One of the most amazing things about anime is the genre's uncanny ability to make even the most mundane subjects interesting. You might not find calligraphy to be a particularly enticing subject, but that doesn't mean you won't like Barakamon. Even if you haven't looked at a bike since you were six, Yowamushi Pedal can get you hyped on life behind handlebars.
When anime takes a "boring" subject and makes it interesting, it's almost always because that subject provides a lens through which to view the characters. Many of these shows have complex, well-developed casts who would hold viewers' interest even if the show were about watching paint dry. Others find a way to make a seemingly dull concept appear genuinely fun.
Could an anime that focuses on farm life possibly be interesting? If you answered no, then you haven't seen Silver Spoon. Yugo Hachiken enrolls in an agricultural boarding school to escape the heavy demands of his family. There, he learns to enjoy a way of life totally unfamiliar to city-dwellers.
Some of the lessons learned are to be expected: you can't truly appreciate food until you know where it comes from, and where food comes from can be hard to swallow. Others, however, are more surprising. Hachiken's classmate Komaba has to abandon his dreams in order to support his family after their farm is foreclosed on thanks to the debts his late father left behind. Hachiken has to grapple with the unfairness of life in the lower class, as well as his own inability to change the situation, and ultimately finds ways to support his friends.
Most anime doesn't get that real, but that's what makes Silver Spoon so special, despite its less than enticing initial premise.
Barakamon is about Seishuu Handa, a twenty-something whose life is dedicated to calligraphy. Despite its historical importance, most people don't have an appreciation for calligraphy as an art form, and not too many are eager to watch a character spend all their time writing.
While Barakamon is predominantly about Handa's calligraphy career, its also about his dysfunctional personality and his struggle to overcome it. At the start of the show, Handa's dad sends him to a remote island after he punches a calligraphy master in the face.
Once there, he has to learn how to do things like heat up his own bath water and look after the local children. He also has to learn that his art is only quality if he's emotionally healthy when he sits down to write. Oh, and not to punch old men in the face. He learns that, too.
Barakamon can be both deep and totally adorable, but it's always a great show.
Sweetness and Lightning features a young teacher named Kohei Inuzuka and his three-year-old daughter Tsumugi, who team up with his Kohei's student Kotori to learn how to cook. This probably sounds like a cooking show so dull it wouldn't even make it onto Food Network, but it's surprisingly emotionally resonant.
Not only does the trio make some truly mouthwatering dishes, but its members also learn to cope with serious problems. Kohei's wife died shortly before the start of the series, and neither he nor Tsumugi have been able to move on. Through cooking, the family learns how to make peace with the loss of their loved one. For Kotori, cooking becomes a way for her to get closer to her living mom.
One Punch Man is one of the most popular anime to appear in the last few years, but if you only knew the basic premise, you'd have no idea why. The show is about Saitama, a guy who can win any battle with a single punch. With such an overpowered hook, it's hard to imagine a plot with any real suspense.
On the contrary, the show takes a boring concept and makes it hilarious. Sure, Saitama is absurdly powerful, but he's also a huge dork whose main hobby is couponing. The people around him don't consider him to be a hero; they think he's a loser who's probably faking his powers. This show knows all the shonen tropes, and is intent on defying them.