The Japanese word kawaii often translates to ‘cute’ in English. Instantly conjuring images of fluffy mascot characters and colorful sweets, plenty of anime series cater to the kawaii-obsessed crowd. Binge these series when you need a warm pick-me-up.
14-year-old middle school student Naru Sekiya loves fairy tales. Obsessed with fantasy, it seems like a dream come true when she stumbles upon a blonde girl dancing in the moonlight. This isn’t a fairy, however–it’s Hana Fountainstand, an American transfer student obsessed with yosakoi dancing, a traditional and very energetic Japanese style of dance originating in Kochi Prefecture. Along with her fellow classmates Yaya, Tami, and Machi, Naru helps Hana start a yosakoi club, and the girls begin their journey into this unique pastime.
Filled with vivid colors and focusing on a lesser-known aspect of traditional Japanese culture, Hanayamata is an often overlooked but highly enjoyable journey. While it may give you a few cavities from its over-the-top sweetness, this slice-of-life comedy may also inspire you to get out and try something new.
Check out the series on Crunchyroll.
At first glance, Amu Hinamori seems like the coolest girl at her elementary school. In reality, she’s painfully shy and self-conscious of who she really is. Desperate to be her authentic self, Amu wakes up to find three colorful eggs on her bed. These eggs each contain a Guardian Character, or manifestations of a person’s dream self. Having three eggs isn’t exactly normal, however, and Amu soon finds herself using these Guardians to seek out and rid the world of corrupted X Eggs.
While the magical girl genre is packed to the brim with content to binge, Shugo Chara manages to feel like something truly original. With notable character development over the course of its seasons, it balances complexity and depth with undeniable cuteness. These little guardians are certain to steal your heart in an instant.
All three seasons are available to stream on Crunchyroll.
Blue-haired high-schooler Konata Izumi is painfully lazy when it comes to everything that isn’t anime or game-related. Each day, she spends time with her friends–the sweet airhead Tsukasa Hiiragi, perfectionist Kagami Hiiragi, and the ultra-polite genius Miyuki Takara. The slice-of-life series lacks an overarching plot, with each episode containing a set of mini-stories highlighting the girl’s lives at school and at home. From academics and cooking to anime and romance, these goofy girls have plenty to talk about.
Featuring lovable character designs and punchlines sure to leave you in stitches, Lucky Star manages to tick plenty of kawaii boxes.
Lucky Star is currently available to stream on Funimation.
The Love Live! multimedia project is absolutely massive. To date, four Love Live! series have aired, including Love Live! School Idol Project, Love Live! Sunshine!!, Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club, and Love Live! Superstar!! While each series features different characters, the plot remains the same across each and every one.
The Love Live! franchise follows groups of teen girls aiming to become popular ‘school idols.’ Episodes follow these adorable soon-to-be superstars as they write their own music, choreograph their own dances, design their own costumes, and navigate the world of showbiz. The title comes from the Love Live, a yearly competition in which school idols from all over Japan gather to prove their merit. Filled with original music and impressive CG stage performances, viewers tend to emerge with a favorite girl by the end.
You can find all Love Live! series across Crunchyroll and Funimation.
The Usagiyama Shopping District is filled with colorful storefronts and odd characters. Tamako Kitashirakawa’s family runs a mochi shop in the District, and one day, the girl meets a bossy talking bird named Dera Mochimazzi out of the blue. Dera explains that he is a noble attendant for the royal court in his country and that he is searching for a wife for his prince. Despite this bizarre setup, the series largely follows Tamako’s daily life, with the girl’s cheerful disposition and clumsiness charting high on the kawaii scale.
Kyoto Animation is known for cute character designs and the ability to create genuinely sweet protagonists. Tamako Market is perfect for all ages with a distinct family-friendly feel. Even non-anime fans will find themselves completely enamored.
Catch the series on HIDIVE.
Babies are cute, and this universal truth makes School Babysitters a shoo-in for a spot on this list. After losing their parents in a plane crash, brothers Ryuichi Kashima, a high school freshman, and Kotaro, a preschooler, find themselves with no home to speak of. Yoko Morinomiya, the Chairwoman of an elite school, agrees to care for the boys, going so far as to give them a new house and free tuition. The catch? Ryuichi has to volunteer at the school’s daycare center.
The children in the series range from rude and rambunctious to cheerful and charming. These spirited kids will tug at your heartstrings, and while the series is undeniably adorable, it also showcases the many challenges of dealing with a room full of toddlers.
School Babysitters is available to watch on Crunchyroll.
Country girl Hinako is incredibly shy. Her social anxiety has a way of holding her back and causing her to freeze up, earning her the nickname ‘scarecrow.’ In an effort to change for the better, Hinako aims to involve herself in theater after being inspired by a certain play. Moving to Tokyo to attend Fujiyama High, a school known for its theater club, she’s dismayed to find out that the club is on an indefinite hiatus. Unwilling to give up, the girl decides to create her own theater troupe.
This series is the perfect cure for a bad week, a bad month, or a bad year, with the light-hearted comedy offering just enough genuine emotion, comic relief, and kawaii energy to combat the occasional bought of melancholy.
Watch the series on Crunchyroll.
How to Keep a Mummy
As it turns out, mummies aren’t always dusty, rotting corpses trapped in ancient crypts. Sora is a typical high school student who’s used to getting weird and often dangerous gifts from his dad, an explorer. When a massive package arrives from Egypt, the boy isn’t exactly excited. However, after working up the courage to open the box, he finds Mii-kun, a tiny mummy. The series follows their daily escapades, focusing heavily on this lovable little bag of bones.
