In Defense of Slice of Life

Welcome, weebs and authors alike, to The Aniwriter.

In my time watching anime, one genre, in particular, has often been criticized as being the least interesting and lacking in a lot of substance, and that would be the Slice of Life genre. Slice of Life is a genre that fans use to describe series where the focus is on the characters and the day to day happenings in each of their lives.

I thought I would take a bit of time to talk about the Slice of Life genre in a bit more depth because I feel like a lot of those same criticisms are still very much around, even despite the amount of high-quality Slice of Life shows that have been coming out as of late.

As I see it there are two major criticisms that still get lodged at the Slice of Life genre, so as such, I’ll be making this a two-parter. Those criticisms are as follows:

  1. “Slice of Life shows often lack any serious development on the part of both the characters and the story, and as such don’t really make for interesting pieces of entertainment.”
  2. “Slice of Life shows are so loosely defined that it doesn’t make sense to call it a genre at all.”

Today, I’ll be addressing the first of these criticisms, so without further ado, let’s get started.

First, I’d like to just get this out of the way: yes, I understand that what is entertaining or even interesting is completely subjective, but to that, I would say that I think it’s important to be able to at least make an argument as to why you believe something.

It’s also a pretty grandiose claim to make that an entire genre has no development whatsoever, so I’ll address it now: the idea that the Slice of Life genre has no development whatsoever is kind of ridiculous.

Spice and wolf 2.jpg

The first major example I can give to refute this point is Spice and Wolf. The show follows Holo and Lawrence for two seasons, through all kinds of adventures and situations. Holo starts the show looking down on humans, assuming that none of them are worth her time. But, as the two continue, she comes to understand through Lawrence that humans are all living their lives the best they can.

A similar change happens inside Lawrence. At the beginning of the show, Lawrence starts out with a much more cynical view of the world. Holo, however, gets him to believe in the idea that life doesn’t have to be so doom and gloom all the time. Not to mention that by the end of the second season, the two have obvious romantic feelings for each other that aren’t just going to go away without any resolution.

Another great example of a Slice of Life with major development is Nagi no Asakura. Now, I’ll freely admit that I haven’t seen all of the show, but even despite only having seen the first 9 episodes or so, if already feels like it’s going through plenty of development. Hikari has already gone from someone who unconditionally hates humans to someone who realizes his friend might be in love with a human, and as such tries to support her.

A Place Further Than the Universe.jpg

Even in more recent editions to the genre like A Place Further than the Universe, there is obvious development in the relationships between all of the characters. Mari starts the show as an unfulfilled high schooler who wants more out of life than just to sit around and do nothing. After she meets Shirase and decides to pursue a trip to Antartica with her, she realizes there is a lot more out there that she could be doing, and that doing those things with great friends makes them much more enjoyable.

Shirase especially sees a ton of development over the course of the series. Despite starting out as just a meek, somewhat quirky teenage girl who only seems to be the butt of everyone’s jokes, she manages to finally find her place in the world. The trip to Antartica allows her to finally fulfill her dream, and near the end of the show, she manages to get some closure about her mother.

It’s also worth pointing out that among the three series I just listed that there is an incredibly diverse set of story and characters, each with their own unique goals and hopes. One thing that is consistent in all definitions of Slice of Life is a character-driven show, but that doesn’t mean a show has to sacrifice any development in order to be more character focused.

Next week, I’ll spend some time revisiting the idea of how to classify what exactly is a Slice of Life.

How do you guys feel about Slice of Life as a whole? Do you have any favorites that you would consider Slice of Life? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you want to support The Aniwriter through donations or are just feeling generous, consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi. Otherwise, thanks for reading and bye for now, Friendos!


19 thoughts on “In Defense of Slice of Life”

  1. Honestly I never even watched Slice of Life animes before I encountered Orange last year. It was an amazing watch and after seeing that I really started to enjoy this genre. Your Lie in April was another great example of a fantastic entry in this genre and one that I enjoyed very much. Great post! 😊😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Just IMO, if I was going to make points about slice-of-life I’d pick shows more central to the genre… That is, Spice is also a road trip show and Yorimoi is also a coming of age story. They’re outliers, and more than anything else proof that the definition of Slice of Life is rubber enough that it can be stretched to cover anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, here’s the thing. I don’t necessarily disagree with the idea that slice of life is a bit broad, which is why I am making a whole other post talking about that subject. On the other hand though, I don’t necessarily think these shows are really that much of outliers. I think what could be considered Slice of life is moving in a more fantasy-driven direction, especially with shows like Violet Evergarden and Ancient Magi’s Bride.

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      1. If the genre description of slice-of-life can be stretched to include Ancient Magus Bride, then you’re using a definition that’s so broad as to be essentially meaningless.

        WeeaBroDerek nails it when he says that almost all shows are hybrids, but despite that a genre tag still collects shows that are broadly similar thematically. The defining characteristic of slice-of-life is that at their core they’re about daily life. The canonical slice-of-life is Non Non Byori – but fantastical elements aren’t ruled out (Maid Dragon fits comfortably under the slice of life umbrella), nor is it limited to current day or the real world. (I’d argue that The Jetsons is also slice-of-life.) What is ruled out are shows that don’t revolve around daily life, mundane or otherwise.

