Feature: The Evolution of the Slice of Life Genre

The original format of slice-of-life (SOL) is still the most common form of the genre where the viewers are shown snapshots of the main character and their acquaintances’ lives. Usually a little peculiarity, and sometimes even a supernatural vibe is sprinkled into the story, making it comedic and entertaining for the audience to watch. This category includes titles like Working!!, a comedy about strange people working together at a restaurant, and Himouto! Umaru-chan, where viewers witness the hilarity of a brother having to deal with his bratty closet-NEET sister. These shows don’t really have a cohesive plot point or a narrative that ties the episodes together and are just for casual watching.

Working!! (Source)

When talking about SOL, there is a studio that reigns above the rest: Kyoto Animations (KyoAni). As a completely independent studio that doesn’t outsource in-between animation frames to having their own light novel competitions for collecting show materials, KyoAni is a studio that is worth writing another editorial about. Their careful attention to detail and refusal to skimp out on quality has made them a popular studio and gained massive respect from the anime community, myself included. Their popular titles such as K-On!, Nichijou, and Hyouka are often cited as the masterpieces of the slice-of-life genre for their time. KyoAni was the supreme king of quality slice-of-life shows.

But things slowly started changing.

Starting in the early 2010s, studios began to invest more money into SOL shows. Animation, voice acting, and general production value increased, and even the common cute-girls-doing-cute-things (CGDCT) shows started to look amazing as they were more detailed and had vibrant animations. Such shows include Blend S, Is Your Order a Rabbit, and Kiniro Mosaic. But while the rest of the industry stepped up their game, KyoAni went even higher.

Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon (Source)

Their latest SOL series, Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon, is the current champion of the genre. It has received several praises not only for the comedy and voice acting, but also for its expressive and fluid animation quality. In fact, some argue that the best action animation from the winter of 2017 belongs to the play fighting between Tooru and Kanna, a scene with amazing effects and intensity that puts shounen and action shows to shame. No one would have expected studios to invest this much money into simple SOL shows 10 to 15 years ago that a lot of people would overlook. Due to the increase in quality, more and more anime viewers are starting to check out SOL shows every season, and this is a great way for the genre to spread its wings further.

While the industry became interested in the SOL genre, they also began to branch out into different directions. SOL shows with specific themes came into the spotlight, adding a twist to the usual formula. Take Skilled Teaser Takagi-san, for example, which can be for the most part considered an SOL. However, sprinkled in the background is a romance between the two main characters, giving their daily hijinks a purpose to bring these two closer together. Another example is Tsuredure Children, a short, episodic romantic comedy that shows several couples and their daily lives. This is a unique concept that I hardly see in other shows; the short but sweet segments are varied so everyone has a character that they can sympathize with. These romantic SOL shows are a welcome change to the formula, and I hope we start to see more as the two previously mentioned shows are loved by the community.

Skilled Teaser Takagi-san (Source)

Going the other direction is the rise of SOL shows with a serious theme. These are shows that still follow the basic rules of SOL, but are more mature and thought-provoking. An example of this is Girl’s Last Tour. While it looks like another CGDCT on the surface, the show’s setting is grey and lonely, creating a clear contrast with the characters. The show also shows the significance of hope in dark times and explores the horrible outcomes of war. These themes are usually explored in the seinen or drama genres, and it is interesting for White Fox to use the SOL genre as a medium to portray these themes.

Girl’s Last Tour (Source)

Overall, the slice-of-life has seen major improvement and overhaul over the last few years. Years ago, no one would have believed that studios would increase their priority for the genre and that it would be used as a unique way to convey themes. As a fan of the slice-of-life shows, it really can’t get better than this. I am excited to see new directions that studios will take with the genre and what new heights they will achieve.

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