I’ve never been a real “heavyweight” when it comes to anime. Honestly, I see anime as I do any other show (albeit with more gratuitous panty-shots and inconceivable hair-styles), so I’ve always had similar expectations towards anime as I would have for any campy 90s American sitcom. So I have what I like to call “universal standards” for television.
Back in 2011 when I was really getting into anime, I was watching a show called Nichijou as it was airing. Man, was this show amazing! It was stupid, crazy, and above all, hilarious. Soon after, I made an account on MyAnimeList so I could discover all types of new shows to fuel my latest addiction. I wasn’t just a kid in a candy shop; I was a kid with the keys and the deed to the candy shop. So I decided to look at the tags associated with Nichijou. What’s this? Slice-of-life? Sounds interesting!
Slice-of-life initially became my favorite genre, and I felt like I was addicted. I thought that if all the shows in this genre were as amazing as Nichijou, then I would have no choice but to become a recluse and just watch slice-of-life for my remaining days. Since that point, I’ve seen many other slice-of-life shows, all of which vary from fantastic, to funny, to downright pointless. Even then, I hadn’t been discouraged at all from seeking out new entries in the genre. I know that the point of slice-of-life is to be about the mundane realism of everyday life, but I honestly like realism and I usually find it to be interesting. But when I watched Yuyushiki when it aired over the summer of 2013, it made me realize something; slice-of-life, as a whole genre, just isn’t very good.
The main problem that Yuyushiki was how there was no real plot. Granted, in a show like Nichijou, the plot was razor thin. But that show was great because in the absence of a central plot was a cast of hilarious characters and witty writing. Yuyushiki had neither of those things. The main premise was detailing three high school girls, Yui, Yuzuko, and Yukari, and their regular school days of doing the exact same things every day in their all-girls academy, especially highlighting their shenanigans in what is called the “Data Processing Club”. I have to admit, the term “Data Processing Club” and my curiosity around what in the world that was got me somewhat interested in the show. It turns out “Data Processing Club” is just a different way of saying “Wasting Time on Computers and Talking About Nonsense Club”, because that’s all there was to every stupid, grating episode. All this show amounted to was “cute girls doing cute girl things”. If you like that, then I am not one to criticize your preference. But I found it to be so boring.
But a show is only as strong as its characters, and boy, did the writers of this show get lazy. It was so bad that our three main characters were so bland that the only way you could differentiate any of them was by the color of their hair and eyes. And in a genre that is almost entirely based on the strength of the characters, what does that leave us with? I know it didn’t leave me with anything but rage and scorn for a genre that I once loved.
How did all this ruin my perception of slice-of-life? Well, after I foolishly braved through the series in the thin hope that there would be some redeemable content, it turned me off from the entire genre for months. Even once I started searching for more shows in the genre, I couldn’t bring myself to give them a chance. Descriptions of the shows would look okay, but then I would think to myself, “Well, here’s how the show could be bad based on that description”. It didn’t help that all I found were shows like Natsuiro Kiseki and Tamayura. Slice-of-life seems to cater to certain people, and it’s become apparent that I am not who this genre is made for. Sometimes I will find a show in this genre nowadays (or, at least shows in the genre being produced in the post-2010 era) that looks alright, but it takes a lot to sift through the garbage. I used to believe that all of the series associated with this genre had to have some level of quality. Now, I see how wrong I was.
It’s weird that I never realized all this until I watched Yuyushiki. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe it’s because of my “universal standards”. I know I’m not the target demographic for this show. It got me thinking that I might not even the be the target demographic for this entire genre. Now, that sounds like an egregious overstatement, but it’s how it seems to me. I know that slice-of-life can be good, and can even be great. But it takes time and effort to make a slice-of-life series worth watching, and I feel that not many people in the anime industry are interested in making the characters we want to fall in love with or the dilemmas that will break our hearts. And that’s a shame.
*One last note: if anybody wants to give me the Christmas present of restoring my faith in the genre I once held in high regards, please leave me some recommendations!