Home > Opinions > Slice of life: Why I waste my time watching nothing happen

Slice of life: Why I waste my time watching nothing happen

a.k.a. Why I don't waste my time watching mecha harem anime.

Anime is a form of entertainment. Some anime seek to amuse. Others seek to provoke. Still others aim to shock and horrify. But ultimately, what anime does is no different from other forms of entertainment – it serves as a diversion from reality.

In other words, anime is a form of escapism.

Anime allows us to escape our dreary lives of study and work, if only for a moment. It allows us to escape into worlds of fantasy and technology and alternate histories. It allows us to indulge ourselves in the desires that we cannot otherwise fulfill in reality.

With that said, why would I want to watch slice-of-life, a genre that is so named for it simply being a slice of reality?

Why would I want to take a break from the tedium of studying, or the frustration of job-hunting, to watch an anime about studying or job-hunting; when I could otherwise be watching an anime about girls throwing themselves at the male protagonist as he partakes of gladiatorial mecha combat?

(Note: Since I haven’t actually watched Infinite Stratos, my off the cuff summation may be somewhat inaccurate.)

Because ultimately, the success of the escapism depends on how well you can relate to the protagonist, i.e. how well we can project ourselves onto the protagonist.

Here's a non-flippant caption for once: I really love Kanna Asuke's art.

For example, since I am a male, it would be somewhat difficult for me to project myself onto Kirino, grades and track ability notwithstanding. But I am than capable of projecting myself onto Kyousuke, who is apparently the very picture of the average high school student – a blank screen in anime terms.

So then, shouldn’t I be capable of projecting myself onto Ichika, also a male, and thereby amuse myself in the fantasy of being mobbed by girls and partaking of gladiatorial mecha combat?

And indeed, I am capable. I am capable of doing so right up to the moment where the girls are more than obviously hungry for his cock, to put it mildly, and yet Ichika remains oblivious.

Because any mentally-sound male by that point in time would have noticed that said girls are desperate for a hard dicking, to put it delicately, and have done something about it. Either give them what they want, or otherwise tell them to vent their hormones on each other.

It is absurdly hard to find Infinite Stratos art NOT involving Ichika banging some girl.

This is the fundamental issue of why I am willing to watch harem hentai, but not harem anime.

Because given a situation in which multiple girls are apparently willing to do anything and everything for the attentions of one male, it doesn’t make sense for them to stop shy of anything sexual, and even more so for the guy to not take notice over multiple episodes.

I am unable to project myself onto a guy who is either impotent or homosexual. This implies that the people who enjoy Infinite Stratos are either secretly impotent/homosexual, or enjoy being teased/have better imaginations than I have. Good for them then.

As for the ‘why I hate mecha’ part, it’s simple. The scenarios presented in Infinite Stratos and Gundam are, to me, unrealistic. Because there is no way that the technology can be hidden away from the world for long. Or that no one would attempt to improve upon it.

In my eyes, the Infinite Stratos storyline should end with an extremist female faction succeeding in taking over the world with bootleg IS’es and imprisoning all males or something. And the Gundam storyline(s) should end with a faction zerg rush or with one stupidly-overpowered Gundam that destroys the whole world by accident.

Or whatever. It’s not like IS or Gundam is known for plot anyway, amirite.

It's startling how cute an omnipotent and omniscient being can be.

Does anyone still remember Haruhi season 1? There was one episode that everybody hated: Someday in the Rain.

In a nutshell – It’s raining. Yuki reads a book. Kyon goes out. Yuki reads a book. Haruhi takes photos. Yuki reads a book. Kyon comes back. Yuki reads a book. Kyon falls asleep. Yuki finishes her book. It’s still raining. Haruhi and Kyon walk home sharing an umbrella. The End.

It’s my favourite episode.

Similarly, Genshiken can be summarized as – Otaku discuss anime. Otaku discuss manga. Otaku discuss cosplay. XXX. Otaku discuss anime. Otaku discuss manga. Otaku discuss cosplay.

Replace the XXX with interpersonal conflict, daydreams, job hunting, and repeat ad nauseum.

It’s one of the few anime series that I still rewatch.

I’m actually kind of a slice-of-life snob, if you will. When I’m watching anime for the fun of it, I’m actually pretty open to anything, harem and mecha included. However, when I’ve got limited time, I get pretty discerning and downright obnoxious.

Ritsu, the most normal, gets the least love.

Because really, have you encountered a group of cute girls who rarely practice but play great music, or eat cake everyday but not get fat, in real life?

(Not to mention Ritsu and Yui somehow passing their university entrance examinations. Storyline-purpose cop-out there.)

That’s right. Even among the anime that is categorized slice-of-life, I’m going for the even more boring, more realistic ones.

Why?

Because the more boring, more realistic an anime is, the more I can relate to the characters. And the more I can relate to the characters, the more I enjoy the anime.

