Slice of Life Anime Subgenre
On the opposite side of the action/adventure anime genre is the humdrum of everyday life, also known as "slice of life". This subgenre of anime is generally slow, relaxing, moment-focused and a kind of peaceful escapism. It doesn't have to be set on Earth or adhere to the social conventions we're all familiar with, but slice of life is defined by its focus on the mundane, routine, everyday life of regular people.
Slice of life anime is the most laid-back of the anime subgenres. It makes no demands on plot, has no need for action, and doesn't need to create confrontations to make things interesting. The merit of slice of life is in relaxation and contemplation: to see the world as someone else experiences it, to look at something differently, to enjoy the simplicities of life. Of course, that doesn't mean slice of life is always slow and reflective. The subgenre is often combined with other genres to create comedic, dramatic or slightly fantastical series that follows the ordinary or extraordinary life of the cast.
Strong focus on characters. What gives slice of life anime its flavour is how characters interact, deal with daily dramas and grow as time goes by. This subgenre is all about who makes up the world, and you'll be hard pressed to find a slice of life anime that doesn't give its characters ample spotlight.
Atmosphere. Slice of life anime tends to focus on the emotion of a scene and the feel of the environment. While the subgenre doesn't tend to focus on setting, it rarely forgets the emotional impact of surroundings in relation to its characters, adding a whole
Episodic. Many slice of life series will focus on one idea or event per episode without continuing or adding to an overall plot. You could think of the form in terms of a sitcom, but without the need for constant jokes.
Small focus. Don't expect slice of life anime to tackle big stories or comment on large social issues. The subgenre tends to keep things simple, focusing on small aspects at a time and moving from one small aspect to another. But, of course, while the subgenre can take on more serious themes (like raising a child as a struggling single parent), the key here is that it usually aims to provoke thought over providing commentary.
Growing up. Slice of life anime and the coming of age theme are pretty close; even when it comes to adult life, it's hard to find a slice of life anime where maturing and becoming a better person isn't somewhere underneath the surface. It's not too often that growing up is the focus, but it inevitably becomes a result over time.
Drama. Everyday life gives way to plenty of drama, especially when series incorporating this subgenre like to focus on characters and leave out wider details.
Comedy. When you see slice of live, you'll inevitably see comedy. The daily antics of a group of friends or co-workers turned weird gives ample opportunity for good laughs without sweating the big details.
Fantasy. When ordinary life combines with fantasy elements, magical realism is born. But that's more for novels. Fantasy lets slice of life anime explore something a little different, giving the world flavour while not straying too far from what we know.
Romance. Just like drama, you can't go through life without something of a love story in there. The line between slice of life with romance and full-on romance is thin, but the discerning element is how much regular life plays into the story.
Here's our top 10 'best slice of life recommendations'
1. So Ra No Wo To – Kanata is the newest member of the 1121st Platoon of the Helvetian Army, a small group of girls who watch over the inhabitable war-torn dessert stretching out in front of their country. A moving episodic series that truly captures what slice of life is at its peak.
2. Barakamon – Young and talented calligrapher Handa reacts way too violently to criticism and is shipped off from Tokyo to the slow countryside village on the Goto Islands. While reflecting on his over-the-top reaction, he meets the quirky villagers there and stumbles into one hilarious misfortune after the next
3. Usagi Drop – When hopeless bachelor Daikichi swoops in to adopt the illigitemate child of his grandfather after the man's passing, he finds that looking after a six-year-old girl is a lot more trouble than he planned. An emotionally strong adult life series about being a single parent in Japan
4. Hanasaku Iroha – Independent sixteen-year-old Ohana is thrown into an inn and forced to work for her grandmother after her mother elopes with a new boyfriend. While struggling to gain a sense of balance in her new surroundings, she butts heads with the staff and ultimately needs to look at herself to move forward. A working life series with strong coming of age elements and romance.
5. Hidamari Sketch – Bright-eyed Yuno moves into an apartment block of oddballs in order to attend art school away from home. But after getting to know them and becoming good friends, Yuno realizes everyone around her, even her teacher, is an oddball at heart. A cute slice of life show that's an easy and relaxing watch.
6. Non Non Biyori – Strongly atmospheric series focusing on the lives of four girls of varying ages as they grow up in the sparsely populated Japanese countryside. While comedy is king, sincere and introspective moments pull the series along.
7. K-On! – The three members of the Light Music Club have a chance at revival when a misunderstanding gets them a somewhat promising guitarist. As the new member learns the musical ropes and the group practices, they prepare for their debut at the school culture festival. The essence of cute girls doing cute things.
8. Lucky Star – High school student and all-out otaku Konata drags her friends through endless anime references in a light-hearted comedy series about being an anime nerd in the anime nerd capital of the world. Comedy and episodic content to the extreme here.
9. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU – Hikigaya is a cynical, anti-social guy who sees through society's façades. After he's forced into the Volunteer Service club along with two girls his age, Hikigaya must solve the seemingly mundane problems of his classmates. A slightly comedic, slightly romantic anime that shows the more mentally painful side of growing up.
10. Nichijou – Everyday life is flipped on its head as three girls (and a large cast of side characters) find the odd, the ridiculous and the downright insane aspect to their usual daily routine. A strongly comedic anime that delivers a large number of skits per episode.