Summer is finally here, which means it’s officially beach season! A common trope in anime across all genres is the presence of a “beach episode.” As the name suggests, in these episodes characters take a trip to the beach. This situation happens so often, in fact, that certain activities are almost guaranteed to make an appearance. If an anime episode takes place at the beach, you can expect to encounter at least one of the following: cooking and eating grilled foods; swimming in the ocean; telling scary stories at night; playing beach volleyball; boys trying to pick up girls in swimsuits; relaxing under an umbrella; smashing watermelons; and/or sports teams undergoing training camps. And of course, the sky and ocean are always perfect hues of blue. Here are 10 examples of the infamous “beach episode”!
1. Tokyo Mew Mew – “The Power of Kindness: May the Wish Come True in the Sea Depths” (S1 Ep19)
Magical girls have summer vacations just like any other Japanese schoolgirl, and fortunately for the Mew Mews, they have rich bosses that can treat them to a trip to the beach. Although the girls amuse themselves with swimming, surfing, sunbathing, chowing down on shish kebabs, and sipping fruity drinks, the real focus of the episode is the surprising fact that Lettuce doesn’t know how to swim despite being infused with the DNA of a porpoise. (It’s also ironic that Ichigo has cat DNA yet loves the water.) By the end of the episode, Lettuce awakens a new power that lets her turn into a mermaid because, in addition to having a beach episode, Tokyo Mew Mew also follows the shoujo anime rule that anything can be accomplished using the power of friendship and believing in yourself.
2. Love Live! School Idol Project – “No Senpai Allowed!” (S1 Ep10)
When I was a kid, my best friend was super rich. Of course, I loved her for more than just her money, but having access to her beach house in the summer was a major bonus. The µ’s girls reap the same benefit with their composer Maki when their leader, Honoka, proposes a training camp at the beach and commandeers usage of Maki’s summer home. Instead of a rigorous training montage (which is what their beach trip was supposed to involve), we see the girls frolicking in the ocean, relaxing on the sand, playing the classic watermelon smashing game, and the quintessential activity for adolescent female bonding: having a pillow fight.
3. Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma – “Final Exams” (S5/The Fifth Plate Ep1)
The Totsuki Culinary Academy students don’t have time for the play and relaxation that usually accompany a day at the beach, because in this episode, they’re undergoing an important exam. Their task is to successfully run temporary beachside restaurants for three days. They’re super busy creating menus, procuring ingredients, interacting with customers, and of course cooking; however, in true beach episode fashion, blue skies and bathing suits abound. Food Wars is an ecchi anime, so it’s honestly surprising that it took five seasons for them to show the girls wearing bikinis…
4. SK8 the Infinity – “Steamy Mystery Skating?!” (S1 Ep6)
This is my favorite episode of one of my favorite anime ever. A set of different circumstances—seeking out a healing hot spring, babysitting, picking up girls on vacation, and a business trip—coincidentally brings our favorite skateboarding found family to the same island. This trip is particularly important for deuteragonist Langa, who has never been to the beach before. We’re treated to a classic montage of pranks, water games, beach umbrellas, and shaved ice, preceded by the cast skateboarding down a beautiful palm tree-lined path. Joe tries to hit on girls but is intercepted by Miya (though to be fair, Joe flirts with girls EVERYWHERE, not just at the beach). The group also spends the night at a fancy inn and competes in a spooky nighttime challenge, making this episode reminiscent of a typical sports anime training camp (even though half of these characters are adults and none of them came with the intention of training).
5. Ouran High School Host Club – “The Sun, the Sea, and the Host Club!” (S1 Ep8)
A host club’s purpose is to make girls feel beautiful and loved, and there aren’t many locations that are more romantic than the beach. But the Ouran High School hosts know how to work and play at the same time. While doing their jobs by complimenting girls in cute swimsuits, they also entertain themselves by playing volleyball, collecting shells, soaking up the sun, and trying to scare their androgynous heroine Haruhi. They also enjoy a grand seafood feast for dinner. Unfortunately, this episode does contain a scene that startles first-time viewers and embarrasses long-time fans; Ouran seems like a good starter for people who are new to anime until you remember what Kyouya does in the latter half of this episode (and also the Hitachiin twins’ “brotherly love” schtick, but I digress).
