I was watching Bartender, a drama cum slice-of-life show, so to speak. As I went online to update my watch status (I have a poor memory), I noticed that people had written reviews about it. Being the naturally curious person I am, I went to read them.
I was not amused. Keep in mind I’m not the only person to have ever written about the definition of slice-of-life.Take these links as examples: http://www.lowonhitpoints.com/otaku/lucky.star.is.slice.of.life/
Now, keep in mind that the following post is just my opinion. So don’t rage too much.“There wasn’t enough character development or movement to the story.” “The wasn’t even really a story…..plot that was there was choppy……interrupted with bits of random history……patience and low-key attitude.”
It appears that someone is missing the point. Now, I don’t declare myself as some kind of authority over what a show is or how it should be, but here’s my piece on it. I was moderately amused, but angry at the same time when I read that. Bartender is indeed, slice-of-life – hence no plot. I mean, it’s about the daily customers he meets. What kind of plot do you expect? Do you expect riveting characters and intricate plot?
But then, I figured Bartender wasn’t a good example to prove my point. After all, it is drama, and with drama some plot can be expected. So I switched over to the most common kind of slice-of-life : slice-of-life comedy.
Searching through the database, I load Azumanga Daioh’s review page and immediately look for low ratings.
Then again, this review , although slightly biased in reviewing the show (no plot= character driven story?) , I wanted an even better example to prove my point. Moving on to the best thing I could think of:
You could say this was the last nail in the coffin for me.“If you like anime with plot and character development then get away from here, you will never like Lucky Star.”
Hmm. Surprising. Despite loving a healthy dose of plot and character development, I’m looking at Kagami talking to Konata , albeit figmatized,at this moment all the while sitting next to a cushion with (for some reason) all the 4 main LS girls sans Kagami. Yeah, I like Lucky Star. So why would this person say that we wouldn’t like it, if we do like anime with plot and character development.
The answer is in the last sentence.“Not even all the reference [to] Haruhi could save it.”
It’s clear that this reviewer has watched Haruhi, or even likes the show. Hitting up his profile would indicate that he rated Haruhi a 10. And this kind of reviews aren’t rare, they’re in abundance (especially for LS). Reviews that go how show X sucks because it ‘lacks plot, character development, etc etc.”
Now, I’m not saying that you all should and would enjoy watching Lucky Star (even though I would like to say you should) , this kind of reviews come from this general group of people:
- People who have watched Haruhi, Clannad AS, or other high-scoring anime labelled as ‘slice of life’.
- People who watched a small amount of anime series, mostly more famous series like Death Note (crowd favourite)
Searching for slice-of-life on MAL, this would appear on the top-scorers page:
Look and you’ll find, amongst others, series like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Welcome to the NHK!, Aria, Great Teacher Onizuka and BECK. Most of the series above have mass popularity, and are widely accepted for their characterization and plot. As a result, many people have watched these series.
So here’s the logical link. If Welcome to the NHK! had plot, and Welcome to the NHK! is labelled slice-of-life, thus all slice-of-life anime should have strong plot. Similarly , this should apply for everything else, right?
Wrong. That above link is a poor assumption. To quote a particular favourite book of mine, “If all cats die, and Socrates died, that means Socrates is a cat.”
As such, the above link was a over-generalization. Now, now, before I go into that time-long argument about how the shows are ‘what they are’, I stop. Why? Because saying that would imply that slice-of-life literally means , a slice of someone’s life. That is yet another bad assumption. If that were true, wouldn’t all anime be slice-of-life? After all ,you’re looking into a particular character’s life, and follow him or her through their daily adventures and whatnot, fighting dragons and flying around in Zero fighter planes. Does that constitute a slice-of-life show?
If you do want to get literal about it, let’s go in further. Slice of life. What is life? Not a philosophical question, but one that questions the definition. Let’s get even more ridiculous about it. What is a slice-of-life? A slice of someone else’s life. Since these anime characters are real people in their respective fictional worlds, our laws apply to them. Meaning that their lives don’t have plot. Even if there is any plot, it’s likely to be episodic. After all, don’t we face new things everyday? Even if it’s the same activity, the makeup inside that activity is different. For instance, I go to school, and I find new ways to piss people off every day. It’s a limited, but ever-changing cycle.
So what would this mean?
- Slice-of-life involves a cast of characters …simply living through life. But it’s their own life within their own respective universes.
- Slice-of-life need not have strong plot development, for not all slice-of-life shows have plot.
- Not all slice-of-life shows are comedy. Slice-of-life is not a genre in itself, the show can have other genres such as drama and comedy.
- The characters aren’t engineered to have you relate to them. If so, shows like Aria will never get off the ground.
- Character development or movement is hard to incorporate for all slice-of-life shows. Our lives are not determined by a puppet-master pulling the strings behind the scenes : we make our own choices. Apply that concept to slice-of-life shows.
- Not all slice-of-life shows are the same. They will all have their own distinct quirks and differences.
- Not all shows are slice-of-life. This stems from points 1-5. You probably already know this.
With that said, I’m back to watching Bartender, and I’m not one bit bored by ‘the [interruptions] of random history.’