A Slice of Life.
I always found the term “Slice of Life”, a very uninspiring way to define a story. To me it always seemed to imply something bland plotless, with little capacity to keep my attention. However, recently It was proven how wrong I was.
Part of the reason there is a negative view of slice of life stories is perhaps the fact that it is such a vague term, a quick visit to Wikipedia tells me that: ‘A slice of life story is a category for a story that portrays a “cut-out” sequence of events in a character’s life.’, or alternatively, from google define: ‘Denoting any presentation that depicts naturalistic, everyday activities.’
So what exactly makes a slice of life anime then? Well, the most the most common assumptions, are that the story follows a character (or group of characters), as they go about day to day life, coming across fairly mundane and average events that most of us have experience of, then continuing their life in the same path. Of course this leads to other spin offs from this format, such as Azumanga Daioh or Lucky Star, where instead the apparently mundane events are spiced up with humour, and energy. Whilst apprehensive to these series in the past, they’ve since proven to me that a story doesn’t have to be strongly plot driven to be enjoyable, or keep my attention anyway.
And it turns out that this isn’t the only subsection of the genre. Whilst browsing through a number of blogs, and news sites, I stumbled across some reviews that define Studio Ghibli films Only Yesterday and Whisper of the Heart as also being in the slice of life category. Whilst they follow a main character through a short period of their lives, they couldn’t be more different to Lucky Star and Azumanga. They focus deeply on the emotions of lead characters Shizuku and Taeko, and how their characters develop over around a pivotal moment of their lives. The films explore far more deeply, the inner thoughts of the characters, and focus around their desire for something more than they already have. And perhaps it’s this realism that makes my connection to these films so much more significant than most of the others in my collection.
But why does the genre have to end there? Looking back at the definitions of a slice of life story, I believe their are grounds to argue that many more of our favourite stories could be classed as falling into the category, such as My Neighbour Totoro, or Fruits Basket, which, whilst admittedly fantasy based, also strongly explore similar ideas of how characters deal with certain life situations over a period of their time.
However, my main point is that we often disregard slice of life stories on first glance for how they’re defined, when really perhaps some of our favourites, unknowingly, fall under the term’s wing. There’s more to the genre than meets the eye. More than just mundane day to day activities. It’s about being able to relate to characters, and the daily challenges they face. It’s about the empathy you feel for them along the way. It’s about feeling that the story could be real.
So, why is it that when we read a blurb and see the term “slice of life”, most of us cast the manga, or anime back to the shelf from whence it came? Surely they can provide as much, if not more, emotional attachment than a high paced fantasy-action shonen series could? Surely they have the power to be more romantic and emotional than any of the twists provided by mass marketed shoujo series?
So here’s my proposition: Next time you see pick up a DVD or a manga, and read the words “slice of life”. Don’t just put it down and forget about it. There was a reason you picked it up in the first place. Give it a chance.