Typically, an anime consists of various story arcs. Long-running series like One Piece have many different story arcs, each consisting of several episodes that tell the story for that particular time and place. However, not every anime is like that. Certainly story arcs are the reason you get drawn into watching half an anime series in one day, but if you only have time for one or two episodes, it may be better to choose an anime series that tells short stories instead.
In these series, each episode is a new story. Perhaps the series is all bound together by a singular main character, but each episode is still a self-contained story. These series are often entertaining, but they don’t give you that same urge to binge, which is great if you have a job to get to.
So what are out favorite anime series that tell short stories?
Mushishi is an anime that doesn’t have a plot, but rather is made up of small plots on an episode-by-episode basis. Each episode is about Ginko traveling to a new place to investigate various phenomenons caused by small spirits called Mushi. While Ginko solves or studies these events, you can rest assured that each episode comes with a satisfying conclusion to the small story, making each episode self-contained.
Some may pass up Yamishibai for its basic, stylized animation, but it has a lot of good horror stories to tell. Each episode is about five minutes and almost every one manages to tell one creepy as hell story that is as complete as it is terrifying. While not every story is a homerun, there are some genuinely terrifying stories inside.
This series adapts several pieces of Japanese literature into an animated re-telling. While each story can span a few episodes, there is no overall plot other than the six different stories told within. If you have a mild interest in Japanese literature, this can be an excellent watch and likely ended up more popular than similar anime adaptations because of the superb animation.
Junji Ito Collection
Junji Ito is a master of horror in the manga world. However, only a small selection of his work has ever been animated. Yet, The Junji Ito Collection covers much of the shorter stories that were left out. While some episodes can be tied together, you know that each episode is going to be a different Junji Ito tale. All of them are distinctly creepy, though some are more of a black comedy route.
It is Kino’s philosophy that you can experience everything you need to about a city in about three days. This is why you follow Kino as she travels around and experiences different places. While not every episode is self-contained, many of them are. You follow her to a location, you view the various adventures that happen there, and then she moves on. Travel series are generally pretty good for short stories, though many of them have larger plots. This isn’t really the case here.
Gosho Aoyama’s Collection of Short Stories
Gosho Aoyama is really only famous for Detective Conan. As a series that has been going so long, it is natural that Gosho may want to do other stories. These are seven of those other stories. Of course, many of them have to do with detectives or otherwise solving a mystery, so it’s not really a change. However, it is still interesting to see what is going on in their head outside of the Detective Conan universe.
Similar to Aoi Bungaku, Ayakashi tells three stories from Japanese literature, with each story spanning about three or four episodes each. While it is a short story series, they do go on for more than one episode, but you can still keep your watching session short. Unlike Aoi Bungaku, though, Ayakashi focuses on horror-themed stories.
Animated Classic of Japanese Literature
If you are really into classic Japanese literature, this can be a really fun watch. It is nice to see some of the stories come to life. While some are told in one episode, some span several. However, it does manage to pack quite a few stories in thanks to its longer episode run. However, the only downside is perhaps its older animation.
Ai Monogatari: 9 Love Stories
Similar to other entries on this list, Ai Monogatari tells nine different love-oriented stories. However, because it is not separated into episodes – rather it is just one big OVA, it can be hard to just stop in the middle and come back to it as if flows one story into another. However, if romance is your genre, they tell some pretty touching tales.
Natsume’s Book of Friends
Similar to Mushishi and Kino’s Journey, Natsume’s Book of Friends centers around a main character and a few other reoccurring characters as he basically deals with various problems that occur between humans and demons. Each episode is usually a self-contained story about a problem and what he does to solve it. It is upbeat and creative enough to have several seasons at this point and well worth checking out.
Do you have more anime series that tell short stories? Let us know about them in the comments section below.