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