Where is Morestuff?
May 20, 2009 10:41 PM   Subscribe

Point me towards realistic, gentle, lightly comedic, probably viewed as boring to some, human relationship oriented anime.

For some reason I consistently return to Here Is Greenwood as a fabulously guilty pleasure. I think it's targeted toward adolescent girls or something, and as neither of those, that's kind of surprising. But I'll take what I can get.

What other anime is there that is along the same vein? No mechas or goddesses popping out of TV or whatnot, please. No Ranma 1/2. Magic/other impossibilities are not entirely verboten, but they should be minimal I think. The older the characters the better.

Random related recommendations of any sort may be interesting as well.
posted by Number Used Once to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I have very limited experience with anime, but Fruits Basket seems like it would fit the bill.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:17 PM on May 20, 2009

I think what you're looking for is Azumanga Daioh. It's out now as a budget thinpak, so it's a heck of a bargain.

Main characters: Chiyo-chan is a genius. She skips five grades, and at age 10 enters high school. She's cute. Her family is rich. She has a wonderful dog named Tadakichi-san. She's terrible at tongue-twisters.
Sakaki-san is tall, gorgeous, athletic, good at her school work, and painfully shy. She likes animals but they don't like her, so she's constantly getting bitten when she tries to pet them. Everyone else thinks she's cool, but are so overwhelmed by her that they never invite her to things -- so she's lonely.
Tomo is a maniac. Hyper, yet lazy; her grades are poor because she never studies.
Yomi is Tomo's childhood friend. She wears glasses, and is a bit sarcastic. She battles a tendency to gain weight.
Osaka is a space cadet. She lives in her own world. She tries to make puns, but they're not very good.
Kagura is a jock. She spends all her time training, and is frustrated by the fact that Sakaki always beats her in track, even though Sakaki doesn't train at all.

The series covers three years of high school. It's widely considered one of the best series ever.

No magic. No mechas. Nothing supernatural or science fiction. The entire series is character driven, and what it's really about is how those six girls met each other and became friends.

The art style is idiosyncratic but you soon get used to it. The music is unusual, but I like it a lot. (It's one of the few OST's I've ever purchased.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:40 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Have you seen anything by Hayao Miyazaki/Gibli Studios? His My Neighbor Totoro fits your first description to a T. I would venture that all of his movies are very good, some more child-geared than others. Totoro is very family friendly.
posted by zardoz at 11:54 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try Planetes. Very realistic. All spacement wear diapers! Also 2nd all of Miyazaki. Also Air series, although there is tons of magic stuff going on, the primary focus is on relationships and psychological issues of the 3 girls; writing is very light and funny, but drawing style is unusually formulaic for a good anime in terms of how character art, but the backgrounds are much better drawn. Not sure why they drew all characters in a very similar way.

Another really great anime is The Last Exile. It's very realistic, there's no magic happening at all, but there are a lot of battles, but it's also about relationships. It's just one of the best animes, up there with Miyazaki and Watanabe.

Speaking of Watanabe, Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo are both fairly realistic, but more concerned with action than relationships.
posted by rainy at 12:08 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Kodomo no Omocha and Marmalade Boy come to mind. Been a while since I watched either though, or Koko wa Greenwood for that matter.
posted by reptile at 12:46 AM on May 21, 2009

Ah, a kindred spirit. This is exactly the kind of anime I like to watch as well.

I haven't seen that much of this series, but Maison Ikokku seems like it would fit the bill nicely.

Here is the description from the Wikipedia page: Maison Ikkoku is a bitter-sweet comedic romance involving a group of madcap people who live in a boarding house in 1980s Tokyo. The story focuses primarily on the blossoming relationship between Yusaku Godai, a poor student down on his luck, and Kyoko Otonashi, the young, recently-widowed boarding house manager.

I also loved the series Kareshi Kanojo no Jijō, which literally means His and Her Circumstances. It's the story of two top high school students and rivals who gradually fall in love with each other as they begin to realize that beneath their perfect exteriors, they are just human after all. Although the studio ran out of money towards the end of the series (and you can tell because the animation work becomes simpler during the final episodes), it's a very gentle series that delicately explores relationships with the occasional moment of broad comedy.

Finally, the Studio Ghibli film Whisper of the Heart is utter gold. A young high school student meets a fellow student when she notices that he always checks out books ahead of her from the library. (Yes, it's THAT nerdy.) They both have seemingly unattainable dreams: she wants to be a writer, he wants to be a violin maker, and the film explores their relationship as well as how they try to achieve their goals. There's also a wonderful rendition of "Country Road, Take Me Home" in Japanese.
posted by so much modern time at 12:53 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Honey and Clover comes to mind. This list on the "noitamina" (animation spelled backwards!) series covers a lot of stories that are fairly people-oriented and not mecha/goddess/magic-type stuff, though I'm not sure how many of these are available in English. Antique Bakery, Hataraki Man, Nodame Cantabile, for example, are all great manga, but I haven't seen the anime versions.

