Written by TheBigN(ever Knows Best)
I usually don’t respond to posts this way (since I usually have a concord rather than a discord with posts that I mention on the blog), but I knew that Owen was going to write a post about why he thinks that Lucky Star is a show that is more “Slice-of-Life” in comparison to, say, Hidamari Sketch for a while now. So now that it’s here, I might as well respond to it like I’ve been planning on doing all along. Maybe it was because I expected to be blown away by Owen’s stunning logic, or that I’m much more solidly in the Hidamari camp (you can see that it’s among my all-time faves on my MAL, despite it being cheap) than the Lucky Star camp, and/or maybe it was because I was running on four hours of sleep the night before. But my general response to the post was summed up by “Meh” and “I think Sat-chan might be a little off with his reasoning there”. So for a nice point-counterpoint exchange, I’m going to try to explain why I feel this way as best and as respectful as I can, though there’s a niggling thought in the back of my head saying that I didn’t read his post right to do this. But what the hey. That’s how politics can be won.
I guess the main thing for falls with the “micro vs. macro” concept, which sounds like the crux of the whole matter. From reading the post, the idea seemed to be that by being “macro” as Lucky Star does it, where we get “true slice-of-life” moments every once in a while in between all of the antics that we see the characters go through, the effect becomes much more punctuated, powerful and meaningful than that of Hidamari Sketch‘s moments, as the show follows the “micro” trend of “following the same routine” with constant focus on a day in the live of the crew at Hidamari Apartments. And that even though real life is a series of habits itself, seeing that sort of thing on anime is magical, but can get boring if we keep seeing it, and that’s where Lucky Star has the advantage. Because of how I see “Slice of Life” shows and because of my impressions on the two shows, I find the argument doesn’t work with me too well. From experience (i.e. my gut feeling/opinion), “slice-of-life” shows work because they focus much more on the “micro” format. A show that follows the “macro” format of looking at slice of life can’t really maintain that focus if that’s what you’re looking for, and if you’re looking at things in terms of what’s a “pure slice-of-life” show or not, it’s hard to be able list one such show that only focuses every once in a while on the characters with other stuff going around. It’s not like I could say that Cowboy Bebop, for a fun example, does slice-of-life better
By what seems to be as best a definition as you can get for slice-of-life, the trademark of the category is that of a specific observation on someone’s or some group’s day by day sequence of living. As such, I could exaggerate it to mean that the whole thing is an observation of someone or something’s life, as well as the pace involved with that. And in order for a show of this type to be successful, the viewers must be intrigued enough to continue following the pace of the show’s main focus while getting something from taking the time to pay attention. That “reward” varies as much as what we see, be it the target’s interaction with the world that they live in, in the characters that he or she interacts with who also get drawn into that pace, and so on. Based on the character(s) that we follow, and how they live their life(s – yes I know grammatically that doesn’t make sense), sometimes the pace for some is going to be akin to watching paint dry or making coffee for some people who aren’t able to be drawn in to the pace of the show. Especially when each episode seems to follow the same sort of pattern of events, regardless of what actually takes place in the episode.
While I can enjoy the exploration of Neo Venezia through the eyes of the cheesy romantic Akari, or the way that every other character in Sketchbook, despite how crazy, angry, or Canadian they are, seems to work well with Sora’s slow tromp through life, if people can’t get into a slice-of-life show’s “life tempo”, especially when that is the main focus of the show, it’s hard for them to like what they see, and that’s natural. Hence the complaints of ennui or of “nothing happening” usually associated with these types of shows, because these also tend to be shows where life doesn’t come at anyone fast, which also tends to be normal in real life. This is a problem with the micro approach that Owen states when you couple that with the repetition the shows also bring (as omo commented a while ago, something like a “monster of the week” sort of thing, which works). In a way, I feel like we’ve been through that sort of thing before.
But I don’t think of that as a problem, because I don’t think that the typical pace of a slice of life show is supposed to be for everyone. And I know that’s a copout statement, but I do agree with Owen that the structure of “true slice-of-life shows” really is a form of fanservice targeted to a specific audience. While I have my own way, and others have theirs, to enjoy what can be considered as an entire focus on monotony by others, I don’t feel bad about liking this sort of “pandering”. Nor do I believe this form of fanservice is done for the sake of itself, like with what Kanokon does with titillation (It makes you horny because it can, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that). I do feel that part of the appeal for why the “micro” view is so prevalent comes from the fact that the viewer can get something valuable from seeing something that only consists of days going by (and still I think of you…), from a reflection of their own experiences in life taken seriously and sincerely, to another perspective on how people can see things differently from others, for example. Hidamari Sketch had me remember the silly, thoughtful times that I had with my room/suitemates back in college, in Yuno’s troubles with self-confidence and worries about the future, I saw myself, and so on. But again, you can only get out something by putting in something, as you have to be interested enough in what the show gives you, as we all have our preferences with what we want to see and how we see things. Your drying paint is not my drying paint, though it is drying paint regardless.
