Iyashi is a special genre only found within anime (Japanese animation). The word Iyashi means "soothing" or "healing". The Iyashi genre feature anime series that enable the viewer to feel more relaxed and positive. The main traits that distinguish the Iyashi genre from other anime genres are:A quiet and slow music score: The music of Iyashi anime helps the viewer become more relaxed.
A positive view on society and human interaction: Characters in Iyashi series tend to be optimistic and carefree. Their light, yet charming, conversations have the tendency to make the viewer feel better and more confident.
A sheltered environment: All Iyashi series occur in a sheltered environment, where characters are free from harm or danger. This makes their carefree life more believable and also allows the viewer to immerse himself/herself in the series' world.
A focus on aesthetics: Iyashi series focus on the beauty and aesthetics of things. For example, an episode might focus exclusively on traveling at sea or exploring a traditional city. The focus on aesthetics enables the viewer to appreciate his/her surroundings more and makes his/her viewing experience more refined.
The first Iyashi series is called Aria the Animation and was broadcasted in Japan during late 2005. It tells the story of Mizunashi Akari - a woman who wished to become an undine (gondolier) and trains daily in the waters surrounding the city of Neo Venezia (a futuristic copy of Venezia created on Mars). The anime was based on a manga called Aria and expended upon it greatly. The qualities of Iyashi are present in the series' invigorating background music, Akari's optimistic personality, the sheltered environment that is Neo Venezia and the miniature details Akari learns about the city in order to become a better undine.
Other series in the Iyashi genre include Bartender, Sketchbook: Full Color`s and Tamayura.
Bartender follows a bartender who attends the many requests of his patrons. The series uses the relaxed atmosphere of the bar to slow the passage of time while the bartender himself is a warm and intelligent figure. Bartender uses the romantic qualities that surround famous liquors to both impress and educate the viewer.
Sketchbook: Full Color's follows a high school student named Kajiwara Sora. Sora suffers from a mild case of autism and as a result sees the world in a much more peaceful and stationary way than others. Sora is a member of the art club and the series makes extensive use of nature paintings.
Tamayura follows a high school girl named Sawatari Fuu. Fuu wants to become a photographer and spends her days trying to catch the natural beauty of both nature and the human spirit.
Albeit still being rare Iyashi series are very distinct. As the above examples show Iyashi series incorporate within them prominent aspects of the Japanese culture such as the Japanese respect for nature and appreciation of aesthetic qualities.
Nadav Rotchild has a master's degree in East Asian Studies and has lived in Japan for a year. He is the founder of Anime Reviews - a website dedicated to the coverage of Japanese popular culture mediums such as anime, manga and Japanese figures.