I can empathize with Yuki, on the simple pleasure of reading in a warm room on a rainy day. I can empathize with Sasahara and Kugayama, on the anger that comes with stalled team projects and the peace that comes with reconciliation. I can empathize with Madarame and Ogiue, on the frustration of finding clothes that fit both personal tastes and prevailing fashions.

The times, they are a-changin'...

I’m not sure how to explain it. It could be that such scenes in anime ‘resonate’ with my own memories, granting me twice the emotional experience. It could be that such scenes merely remind me of the simple joys in life.

But ultimately, the best part about these boring, realistic anime is that there’s always something that you can take and apply to life.

Not that I’m saying that you should be adopting, say, Yotsuba’s naive joy towards all things. Which would be of as much use as adopting Ichika’s obliviousness towards the (non-existent) girls hurtling themselves at you.

But to be more outgoing, like Amagami SS’s Junichi deciding to be part of the Founder’s Festival Committee, or more assertive, like Bokura Ga Ita’s Takeuchi – even though he didn’t get the girl in the end.

Yes, to be fair, you don’t have to watch slice-of-life for these. And I’m certainly not limiting myself only to realistic anime.

But after lasers, explosions, metal fragments, screaming girls, flashing magical sigils, and thumping orchestral scores, wouldn’t some slow pacing, ambient music, and underplayed character interactions be nice?

Another day in the life of a struggling artist.

  1. March 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Indeed, the reason why I enjoy slice of life is to enjoy most of what you’ve stated up there, especially this line:

    “In other words, anime is a form of escapism.”

    Slice of life usually presents us with the small little things in life that is so often forgotten due to the hectic of today’s life and that’s what I enjoy so much.

    I would highly recommend ARIA if you haven’t watched it. It’s really one of the best slice of life show that I’ve ever watched. I could be biased, but hey!

    • johnnyyandere
      March 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm

      I kind of regret that I wrote less than I wanted to. But it’s really hard to pin down just what appeals to me about slice-of-life.

      I’ve come across ARIA before, but the sci-fi premise dissuaded me. Maybe I’ll give it a shot one of these days. It’s hard to find good slice-of-life, after all.

  2. ojisan
    March 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    You’ve watched some good slice-of-life – but can you handle the reeally slicey slice? Come to Alpha’s Cafe – Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. Admittedly, it’s a couple of disjointed OVAS from a very long-running manga, but still, it’s the Ground Zero of SOL.

    • johnnyyandere
      March 12, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      Curious. I am well aware that Alpha’s Cafe will probably have less relevance to my life than Genshiken, but the premise intrigues me. Very much so…

  3. March 13, 2011 at 1:22 am

    Maybe Seitokai no Ichizon is something you would like.

    Or maybe… Ichigo Mashimaro?

  4. ojisan
    March 13, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I second Du5k’s Ichigo Mashimaro and add a Kamichu –

  5. March 13, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Why isn’t harem anime “watching nothing happen” as well? As you mentioned, all the girls in a harem anime eventually want to get into the pants of the male lead, but in the end, there is no actual action at all, if you get what I mean. The male lead merely glances at their naked form for a moment, and he gets beaten up, repeated ad naseum, almost to the point of cliche.

    So you’d rather watch harem hentai, where something DOES eventually happen. As they say, the chase is the most interesting part of the relationship, and not the end result. Similar to slice of life anime, how they go about their lives is the interesting part of the relationship, only that in harem anime, the ‘end result’ is often implicit. You know it’s gonna happen anyway in harem hentai, so there’s a different kind of satisfaction drawn from watching harem shows too.

    • johnnyyandere
      March 14, 2011 at 1:22 am

      I think you misunderstand me. When I say “nothing happen[s]”, I don’t actually mean that nothing is happening. I’m referring to the lack of plot and action i.e. characters studying, characters going shopping, characters cooking.

      What bugs me about harem anime is that it requires too much a suspension of my disbelief. The ‘chase’ that you speak of is drawn out to the point of being unrealistic.

      It’s not as if the guy has to struggle to work up the courage to tell a girl he likes her. Right from the start, due to a series of improbable events, the girls already like him; why then is he still struggling?

  6. March 14, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Would you consider Amagami SS then? The male lead does have a harem so to speak, but he attempts to win their hearts one at the time, with the story resetting as each girl is worn. Then again, it breaks the mold of standard run-of-the-mill harem anime so i guess i can see why you make the point that the plot of harem anime pales in comparison to slice of life ones.

    • johnnyyandere
      March 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm

      Harem and slice-of-life are not mutually exclusive. But it is very rare to find an anime that manages to staddle both due to their conflicting levels of realism.

      That said, I consider Amagami SS to be a special case, because of the omnibus format.

      I suppose my definition here is metaphysical. Because the core idea of a harem anime is to have one guy romancing multiple girls. Although Junichi never does romance multiple girls within the same timeline, the omnibus format satisfies this particular core idea of harem anime.

      I must therefore consider Amagami SS to be a harem anime in the eyes of the viewers but not through Junichi’s eyes. But I also consider it slice-of-life.

      As for plot… it is a difficult matter to define what plot truly is. Perhaps I could cover this in another post?

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