Another part of the problem in Owen’s argument for me was along the lines of using Lucky Star as the basis for why the “macro” format is better. And it’s not that the macro concept doesn’t work, but more like the show he chose to demonstrate why he favors the example doesn’t work well there, because of how the show is set up, as already stated by Baka-Raptor. Unlike something like Hidamari Sketch and ARIA, which has some sort of “main idea” or point that takes up at least half of an episode or so, Lucky Star is more like Azumanga Daioh, where each episode consists of a series of short sketches, even when taken out the added on example of Lucky Channel in the former. But in the case of Lucky Star, one of the main problems of the series consisted of a dearth of seamless transitions from one story to the next, especially when the “connecting” stories don’t have much in common, creating an altogether disjointed “life tempo” when taken everything as a whole. It’s much harder for someone to get into a pace that’s all over the place than one that flows from area to the next.
I consider Lucky Star as a comedy (or as an attempt at comedy, as some would say) with slice-of-life elements, than a slice-of-life show with comedy elements like Hidamari Sketch, and part of the reason falls on the show’s irregular tempo. That opinion is only strengthened when looking at the Lucky Star format as well. As also noted by Baka-Raptor on Owen’s post, almost every sketch ends up with some sort of joke or witty comment at the end. Given that part of the show’s appeal would be in the moments where you laugh and go “I know what you’re talking about there!”, this makes sense. Even in those touching moments that you see or in the exhibition of the “macro” slice of life aspects, there’s an attempt at humor. Examples include what you could take as the misspelling of Kagami’s name after Konata decides to cheer her up, to seeing Konata and Souichiro freak out when seeing a ghost, Konata’s mother/Souichiro’s wife Kanata, in a family picture just after that poignant moment of explaining the relationship between Konata’s parents. That tends to diminish the gravity/significance of the moment, which is also something that comedy is used for. And it does not help that even when going through all the skits, we still have the stylings of Lucky Channel and karaoke/Shiraishi endings at the end of the show, and you can’t say that those moments aren’t played for comedy at the moment. Whether or not you feel that the attempts at humor work or not, they are still attempts at humor, and almost always attempts at humor, and this is a consistent aspect of Lucky Star that you can not ignore. And I would assume that a comedy would tend to focus on making us laugh more often than making us feel thoughtful about it. Unless it was satirical. Maybe.
Again with going on what Baka-Raptor said (seriously, I had these thoughts, but he placed them down before I could. It means we’ve reached a consensus!), there also is not enough of some sort of change in terms of Lucky Star for it to be considered a good example of “slice-of-life”. Another way that I could say it is that when I watch Lucky Star, I think of the show and the humor as “situation based”, where we the situation act on the characters, and not the other way around. We do get scenes that are “character based”, such as the concert scene and “We Love Kagamein”, but more often than not, I can still see Konata acting as how she always does no matter what the situation would be. It seems more like the situation is acting on the characters than the other way around, if you get that idea. To be honest, it’s still hard to explain that feeling myself, but I feel that you only really get something from the shows when the focus is more “character based”, as the “micro” slice-of-life anime do.
We get change in that we get to learn more facets of the characters, as well as get to see more interactions with the characters as we went along in Lucky Star (with me being a person wondering why the full cast wasn’t present in the first place), but I don’t see any moment where any of the characters really “learn” from their experiences for example. With Hidamari Sketch, we also get to learn more facets about as the show goes along, but there is a lot of “character-based” focus which is the strength of the “micro” format. I do notice that Yuno becomes more assertive as the series goes along as an case in point. It could be something as simple as doing things like saving a play by willfully jumping over a railing to pull a rope down, where earlier she was worried about climbing over her railing to land in the backyard, and wouldn’t have done so without coaxing from Miyako. Or how we see Miyako and Yuno’s friendship growing closer (Miyako lending helpful advice later on, the two reminiscing by themselves) after Yuno wonders if their relationship would ever be able to reach that of Hiro and Sae’s friendship. There is a sense of actual progress from the characters in Hidamari Sketch that we don’t really get in Lucky Star, and when watching slice-of-life shows, how can we progress with the shows, in terms of gleaning something from them, if we can’t see the main targets in these shows progress themselves?
Again, it’s all a matter of preference though. I think Hidamari Sketch has much more powerful moments than Lucky Star despite the constant pattern the show follows (even when it doesn’t). But then again, I also feel like you have to be more active as an anime watcher when looking at Hidamari Sketch then Lucky Star, where the latter seems more geared to pure entertainment. Both still manage to pander either way, but that’s not the point. It’s like, while I might be watching paint dry or drinking coffee slowly to savor the moment with Hidamari, with Lucky Star, it feels like I keep slapping new coats of different colors on wall while I was supposed to be waiting for first coat to dry. Or gulping down multiple cups of coffee for the caffeine burn (DADADADADADADADADA). But you could say that that’s just my bias talking. All the same, I welcome both Hidamari Sketch X 365 and the new Lucky Star OVA (because Anime Tenchou is awesome) when they come out. And it will be interesting what more that Owen has to say on this topic, since it seems like he’s not done yet. Maybe I’m not either, especially because I’m not sure if I’m looking at this the right way. 😛
BTW Owen, Manabi Straight should be on the “Slice-of-Life/comedy meter line thingy”, though it’s more than just slice-o-life/comedy, which is what the rest of the shows seem to be there for. That’s what threw me off, really, since the goal gives it a more “macro” focus, in your words. And it should be closer to the SoL end. That is all.