Monday, January 11, 2016

What is slice-of-life, and why do I love it?

"Slice-of-life" is perhaps one of the most ill-defined genres of anime out there. Many would say it is not even really a genre in the same sense that action, mystery, horror, romance, or even harem are genres. Indeed, there are many shows that I find are rather "slice-of-life", even though the genre tag is usually not attached to that show, and that, rather than being a "genre", I find various anime to have the "feel" of a slice-of-life anime.

So what do I consider "slice-of-life"? At its most basic, I consider an anime "slice-of-life" if I feel like I am living life alongside the story's characters when I am watching it. This is definitely not a binary distinction, where an anime is either "slice-of-life" or it is not, and I can definitely find some shows to be just a little "slice-of-life", not giving me the entire "living life with" experience that other shows might give but still enough for me to enjoy in that way.

Random Non Non Biyori screencap, because Non Non Biyori is awesome.

This would be a good time to note some misconceptions about slice-of-life, at least from my perspective. Slice-of-life is not an absence of drama; in fact, drama can actually help a slice-of-life show, though it does run the risk of overrunning the show, making it feel like the entire show is dedicated to resolving a major conflict rather than spending time with the characters. Likewise, a show can be an adventure-focused show, revolving around a grand journey to a final destination, and still have a slice-of-life element to it if said adventure is portrayed through the smaller, day-to-day activities of those adventurers. ("Adventure" is used here in an abstract way and can also apply to, for example, a school club trying to solve a mystery or prepare for a band performance.) For these reasons and others, my definition of slice-of-life includes many shows that are not generally considered slice-of-life. However, as this is my blog, if it fits my definition, I can talk about it.

To further explain what I consider a slice-of-life show, I will look at why I love slice-of-life shows.
There are many reasons why slice-of-life shows can be appealing. It might be the comedy, the characters, the relaxing atmosphere that makes such shows a nice way to unwind after a hard day, or the fact that many such shows feature adorably cute girls doing adorably cute things. All of those might be reasons why I like a particular slice-of-life show (yes, including the cute girls; not going to deny that).

However, to look at why I love the slice-of-life genre as a whole, look no further than the title of this blog.

In Nichijou, one of my absolute favorite anime of all time, one character says that "everyday life is like a series of miracles." It is a quote that captures the spirit of this show very well, as the characters often turn ordinary events into ridiculous comedic scenarios: dropped food becomes an epic battle to save it before it hits the ground and encounters with deer become wrestling matches, while a genius scientist kid and her robot girl creation spend time living normal lives. It is a show about making the mundane fantastical and the fantastical mundane, and in doing so it brings out the miracles of everyday life.

Totally a part of my ordinary life.

And that is the biggest appeal of all slice-of-life to me. As fun as it can be to watch more adventurous shows featuring major plots that encompass the entire show, and to be warped into the fantasy of being part of such plots, for most of us, we do not live such adventurous lives. And even if we do consider our lives some kind of adventure, there is truth to the adage that it is not about the destination but the journey, and that, sometimes, what we learn from the most are not the big adventures themselves, but the small adventures that make up the day to day. And for those of us who live seemingly mundane lives, sometimes viewing each day as a small adventure, or a small miracle, can help us appreciate life more. Sure, slice-of-life works well as simple escapism, but more than just escaping from life, it is a celebration of life.

With that said, I hope to show some of the appeal of slice-of-life through the posts I make here, as well as look more into what makes particular slice-of-life shows work. That, or I will just ramble on about whatever I feel like with these shows. At any rate, expect the first posts about this current season's slice-of-life shows soon, as well as perhaps a look at last year's slice-of-life shows.

1 comment:

  1. I've always considered slice of life shows a lighter form of drama peculiar to anime. Often set in high school, slice of life has the characters struggling through the ordinary adventures found in actual life with no underlying theme or destination driving the narrative.

    In Western entertainment you see the closest comparison in a slightly different context often called indie drama. Hollywood would likely describe it as a laid-back dramedy.