Anime guaranteed to warm the heart

These cute and cozy anime are perfect to experience with family and friends.

(Arielle Rizal / Daily Trojan)

With the end of spooky season comes Thanksgiving — a time of gratitude, shared food and family. USC’s four days of Thanksgiving break are the harbinger of our longer and much more needed vacation: winter break. Looking forward to holidays and trips with family and friends, students are bracing themselves to unwind and have fun.

For those whose version of unwinding includes sitting down to a good piece of cinema, the holiday season is the perfect time for some heartwarming anime. With any luck, there will be a film for everyone. Every hopeless romantic, wholesome-ending-lover, family-movie-night-goer or solo watcher will walk away with something.

Spy x Family

First is the iconic and internationally beloved “Spy x Family” (2022). The show stars three characters: a spy, an assassin and a telepath posing as father (Loid Forger voiced by Takuya Eguchi), child (Anya Forger voiced by Atsumi Tanezaki) and mother (Yor Forger voiced by Saori Hayami), respectively. Each character has a separate motivation for their part in the facade, and how they act for those motivations is objectively comedic and adorable. But, what makes them so loveable — both individually and as a family — is the serendipity of their very genuine experiences toward one another.

It doesn’t matter if the assassin doesn’t know Anya is a psychic; she cherishes her like a daughter. It doesn’t matter if Loid doesn’t know Yor is an assassin; he protects her nonetheless. And they have a good laugh along the way. (P.S. There is a dog. And yes, he is the fluffiest, sweetest dog ever.)

“Spy x Family” is available to stream on Hulu.


Our first Studio Ghibli recommendation, “Ponyo” (2008) has every luring appeal for anime: bubbly animation, wide-eyed and cuddly characters, and a vibrant world just like ours but with a pinch of magic. The audience follows a goldfish-like creature named Ponyo (voiced by Yuria Nara) as she escapes from a home underneath the sea and discovers a world and a family on the surface. She is saved by a young boy named Sōsuke (voiced by Hiroki Doi), who she befriends and learns to love.

Through tests of love and hardship, parents who love their children, and one of the most grand and beautiful depictions of the ocean ever (and motherhood for that matter), the beautifully designed film embraces the selfless love of family: chosen and blood.

“Ponyo” is available to stream on Max, Vudu, Apple TV and Prime Video.

Poco’s Udon World (Udon no kuni no kiniro kemari)

“Poco’s Udon World” (2016) stars Souta Tawara (voiced by Yûichi Nakamura), a web designer from Tokyo, who moves to his hometown for rest and relaxation and ends up finding a child in his family’s old udon shop. The child, who he later names Poco (voiced by Shiho Kokido), is not just a child, but a shapeshifting animal spirit. Poco is cute and pure-hearted, but Souta freaks out nonetheless. Souta takes Poco in, and along the way he reinvigorates himself and his hometown’s love for his family’s udon shop. Poco takes Souta on a journey of self-discovery amid the laughs and warm hugs. Souta and Poco grow to love and care for one another like father and son, and the audience sees Souta grow as a person because of it. 

“Poco’s Udon World” is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

Howl’s Moving Castle

In the adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’ book “Howl’s Moving Castle,” Studio Ghibli produces a steampunk-fantasy “Romeo and Juliet,” a stellar soundtrack, and lovable and beautifully designed characters. “Howl’s Moving Castle” (2004) follows a girl named Sophie (Sofi voiced by Chieko Baishô), who finds herself cursed by a witch and whisked across kingdoms at war. She falls in love with Howl (Hauru voiced by Takuya Kimura), a man whose devoted and sassy personality steals the hearts of his audience. Romance is a tale as old as time, but how “Howl’s Moving Castle” wraps it into the art, music and depths of the characters’ very thoughts and actions is nothing short of moving. Watching this movie with that special someone, friends, family or solo — enjoyment is promised.

“Howl’s Moving Castle” is available to stream on Max and to rent on Amazon Prime Video and Vudu.

Fruits Basket

Warning: This anime is not all hugs and kisses. “Fruits Basket” (2019) is colored with grief, depression, violence and death. The characters — relatable and lovable as they are — are put through obstacles of unspeakable hardship. Tears are shed, but those dark bits are perfectly countered with happy scenes. “Fruits Basket” has characters who are the strong and loyal kind of family and friends. This anime is so wonderful because it shows the good and bad of life: You cannot have smiles without experiencing the cries and tears. Audiences will cry watching this, but they will also squeal, laugh and cheer.

“Fruits Basket” is available to stream on Hulu.

My Neighbor Totoro

“My Neighbor Totoro” (1988) is another incredible Studio Ghibli film about two sisters: Satsuki (voiced by Noriko Hidaka) and Mei (Chika Sakamoto) who, along with their father, move to a house in the country next to a vast forest. As the sisters settle in, the youngest, Mei, discovers a forest spirit: Totoro (voiced by Hitoshi Takagi). The huge and cuddly teddy bear shows Mei and her sister Satsuki the magic of his forest. “My Neighbor Totoro” explores the bond between the two sisters, their bond with their kind father and gentle mother, and an even deeper bond with the nature around them. As the little girls go everywhere in the small farm town, they ignite a sense of adventure and investment in not just grandiose goals in life, but in everything — every tiny victory. (P.S. If this becomes a favorite, there is a sequel called “Mei and the Kitten Bus.”)

“My Neighbor Totoro” is available to stream on Max.

A Place Further Than the Universe (Sora yori mo Tooi Basho)

“A Place Further Than the Universe” (2018) is for the people who think they won’t get noticed, or fear they’ll miss out on everything else, or are just trying to make it through the day but still dream big. This show is a reminder to keep dreaming. The show follows four young girls — unlikely friends on so many accounts — but through chance encounters, dropped wallets and a little bit of friendliness, they become sisters. The mismatched sisters travel the world together to pursue their individual dreams, and they have fun along the way.

“A Place Further Than the Universe” is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

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