I apologize again for the (huge) delay of this posting. Again, I cannot promise much, especially since it’s probably 30°C in my room by now and my head spins like crazy. I still hope that it might be enlightening for some of you.
Since MrMayat has written an essay about iyashikei as well, I will try to limit myself to the definition of iyashikei, a presentation of the most important series and some personal comments about how these series affect me.
You will find MrMayat’s essay at the end of this post - even though he has covered a lot of aspects that I actually wanted to talk about myself, I hope that our contributions are complementing each other.
And duh, it seems like I have deleted my post accidentally. Sorry if you have spotted this entry on Animenano before ^^; And the comments are gone! Gnarf. Whatever, let’s proceed.
An attempt on defining iyashikei
Lately on the #animeblogger channel, I have asserted that Iyashikei is not getting enough attention. It was immediately received as lamenting, but actually I suspect that most people simply do not know about the term at all. Therefore, I will try to give a definition (and feel free to discuss this definition):
The term “iyashi” can be translated as “healing”, so that makes iyashikei healing series.
Iyashikei is most often considered a sub-genre of slice of life series, because all iyashikei series feature the same character-centered nature of slice of life: There is no real continuing plot and in most cases no conclusion, but the mostly episodic stories are depicting people’s lives without any drama or suspense.
However, what differs iyashikei from slice of life is the healing effects: In short, iyashikei calms the reader and leaves them with light-hearted, maybe with a hint of melancholy. The typical of characteristics of iyashikei are a few characters who all feel sympathetic towards each other; close, slowly developing relationships without conflicts as we might know them; an appreciation for nature and the small, beautiful things in life - and most importantly, iyashikei series are mostly located in another time and another world as we live in. Despite the similarities to our lives, iyashikei series are supposed to set us in another world where our sorrows actually are practically non-existent.
To make these effects even clearer, I would like to introduce you to the term of catharsis. If you know what catharsis means, just skip this explanation.
The greek term “catharsis” means “purification” or “cleansing”. In the original meaning of catharsis, which comes from old greek tragedy plays, the tragic and highly emotional impact on the (mostly noble) main character affects the emotions of the viewer so deeply that he feels purificated by the tragedy he has seen. The pity, shock and fear that the viewer sees helps him becoming ‘human’ and is supposed to make him a stoic person. (Actually there are lots of different aspects of catharsis, but only the original meaning is really relevant here.)
The most important similarity between catharsis and iyashikei is that there is a psychological influence on the viewer or reader the medium he is objected to after which the reader has changed his state of mind. In both cases, the viewer dwelves into the world of the play (or the anime or manga) by feeling the characters’ emotions. Also, in my opinion, the effects of iyashikei are no escapism at all, because you bring the state of mind of the series into your own life. Similar to iyashikei, the world of greek tragedies are completely different from those of the viewers - the greek who watched the tragedies were not noble, just like we are not gondoliers on another planet. However, the seemingly different setting is necessary for both: In ancient tragedies, the characters have to be noble so that people can feel pity (and not self-pity; another aspect is that the higher you are, the deeper you fall); in iyashikei, the world has to be different so that we can realize how the world and life itself besides our hectic, pressuring and most likely work- or uni-filled life in a big city actually can be ‘beautiful’.
So in the end, even though the concepts are steeming from completely different origins and the ends are met with totally different means, the purifying effects of the catharsis and the healing effects of iyashikei are somewhat similar.
Examples of iyashikei series
Iyashikei series are mostly not marketable outside of Japan. Therefore, there are only a handful of scanlated iyashikei manga and only a few animated iyashikei series.
1. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou and PositioN
Summary on Manga Updates
Mostly abbreviated as YKK or called “Café Alpha”, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is probably the best example of an iyashikei series. It features the probably calmest atmosphere possible, a small bit of mysterious creatures, very likeable and light-hearted characters as well as lots of pure nature shots on the peaceful country side.
To me, the biggest indication for the typical iyashikei effect is that I wish I could leave a life like Alpha: Serving coffee to very few customers every day, taking photographs of the evening scenery, doing little shopping trips to Yokohama and talking to the few (mostly very old and very young) people who are still living at this vast country side. However, YKK does not make me feel envious at all - reading about her life alone is enough to make me feel at peace.
PositioN is another shorter manga by the same mangaka: It has the same atmosphere, but unfortunately he dropped it at chapter 7.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou has 12 volumes, and 4 OVA episodes.
2. Aria and Aqua
Summary on Manga Updates
Concerning the ‘healing effects’, Aria mostly feels like “YKK light” to me. The scenery shots and the characters are not all that impressive, also Aria tends to be a little bit cheesy from time to time. However, the calmness and loveliness of their life and the very good-looking character designs makes it the most popular iyashikei series so far.
Aria also has a prequel, Aqua. It’s basically the same thing, because after changing to another magazine, the story of Aqua continues directly in Aria.
