Dorm life can be as fun as it is frustrating. College students, those with roommates, and those who have ever had an extended stay at a youth hostel will know this too well. However, while anime hardly displays the sheer rage you will feel when you find out your dorm mates have eaten all your snackies, it does provide a quick and plot-cohesive environment where audiences can get to know a lot of different characters in a lot of different situations without having to change locales.
So whether you are interested in harems, reverse of otherwise, or just like slice of life comedies with a lot of weird characters, anime set within a dorm, apartment complex, or boarding house can be a great watch.
The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior
In Kawaii Complex, main character Usa is excited to live life on his own for the first time, and as a high school student, he is ready to look for love. At first, he idealizes a girl in the grade above him that he sees in the library, only to find out later that his sempai will also be staying in the same boarding house as him. This, after discovering his masochistic bondage fan of a roommate, ultimately persuades him to stay. Alongside his quiet, bookish sempai and his roommate, Usa also stays with a lovelorn office lady and a serial dating college girl, both of which fight with each other constantly.
Throughout the series, the audience watches these characters not only grow, but grow together into a cohesive, but still very odd, household.
Pet Girl of Sakura Hall
After somewhat accidentally accruing a large collection of abandoned cats, Sorata Kanda is kicked out of his school’s normal, newer dorms and set to Sakura Hall, a old dorm where all the weird kids not suited for regular dorm life are sent. Thus, this relatively normal student begins his life living with a bunch of eccentric weirdos including the hyper, boundary-lacking, genius animator Masaki, the man slut Jin, the hikkikomori programming savant Ryuunosuke, and the newest addition, Mashiro, a prestigious artist that lacks the ability to take care of herself.
While Kanda originally had the goal of leaving the dorms, he eventually accepts that being normal is not always the best path. Through his time beginning surrounded by such genius and motivated minds, he also begins to suss out what he ultimately wants to do with his life.
Created by Rumiko Takahashi of the Inuyasha and Ranma ½ fame, Ikkoku House, at a glance, is an anime that is beginning to show its age. However, of all Takahashi’s works, this series is easily her most down to earth and human creation. However, what’s truly striking about it is that it has almost the exact same plot as the aforementioned Kawaii Complex series.
Essentially, Yusaku Godai is a college student that is just beginning to live on his own. However, when he first steps into the Ikkoku boarding house, he finds it inhabited more assertive weirdos that try to take advantage of him. However, just as he is leaving, he bumps into a beautiful girl. This girl, Kyoko Otonashi, as it turns out is recently widowed and the new manager of the boarding house. Thus, he decides to stay, doing his best to see the charm in his new dwelling.
Mahoraba: Heartful Days
Shiratori Ryuushi is a young artist that has just moved into the Narutakisou apartment block in order to be close to his art school. However, instead of being a quiet apartment complex, it is infested with nosey weirdos. However, the worse of all is the landlady, Aoba Kozue who, at a glance, seems to be charming, but that is just one of her many personality.
In Mahoraba, the female protagonist suffers from multiple personalities as a result of childhood trauma. So effectively, she becomes five equally odd characters that make the cast of this show seem more grand than any other series.
The harem genre is one that thrives in a dorm setting since nothing breeds romantic feelings and perverted situations better than close proximity. Such is the case with Love Hina. Keitaro, under pressure by his parents to stop trying to get into Japan’s most prestigious university and get a job, ends up being the manager in his grandmother’s hot springs inn that has now become an all-girls dorm. Honest mistakes and scantily-clad girls each with their own problems are abound and Keitaro eventually becomes the apple of each of their eyes.
Yet, try to imagine Love Hina if Keitaro didn’t live with all these girls. There would be no meaningful late night chats, no walking in on them in the bath, and relationships that were only a fraction as deep. If not for all living together, Love Hina would have been a boring show.
Honey and Clover
For everybody, that time spent living with roommates is typically a time of growing. It is a time of learning how to deal with people that are different from yourself and not blood related, it is a time of balancing a precarious budget, and it is a time to ease into being an adult. That is exactly what Honey and Clover shows us.
It shows us five fledgling artists in college learning how to adult properly. They go through all the pains that a typical student goes through in college and inspires the audience to soul search in themselves while watching. Whether it be watching someone struggling to make ends meet with multiple jobs or awkwardly enduring a character experience love’s keen sting, Honey and Clover shows us the struggle of roommates who, at the end of the day, can come together and share their common pains with each other.
Hanasaku Iroha tells the tale of a country inn and the people who work there, primarily following the granddaughter of the inn’s owner who recently was forced to go move to the country and live there. While many of the characters in this anime don’t technically live at the inn, they mind as well for the amount of time they spend there.
Ultimately, the point of Hanasaku Iroha is to tell a coming-of-age story about a girl that gets to know a side of her family that she is estranged from, but it also shows how much hard work goes into running an inn. It is a show that is nothing short of inspiring, urging you to go into life with the same level of vigor.
When it comes to the shojo ai genre, Strawberry Panic is kind of like a rite of passage. However, while elite theme schools may be a popular setting, many series fail to showcase the actual dorm life of these schools, but not Strawberry Panic. This anime, following the whirlwind romance between two girls, is also a great series for showcasing that proximity breeds warm feelings between people.
It is hard to remember between all the high octane food battles and clothes literally bursting off the body, but a good portion of the first season of Food Wars focused on dorm life at this cooking school. Like many other series, the main character is sent to the most run down dorm, but it actually ends up being filled with wonderfully weird and also very talented people. It is in this dorm that Souma ends up learning more about his father, his legacy, and the school itself while building a strong foundation for friendship at a school he had already ostracized himself at.
What is a spaceship if not one giant dorm? One of the more interesting examples of relationships and interactions onboard what is essentially a space dorm is Infinite Ryvirus. This anime ends up being essentially like Lord of the Flies where a bunch of children become trapped with each other and their hormones, not fully developed minds, and their own personalities begin to violently clash when kept in a finite space.
Unlike the other dorm examples on this list that tended to stick to a more comedic, romantic, or generally upbeat bint, Infinite Ryvirus is the perfect example of how dark dorm life can be. Living together with other people can not only make people grow closer, but you can also end up straight up hating a person as well when their core personality clashes with your own.