22
Dec
11

12 Days of Anime #5: How ‘Slice of Life’ Made a Home in My Heart

I have to be honest: When I first started watching anime, I was drawn to the shows that were fantastical, that involved magic, different dimensions, futuristic worlds, or mecha. Whether it was the ability to manipulate natural elements, mold chakra, recite spells, perform superhuman feats, or interact with and drive a really cool piece of machinery, it was these kinds of shows that interested me. And only these shows.

There were a couple of shows here and there – like K-On!(!) and Arakawa Under the Bridge – that caught my attention but they were, to me, the exception (that and Arakawa wasn’t exactly ‘slice of life’). For some reason, my general rule (not just for anime, but books as well) has always been that stories about everyday life did not interest me. If there was a possibility that whatever I was reading or watching could be happening somewhere else in the world, then I pretty much wouldn’t give it a second thought. This year, however, changed everything. Starting with Hanasaku Iroha and AnoHana in Spring, I found myself following shows about regular life; about coming of age, love stories (and triangles), and the test of true friendship. All without magical girls or ninjas or fabulous machines. Spring was followed by Summer which brought us Ikoku Meiro no Croisée which was a cute show, but over shadowed by the ever popular (and oh so good) Usagi Drop. And now, in Winter, I find myself watching not one, not two, but three ‘slice of life’ shows.

Now admittedly, Hanasaku wasn’t the most spectacular of shows, and definitely not the most memorable of the year, but it started well and ended well. AnoHana was heavy on the mystery, drama, and teenage angst; and while it kept me waiting for each episode to air week by week, I found the end lacking. But the heart of the story – the love story between Jinta and Menma – was the real gold in the story: it was touching to watching Jinta come to terms with how he felt and in dealing openly with Menma’s death with the other people who also shared that burden. (Now I hope, despite Menma being a ‘ghost’ of sorts, that AnoHana still counts as a slice of life.)

The three ‘slice of life’ shows I’ve been watching this season are a bit different than the likes of Hanasaku and AnoHana though; whereas those two Spring shows had a good deal of drama and angst in them, two of the shows from Winter – Tamayura Hitotose and Kimi to Boku – have zero drama, zero angst, and seemingly zero point. And yet, I find both delightful to watch. I’d admitted that I hadn’t particularly liked Tamayura’s OVAs and had only watched the first episode or two out of curiosity. Well ten episodes later (I know; I’m behind!) and I’m still watching. And while nothing exciting ever happens, there’s a softness and a gentleness to the cast of characters and their individual stories that’s just sweet. Now I know there are some people who can’t stand watching shows where insufferably nice girls are insufferably nice to other insufferably nice girls, but I feel like there’s much, much more to Tamayura Hitotose: it’s almost like watching cotton candy being spun. It’s just… happy. It’s heart-warming. It’s nostalgic. And it gets to you in a way that only something that simple can get to you. I personally find it quite refreshing too. I mean, as a girl, I wouldn’t say that my close group of girlfriends and I are always that nice to each other, but in many ways, we aren’t much different.

Kimi to Boku, however, isn’t about girls, but about guys. In the words of Thaivu: “Cute boys doing cute things”. There are no cliff hanger endings or weird plot twists with Kimi to Boku; these boys don’t fight (it’s more like… bickering), pervertedly chase skirts, play sports or pranks, or go on wild adventures. Watching the first few episodes, I wasn’t sure I could get into this show, but somehow I lasted until episode Seven, and it was in that episode – that moment when Yuta reached forward to wipe Takahashi’s tears – that I got hooked, because despite the lack of anything happening for the most part, the show had some heart to it, and while I’m sure lots of people saw it coming, I was surprised; as if I didn’t think Kimi to Boku could pull off a scene or story like that. A lot more nothing has happened since that episode but I’ve learned to find and focus on the little moments that really make the show, those little bits of heart woven into each episode and story.

