I’ve never quite been a fan of the slice of life genre. I’m unsure why but the pastel colour scheme, character relationships, and plot lines never quite interested me.
‘Slice of life’ is defined as, “A realistic representation of everyday experience in a film, play, or book.” Notable slice of life anime include: Fruits Basket, Toradora!, Clannad, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Anohana: The Flower we Saw that Day, K-On!, Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions!, Hyouka and 5 Centimeters Per Second.
Slice of life anime is considered to be more like melodrama than drama, and usually makes use of a large number of dramatic and comedic moments in a short span of time. They are usually plotless and non-directional, which goes against what are considered fundamentals of engaging storytelling. Instead, they focus upon interpersonal relationships and how characters react to their surroundings and events. At the narrative centre of slice of life, there tends to an uneventful mundaneness.
Perhaps slice of life is too similar to the avant-garde style in the regards that there needs to be a certain appreciation, understanding and acceptance of it before one can really enjoy the medium. What I tend to find to be a lack of flow in narrative, mundane character chemistry and an unfulfilling repetitive lack of insight into characters’ psyches – another might love for a variety of reasons.
Slice of life is well adored for the relaxation it can provide viewers. The atmosphere itself of the series needs to be woven into an overall relaxing mood. There tends to be a lack of high stakes in this genre to achieve this feeling. No-one has to save the world or fight their way through an apocalypse, but rather there should be a lack of conflict to focus upon characters interpersonal relationships. As much as I appreciate a good character insight as much as the next person, I think I find character analysis to be much more engaging. While Hyouka I assume is, for many, a relaxing show to watch, I found it rather boring since the mysterious weren’t that complicated and the pace was too slow. These added a boring factor to the series for me, purposely then (I theorise) to highlight the main characters’ apathetic and ‘lazy’ attitude. I didn’t enjoy it until over halfway through the series, and even then, it was only for a few episodes where I found myself able to watch more than one in a row.
Incorporated into this relaxing atmosphere is usually also a simplistic colour scheme, limited animation, a rather basic score and simple character designs. For someone who’s favourite art style in an anime is something like Dorohedoro, you can probably tell my tastes don’t exactly tend to align much with the Fruits Basket aesthetic. Scores are important to me in anime as well – impressive musical accompaniment for anything heightens experiences for me. Grand plot points in series like Attack on Titan and Guilty Crown are elevated by Hiroyuki Sawano’s incredible compositions of epic pieces, and Akira’s heavily percussion-based soundtrack delivers a cold and chilling sound that enhances the sense of dystopia for viewers while watching. Without a noticeable soundtrack in slice of life anime and without a progressing plot, I can tend to get quite bored.
Finally, slice of life characters are the focus of their stories. Everything is centred around their personalities, motivations, dreams, hopes, choices and relationships. They are the ones who drive the story. The plot of a slice of life anime is considered secondary to how a character will deal with it. With such a major focus being on characters it’s important that they are relatable and that by extension, their struggles, thoughts and reactions are relatable. They are mostly put in situations where viewers can connect with them via universal experiences such as growing friendships. For me though, the few slice of life series I have watched contained very limited relatable characters. Hyouka only allowed me to relate to a maximum of one- or two-characters’ personality traits, and even then, it wasn’t much. Anohana though I did not enjoy at all. I watched it out of pure stubbornness. I did not cry. I see its appeal, but to be honest it is one of the worst pieces of media I had watched in a while when I saw it. How I was meant to cry in scenes poorly set up and executed due to bland writing, character development and personalities filled with a lack of either self-awareness, sensibleness or common sense from characters made me dislike the series and characters even more (I also don’t like when characters have overabundance of naivety – it annoys me too much and I can’t pinpoint why). But my experiences have been most likely skewed by my own personality so that’s on me.
This begs the question then, what do I like about the slice of life genre for my personal viewing? Well, I don’t know. Maybe these shows are actually more exciting than I realise, and I just haven’t been shown the right clips to pique my interest. Maybe there’s more plot than pitched in minute long trailers. Maybe I just haven’t watched the right series for me.
As a result of all of this I’m asking you now… please recommend me slice of life anime that I might like.