Be specific! RE: “Healing Anime”

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.

Kindle

My response:

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.

[Essay] Iyashikei: The Genre of Catharsis 

Z3ria

| 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. |

My response: 

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.


Kindle’s response:

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.

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9 thoughts on “Be specific! RE: “Healing Anime”

  1. 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.

    Like

    1. 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.

      Thanks for reading.

      Like

    1. Interesting post. I’m always open to reading other perspectives!

      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.

      This gave me a good basis to expand my thoughts on the topic. I might try and work it into my original post when I wake up tomorrow. If I did I’ll be sure to plug you and the writer of the article for reference.

      Like

      1. 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 intented 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.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well now! I feel kind of intimidated following up that epic discussion, but seeing as this is the post that made my follow a no-brainer, I suppose I’ll say something.

    You ever here someone call something edgy? (You also frequent r/anime, I know you have. My reddit’s /u/cloudflow, by the way). The term has its uses: there are occasionally shows that prioritize being grim, bloody, etc. It’s used as a criticism when a show has little regard for how that darkness fits into the narrative or world.

    Can something with solid characters and compelling, mature tragedy still reek of edge? How do we qualify blood and gore as being “justified” in certain situations? Sure, there are lots of answers to these questions, but none of them are really worth entertaining because the community at large applies these terms to anything and everything as they grasp for some bland justification, too afraid to admit that their taste is reflective of themselves and not some objective standard.

    I feel like “healing” is a similar term: when someone calls a show healing, all it really tells me is that it’s a slice of life featuring happy people and happy times. I can’t tell from this categorization anything besides that; just like I can’t say much about a show called “edgy” besides that it probably has blood and tragic circumstances.

    They are buzzwords, ill-equipped to appraise anything, because they are distorted beyond any relevant definition as people try to sum up a piece of art in the length of a tweet.

    Keep up the good work, by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the compliments and the input!

      Buzzwords are everywhere in discussion around the medium,, just like with any other. I’ll still fight the good fight though. Getting people to be more through with their points is something I’d love to see. Like you say, people are too eager to wrap up their understanding of something without proper consideration of the intricacies.

      Even if you are aiming for brevity, there is simply no way you can compact all the complexities of art into one word statements. This is especially true when those statements don’t even have a clear definition.

      I wrote a somewhat antagonistic piece on some of the worst buzzwords I’ve come across in debates with people. The tragic thing is a piece like that wouldn’t have even been necessary if it wasn’t so common.

      I’m a big believer that *most* people care. They aren’t saying these things to fight or because they hate the medium (and by extension fans of the medium), they just haven’t really considered the harm these terms have on discussion.

      My mantra at the minute is enjoyment is the gateway to understanding and with understanding comes expression. The objective articles like this and the aforementioned one aim to achieve is in bridging the gap between enjoyment and expression.

      Like

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