Kare Kano is another. The anime version was directed by Hideaki Anno of Evangelion fame for some reason, but of course there are no screaming robots in this story. I also like Genshiken the manga, and apparently there's an anime version of this as well. Fits your bill perfectly, actually... it's a "realistic, gentle, lightly comedic, probably viewed as boring to some, human relationship oriented" story. Bonus, you'll learn a lot about the Japanese otaku culture and why it captures the hearts of so many. Moyashimon is another story that's set in a university. You'll learn a lot about bacteria from this one.

I could go on but I have to get back to work...
posted by misozaki at 1:05 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I only know Here is Greenwood by reputation, and can't think of anything precisely like it, but I'll take a stab at a few suggestions. To be honest though, the answers by so much modern time probably nail it.

You might like Tokyo Godfathers, an only slightly over the top film about three homeless drifters in Tokyo trying to do a good deed on Christmas Eve. For the most part it centers around the lives and problems of the characters in a very sympathetic way, and only has one or two set pieces that come off as cartoony.

In the vein of the earlier suggestion for Azumanga Daioh, I'll mention that Yosuba&! is by the same creator, and, while it's a manga and not an anime, it has a really sweet and funny slice of life storyline that sounds like it'd be up your alley. The only thing that might not appeal is the very young protagonist, but thumb through a volume and see if it suits.

Miyazaki/Gibli films are all recommended as top rate with well crafted characters and thoughtful storylines, but they do tend to focus unavoidably on the fantastical aspects and generally skew young.

Most of rainy's suggestions above are going to be more action oriented. Very good shows, but not really what you were asking for.

For random related, I'll suggest Ouran High School Host Club and The Wallflower. Ouran Host Club is a comedy about a poor scholarship student at an elite private academy forced by circumstances to join an after school club full of rich and eccentric young men who spend their time harmlessly entertaining the female students. There really is no way to type that out where it sounds like a good premise, but the show is deceptively charming and hiding behind the promise of wacky hijinks is a plot that really ends up being a focused look at the friendships that exist between the members of the club and how those relationships mature and change with the addition of an outsider. Can easily end up being guilty pleasure material at any rate.

The Wallflower is mostly just silliness. It's about four pretty young men trying to change a gloomy horror-movie obsessed girl into a proper young woman and them failing every step of the way. I've only seen bits so I almost hesitate to recommend it, but it's less relationships and more comedy in this one. Most notably it's directed by Shinichi Watanabe who has a great comedic sense and did the frenetic and infamous Excel Saga.
posted by CheshireCat at 1:08 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, Maison Ikkoku, definitely. Written by the same author as Ranma 1/2, but a totally different tone throughout. A classic (the manga is, anyway).
posted by misozaki at 1:08 AM on May 21, 2009

Nth Miyazaki, in particular, you might want to check out Only Yesterday.
posted by knave at 1:20 AM on May 21, 2009

His and Her Circumstances.
posted by fearthehat at 1:37 AM on May 21, 2009

Seconding everything so much modern time said. I like this genre of anime as well.

To add to that, I suggest Rose of Versailles, which is not so much slice of life, but an anime based on history and filled with human relationships.

Also, Chibi Maruko-chan is deceptive in appearance because it's about an elementary school student, but a really nice anime about kids growing up.

Finally, if you can find an English translation, Atashi n chi is a funny show about an average Japanese family.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 1:58 AM on May 21, 2009

My Neighbors The Yamadas? I thought it was quirky, touching, occasionally funny and occasionally boring.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:35 AM on May 21, 2009

Oh, I can't believe I forgot this one: Hana Yori Dango (Boys Before Flowers). The story of a working-class girl at an elite boarding school, the F4 (a group of rich young men), and the leader of the F4 who falls in love with said working-class girl. Hilarity and drama ensue.

To be honest, it's kind of over-the-top at times, but its twists and turns are quite addicting. Hugely, hugely popular in all of its various forms - it's been turned into a live action tv series in Taiwan, Korea and Japan, with China coming next.
posted by so much modern time at 2:37 AM on May 21, 2009

I just remembered an awesome recommendation: NieA_7 is sort of like the lighthearted bizzaro universe cousin of Serial Experiments Lain (the same staff made it as a cool down series after Lain). Nominally the plot of NieA is about space aliens living on Earth, but it has a meandering whimsical flow that mostly just follows the everyday lives of the characters and ends up feeling like something completely different than what you'd expect. It's a bit uneven and possibly even boring in parts but it's short enough at 13 episodes and I feel like it's an overlooked gem of animation, albeit with a fairly limited potential audience. Again, a little bit on the outside edge of what you're asking for, but hopefully useful to look into.
posted by CheshireCat at 3:16 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by P.o.B. at 3:17 AM on May 21, 2009

A lot of the right stuff has already been suggested here. It's worth noting that the genre of Here is Greenwood is really shoujo, which is aimed at young women (as in teenage or earlier). That's ok, shoujo has a lot of good plot development and emotionally involving plot that is honestly enjoyable by folks who are not necessarily in the age/gender roles it's targeted at.