Last but not certainly not least is Chihayafuru. This show – in my honest and personal opinion – is amazing. It took an obscure traditional Japanese card game that has heavy cultural roots and linguistic dependencies, turned it into a sport that just about anyone could enjoy, added a love triangle, some new friends, and made it one of the best shows of the year. When I first read about Chihayafuru, I had no idea what Karuta was, no idea what the show was about, and didn’t know what to expect, but after just one episode, I was more than intrigued. The show took its time to introduce each character – even the side characters and characters passing through the story line, and it lays the groundwork for promising character development and relationship building. The interchanges between Karuta, romance, and friendship are seamless, and each depend on the other for strength and believability. The show is so good at pacing and balancing all the different things going on that every episode just breezes by and it leaves you not just dying to watch the next episode, but guessing what might or might not happen next, what relationship they’ll focus on, which character they’ll develop, who they’ll meet and compete against, and when Chihaya will finally reunite with Arata.

It’s been a good year for ‘slice of life’ anime and I say that as someone who never really took an interest in that genre before. I may have missed some very good ‘slice of lifes’ from before this year, but I think that the shows that aired this year were a good place to start, a good place to get hooked, and a good way to make me pay more attention to ‘slice of life’ in general. I may still prefer to watch magical girls fight it out, or penguins cook, but I certainly won’t be overlooking any ‘slice of life’ animes that come along in the future anymore.

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17 Responses to “12 Days of Anime #5: How ‘Slice of Life’ Made a Home in My Heart”


  1. 22 December 2011 at 12:00 pm

    “Last but not certainly not least is Chihayafuru. This show – in my honest and personal opinion – is amazing. ”

    First two episodes were a bit painful to watch, too many cliches, and the protags are unbearably artificial. Dropped. Also, basing the show around karuta is the most retarded idea ever. Competitive karuta ? Dont you people dare to compare the premise with HnG ! Go is a game of experience and skill, karuta is….a game. Has anyone ever heard of national go fish or charades or rope skipping tournaments ? Ridiculous i tell you.

    • 2 blindability
      23 December 2011 at 11:44 am

      yeah… neither I nor the creators of the show made Karuta a competitive sport. Japan did. and I’m sure some people feel just as strongly about Karuta as you do about Go. I also think there is quite a bit of skill (and experience) involved, especially if you’re playing at a highly competitive level. I think that goes for most sports and games.

  2. 3 The horse with no name
    22 December 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Finally, someone who agrees with me in regards to Chihayafuru.

    Trying to pick it up was so painful until we got the episode regarding the genius-karuta player’s fall from karuta where it became an instant DROPPED. Not picking up BASIC SOCIAL CUES and PIECING THE OBVIOUS PUZZLES to stay away from someone going through a tramatic experience – insensitive and self-centered. Keeping a clearly hurt self-loathing unrequited friend by her side – bitch. Breaking free of a tramatic event that caused someone to spiral into denial and self-loathing simply because a pretty girl from the past visits him – unrealistic, insulting, shallow. Honestly, I think Chihaya is bitch for trying to force people into a club they very clearly did not want to join to achieve a very shallow and meaningless goal.

    KtB, however, is just fantastic…. Reminds me of the days of Honey and Clover. It seems that they are trying to go for depth covered under a layer of funny (like Ouran), but too bad not everyone enjoys KtB’s brand of humor and its not very funny at times.

    • 4 blindability
      23 December 2011 at 11:57 am

      hey now! there are some people who are genuinely socially inept. and while Chihaya isn’t exactly (or completely) socially inept, she is very dense in social situations. many shows exaggerate character traits to give it more “show-value”. but in Chihaya’s defense, she didn’t know Arata’s grandfather had died; Arata hadn’t kept in touch, so that doesn’t make Chihaya insensitive because she didn’t know. and while she keeps mentioning Karuta to Arata after finding out about his grandfather, it’s not in a pushy way; she’s more talking about something she loves and something she knows that, deep down, Arata still loves too. as for Taichi, yes Chihaya’s not really picking up on the cues that Taichi has feelings for her, but then again, Taichi hasn’t properly confessed to her yet either. sometimes people just don’t know when one of their friends sees them as more than just a friend.

