Written by TheBigN
I was interested by Hidoshi’s recent post about Slice of Life shows and how they work for people who desire/don’t care much for closure, which definitely isn’t a sure thing when watching this genre (I myself am in the latter, but that’s another thing entirely). The heated responses (brilliant or terrible) to the ending of The Sopranos (a nice variation on the slice-o’-life ending, from what I heard) are indicative of that. 😀 I commented that most fans of the genre tend to focus on the journey taken throughout the show rather than what happens at the end, since the end is usually a continuation of the journey. Whether we like it or not, life goes on as normal, and it’s usually with some sadness that I finish experiencing slice-of-life material. To me, if the story is interesting, then it can go on forever as far as I’m concerned. But Hidoshi then remarked that sooner or later, things will get boring, and because people’s tastes and tolerance for boring things varies from person to person, I decided to think and write about what keeps me interested in the genre, in no preferential order. There has to be some reasons why I like shows that bore other people quickly (usually with cries such as, “Nothing’s Happening!” as my partner-in-crime sometimes says. :P) .
1. The World (cue Kajiura, steamroller, etc.)
It’s not always important to my watching, but the background is usually a factor in keeping my interest. The world in the anime is where I start asking questions, generally along the lines of “So, what’s the world about, and how do people interact with it?” Sometimes the setting can be a “big” deal: the world of YKK, where we seem to be in a world where humanity is at its twilight; the terraformed Aqua that Aria is set in; the completely walled-in town of Glie in Haibane Renmei; the intersection of the real and the surreal in Kamichu!; the club room of Genshiken; even the Hidamari apartments in Hidamari Sketch in a way. It helps keep things in perspective, e.g. why some characters would do the things they do and act the way they are, and then I can wonder why things are the way they are. This is obviously more than necessary for me to watch a series, but it keeps me involved for starters, and I can go on from there, even if the rest of the show leaves something to be desired.
2. The Characters (eeee-mail…)
I feel that Slice of Life is strongly character-centric (otherwise, it kinda gets more abstract in determining what “life” we’re focusing on in this genre). That is, it’s the people that drive the show, and we tend to get a nice mix of both believable and non-believable examples in watching these shows. The characters are what form my strongest connection to the show. From relating to things that they do (Lucky Star, and to a lesser and more depressing extent, Genshiken for example) to just seeing how they go about their lives (making coffee, learning how to be undines, surviving school and love at the same time, just surviving school, etc.), I feel involved with them, albeit in a voyeuristic way. In terms of character type, I tend to really like characters who “enjoy” life as it’s given to them (Akari/everyone really in Aria, Miyako in Hidamari, Alpha in YKK, Manabi in Manabi Straight!, e.g. You could provide more examples if you have any, I could always use more series to watch, realize characters that I missed); they seem to make the most of what they have, and can draw others into their fun. Even if what they do has no great impact on their lives, the characters in a Slice Of Life can make the most mundane things enjoyable, and to me, that’s what it’s all about.
3. Change (turn and face the strain…)
More than any other genre, Slice Of Life benefits from continuous change. Because there’s usually no immediately foreseeable set place to end in this genre of series (and really, who wants the shows to end? :3), there must be something that keeps the series moving along. In other genres (that aren’t connected to slice-o’-life), we usually see several possibilities as to how a series is going to end, or at least we know where things will be going. Life is open-ended, so it makes sense that Slice of Life would retain that same nearly limitless potential (for the world the show’s in, that is).
Change is what also keeps me interested in the characters, and it doesn’t have to be much. Obviously just seeing the same routine over and over will get boring, so there has to be something different at hand. A goal to be obtained is often a good way to maintain my interest. While I love seeing Akari, Alice and co.’s fun exploring the world of Aqua, it’s nice to see that there’s always that goal of becoming a full fledged undine on their minds (and that people can have fun while they work~). While Azumanga Daioh can seem monotonous to some (the girls are going through high school, which tends to repeat a lot of events), we must keep in mind that graduation is coming, for another example. Even when there’s a set goal though, there are still things that can be done after it. Life went on after the Seioh School Festival in Manabi, and being able to do the event wasn’t even the main point of the anime.
Change visibly and imperceptibly affecting the characters is also pretty important. When we can see characters become self-referential and remember what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown to become who they are, I’m sure there’s a feeling that definite progress has been made, regardless on if it’s trailblazing or not, and we also realize that things have happened to bring us and the characters to where we are at the end of watching a series. Gradually learning more about characters also falls under this spectrum, as shows like Hidamari Sketch slowly reveal more details about who we watch. At the same time, we can also have it the way that YKK has it, where Alpha, as a robot that doesn’t age, observes how change can affect others visibly from seeing her friends, acquaintances, and even the world she lives in age, and how change affects her in terms of her reflections on the life that she has: past, present and future. Change makes us relate to characters, since it’s something that we experience as well, whether we like it or not.
4. Miscellaneous (extraordinary thing…)
The music, humor (especially if it’s comedy), the art, the animation, etc. All the little intangibles that can help make a show more special than it already is, or make a normal show special. At the same time, that’s all subjective as well; why else would a lot of people believe in Haruhiism while others just don’t get the hype? Why do I still find Hidamari Sketch charming while others find it boring?
Granted, these criteria also work with other genres as well, but there’s something about Slice of Life media that speaks to me in a way that other genres don’t. Maybe because I can easily imagine myself more readily in those situations as compared to others. Maybe it’s because I enjoy seeing how others live their lives. Who knows? It makes for entertaining watching to me, at least. 😛