6. Play It Cool, Guys – “Summer Sky and Sea” and “Cool and Awkward Guys” (S1 Ep23-24)
Play It Cool, Guys shows us that age is just a number when it comes to making meaningful friendships, and the final two episodes prove that the same can be said about enjoying the beach. Since the main characters are all so different, they spend their beach day in their own ways: sporty high schooler Shun swims intensively (complete with goggles and a swim cap); trendy art student Souma buys shaved ice more to take pictures of than to eat, then casually enjoys the water with Economics major Hayate; and diligent office worker Mima happily rests under an umbrella on the shore. They end the night watching fireworks together, which is another staple activity for a Japanese summer. (By the way, you can read my review of this feel-good slice of life anime here.)
7. Free! – “Trial in Open Water!” and “Shocking No Breathing!” (S1/Iwatobi Swim Club Ep5-6)
Obviously, an anime about swimming has to have at least one episode that takes place at the beach. Many (if not most) sports anime training camps occur at the beach anyway, but there is no better spot to train for a swim meet. The Iwatobi Swim Club boys spend the day following a strict training regiment left behind by their predecessors, even though one of them, Rei, is still learning how to swim. For dinner, they make their own pizzas, which I vividly remember doing at a friend’s beach house when I was a teen myself; I guess some summertime traditions transcend continents! The boys camp out in tents on the beach while their manager and club advisor get to sleep in a cushy lodge… Then things suddenly turn grave when Rei goes out to swim alone in the middle of the night and nearly drowns. We also learn that Makoto (who is my favorite anime character in the entire world, by the way) had a traumatic experience as a child that led to him developing thalassophobia. This intensity is unexpected in a mostly lighthearted anime, but the shift in tone creates the perfect environment for the boys to tell scary stories, so it’s still in keeping with beach episode protocol!
8. Blue Exorcist – “Demon of the Deep” (S1 Ep11)
Which ruins a day at the beach more: being forced to work retail, or fighting a giant sea monster? Unfortunately for Rin and Shima, they have to do both in this episode. Beach shacks selling summery foods like ice cream and yakisoba commonly appear in beach episodes, and Rin and Shima (well, mostly just Rin) are stuck working at one such eatery, selling grilled squid when all Shima wants to do is hit on bikini-clad girls. But they quite literally have bigger fish to fry: specifically, a giant Kraken threatening the peace of the seaside town. But on the bright side, they got to spend the night at an inn where they were served as much squid as they can eat! Plus, Izumo, who was also assigned to the same mission as the boys but refused to help at the grilled squid stand, got to enjoy her time at the beach and float on an inner tube on the ocean. At least she experienced the pleasures of a typical beach episode, even if none of the other characters did.
9. Lucky Star – “Fixtures of Summer” (S1 Ep6)
Lucky Star follows the daily lives of a teenage female friend group in Japan, so it’s only natural that we see them take at least one trip to the beach. Konata, an otaku, even directly talks about beach episode tropes in anime, such as smashing watermelons and picking up girls. Acknowledging the repeated clichés of beach episodes doesn’t stop the girls from participating in those very same activities, though: they bring an inner tube into the sea despite being perfectly capable of swimming, joyfully eat food from a beach shack even while admitting that it’s overpriced and poorly cooked, and scare each other in the dark before going to bed in the inn where they’re spending the night. The Hiiragi sisters also break conventions by openly discussing how relieved they are that they didn’t get their periods while at the beach. Lucky Star may be a silly comedy, but it sure is realistic in its depiction of high school girls! Maybe that means there is some truth to the beach episode tropes, then, if these characters partake in them.
10. Fruits Basket – “Are you really this stupid?” through “Who are you?” (S2 Ep6-10)
A singular beach episode wasn’t enough for this shoujo anime: they have a five-episode beach arc. With so much time dedicated to a beach vacation, it follows that we get to see most of the beach episode essentials: a watermelon splitting contest; swimming both leisurely and competitively; floating around on inner tubes; building sand castles; late night walks on the sand; and lighting fireworks, to name a few of the activities the Sohmas do with their friend Tohru. But when so many extended family members get together under one roof, there’s bound to be drama—especially when it’s the Sohma family. Traumas are re-lived, dignities are tested, feelings are questioned… But the romantic backdrop of the blue summer sky and sparkling ocean waves helps to ease tensions, and at least one character realizes that they’re in love with someone.
Honorable Mention: Harukana Receive
This anime is about beach volleyball, so technically, every episode is a beach episode.