      I totally understand your view of Chihaya and how you can conclude that she’s such a terrible person, but the one thing you’re missing is that Chihaya is supposed to be a sweet girl who’s doing this because she knows the people she’s “picking on” also care about Karuta, or have the capacity to care for Karuta as she does. think about it: Desk-kun is a hard worker, straight thinker, and ambitious guy. Kana-chan has a pre-existing and deep love for the poems used in Karuta. Pork-bun only gave up because he never thought he would beat Arata – which is very similar to Taichi. Chihaya is the catalyst the creators used to draw these people into Karuta.

      I’m glad you like Kimi to Boku though! oh man I laughed so hard at Episode 12.

  3. 5 Gooney
    22 December 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Blind, these commenters have confirmed it, you aren’t allowed to like Chihayafuru. It’s a pity, I liked it as well, but now I have been shown the light and must instantly change my ways because I was clearly wrong. Also “Dont you people dare to compare the premise with HnG !” sorry about that, please don’t place a pox on our families.

    • 6 blindability
      23 December 2011 at 12:11 pm

      sniff sniff. not allowed to like Chihayafuru!? but I LOVE Chihayafuru!

      okay: so that’s an overstatement. but I can deal with people not liking Chihayafuru. it doesn’t actually bother me, haha. and shame on you, Gooney, for comparing Chihayafuru to HnG! now tell me what HnG is!

      • 7 Gooney
        23 December 2011 at 2:52 pm

        I think it’s Hikaru no Go, which I’ve never watched because I am a horrible person who thinks it may be similar to Chihayafuru and I’d rather watch that. I’m such a heathen

  4. 9 poro
    23 December 2011 at 12:16 am

    thaivu description is lacking! it’s cute boys doing cute things in cute ways! Thaivu! U must increase your range of literature to things like Strawberry Marshmallow and the like!

    • 23 December 2011 at 1:49 am

      Poro-sensei, you showed me that I have a lot to learn. Please continue to give me your guidance!

      Joke-aside, I’ve never heard of national go fish, charade or rope skipping tournaments. But Competitive Karuta tournaments does exist in Japan. 😉

      • 11 blindability
        23 December 2011 at 12:15 pm

        Google “skipping rope tournament” and be amazed. INTERNATIONAL tournaments. go team Canada!

        • 12 jGLZa
          24 December 2011 at 10:42 am

          I used to be skipping rope pro, until I took an arrow in the knee…

          Sorry, I’ll get my coat.

          • 13 Gooney
            26 December 2011 at 12:27 am

            No! No more “arrow to the knee” jokes! I can’t take anymore of them, I hear them every day! I love Skyrim, but wow, I now hate every guard NPC in the game.

    • 14 blindability
      23 December 2011 at 12:15 pm

      of course YOU would know about cute boys doing cute things in cute ways, Poro.

  5. 23 December 2011 at 3:38 am

    Epi 7 of KtB was the best one so far, though epi 8 (i.e. one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen) was also great for different reasons. Back to epi 7, though; beautifully observed, and a great, subtle story about ‘everyday’ precious moments and friendship overall. I also enjoyed HanaIro, and Usagi Drop was just the cutest thing, but also of course very moving at times in terms of conveying the theme of parenting. And yes, loving Chihayafuru so far too; a great blend of traditional shoujo elements and sports (well, sort of) action – loads of fun! 🙂

    • 16 blindability
      23 December 2011 at 12:09 pm

      I’m amazed nearly every week at how Kimi to Boku can come at you from a different angle and work. I loved Episode 7 because it was so sweet (even if it was only at the very end), but you’re right: there are so many other episodes that are great in different ways; and at times, truly laugh out loud funny. good news is that Kimi to Boku is supposed to be two seasons of 13 episodes!

      you know, sometimes I can’t tell if your mate Crusader likes Chihayafuru or not…

      • 25 December 2011 at 6:45 am

        Ooh! I didn’t know if KtB was getting a second season or not – YAY! 😀

        And lol! He loved it! He just hates Taichi. And Desk-kun. And the Empress. And… (well, you get the picture!) :p


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Irashaimasen

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