        In Magus Bride, the daily life elements are brief breaks between the fantasy adventure elements, not the core of the show. In Yorimoi the whole point of the show is Kimari breaking out of her daily life.

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        1. This is where I think we’re just going to disagree until I write my follow up to this.

          I absolutely agree with you, Karandi and WeeabroDerek: I think there are very few shows which you could categorically call Slice of Life only. Almost all Slice of Life shows are going to be paired with another genre.

          As for Ancient Magi’s Bride though, I think what makes it qualify as a slice of life is the focus on the relationship between Chise and Elias. The fantasy elements are important, but a lot of what matters most is the new sense of family that Chise gets from living with Elias.

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        2. I haven’t seen Magus’ Bride yet, but I still consider YoriMoi and VE both Slice-of-Life on the grounds that they focus primarily on the daily lives and experiences of the protagonists, and you can take the middle third of each and rearrange it in pretty much any order without changing much of the narrative. That type of storytelling is definitely slice-of-lifey.

          I do think a series can have elements of another genre without actually being part of said genre. VE, has actions elements, but I wouldn’t consider it an action series. It sure gets a little murky, though. I mean, we could probably call Space Battleship Tiramisu, and Chio’s School Road slice-of-life if we really wanted to, as they also show episodic accounts documenting the day-to-day lives of the protagonists, even if absurdist in nature. Likewise, there are shows out there that shouldn’t be considered SOL because the focus isn’t really on the daily character interactions and experiences.

          Good post, though. Looks like it’s generating a lot of discussion. I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for part two.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. If you define “slice of life” as being “about the daily lives”, then we’re in complete agreement. Where we diverge though is that you’re not using the term “daily life” in a way I’m accustomed to nor in the way it’s usually interpreted. In this context “daily life” is normally interpreted/defined as “ordinary and usual”… Which is why Non Non Byori (and sometimes K-On) is considered one the canonical slice-of-life anime. It’s not that nothing happens or that characters don’t progress, it’s that the core essentials of the plot arise from the normal elements of normal life.

            It’s also why fantastical elements, as in Maid Dragon, are not ruled out – because they *are* a part of Miss Kobayashi’s daily world and daily routine. (A “new normal” if you will.) Nor are absurdist accounts like Chio ruled out. (Though Chio strikes me as owing more to Walter Mitty, escapist fantasy, than to slice of life. But I digress… as I said above, I give and grant that hybrids exist.)

            I haven’t seen VE, but Yorimoi is the exact opposite of “normal and routine” – the whole point of the show is breaking away from the mundane and doing something different.

            And with that, I too will rest until Part Deux.

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  3. There are some very few slice of life stories that somehow manage to grab my attention, but generally speaking I don’t much like the genre. The sense of not getting anywhere tends to bother me (even though that is kind of the point). I feel most of the shows I watch with the slice of life label that I end up enjoying are shows that are slice of life and something else so while the slice of life aspects occur and give you that sense of calm and the everyday, the other aspect of the show is what drives the story.

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    1. I think this is true generally speaking, but I still think there are a lot of stand alone Slice of Life shows that can be entertaining and drive their own narrative as well. The most important thing for any slice of life is how interesting their main character is.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You beat me to the punch on this, but I was also thinking of writing a “Defense of Slice-of-Life”. I think you’re off to pretty good start here, though. I agree with Karandi in that SOL is often times a hybrid genre. That said, I think most shows are made to fit multiple genres. Aside from maybe some very specific romance series and their subgenres, You very rarely see a series that is tagged only with “Mystery” or “Mecha”. Even an “Action” series of just about any kind will often fit within other genres.

    You can make a case for series like Violet Evergarden, Yorimoi, etc. that are more drama-centric, but I think the heart of SOL still lies in the realm of comedy.

    This would be shows like Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Wotakoi, Cells at Work, and King of the Hill (to cite a non-anime example).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been meaning to write forever a piece on the slice of life genre. Till 2016 I had not cared for the genre till watching Amanchu. This series completely changed my perspective on the slice of life genre. I hadn’t connected with a series till amanchu relating to swimming which is a life love of mine. I believe slice of life delves into many individual categories when it comes to anime and be about anything. I don’t believe it remains the stickler of being about every day life. Like you bringing up spice and wolf, place farther than the universe the possibilities are endless. Great write up Jack 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Many anime fans evolve into slice of life fans after they get tired of shounen jump shows shouting their attacks. Slice of life serves several important functions. They offer views of the rest of Japan, since many don’t take place in Tokyo. They also offer views into the lives of less tropish characters. People who might not be teenagers, people who work for a living. Farmers and retired people and shopkeepers and grandparents. Non Non Biyori is slice of life. Barakamon is Slice of Life. There’s a lot of really good shows which get far away from voice activated weaponry and shouted attacks by teenage boys who will defeat you because they will grow stronger. Stories about people instead of puberty. Some have overplot that eventually shows up. Sora No Woto is a slice of life show about a post-war glassblowing town from the position of military conscripts kept safe from the danger because they’re beautiful girls and there has to be some people you don’t send to war. A sweet show surrounded by the damages of a fallen world and lost technology mostly used to kill people. The sustainable medieval stuff is still about life and living. An interesting point about the embrace of technology in Japan, and a repudiation of its excesses.

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