In Defense of Slice of Life pt. 2: How to Define the Genre
Welcome, weebs and authors alike, to The Aniwriter
In my last post, which you can find here, I talked about how the Slice of Life genre can unfairly be labeled boring or uninteresting and pointed to shows like Spice and Wolf and A Place Further than the Universe to prove my point, which brought up a different point in the comments that I was planning on talking about in this post anyway: What defines a Slice of life?
Now, I’ve come up with a few working definitions, but before I put those out there I think it’s important to know what other definitions people have used before. The most common definition seems to come from Wikipedia, in which it is described as “seemingly arbitrary sequence of events in a character’s life is presented, often lacking plot development, conflict and exposition, and often having an open ending.”
In Robert E. Brenner’s book “Understanding Manga and Anime,” He defines Slice of Life as having more melodramatic tendencies, while also acknowledging the tendency to focus on School, romance, Sci-fi and fantasy.
Other definitions, including ones from Merriam Webster and Cambridge, emphasize the fact that a slice of life focuses on the “real life” of the character or characters involved.
All of these definitions probably would have been accurate by themselves even just a half a decade ago, but the reality is that the Slice of Life genre, whether we like it or not, has expanded. As Brenner’s definition acknowledges, Slice of Life in anime isn’t just high school comedy and romance. What seems to be the problem in modern anime is the Slice of Life genre’s increase in its use of fantasy and sci-fi elements.
In that case, I would propose a definition that looks something like this:
A story in which one or more characters interact in a way that involves little to no plot progression, and which generally focuses on the character’s day to day lives.
Now, I like this definition not just because I wrote it, but because it focuses on the two things that are at the heart of every slice of life show:
- The characters
- The character’s interactions
The definitions previously were somewhat limiting in that they had to involve the “real lives” of the characters involved, meaning that show’s with more unrealistic elements like Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid could technically be considered not Slice of Life.
Now, looking at the definition I wrote above, how would this apply to the example’s I used in my last post?
Well, this is where some of it gets a little sticky. With “A Place Further Than the Universe,” even though it might be defined by others as Slice of Life, under this definition it might not be, because even though the main girls are certainly the focus, it would be hard to argue that there is no plot progression.
The Ancient Magus Bride seems to fall somewhat more in the middle, as the show most certainly focuses mainly on Ainsworth and Chise, but there is a fair argument to be had about just how much the plot progressed by the end of the show.
Spice and Wolf, at least under this definition, is a pretty open and shut case. Very little in the way of actual plot progression happens during the show’s run, and the interactions between Lawrence and Holo are pretty much the main driving point of the show.
Well, that’s my answer to the question. By no means am I saying this is a perfect definition, and I would for sure love to hear some criticism and feedback, but its what I have come up with for now. I might end up following this up with a third post talking about sub-genres, but I’ll leave it at this for now.
What do you guys think the definition of Slice of Life is? 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!