Not a lot of relationship-oriented shoujo anime is readily available in English. The closest thing to what you're looking for is definitely Marmalade Boy, which is 80 episodes of highly addictive relationship drama with a touch of comedy. The other series you need to be watching, nailed by a lot of respondents here, is His and Her Circumstances (Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou, or Kare Kano). It's very...different...in pace from a stereotypical shounen anime like MB, but it's excellent entertainment nonetheless. Finally, you should do what you can to get a hold of the Rose of Versailles anime – there's no American release AFAIK but there are ways to get it. It's absolutely seminal, defining shoujo anime for decades to come.

The problem you're going to run into fast is that there isn't a lot of great shoujo anime localized into English. However, the heart of the genre is really in the manga, where long and involved plots develop over years and multiple volumes. The good news is that there is some great English-language shoujo manga that has been localized. Both Marmalade Boy and Kare Kano have had English manga releases, but to put it plainly, the Marmalade Boy TV series is better than the manga. Kare Kano's manga is much longer and more involved than the series. Two other series you'll want to look for are Boys over Flowers and Mars, both of which are downright addictive.

It's worth noting that some of the stuff mentioned above is excellent but is not shoujo material. Maison Ikkoku (again, the available manga is superior) is actually a seinen series targeted at men 18-30. Stuff like Cowboy Bebop is excellent but definitely not in the vein you're looking for.
posted by graymouser at 4:13 AM on May 21, 2009

Seconding the whole Noitamina lineup. Particularly Honey & Clover and Nodame Cantabile. There are fansubs available. Check out the animesuki forums for more suggestions. Or search on josei, which is the term for anime/manga aimed at women, not girls, and is often slice-of-life stuff.
posted by rikschell at 5:25 AM on May 21, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions. I'm curious, do any of these happen to feature characters who have graduated high school/university? I'll make my way through these either way, but I'd like to start with something more about adults than children/young adults.
posted by Number Used Once at 6:13 AM on May 21, 2009

Seek out the excellent Ocean Waves (aka I can hear the sea). You'll need to find a fansub, Disney has the rights but tragically they have no interest in distributing this realistic, relationship-oriented anime. I'm sure you know how to use Google...

FWIW I watched a small bit of Maison Ikkoku. I'm not sure it would fit the bill of "gentle, lightly comedic" anime - or at least that's not how I felt about it...

The main character is a loser, he's failed to get into the university of his choice, so his parents kicked him out and he ends up in a run-down apartment building full of other losers, as he continues to study to try to re-write the university entrance exam.

His fellow tenants tend to be losers too - unemployed alcoholics who aspire to nothing greater than imbibing in drink and living a life free of higher purpose.

His arrival co-incides with the arrival of a new landlady, a young widow who is not over the death of her husband but who nevertheless has a noble character.

The main conflict is within the heart of the main character: does he wallow in his failure, embracing the lifestype of the other tenants? Or does he continue to aspire to something greater, in spite of his repeated defeats?

The whole setup was such a downer, that I didn't watch it further. YMMV

If you do watch it, seek out the english dub. It's excellent IMO.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 6:55 AM on May 21, 2009

Oh and Ocean Waves deals with characters who are in the process of completing high school. So this doesn't strictly meet your criteria but do seek it out...
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 6:57 AM on May 21, 2009

do any of these happen to feature characters who have graduated high school/university?

Generally these kinds of shows feature high school students. It seems to be part of the genre.

"Emma" is a soap opera, but at least it's about adults. Though like most soap operas, I don't think it counts as "lightly comedic". The first season has been released in R1.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:57 AM on May 21, 2009

By the way, I'm not recommending "Emma". I haven't seen it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:03 AM on May 21, 2009

I would also recommend Planetes. It's not comedic, although it has funny parts. It's about a team of space junk collectors in a quite realistic near-future setting and focuses on the relationship between two of the characters.
posted by demiurge at 10:59 AM on May 21, 2009

I'll second Genshiken and it's second season. It's about an otakuish high school graduate who is new in college and is trying to figure out what club to join. He finds "The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture" (shortened from Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyūkai to Genshiken), where he meets and develops relationships with a number of other otaku, who also develop different types of relationships with eachother.

I'm on the opposite side of misozaki in that I've seen the anime, but not the manga. I'll soon change that, as there are a few loose ends at the end of season 2 that I'm hoping get tied up in the books.
posted by phredgreen at 6:39 PM on May 23, 2009

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