Apparently, the Japanese fans have a word for it, whatever it is in anime. And the word for the subgenre of “slice of life” anime that is designed to soothe the jangled nerve and cheer the depressed is “iyashi-kei”, which means “healing”.
I was particularly charmed to read in this paper that indeed, these series are purposefully low on conflict. Why? Because you don’t want any conflict in a show that you watch late at night, right before going to sleep. Life is hard enough. Why make characters suffer and fight, when you can watch them have fun and make small happy discoveries?
Classic examples of this kind of show: Aria (the gondoliers on Mars show), Binchou-tan, etc.
There are other shows that have elements of this, like Someday’s Dreamers and Haibane Renmei, but which also have a lot of wrenching drama and hilarious comedy in them. If you’re really depressed, you might not be able to face this kind of stuff — which is probably why iyashikei shows were developed.
A lot of these shows are aimed at businessmen and male students, although their gentle approach makes them nice viewing for anyone. But I have to admit that this year’s iyashi-kei series, Miracle Train, takes a different approach. How different? Well, if Touched by an Angel was Touched by a Personified Subway Station, and said incredibly clean stations were personified as good-looking Japanese guys in suits who materialize solely to aid damsels in distress, that would be Miracle Train. I like it a lot.
Of course, if I were cynical, I’d say that all that casual sexual harassment by male passengers has caused Tokyo women to quit riding the commuter trains, and that the Tokyo subway system is sponsoring this series is not about “education” but about keeping the better half of their ridership. But of course, I have no proof of that, so it would be wrong to be cynical.
Anyway, it’s a very heartwarming show, despite the obvious plays for popularity and marketing revealed in it; and it’s on Crunchyroll for you to view.
I gather that the cat show Chii’s Sweet Home (also available on Crunchyroll) is also iyashikei. Kittens don’t live a very conflicted life. Sketchbook: Full Color S is another, being a chronicle of a high school art club and its eccentric members. Lovely art.