Although action and adventure shonen tends to get a lot of recognition, part of what makes anime as a medium so exceptional is its versatility and how many genres fall underneath its umbrella. Anime, ultimately, is just animated television/film from Japan; so many things can exist within the term. As someone who has watched a lot of action and adventure-oriented anime, it was a nice change of pace to dive into some of the more comedic offerings available right now.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll primarily focus on television shows, but I’ve got to include a few movies in there as well. Additionally, some of the most famous shonen anime of all time are exceptionally funny, despite not being formally defined as “comedy anime.” Nonetheless, they make me—and many fans—laugh. That sounds like comedy to me, so I’ll also be including a few iconic shows that could fall under numerous genres. After all, what is a comedy anime? A show that makes you laugh.
Aggretsuko is just truly so cute. By combining a deeply childish cartoon style with Retsuko’s band’s death metal karaoke, the show provides a unique juxtaposition between its visual and auditory style. Despite the show’s anthropomorphic characters, Retsuko and the rest of the cast have fairly traditional, human lives. Retsuko is an accountant, who works to overcome many of the problems facing typical young adults in the 21st century through a myriad of ways, one of them being by releasing her emotions through cathartic death metal karaoke. Netflix has three seasons so far, and a fourth season is in production.
Part of what makes The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. so fun is how it combines the supernatural/fantastical elements of many anime shows with comedy and levity. Kusuo Saiki, the show’s protagonist, was born with supernatural powers, including psychokinesis and teleportation—among others. As opposed to shows with similar premises, Kusuo tries to hide his powers from those around him, often putting him in humorous and awkward situations. It’s a teen comedy-drama, but the root of teen’s problems is often his extraordinary abilities. As of now, the show is comprised of three seasons, all of which are available to watch on Netflix.
This is one of the entries on the list that would fall under the genre of “romantic-comedy.” As is the case with a lot of anime, however, the premise incorporates fantasy elements as well. Without giving too much away, the show follows a teenage boy named Nagasumi Michishio, who is saved from drowning by a mermaid named Sun Seto. Here’s the kicker. Under mermaid law, either the mermaid who had her identity revealed or the human who learned of her identity has to be executed. So to work around it, the young Nagasumi and Sun have to get married. Sun’s family also happens to be the head of a mermaid Yakuza group. Antics ensue. There are also only 26 episodes, so this is an easy watch.
This show derives its comedy from its silly premise as much as it does from the actual jokes within it. The protagonist is literally Satan. In another dimension, Satan is defeated by the Hero Emilia Justina and is forced to flee through a portal that takes them into modern-day Japan, where they have to live normal human lives to survive. Satan ultimately has to get a part-time gig at MgRonald’s, a parody of McDonald’s, in order to support himself. It’s a goofy show that combines elements of the slice of life genre with its more fantastical elements.
Kill la Kill is definitely one of the shows on this list that could fall under a lot of different genres. Nonetheless, at its core, it still aims to make the audience laugh. The show focuses on schoolgirl Ryuko Matoi and her quest to find her father’s killer, ultimately pitting her against her academy’s student council. There’s got to be an element of the supernatural as well, so in Kill la Kill, the students’ Goku Uniforms bestow superhuman abilities upon their wearer. The show is action-packed, it’s funny and Ryuko is an amazing protagonist. For fans of Gurren Lagan, this show was directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi and written by Kazuki Nakashima, both of whom had previously worked on the beloved mech anime. The show is only 25 episodes, so it’s an easy binge.
Daily Lives of High School Boys falls under the umbrella of “slice of life” anime, in that it focuses on real-world situations and the drama between a group of three schoolboys: Tadakuni, Hidenori Tabata and Yoshitake Tanaka. For the fans of more fast-paced, action anime, this might not be the exact right choice, but for fans of relationship-driven stories, this is definitely a fun watch. It’s also only 18 episodes, so it’s not too big of a commitment to get through.
I actually wasn’t familiar with Konosuba until writing this list, but after diving into it, it quickly has become one of my favorite fantasy-comedy series of all time. The series follows young Kazuma Satō, a Japanese teenage hermit who, after an untimely death, is offered the opportunity to be reincarnated in parallel world with MMORPG elements by the goddess Aqua. The narrative continues to unravel and become more complicated, but essentially, if you’re a fan of MMORPGs or sword and sorcery games or TV shows, then Konosuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! is definitely worth checking out. Clocking in at only 22 episodes, it can even be crammed into a weekend bing if you’re committed enough.
If you’re an anime fanatic, odds are you know Gintama. The sci-fi comedy is a great option for fans of Space Dandy or other adventure anime that combines elements of the fantastic with more traditional comedy and situational humor. As opposed to some of the other options on this list, Gin Tama is long (clocking in at over 200 episodes), so we won’t go into the plot too specifically, but here’s a little teaser:
The show focuses on Gintoki Sakata as he makes his rent as a freelancer, essentially doing any odd jobs he can get his hands on. But it’s a bit more complicated. Gintama takes place in an alternate-history Edo period, one in which humanity is ruled by a race of aliens called “Amanto” after Edo Japan’s military surrenders to the powerful invaders. Gintoki’s freelancing business eventually becomes a trio known as “Yorozuya” or “We Do Everything.”
