Recommendations: Slice of Life (6)

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[Description]: The slice of life genre is typically about exploring the mundane eccentricities of the daily lives of its characters and offering a relaxing, pleasant atmosphere. These kinds of stories often forsake conventional plot-lines and storytelling in exchange for a more episodic, explorative format where they can jump in and out of their character’s lives without much disruption. In observing the normal and the trivial aspects of life, many of these shows present a light philosophical perspective on what it means to go through life or to grow up. These shows represent a serene sense of escapism where the viewer can feel calm and unwind. Links to spoiler-free reviews of all of the shows that have them are included.

6. So Ra No Wo To

Alternative Title: Sound of the Sky

Episode Count: 12 Episodes (24-minutes each)

Studio and Year: A-1 Pictures; 2010

Details: So Ra No Wo To is a rather unusual slice of life show in that its story heavily features both military and war subjects. A young girl by the name of Kanata Sorami joins the 1121st Platoon of the Helvetian Army as an aspiring bugler. Stationed in the small, quaint town of Seize, she passes her days with her fellow officers and friends. While the show’s subject matter is interesting enough, what’s more engaging is the fascinating, post-apocalyptic world the characters live in. The various historical aspects and world-building elements the show explores are genuinely interesting. While the show is lighthearted and often humorous, it never really lets the viewer forget that the characters are soldiers living in a world at war. Before the end, So Ra No Wo To reveals itself to be about the state of its world, war, and the complications therein as well as the charming lives of its characters.

Recommendation: Tentative

5. Gakkougurashi!

Alternative Title: School-Live!

Episode Count: 12 Episodes (24-minutes each)

Studio and Year: Lerche; 2015

Details: In a similar way to So Ra No Wo ToGakkougurashi! is certainly not your typical, relaxing, slice of life anime. It centers around a group of students who form the School-Living club and live on campus along with their teacher while attending classes and borrowing the school’s facilities. Though the protagonist Yuki has yet to realize it, there is a reason for the club’s existence beyond what she can comprehend. While she goes about her daily life as normal, in reality the students live in a zombie-apocalypse, barricaded inside the school. The intrigue of Gakkougurashi! is founded in the show’s ability to portray a stereo-typically, sugar-sweet, slice of life environment alongside the gruesome and terrifying subject of a zombie-apocalypse. It has a very artistic presentation of these two extremes and is certainly worth a watch. You can read a spoiler-free review: here.

Recommendation: Strong

4. Aria the Animation

Episode Count: 56 Episodes; 3 Seasons (24-minutes each)

Studio and Year: Hal Film Maker; 2006 – 2008

Details: Often the iconic face of slice of life anime, Aria is an honored classic and major staple of the genre. In the city of Neo-Venezia on the planet Aqua, once known as Mars before its terraformation, Mizunashi Akari works as an Undine under the Aria Company – a professional gondolier who ferries the citizens of Neo-Venezia as well as tourists through the city’s many waterways. Though only a fledgling Undine, Akari and her friends have high aspirations of one day becoming as accomplished as their respective teachers, known as the Three Water Fairies of Neo-Venezia. Aria follows Akari and her friend’s progress as Undines and their heartfelt interactions with the people of Aqua. It’s very sweet and observant and really hits upon all the reasons why slice of life is appealing. You can read spoiler-free reviews of all 3 seasons: here.

Recommendation: Strong

3. Hyouka

Episode Count: 22 Episodes (25-minutes each)

Studio and Year: Kyoto Animation; 2012

Details: Hyouka details the daily life of Houtarou Oreki, a high school student set on living his life efficiently and with as little energy output as possible. His lifestyle is upended when he joins the school’s literature club and encounters Chitanda Eru, an endlessly curious girl who becomes obsessed with various puzzles and mysteries. Spurred on by Chitanda’s incessant inquisitiveness, Oreki along with the rest of the Classics Club find themselves investigating the various mysteries of the school. Hyouka is an absolutely gorgeous show about exploring the small mysteries in every day life as well as those that crop up around the characters. Oreki’s deductive reasoning and the show’s beautiful presentation make the show a real pleasure to watch.

