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An animation buff picks 15 cartoons to watch if you miss life before quarantine

Louise, Gene, Bob and Linda Belcher in "Bob's Burgers"
“Bob’s Burgers” is like a hug.
(Fox)
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From slice-of-life comedies to post-apocalyptic fantasies, cartoons always seem a bit magical: They’re drawings brought to life. And the touch of magic that allows us to fall into these animated worlds is especially comforting during a global pandemic, when uncertainty has become a part of our everyday routines.

Thankfully, peak TV means there’s no shortage of television, including animation, to help us pass the time and stay distracted as we continue to practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible.

This list is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to the medium, but if you are looking to add titles to your queue, here are 15 animated series to consider.

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If you’re missing everyday people doing everyday things...

A scene from ‘Craig of the Creek’
Kelsey, from left, Craig and JP in “Craig of the Creek.”
(Cartoon Network)

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“Bob’s Burgers”
Available on: Hulu, Fox Now

“Bob’s Burgers” is the television equivalent of comfort food, and lately, I find myself regularly in need of a heaping serving. The Belchers — Bob, Linda, Tina, Gene and Louise — have individual quirks and passions that inevitably lead them to various high jinks, but it’s clear in every episode that they love and support one another, and that’s a large part of the series’ appeal. Well, that and Bob’s pun-happy name for his burgers of the day. Luckily, this long-running series can sustain your binge-watching habit for weeks before you have to start over. (And if the show makes you miss the restaurants in your neighborhood, remember that there are still ways you can support them.)

“Craig of the Creek”
Available on: Cartoon Network

I do not miss being a kid, but sometimes I want to bask in that carefree feeling I associate with childhood. “Craig of the Creek” lets me do just that. The series follows Craig and his friends Kelsey and JP, who spend their free time playing in and around their neighborhood creek. This patch of nature within their suburb is the stamping ground for a whole range of kids, including those pretending they’re horses, those inseparable from their bikes and even some teenage “elders” who play tabletop role-playing games in their special hideout. If you want to reminisce about a time when we were able to hang out at parks with friends, this show is for you.

“Haikyu!!”
Available on: Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll

Remember competitive team sports? Actual live sporting events including the NBA and Major League Baseball may currently be on hold, but there are plenty of inspiring sports stories to help fill that void. In honor of the postponed Summer Olympics, consider checking out “Haikyu!!,” a sports anime about high-school volleyball. The anime follows Shōyō Hinata, who falls in love with the sport after catching a match on TV, and his rival-turned-teammate Tobio Kageyama. Hinata has passion and raw athleticism but lacks proper training. Kageyama is just as passionate and a volleyball genius but doesn’t quite understand the concept of teamwork. No prior knowledge of volleyball required.

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Live sports are on hold until the threat of the virus outbreak has passed. So we asked a sports fan to recommend TV shows that provide a sports fix.

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If you’re missing the creature comforts...
Scene from 'Summer Camp Island'
A scene from “Summer Camp Island.”
(Cartoon Network)

“Beastars”
Available on: Netflix

Looking for a teen drama murder mystery to take your mind off of the pandemic-related news cycle? “Zootopia” meets “Riverdale” in this anime about boarding school students in a world of anthropomorphic animals. In other words, “Beastars” features both sexually active teenagers and social commentary via animal kingdom allegory. The series kicks off with tensions between herbivores and carnivores on the rise after an alpaca is killed and eaten on campus. Among the central characters are Legoshi, a gray wolf conflicted by his instincts and status as a predator; Louis, the red deer star of the drama club who rules the school; and Haru, a white dwarf rabbit who uses her sexuality as a means to assert herself as more than just easy prey.

“Cells at Work”
Available on: Netflix, Crunchyroll

If you need to get that CDC illustration of the coronavirus out of your head for a while, consider checking out “Cells at Work.” This anime, set inside a human body, is about the everyday adventures of anthropomorphic cells. The show mainly follows a directionally challenged red blood cell that delivers nutrients all over the body and the white blood cell she frequently encounters. Scenes where the white blood cells battle various germs are pretty violent, but watching an immune system destroy monsters can be satisfying.

“Summer Camp Island”
Available on: Cartoon Network

This is another show set in a world of anthropomorphic animals, but “Summer Camp Island” is nothing like “Beastars.” This much more kid-friendly series is about the adventures of best friends Oscar and Hedgehog, who learn that magic is real after getting dropped off at summer camp. The camp counselors are witches and the island’s inhabitants include aliens, werewolves and monsters. We may not be able to go on destination vacations right now, but this funny fantasy island getaway can help tide us over.

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If you’re missing that sense of adventure...
A scene from 'Infinity Train'
Tulip fends off the Steward in a scene from “Infinity Train.”
(Cartoon Network)

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“Amphibia”
Available on: Disney+

Appreciating the things that bring us joy feels more important than ever right now, and for me, “Amphibia” is one of those things. The series follows a human girl named Anne who has been magically transported to a mysterious marshland inhabited by frog people, where she is taken in by the Planters. You can expect killer tomato plants, tax-collecting toads, mind-controlling mushrooms, a talent show, crushes, giant scary herons and more in this celebration of friendship, family and frogs.

“Infinity Train”
Available on: Cartoon Network

If you’ve read our list of 51 shows to binge-watch during quarantine, you will have seen my previous recommendation for this anthology series whose creator has described it as “a kids’ mystery-horror-comedy-science fiction show.” “Infinity Train’s” first 10-episode “Book” follows Tulip, a girl who hops on a mysterious train while she is trying to get to game design camp. When she wakes up, she meets a spherical robot with two personalities, discovers she has a glowing number on her hand and learns that each car on the train contains a completely unique world. Watching the analytically gifted Tulip figure out the unique rules of each car so that she can move onto the next is a particularly nice reprieve as we learn to navigate the ever-evolving rules of life in a pandemic. But it’s what she learns about the train and herself that make this series a must-see.

“Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts”
Available on: Netflix

The post-apocalyptic world of “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” features dangerous creatures roaming its vibrant wasteland, and it’s quite the sight to see. That 13-year-old Kipo, who’s spent her entire life in an underground community, is excited by every new thing she sees on the surface world is even more relatable now that many of us are living under stay-at-home rules and every trip outside can feel equal parts risky and liberating. (It helps that many of these dangerous beasts are cute.) But whether you are relentlessly optimistic like Kipo, or extremely cautious like her new surface-dwelling friend Wolf, the show’s unique mutant creatures and soundtrack are what make its wonderland worth checking out.

“Samurai Jack”
Available on: Adult Swim

“Samurai Jack” might help you disconnect from what seems like a constant flow of news alerts because it is a series that demands to be watched — so much of its strength is visual, it’s hard to look away from the screen. The show follows Jack, a warrior sent to the distant, dystopian future by the evil Aku during a battle. Armed with a magical sword, Jack searches for a way to go back to his own time to defeat the shape-shifting villain before he takes over the world. (And if you find yourself drawn to the show’s silent sequences, consider checking out the creator’s more recent “Primal.”)

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If you’re missing more than 10 recommendations...

As a bonus, here are five more animated shows to (re-) watch, regardless of the state of the world.

Adventure Time
Available on: Hulu

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” / “The Legend of Korra”
Available on: VOD

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“Gravity Falls”
Available on: Disney+, Hulu

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
Available on: Netflix

Steven Universe
Available on: Cartoon Network


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Tracy Brown is a digital editor and writer working in entertainment for the Los Angeles Times. She helps provide digital content for the Arts and Entertainment sections and has also written for the Travel, Books and Image sections. A Long Beach native, she graduated from UCLA.