Each little creature in How to Keep a Mummy will make viewers melt, and it’s virtually impossible to watch the brief series without a smile on your face. Wonderfully jovial and flowery, this show will make you want a mummy of your very own. (At least a palm-sized one).
Check out this adorable series on Crunchyroll.
Is the Order A Rabbit?
Energetic and instantly likable, Kokoa Hoto moves in with the Kafuu family to attend a high school far from her hometown. Upon arriving at her new home, the Rabbit House cafe, she meets Chino Kafuu, a shy girl with a rabbit on her head. Agreeing to work as a waitress in exchange for room and board, Koka meets a cast of other cute characters ready to roll up their sleeves and serve some delectable treats.
Fans of comedy and slice-of-life tales featuring cute girls and cozy settings won’t be let down by this relaxing series. Featuring a cast of characters named after hot drinks and a painfully fluffy angora rabbit, this should be towards the top of any kawaii connoisseur.
If you’re looking to get cozy, watch this series on Crunchyroll.
Umaru Doma is the perfect high-schooler. She’s attractive, at the top of her class, and gifted in all sorts of extracurricular activities. However, things aren’t always as they seem. At home with her older brother Taihei, Umaru becomes a completely different person. Obsessed with video games, anime, and snacks, the girl spends all of her off-time in a hamster hoodie. With laziness that knows no bounds and a serious selfish streak, Taihei has his hands full.
This series is like looking in a mirror for anyone who hides their nerdy side. Packed with cultural comedy and relatable characters, Umaru-chan might encourage viewers to accept their less-than-stellar attributes.
While the first season of the series is only available for purchase on Amazon Prime Video, the second season, Himouto! Umaru-chan R, is free to stream for Prime members.
Despite her young age, Rin Shima loves to go camping on her own. Skilled at everything from gathering firewood to preparing a tent, the high-schooler has no problem in the wilderness alone. After meeting Nadeshiko Kagamihara, however, she realizes that sharing the wonders of camping might be well worth her time. The series follows the members of the high school camping club as they travel around Japan and enjoy the wonders of nature and friendship.
As adorable as the characters of Laid-Back Camp may be, the series is also an exemplary addition to the Iyashikei genre. A subgenre of slice-of-life, the name translates to ‘healing,’ and these series often place characters into gentle and calming environments. Simply put, this show feels like a warm hug on a cold and snowy day.
Both seasons of Laid-Back Camp are currently available on Crunchyroll.
Meirocho, also called Labyrinth town, is home to ten unique districts. Home to all kinds of fortune tellers and witches, the series focuses on Chiya, a girl raised in the woods by her mother’s friend. Eager to become a diviner to find her long-lost mother, she’s joined by three other aspiring witches: the serious Kon, the energetic Koume, and the shy Nono.
A series that blends visual aspects of traditional Japanese culture with hints of fantasy and a simple and clean art style, Urara Meirochou manages to be more endearing than some would expect. Heartwarming and sweet, the cast of characters easily bumped it to a high spot on the list.
Check out Urara Meirochou on HIDIVE.
Sakura Kinomoto is a typical fourth-grader until, one day, she finds a strange book titled “The Clow.” Before she can react, the book flies open and the cards within scatter all across the land. As it turns out, messing with the book awakened Kero, the Beast of the Seal, who tells Sakura that she must now get all the cards back. Granting Sakura the power of the Cardcaptor, the girl sets out on a magical adventure with her best friend Tomoyo by her side.
Cardcaptor Sakura managed to capture the hearts of magical girl fans around the world in the late 90s, and for good reason. Cuteness comes at viewers from all angles, whether it stems from Sakura’s frilly battle outfits, the plush-adjacent Kero, or the sweet romance blossoming in later episodes.
This classic title is available to stream on Netflix, Crunchyroll, and Funimation.
Starting high school means finding the right club. Conflicted, Yui Hirasawa applies to join the Light Music club on a whim, expecting it to be simple and fun. Unable to play an instrument, Yui quickly decides to give up on the club once she realizes the requirements. However, if she doesn’t join, the club will be disbanded due to its lack of members. After hearing the band members play, the girl decides to give it a shot, picking up an electric guitar and giving it her all.
With a memorable story and a noticeably adorable art style, K-On manages to be both silly and enchanting, still capturing the audience’s hearts over a decade after its release.
This rock ‘n’ roll romp is available on HIDIVE.
Non Non Biyori
Tokyo may be convenient, but a trip to the countryside can be an inspiration. Moving from the capital to the rural and isolated Asahigaoka village, Hotaru soon discovers that her new school only has five students in total, all taught in the same class regardless of grade. There are no shops nearby, no movie theaters, and transportation is slow. However, there’s something charming about the locale, and her quiet life continues with a few new friends.
Each of the four main characters in the series is cute in their own way, though Renge is a common fan favorite. How can you see those purple pigtails and rosy cheeks and not instantly see kawaii stars?
For a serious kawaii injection, stream Non Non Biyori on HIDIVE and Crunchyroll.
Stella no Mahou
A massive manga and game fan, Tamaki Honda instantly joins a self-published video game club in high school. There, she meets writer Ayame, programmer Shiina, and composer Kayo, all anxious to create the best game they can.
While not an incredibly well-publicized series in anime circles, Stella no Mahou exudes that quintessential moe-ness that kawaii dreams are made of. With a focus on creativity and cultivating honest friendships, this simple title has earned its place at the top of the list.
Curious about this game-centric series? Be sure to check it out on HIDIVE.