Recommendation: Strong

2. K-On!

Episode Count: 26 Episodes; 2 Seasons (25-minutes each)

Studio and Year: Kyoto Animation; 2009 – 2010

Details: Upon entering high school , Hirasawa Yui opts to join the Light Music Club though upon learning that she needs to know how to play an instrument, it is revealed that she cannot. Convincing her to stay in order to keep the club together, the other members help her pick up the guitar and learn how to read music. K-On! focuses on how the club spend theirs days together, practicing for concerts, hanging out in and outside of school, and performing. At face-value the show is very sweet and cute but underneath its adorable aesthetic is a show with a lot of imagination, passion, and affection. The chemistry between the band members and the rest of the cast is incredibly heartwarming and well-written and whether music is your thing or not, the atmosphere, the presentation, and the characters are good enough reasons to warrant a watch.

Recommendation: Must-Watch

1. Shirobako

Episode Count: 24 Episodes (24-minutes each)

Studio and Year: P.A. Works; 2014 – 2015

Details: Miyamori Aoi, a young production assistant at the animation studio Musashino Animation, entered into the anime industry to pursue her aspirations of making an animated feature with her high-school friends. Aoi and her friends take various career paths within the animation industry in order to reach their goal however their respective professions are far more challenging than they once imagined. Shirobako follows the day to day struggles of Aoi and Musashino Animation as well as the members of her high-school animation club as they all try to progress within the industry, meet deadlines, and create a compelling animated feature. Shirobako is a wonderfully written, insightful, journey through the industry of anime full of incredible characters and astounding cast-chemistry. Any fan of anime owes it to themselves to watch this show. You can read a spoiler-free review: here.

Recommendation: Must-Watch

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11 thoughts on “Recommendations: Slice of Life (6)

  1. Shirobako… is… a slice of life…? I guess…? I don’t know. Shirobako isn’t what really jumps to mind when it comes to this genre, but I guess it technically fits.

    I almost feel bad for having to whine about at least one choice for all your recommendations lists! I think So Ra No Wo To should be renamed So Bo Ri Ng. I didn’t think anything special of the series whatsoever when I finished watching it, yet lots of like-minded people find the series to have this deeper meaning that I apparently missed out on. I thought most of the characters were flat, so the rest of the series didn’t manage to hold my attention very well.

    Gakkougurashi! is a really intriguing choice. Don’t hear a lot of praise for that show. Plus, it’s not what most would consider a genuine slice-of-life (as you pointed out).

    Only six this time around, huh? No love for Yuru Yuri? Non Non Biyori? Lucky Star? Azumanga Daioh!? Or even the mass’s popular pick; Nichijou?

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    • Nah I love your critical responses – keeps me honest and thinking and as always thanks for reading. Shirobako might be an odd choice but I guess the subject matter always made me think of it as more of an SoL than perhaps a drama. I got a good chuckle out of your So Ra No Wo To comment haha. I didn’t find the characters all that memorable but what really interested me about the show was how it transitioned from something kind of vanilla SoL-ish into a bit more troubling of a story. That and I think the world and and aesthetic having sort of a cool history to it made it enjoyable for me (like how the priestess’ outfits were a combination of shrine maiden wardrobe and catholic nun dress which sort of spoke to this cultural diffusion). Only 6 on this for the time being and a number of the shows like Yuru Yuri and Nichijou are actually on my comedy list yet to come. I’ve seen Non Non Biyori and outside of a few kind of tender moments it didn’t impress my a great deal though I liked the second season more.

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    • It’s arguable for sure but I also think that people that enjoy slice of life shows might get the most out of it because of how closely it parodies and undermines the genre.

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    • It’s arguable for sure but I also think that people that enjoy slice of life shows might get the most out of it because of how closely it parodies and undermines the genre they’re familiar with.

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  2. Hi. Nice blog you have here. I like the style; it’s easy and interesting to read, and you’ve got a good hand for finding the right pictures, too. I’m test-replying here, because slice-of-life is one of my favourite genres in anime, and because I think it’s a genre that anime gets right more often than other media.

