For a while, this “genre” has bothered me. I have strong opinions about it, just ask Nick and Kenny about the discussion we had after Kenny posted his Scum’s Wish article calling it a slice of life. I never saw a need to speak about it until Crunchyroll’s The Anime Awards had a “Best Slice of Life” category with the widest mix of shows in any of the categories. So really what is a slice of life? What makes it a genre?
By Wikipedia’s definition, it is the “depiction of mundane experiences in art and entertainment.” This is a rather broad definition that you can apply to almost any anime. This is the definition I’m assuming The Anime Awards used especially considering the actual genre of some of the nominations. Tsuki ga Kirei, while it is just a slice of a middle schooler’s life, it is more classified as a drama/romance show. Along the same lines, MMO Junkie is more specifically a RomCom than it is a raw slice of life. In their defense though, Slice of Life was probably used as a generic catch-all for the shows that did not fit in their more specific categories or there were not enough of the same genre last year to make a specific category for it.
Wiki’s definition is a well rounded, all-encompassing definition but isn’t what makes the genre. TVTropes takes it a step further by stating:
What separates slice of life as a genre from the literal meaning of the phrase (which would encompass nearly all fiction) is the emphasis on the very moment, with the intent of focusing the audience on that moment rather than using that moment as part of a narrative.
TVTrope’s definition is Slice of Life in its rawest form, and this is the definition I take when people call a show a “slice of life.” Shows like Girl’s Last Tour, the winner of the Best Slice of Life, and K-On! and Lucky Star fit the raw genre the best. They capitalize on showing the moment of life and not taking the moment as a point of narration. You’re probably shouting, “But Girl’s Last Tour wasn’t set in the real world!” right about now but I can assure you, it is a slice of life. Fantasy settings can be a pure slice of life too because when it comes to pure slice of life the setting, characters, plot, and everything you would define a narrative are irrelevant to the mundane life moments they do in each episode.
Girl’s Last Tour had a laundry scene. Much of the focus of that scene was how they did their laundry and what they did while waiting for it to dry. Laundry has no weight to the narrative, it’s just there, a necessary life activity that was the highlight of the scene. Lucky Star, while not fantasy it’s a good example of a slice of life, had a scene with the girls literally just talking about how they each eat a chocolate cornet. And if we want to take it to extremes, School-Live! is a pure slice of life with a lot of elements from other genres added in that you’ll just have to watch and find out about.
This focus on the mundane is what makes the genre. While it may sound rather boring to some, it’s very enjoyable to others. I’m fairly picky myself when it comes to the genre but the few I do find myself enjoy are the ones that just give me a feel-good-feeling inside when watching. It’s a show I watch to escape from the stress of the real world by observing another’s equally mundane life.
The slice of life genre for me is very specific. It focuses on the mundane everyday life activities regardless of setting. Especially when talking about a pure slice of life. The catch-all “genre” really should not be used to categorize fiction because it’s all-encompassing. So hopefully now when someone calls a hardcore drama/romance a slice of life, you know what definition of Slice of Life they follow.