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Anime/Manga to Make You Smile

Anime/Manga to Make You Smile

-Written by: Lisa Marie Cooper

Let’s face it: the world is kind of awful right now. But as Steven Universe so aptly put it, “There’s an awful lot of awful things we could be thinking of, but just for one day let’s only think about love anime.” Here are some series guaranteed to make you smile.

Did I miss your favorite? I probably did - there are a lot of anime and manga series out there, after all. Tell Right Stuf what your favorite series for feeling happy is on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Bonus points if it’s shonen; for some reason, most of the happy anime out there are about young girls and cats.

If you haven’t seen Steven Universe, I also have this obscure Natsuki Takaya reference.

Cardcaptor Sakura
There’s simply no other anime or manga I could have started this list with. While some characters are rivals or make a point of teasing each other, the series overflows with caring and good feelings. Cardcaptor Sakura is so wholesome and cheerful that you don’t even worry when the young lead visits an old man’s house and he offers her a pretty dress to wear. In any other series, that would be creepy at best or the prelude to a gruesome murder at worst. In CCS, it leads to a rainbow and the beginning of healing after years of grief. I dare you to watch CCS and not feel a little more optimistic about the world.

Cute girls? Sakura is one of the cutest girls in manga
Cats? Both Kerochan and Suppi are in the cat family (a lion and panther respectively)
Nice boys? Syaoran’s role is big enough 4Kids tried to make him the co-star

Aria: The Animation
I remember when we were working on this in the Right Stuf office and the producer was constantly gushing over how wonderful and healing it was. Beautiful scenery, cheerful girls, lovely music – the only thing not relaxing about it was trying to get the subtitle timing right for each opening. Sure, “the real treasure is the friends we made along the way!” is a punchline now, but when the Aria girls find themselves on a scavenger hunt that leads them on a tour of Neo-Venezia’s beauty, you don’t want it to end any other way.

Cute girls? Just about every character
Cats? All the companies have a cat as a mascot
Nice boys? None worth mentioning

Natsume’s Book of Friends
Ooh, this one has monsters who are desperate to kill a teenage boy so they can get their names back after his grandmother stole them! Surely it’s very dark and scary, right? Nope. Instead, it’s reflective and compassionate. As we learn how Natsume’s grandmother Reiko actually came to have each name in her book, we’re reminded to reconsider prejudices and get to know our neighbors and classmates before we judge them. Even the ghosts and monsters somehow become calming, their presence signaling it's time to settle in for another story.

Cute girls? Here and there
Cats? Nyanko-sensei is the star and he knows it
Nice boys? Natsume through and through

Kemono Friends
Kemono Friends was the surprise hit of 2017. Compared favorably to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, it’s about, well, a zoo full of friends. Which delightful animal-girl will you meet in this episode and what charming adventure will you have? There’s a plot and background for you to theorize over if you want to, but the best part of Kemono Friends is simply enjoying the characters and their optimism.

Cute girls? Yes, a whole zoo full
Cats? Several of the animal-girls are based on members of the cat family
Nice boys? No

Squid Girl
Ah, Squid Girl. The anime is basically one long beach episode punctuated by squid destruction and ink vomit. How can you not smile at that? Ika is a delight whether she’s (trying to) terrorize humanity or serving up spaghetti. It's a light-hearted comedy perfect for when you don’t want to think particularly hard. Note: this is the only anime you’ll find on this list with tentacles.

Cute girls? Yes, especially if you like squid
Cats? No
Nice boys? Depends on your taste

Ouran High School Host Club
The entire point of the Ouran High School Host Club is to make people (particularly girls) smile. It’s a mission Club President Tamaki takes very seriously, and if it means carefully selecting and persuading fellow club members to appeal to every demographic and dressing up in outlandish costume after outlandish costume, that’s what he’ll do. Talk about fanservice done right.

Cute girls? Theoretically main character Haruhi, but she spends most of her time cross-dressing
Cats? No
Nice boys? Chock full of them

Speaking of needing to smile, that’s Barakamon’s Handa at the beginning of the series. But when he sends himself into exile in the countryside, he finds people to care about and who care about him. It takes some time, but he and his art both grow as he gets to know his new neighbors in this heartwarming comedy. Particularly touching is his friendship with Naru, a six-year-old girl looking for someone to play with.

Cute girls? Yes
Cats? Yes
Nice boys? Yes

A Man and His Cat
This series is very much what is says on the tin. There’s a man and he adopts an “ugly” cat. He thinks his cat is cute and the cat does cute cat things. That’s it. It’s adorable. When some pages made the rounds last year on social media and Reddit, many people were shocked to learn it was an actual story, not a one-off parody. We’re all grateful that it was licensed and will be coming to the US soon.

Cute girls? Not in particular
Cats? Yes (see title)
Nice boys older man? Yes (see title)

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun
This light-hearted romp takes aim at every shoujo cliché, but it does it from a place of love and ends up creating a cast full of loveable characters. Heavy on jokes and light on plot, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun just wants you to have a good time and enjoy seeing your favorite tropes on screen even as it hangs them with meta lampshades.

Cute girls? Yes
Cats? No
Nice boys? Yes

Kiki’s Delivery Service
This coming-of-age story is one of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s masterpieces and one of their most light-hearted movies. A young witch starts a delivery service (a natural choice since she can fly on her broom) and learns to have confidence in herself while exploring new surroundings. Oh, and the opening is set to a rockin’ 50’s bop. How can you not smile at that?

Cute girls? Yes
Cats? Yes, and he can talk
Nice boys? If you like Where’s Waldo shirts

Non Non Biyori
Like Barakamon, Non Non Biyori takes us to the peaceful countryside and our main character (this time a teenage girl) is forced to interact with the charming but eccentric locals out of proximity. It’s a sweet slice-of-life story that lets you slow down, relax, and appreciate the passing of the seasons. As a bonus, the visuals are sumptuous and reflect real love for rural scenery.

Cute girls? Yes
Cats? Not worth mentioning
Nice boys? They’re there but they’re definitely not the stars

Nominally about starting a band, K-ON! is really about cute high school girls chatting and eating snacks. They’re friends and they tell jokes and sometimes they put on a show and somehow it’s all delightful. Basically, it’s what you wished your high school days were like, and you can experience that vicariously through the girls’ small adventures in each episode.

Cute girls? Yes, it’s the quintessential “cute girls doing cute things” show
Cats? Not really, but there are some infamous cat ears
Nice boys? No

-Lisa Marie Cooper

Ironically, Lisa is saddened because she couldn't include two of her favorite comfort series (Land of the Blindfolded and Palette of 12 Secret Colors) due to their out-of-print status. Long-time Right Stuf fans may recognize Lisa as Marie from the Anime Today podcast or as the OG RightStufSpecialsMinion on the Anime News Network and Fandom Post forums. Her non-anime articles can be found at PositivelyEditorial.com.