Aria has 11 volumes (still running), two anime seasons and one OVA (yet to come).
Summary on Manga Updates
Bartender does not really fit to my description of iyashikei, I admit it. In most cases, the people who come to Ryu to seek his help are having quite ‘normal’ problems which are solved at the end of the day. However, the effects of Bartender lie in the backgrounds, the calm voice of Ryu (in the anime at least) and the way the different “drinks of the episode” are presented. Again, it is a series that makes you wish you could feel the ‘healing’ effects of drinking classy and expensive drinks *hrr*
Bartender has 4 volumes (ongoing) and one anime season.
Summary on AnimeNewsNetwork
As you probably know, I have only watched one episode of Binchou-tan and quickly got bored. However, the healing effects of the series are quite strong: The girls are very cute, their life on the countryside and the backgrounds are very peaceful. If you’ve taken a liking on iyashikei series and like cute little girls, you might give it a try.
PS. On a side note, it’s actually interesting to see that the only people who use the term “iyashi” or “iyashikei” are either germans or anime bloggers *hrr* (It would not surprise me if the french would have come up with their own term for something similar as “iyashikei” - they have their own expressions for everything after all.) Since there is no english wikipedia site for iyashikei, my purpose of a definition of iyashikei is also mainly adapted from a german site.
PPS. I am lazy. Actually I wanted to include a little presentation of manga series that I think have healing effects (like Yotsubato!, Shirley, Bernie’s Drawing Diary and - because it cannot be missed anywhere *hrr* - Lucky Star), but this damn posting is so long already >.< So... more to come if I feel like it.
The effects on iyashikei - an essay by MrMayat
In the beginning, anime was easily defined into two genres, with shoujo and shounen clearly dividing the boundaries. But as anime viewers attained a bigger following, more niche genres and sub-genres appeared. As with all niche aspects, the rise of elites is inevitable. Bickering on the merits and demerits of each other niche and beliefs often brings the discussion back to square one. As for the iyashikei sub-genre, not much has been explained.
Iyashikei, to put it broadly, is the act/effect of bringing calm, relaxation and inner peace into our being. (Not exactly. It’s one of those words where nuance defines usage) So lets not get worked up on the exact usage of the word, but rather on it’s effects and influence in anime.
People have always relied on the google-box to escape from reality. Leaving their dreary lives behind for a moment while being tuned in to another is escapism at its most accessible. A quick fix one might say, to sooth their souls. (Actually, religion is a more popular form of attaining inner peace, but this IS an anime site, you know…) Originally, as stated, anime came in only a few varieties, action, drama, comedy, etc. But as we know, that all changed in the recent decade. One of the gems to appear was the slice-of-life genre. I’m not sure when the widespread use of the genre appeared, but slice-of-life has already existed much earlier.
In manga form, the most popular slice-of-life series include Crayon-shin Chan, Sazae-san and Salaryman Kintaro, among others. They chronicle the lives of ordinary people going through their everyday, if somewhat mundane lives. Theses types of series are easy to pick up, due to their accessibility. Mostly catered to the adult crowd, nothing surreal ever happens and yet we silently cheer them on at the characters small victories. In a way, this effect of familiarity breeds a sort of calm in knowing that other people/ characters face the same problems as us.
Along the way, these series get adapted into anime form. With the transition, these characters become more “animated” and truer to life. It doesn’t matter if they are performing everday stuff. We are entertained nevertheless. But as with anime, imagination/innovation plays an integral role in roping in an audience. As such, fantasy/ sci-fi settings are merged into the picture, in a sort of “freakish”cross-pollination experiment. Breakthrough series in recent memory would be Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou and Aqua/Aria.
Why would anyone be intrigued in a series about a gondolier on a terraformed Mars? The answer would lie in the first few episodes. As implied by the protagonist, she chose the profession due to the slower pace of life. Now then, don’t we all wish that we could follow suit and ditch our fast paced life? Alas, we all have monetary matters to pursue and slowing down would cost us dearly. As much as we’d like to take a long vacation and take long walks on the beach ever so often, we can’t. (Actually, I do long walks almost weekly. To live on a tropical island…) And so, we follow the trials and tribulations of the character as they discover and re-discover people, places and memories. As such, we ourselves may rekindle own our experiences and wonder at innocence long since past.
To further enhance the mood, the choice of music, background or otherwise, is paramount. Mood music can either sooth you to slumber or jolt you awake, depending on your musical taste. As a rule of thumb, piano, violin and soprano pieces generally do the trick. But if classical music isn’t your cup of tea, downtempo/ muzak works just as well. Hell, even heavy metal soothes nerves, or so I’m told…
In summary, iyashikei is more a state of mind rather than a sub-genre. An anime may mould itself into an iyashikei series irregardless of genre. For example, Beck had a calming effect on me, as I reminisced my youth. The combination of an anime series of your choice and your own personal experience is what makes iyashikei happen. After all, it takes two hands to clap.