    First, I’ve long given up arguing wheter or not something is slice-of-life. My gut instinct is that Sora no Woto and Gakkou Gurashi don’t apply; even though they have strong slice-of-life elements, and that Hyouka is a coming-of-age drama with romance and mystery elements that has next to nothing to do with slice-of-life. Since slice-of-life seems to be a catch-all category for shows that don’t fit anywhere else, and my gut instinct is no better than anyone else’s, I don’t mind though, especially since I enjoyed all three shows a lot. [I’m surprised Kadodaco hasn’t heard good things about Gakkou Gurashi. It may not have been a perfect show, but I thought it was pretty well received. I personally enjoyed it a lot.]

    Of the shows, K-On is the only show I dropped after around five episodes. Whenever I thought I might come back to it, I’d see clips and find it’s really not my thing. Why isn’t clear to me, but I think there’s a certain element with KyoAni that doesn’t click with me, and it’s at full force in K-On. I enjoyed very little between Hyouka and Euphonium (Tamako Market being the one, lukewarm exception).

    So far, I’ve only seen season one of Aria, but I absolutely loved it. I was surprised how well the show also worked as science fiction; it’s more than just an aesthetic (as I assumed). And the science fiction elements blend well with the occasional magical realism. I’ll be sure to come back for the rest some day.

    Shirobako is best, for me, when it remembers being a slice-of-life show. When they attempted plot (thus diluting the slice-of-life feel) they watered down the show for me. Look at the character designs in general, and than compare them to the character designs of the five girls in your clip. It’s almost as if we have two shows that don’t quite mesh: a fairly good slice-of-life show about the production of anime, and a sympahty-based show with a cute-girl hook. The former show’s character designs are quite varied and full of personality, while the five girls (varied enough for your avarage moe-emphasis) come across almost as palette swaps on that background. They de-emphasised them in the second half (having them appear less together) and thus the second half is, IMO, better than the first. It’s almost as if the makers of Shirobako wanted the girls to be mascot guides and then found the show worked well enough without them. I like the show, but less than most of its fans, it appears.

    Non Non Biyori, which Kapodaco mentions, is almost pure slice-of-life, with a sub-dominant streak of comedy (slice-of-life and comedy overlap a lot, because neither of the genres requires plot and often work better without any). It’s great scenery porn and has an excellent in-the-moment feel. It’s also one of the few shows I know that learned from its first season and delivered a better second one. I’d say this year’s Flying Witch is a show in the same vein, and – surprisingly – even better at it.

    I’d also recommend Junichi Satou’s original series Tamayura. It’s techically a coming-of-age drama (that includes overcoming grief as an added complication), but it’s extremely slow pace (a 4-episode OVA, two TV seasons, and 4 films) and it’s focus on photography make it an excellent exhibit of the slice-of-life genre. It’s a very safe, saccherine show, so you might want to spread out the episodes a little (It’s not really suited for binge watching – like a lot of slice of life, actually) I do love the show’s ability to capture the essence of snap-shots. You’ll revisit a lot of the scenes in form of photos, taken unaware, which is adds a nice touch: memory as excerpt = snap shot.

    Finally, my favourite comedy with the slice-of-life method must be Yuyushiki; a show about the “data processing club”, a trio girls who look up random stuff on the internet and then summarise what they found in rather strange, short poems. There’s another trio of girls, and over the course of the show, the two groups slowly approach each other, individual per individual, until they come all together in the excellent “pan ningen” sketch (“bread person”). The show’s a joy to watch.

    So that’s my take on slice-of-life.

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    • Wow, thanks for the incredibly lengthy comment and for sharing all of your thoughts on the genre. There’s definitely some amount of individual interpretation about what slice-of-life concerns though I myself don’t think of it as a catch-all category. It’s a fairly large umbrella definition but I think of SoL shows as generally having a looser narrative focus (if any) and often more episodic approaches that explore the day-to-day of their characters. That being said, I don’t like limiting the definition only to the most quintessential examples of iyashikei shows because I think they can be a little more flexible than that. I can certainly agree that Sora no Woto and Gakkou Gurashi are rather unconventional choices though.

