you enough information to find an answer on your own. Thanks for reading.