In recent years, shows involving schoolgirls doing cute things have become considerably popular, especially in the second half of the 2000s. Although some people argue that these works don’t have any substance, for others, it gives a feeling of happiness and refreshment. Shows like K-ON, Hidamari Sketch, Sketchbook, Tamayura, and A Channel along with the acclaimed Aria series and Ikoku Meiro no Croisèe, which don’t set at a school setting. So, what are in these shows that give this present feeling?
Iyashikei (癒し系), which means “healing series” in Japanese is what it says on the box. It’s a genre that focuses on the lighthearted aspects of life with little to no conflict. If you look further, there are several qualities in this genre, which contributes to feeling such as the emphasis on friendship, the setting and an easy-going feeling. (Image Source)
The most predominant theme of Iyashikei is the power of friendship. For most people, having fun with friends is what usually brightens most people’s lives. In these types of shows, this is usually shown through a pair or group of girls doing stuff after school and/or going on adventures to have fun. As shown in Aria the Animation episode 4, Alice tags along while Akari gives a tour to Akatsuki and starts to warm up towards her. This aspect tends to make shows lighthearted and nostalgic. Eventually friends will graduate and have to say goodbye if one of their friends is in a different grade level. Despite this, their friendship will live on since they will have the fond memories. This is shown in the last episode of K-ON Second Season when Azusa breaks down after the girls graduate and they play a song to cheer her up. These instances bring us a heartwarming feeling as we are reminded of our memories through someone else’s friendship, which makes this aspect powerful.
Another aspect that is noticeable is the setting. Although it’s not too apparent in many of the shows in this genre since most takes place at school. However, there are a good amount of shows that takes on a unique setting. These are the settings that immerse the viewers’ perception and make it feel like you are actually there. Aqua in Aria, Takehara in Tamayura and Croisèe‘s version of France are great examples of this as the sceneries appeals to the eye and feels realistic. The scenery plays an important role in the plot as characters might explore more of the location or there is a special moment that calls for it.
Lastly and most importantly, these stories are gentle and generally have little to no conflict. Typically, people complain about this because the development is too slow and boring, even though it’s done intentionally. The goal of these works is to show the little things in life, mainly about ordinary people in normal situations. These are usually the show I appreciate because we live stressful lives. It’s just nice to look at a group of girls or people having fun doing simple things, even if they are cute. However, this doesn’t mean it’s devoid of any conflict or drama. There might be some scenes where things get a little melancholic as shown when Yune recalls her sad memories of her older sister. Despite the sadness, these instances are what make life beautiful.
In short, I feel that the Iyashikei genre brings an enjoyable and refreshing take of life. While the genre isn’t for everybody, it shows the things in life we take for granted. The genre in general has a lot potential and I would definitely watch this over the countless fanservice shows any day.