The show relies on a lot of gags and slapstick humor in addition to its more nuanced science fiction premise. In short, it’s a hit. Watch it if you’ve got the time.
Space Dandy is, quite frankly, ridiculous. But that’s what makes it so much fun. The show, which was produced by Bones (who produced both Fullmetal Alchemist adaptations, Mob Psycho 100, Sk8 the Infinity, and My Hero Academia, just to name a few), is a “space opera,” following the misadventures of Dandy, an alien bounty hunter who is, ultimately, useless. The show references a lot of other anime and manga, in addition to internet and meme culture. It also has a unique relationship to continuity, with numerous episodes ending in a major way and then having no bearing on the following narratives. Despite his dimwittedness, Dandy and his pompadour are easy to love. With only 26 episodes, it’s relatively easy to whiz through.
Mr. Osomatsu might be the funniest show on this list. It was difficult to determine exactly where to place it in the ranking. I think some of the forthcoming shows on this list are “better” (which is obviously subjective) as fully immersive shows, but Mr. Osomatsu is just so damn funny. The anime has been on for over 5 years and is now comprised of 75 episodes, which dive into the lives of the Matsuno brothers: Osomatsu, Karamatsu, Choromatsu, Ichimatsu, Jyushimatsu, and Todomatsu. The six brothers are all identical sextuplets, and the show follows the sextet as they get into hijinks. The series is based on Osomatsu-kun, a manga from the 60s by Fujio Akatsuka, and was initially released as a celebration of the beloved author’s 80th birthday. Whereas the original manga focused on he sextuplets in their younger days, the contemporary version follows the titular character and his brothers as adults.
I said I’d have to include a movie or two on here. The Castle of Cagliostro was Hayao Miyazaki’s directorial debut and tells the story of of master thief Arsène Lupin III. While movies like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke have firmly found their footing as some of the greatest animated movies of all time, some older movies of Hayao Miyazaki’s go overlooked. Although the movie is thematically different from many of Miyazaki’s later entries (environmentalism as a theme doesn’t quite come up yet), but still features his telltale beautiful portrait shots and witty characters. In short, the movie is an absolute delight and a must-watch for fans of Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki’s more recent work.
I had to include another movie! This is arguably Miyazaki’s funniest movie, partially just because the premise is so absurd and addressed in such a circuitous way. Miyazaki’s 1992 film tells the story of an Italian World War I ex-fighter ace, who now works as a freelance bounty hunter in pursuit of “air pirates.” Despite the semi-real world premise, the protagonist is “Porco Rosso”, which translates from Italian to “Red Pig.” The film unravels to reveal more about how he came to exist as an anthropomorphic pig, but for much of the movie, he’s a Red Baron-esque cool guy with a sick mustache. This is also around when American dubs of Japanese movies started to utilize celebrity talent; Michael Keaton’s performance as the eponymous character is especially wonderful.
This is where we get into complicated territory with regard to deeming this show a “comedy.” Although it’s absolutely an action/adventure series at its core, Mob Psycho 100—as with all of the writer illustrator, ONE’s work—is positively hysterical. The show follows young Shigeo Kageyama, or “Mob,” who is a powerful esper with psychic abilities that exceed those of the most powerful people in the world. Whereas numerous other anime protagonist’s are exceptionally unique aesthetically, Mob is deeply average. In most shots, he looks like a background character. In fact, he’s one of the most powerful characters in anime generally. And the show is just so funny. From Mob’s dry persona to his con-man boss Reigen Arataka to his heartwarming relationship with the Body Improvement Club, everything about the show is truly perfection. I love this show so much. Season 3 can’t come fast enough.
Ok, I know I’m going to get into trouble for this one. One Piece isn’t technically a comedy anime, but it’s the greatest anime of all time and it is so exceptionally funny that it has to be on this list. I know the tired complaint: it’s too long. It is very long, but once you get into it, its length feels more like a blessing than a curse. Captain Monkey D. Luffy is one of the funniest characters in all of anime and every member of the Strawhat pirates has their own unique sense of humor. It is a whopping 1,000 episodes, but my best advice for people looking to start is to not worry about watching all of it, just take it one episode at a time. Every arc has its own merit, and once you get started, you’ll love it. Don’t sweat the destination, enjoy the journey.
I truly can’t emphasize enough how much I love One-Punch Man. Written and illustrated by the same author as Mob Psycho 100 (ONE), One-Punch Man turns the superhero genre on its head. As opposed to focusing on a hero getting stronger and overcoming the odds, One-Punch Man focuses on Saitama, its eponymous hero as he deals with the trials and tribulations of being too strong. Every fight of his ends in—you guessed it—one punch. It devolves into a story of existential dread for the dry protagonist as he attempts to find a fight worth fighting. There are also a whole slew of other wonderfully-designed superheroes and the show tackles a lot of the politics between the competing heroes of City Z. Despite Saitama’s silly and average appearance, he’s the strongest of them all. If you haven’t watched this show, go watch it right now. It is just so good.
There’s still no firm news surrounding the release of season 3, but it truly cannot come fast enough.