There’s no shortage of anime available, but so many follow a formulaic pattern that they start to blend together. It can be hard to navigate through the hundreds of different series and try to find something truly original. If you’re looking for shows that breathe life into tired genres, try out these amazing options:
Ookiku Furikabutte (Oofuri/Big Windup)
There are dozens of sports anime out there, but none of them are quite as heartwarming and character driven as Ookiku Furikabutte (Oofuri for short). The show centers around the pitcher Ren Mihashi. He’s driven away from his middle school because his pitches are too weak and everyone on the baseball team hates him because he won’t give up the mound to a more promising pitcher. He moves to Nishiura High School and joins the baseball team despite his conflicted feelings. With the help of the pitcher Takaya Abe and his teammates, he realizes he is a great pitcher and comes to gain confidence and skill.
While baseball is an important component of the show, it’s really about friendship, building trust, and gaining the strength and confidence to take on new challenges. The characters themselves are all a bit different from the standard sports tropes. Almost everyone, except maybe Abe and Tajima, act like normal teenagers. They’re not self-assured and instead have their own doubts about their abilities (almost like they were real teenagers). While you kind of know the Nishiura team will win games, it’s still interesting to see how everything will pan out. You end up truly caring for the characters.
Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-Kun
Based on a 4-panel manga, Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun follows high school student Chiyo as she completely botches her confession to her crush – the titular Nozaki-kun – and instead somehow ends up as his manga assistant. The anime is comprised of one part romance and two parts gag. It’s incredibly aware of the shoujo manga tropes and lampshades, subverts and occasionally plays those tropes straight.
All of the characters here are hilarious. They’re equal parts charming and frustrating at the same time. Still, they all provide their own brand of humor and also help inspire plots and characters for Nozaki’s manga Let’s Fall in Love.
The animation here is spectacular. It’s bright and colorful and the over exaggerated expressions really adds to the comedy. It is a short but fun ride, lasting only 12 episodes.
Many consider Nichijou as a successor to Azumanga Daioh. On the surface, it sounds like your normal slice-of-life story: you follow the lives of three high school girls and their experiences. The thing is, their experiences are often ridiculous.
Mio, seemingly the most normal of the bunch, actually has a short temper and prone to violence when embarrassed. Mio is also and a yaoi manga artist. Yuki is a cheerful if somewhat dumb girl. Mai is the quiet friend who is also the deadpan snarker. As you follow them on their journey you also meet an eight-year-old genius and her robot companion as well as a principal who tells horrible jokes and wrestles with deer.
It is absolutely crazy, but it’s incredibly fun. Somehow the writers manage to weave together a somewhat cohesive story and give proper callback to previous jokes. It’s a refreshing take on the tired slice-of-life genre that will have you doubled over with laughter.
Non Non Biyori
This is slice-of-life at its best. Non Non Biyori follows the lives of four girls (and a few other people) in their very small town. How small is the town? The nearest store is a few miles away and the local school literally only has five students.
There’s no overarching plot to really speak of here. Instead you just enjoy the daily lives of these girls as they discover new things and enjoy each other’s company. It’s sweet and simple, containing a tiny dash of sadness in some of the episodes. It’s an incredibly relaxing show to watch thanks to the gorgeous animation and detailed natural scenery. You almost feel like you’re right there with the girls as they live their lives.
There are two seasons, but they really could be one. There’s the original series and then Non Non Biyori Repeat, which fleshes out the backstory a bit and follows Renge instead of Hotaru. If you end up binge watching both seasons, you’ll notice a lot of the places and activities that happen in the first season are referenced in the second.
Numerous anime cover sports and cooking, but Yakitate!! Japan is the only one that turns baking bread into a sport. This show follows Azuma Kazuma as he attempts to make a bread unique to Japan. The show is full of puns. In fact, the title itself is a pun: Yakitate means freshly baked and pan means bread. Azuma actually calls his inventions Ja-pan. Along the way he meets and builds relationships with other bakers who teach him how to improve his skills.
The series starts off “normal” and just becomes more ridiculous as it progresses. The best parts are the reactions to the bread. They’re often a riff on popular culture with the main characters wondering if they’ll get in trouble for copyright infringement.
It’s a hilarious show and while there’s not too much tension during the competitions, you can’t help but enjoy the ride.
You can stream the majority of these shows on Crunchyroll, Funimation or Hulu. The listings might change over time, but you can probably find what you are looking for on one of those websites.
For additional security and access while travelling, you may want to try out a Virtual Private Network to stream videos. Not only can you encrypt your data, but using a VPN means you can watch your favorite anime even while you travel to other countries.
Finally, you should know that these shows can potentially become tiring to watch if you overdo it. Don’t feel guilty if you need to take a break and watch something else when you think the shows are getting just a little too silly.
Do you know of other quirky anime that should have made the list? Have you seen any of the ones listed above? Please let us know what you think and leave a comment for us.