As a fan of Western Television and Japanize Anime, I found that there was a surprising amount of Slice of Life shows that are popular across both mediums. A Slice of Life story is one where the audience peers into the lives of the characters as they go about their everyday lives. In most Slice of Life, there is usually no narrative stakes or any overarching conflict that must be overcome but rather just various circumstances that the characters find themselves in as they go about their lives. To try to understand the appeal of this genre across both mediums, I wanted to look at the common elements that they use to tell their stories.
Part 1 The Genre as a Whole
I believe the appeal of the Slice of Life genre comes from its blending of utopian and escapist fiction. Let me give you a brief overview of each, utopian fiction is a representation of an ideal state, and escapist fantasy is one that immerses the readers in exotic situations as a way to escape everyday reality.
Now, why does it think Slice of life is a blending of the two genres. Because of Slice of life stories portray an idealized version of our present reality, where the characters don’t have to face any significant issues or tragedies, and it is escapist through the use of elements that don’t appear in everyday life (more on that in part 2 and 3).
In other worlds Slice of life provides something to the viewers that reality had failed to provide, be that some good laughs or a comfortable environment. Slice of life seeks to provide a sense of relaxation to the viewer by providing an ideal version of life that the viewer can escape into. To give this sense of utopian-escapism Slice of Life in Japanese anime and Western Media employ a couple of techniques.
First is that they tend to emphasize comedy. Through comedy, Slice of Life can provide a sense of catharsis for the viewer through well-structured jokes and funny situations. Laughing also works as a form of stress relief, when laughing viewers forgot about whatever worries they were having and can focus on the joke and experience moments of joy that they might not have had in their typical day. To create humorist scenarios, Slice of life fiction will sometimes bend the rules of reality, the same way that escapist fantasy detaches itself from the real world.
Slice of life also has a focus on routines. In most Slice of life on streets the characters will always be returning to a central location, be it a school, office, or a house. The characters will also have set occupations, thus creating a lot of repetition in the stories. This repetition communicates an idea of what the characters are doing when they are not on the screen, making the world more realistic and similar to the repetition that we experience in our daily lives. This repetition also provides a level of comfort as the viewer will always be exposed to an environment that they are familiar with.
Despite these similarities, I found that the way slice of life delivers a sense of comfort to its audience differs from western television and Japanize anime.
Part 2 Surrealism in the West
Western slice of life tends to emphasize comedy more than its Japanize counterpart, but it provides a particular type of humor called surreal comedy.
Surrealism is a cultural movement that came from the 1920s which depicted illogical or unnerving scenes in a realistic fashion. For example, take the famous painting The Persistence of Memory by artist Salvador Dalí.
Despite the strange image of melting clocks it the desert landscape and the clocks melting along the edges of objects gives this painting some logical basis. In other words, there are “rules” that this painting, which is that clocks melt in a way that follows the rules of gravity. Another example of surrealism is the invisible car from the tv series Atlanta.
Now a hip hop celebrity owning an unseen car is ridicules to us, but as noted at the end of the video, you can see the rapper Marcus Miles hitting pedestrians in an invisible car. In essence, that is what surrealism is, something that is presented as logical to the fictional world yet is strange to ours. Surrealist comedy uses the principles of unexpected and illogical events for comedic effects.
To illiterate one of the best moments of surrealist comedy from western television Prison Mike.
Prison Mike is the epitome of a slice of life comedy; it is a comedic situation that can never really occur in our world yet make sense because of the setting of The Office. The comic has two layers to it one is Michal Scott’s cartoonish portrait of prison life (for instance: “the worst part of prison is the dementors”) and the second is the absurdity of a boss putting on a purple do-rag and talking in some sort of accent. In no way can a boss give this sort of lecture and then lock his employees in a room and not be fired, but that is part of the nature of a slice of life. Slice of life presents situations that could never occur in real life yet maintains a sense of realism with its focus on routine and everyday environments. It is by suspending realism by creating surreal moments that western slice of life provides its humor for it is surreal that allows the audience to escape into the fictional world that slice of life forms.
So it is precisely through this surrealist form of humor that western slice of life provides a sense of comfort to the viewer and take them out of whatever stress they’re dealing with. But Japanize anime provides comfort through a different means.
Part 3 Cuteness In Japan
Cuteness is the name of the game when it comes to Japanize animation, and it is utilized to provide a sense of comfort for the viewer.
Cuteness describes a type of activeness associated with youth. From an evolutionary standpoint, humans instinctually desire to protect things that are cute, such as babies or small children. Cartoonist utilize cuteness by emphasizing juvenile features and emphasize the eyes of the characters. It is by making larger eyes that that allows the character design to allow for more emotions
Slice of life anime incorporates this cuteness to both create a sense of empathy with the characters and second to create a sense of comfort for the viewer. Anime tries to emulate that feeling of joy or relief when you are watching something cute like say a kitten rolling on the ground. It is through this cuteness that the escapist aspect of Slice of Life is incorporated into the genre.
The cuteness is also integrated into the comedy like in this scene is K-on where the bit is about a character messing with another persons’ reaction. Along with this cuteness are the elements of surrealism that prevented all slice of life, where characters act in ways that are not normal for usual high schoolers since there working to entertain an audience not to reflect the real behavior of people. The problem is that with the presentation of a slice of life is that people can confuse what comes across as normal in the tv show set will translate to normal in reality, and you end up with cringy posts like the ones below.
This misinterpretation of what is appropriate in reality vs. fiction is a natural consequence of when a show tries to emulate its one form of real behaviors mixed with individuals who social skills are not developed enough to differentiate between what works in reality versus what works in fiction.
Slice of life fiction across cultures seem to use comedy and a surreal construction of reality to create a comforting environment for the viewer, one that lets them escape from the troubles that plague them in their daily lives.