      The more time that passes, the more fondly I seem to reflect on K-On though if you haven’t found KyoAni’s other works to your liking, then it probably won’t appeal to you too much. It’s far more comedic than either Hyouka or Euphonium but is still pretty demonstrative of the studio’s general style and attitude. Aria is a real treat and if you enjoyed the first season then I can confidently say that it only gets better with each new installment.

      I’ve seen both seasons of Non Non Biyori and I definitely agree that the second season marked a significant improvement over the first. Personally I found it a little bland possibly given how pure the show’s approach was to the genre though I remember the latter season involving a few more endearing scenes than the first. I’ve heard good things about Flying Witch but haven’t resumed watching it after I put it on hold after watching the first episode. It wasn’t bad by any means, I was just watching too many other shows that season to keep up.

      I’ve heard of Tamayura before but the daunting number of movies always dissuaded me from starting into it. I like slice of life enough but particularly long-form takes on the genre I think require a bit of patience. I might have to follow your suggestion and watch it more gradually over time. I haven’t seen Yuyushiki either though its short episode count seems appealing to me. I’ll have to add it to my plan to watch and look into it next time I’m in the mood for a SoL comedy.

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      • @Slice of Life: Not to start off on a lengthy discussion about the definition of the genre (because ultimately it’s the shows that matter and not their classification), just to clarify where I come from:

        The catch-all comment was part off a throw-away comment to dodge definitory work than a serious attempt at getting to the bottom of it all. The comment in itself is more reflective of my confusion about how it’s used in the anime community. I come to term not from anime, but from literature (and specifically drama, but also towards prose-works, like James Joyce’s Dubliners). Iyashikei is it’s own genre, IMO, and like with comedy, there’s huge overlap. Slice-of-life usually describes a presentation method, rather than content. For example, a documentary style work of fiction treating, say, undercover work of drug investigators with brutal honest would be slice-of-life, too, if the point isn’t what happens, but to give a flavour of what it’s like to do that. In Western film, I’d say Slice-of-life exists in the form of Blue in the Face (the plot-less sequel to Smoke) or Jim Jarmush’s Coffee and Cigarettes.

        Basically, I support your choices, though I wouldn’t have made them myself. Because I watch a lot (and it’s easier to come up with my weak genres than my strong ones), I don’t normally care much about classification, and so I’m generally a bit glib when talking about genre. But since I’m a bit scatter-brained and easily confused, I’m [i]also[/i] somewhat keen on clear defition. Most of my posts that involve genre spring somwhere form the conflict of being obsessed with clarity about a topic I don’t think ultimately matters too much (except as elements that help you understand a show better – for example, it’s perfectly possible to enjoy [i]Madoka[/i] without having seen a single magical girl show, but you do get more out of it if you know the genre).

        @ Tamayura: I can understand how it’s daunting. If you’re interested, my recommendation would be to watch the OVA (4 episodes), and then the first season (~12 episodes) which improves characterisation while retaining all the strengths of the OVA. You can easily skip the rest unless you turn into a fan. The second season has some important development, but it’s not as good as the first, and has large stretches that come off as rote. The first two films are excellent (and the second two films probably, too, but I have yet to watch them). However, they’re mostly for plot closure, specifically graduation and future plans. OVA + season 1 is enough (especially, if you’re into it for the slice of life). Theoretically, you could only watch the OVA, too. It’s more limited in scope and less character-focussed (when concercning the side-characters), but it’s good enough to show off the photography theme, and the family issues. It’s possible to skip the OVA and only watch season 1, but I wouldn’t recommend that, because you’d be missing some of the context (the show will give you the basic information you need, but the shows emotional frame might be lacking something – I’m uncertain, since I’ve seen the OVA before they even announced the TV series and thus don’t have that particular experience.)

        I’m absolutely sure I’ll be coming back to Aria some day.

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