slice of life

Bartender

Bartender

 bartender

  • Trailer: Opening animation
  • What it’s about: Despite his youth, Ryuu Sasakura has gained a reputation as a master bartender among his peers and patrons alike. People seek out his bar in the hopes of receiving the perfect cocktail – a “Glass of the Gods” that not only suits their desires but guides them on the next step of their journey.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s a laid-back, meditative slice-of-life show. There’s nothing all that flashy about it, but every episode introduces new patrons with new problems and new stories to tell. There’s nothing outlandish or unbelievable about the stories (aside from Ryuu’s Sherlockian ability to read the minutia of behaviour), but they’re all interesting and well put-together. The show is unabashedly Western-focused, with cocktails, stories and trivia drawn from the UK and the U.S.. The show does a good job of introducing and settling each story in its own episode and, as a bonus, each episode ends with a recipe for the featured cocktails, if you want to try them yourself. Bartender isn’t in the running for “greatest show of all time”, but it’s a unique experience and well worth checking out if you want a bit of a breather from heavier or more action-packed series.
  • Caveats: With no overarching plot, it’s a show that’s best watched an episode at a time. Just sit back with a drink in hand, because you’ll definitely want one by the end of each show.
  • Themes: Well, on the surface, the show’s message might be read as “alcohol is the solution to every problem” but, really, it’s more about how the great stresses and tortured dilemmas that we all face really aren’t that bad – that all one needs is some distance and time to reflect, and the courage to see what needs to be done. And, of course, a receptive ear as we moan about our lot.
  • Similar works: The Time of EveA Piece of Phantasmagoria
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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Gekkan

  • Trailer: PV Trailer
  • What it’s about: Nozaki has a passion for manga. For writing girls’ manga, to be specific. And he’s successful at it, too, even if nobody at school believes him. Of course, they’d be more likely to do so if his personality wasn’t so stoic and oblivious – to the point where he mistakes a girl’s confession as a request for an autograph.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s less of a romantic comedy than a comedy about romance. As a writer, Nozaki draws inspiration from all of the people he meets, and the shows cast are suitably bizarre and hilarious, from his best friend and ladykiller Mikoto who embarrasses himself with the cheesy lines he spouts, to the obliviously offensive Yuzuki. The show takes a sketch format, with each episode being broken up into several smaller stories about particular incidents or characters.
  • Caveats: There’s no real on-going plot, if that’s important to you. Though the characters are fun enough to riff off of for the whole length of the show.
  • Similar works: Daily Lives of Highschool Boys, The Comic Artist and his Assistants.

Toradora!

Toradora!

toradora

  • Trailer: English dubbed trailer
  • What it’s about: It’s a new year of high school, and once again Ryuji has to convince a new batch of classmates that he’s not as much of a thug as his appearance implies. At the same time, he’s hopelessly trying to work up the nerve to do something about his crush on the lively Minori. To that end, he strikes a deal with Minori’s best friend Taiga – he’ll help her with her own crush on his friend Yusaku, if Taiga lends a hand getting Minori’s attention.
  • Why you should watch it: Toradora! is not an innovative show. What it does do, though, is polish the tried and tested anime romcom formula to a perfect shine. There’s no flab in the story – even the standard beach episode, cultural festival episode and Christmas episode all work to progress the plot and to provide actual character development rather than empty fan-service. The characters themselves are fantastic. They’re all multilayered people and not just the bland stereotypes the first appear to be. All of them are lying to each other, to the audience, and in many cases to themselves about who they are and what they want, and the show does a fantastic job of slowly teasing out who these characters are underneath it all.
  • Caveats: While there are depths to the characters, many of them fit archetypes pretty closely at first glance. Taiga in particular seems to be your standard hyper-violent “tsundere” for the first couple of episodes. Stick with it.
  • Themes: Fumbling through adolescence and your first real relationships. Trying to “help” people by lying to yourself about what you actually want, and how it ends up just causing more problems down the road.
  • Similar works: Toradora! is a great poster-child for the entire genre of anime rom-coms, so you’ll find similarities with a lot of them. Try out Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo.

K-On!

K-On!

Kon

  • Trailer: Fanmade trailer
  • What it’s about: The Light Music Club of Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School is on the verge of disbandment. With all of its members having graduated the previous year, it’s down to a new crop of girls to get together and decide what direction the club is going to take. The end result is more of an afternoon tea club. where the four girls – Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi, and Yui – get together and try in vain to practise their music while being distracted by the draw of beach holidays, tea parties and shopping.
  • Why you should watch it: K-On! is a fantastically cute, funny and heartwarming slice-of-life show. It knows exactly what kind of show it is, and plays up to its strengths. The character animation is fantastic, with each of the girls drawn as living, breathing human beings. The songs are perfectly crafted to be catchy and charming while still being believably written by high school girls. When it’s all over it’s not who did what that you remember, it’s how well they did it and how much you liked seeing them do it. You react not to specifics of detail or situation, but to the whole, to the relationships between the characters, and to your emersion in the setting. It’s difficult to pin down exactly what makes K-On! stand out from the crowd within its genre, but it really, really does. If you want to watch something set in a perfect world untouched by sadness, drama, or conflict, K-On! is there as a warm blanket – a place you can hang out with friends and not worry about anything serious.
  • Caveats: I really can’t fault K-On! in any of the areas where it actually puts in the effort. It’s not an ambitious show, but that doesn’t lessen its appeal at all. I can easily imagine something better than K-On!, and I can imagine something quite different than K-On!, but I have a hard time imaging K-On! as it exists being made much better.
  • Themes: This really is not a show to watch for its thematic content.
  • Similar works: Yuru Yuri, Yama no Susume

Usagi Drop

Usagi Drop

Usagidrop

  • Trailer: English subtitled version
  • What it’s about: Daikichi arrives at his grandfather’s funeral to find a surprise guest – his grandfather’s illegitimate six-year-old child, Rin. None of the family knew that she existed, and none of them have any idea what to do with her now. When the idea of looking for an orphanage is raised, Daikichi steps up and offers to take Rin in himself until something better can be found. But he already has a job with long hours and has no idea what raising a child entails.
  • Why you should watch it: Usagi Drop is quite possibly the most heart-warming and adorable story I’ve ever seen put to animation. If you can watch the whole thing without even idly imagining yourself in Daikichi’s shoes, I’m not sure that parenthood is for you. This is a pure slice of life show – it never strays into outright comedy, romance, or any of the other genres that SoL shows tend to hybridise with, though there are elements of all of them scattered throughout. The script lends itself well to natural and affecting performances by the voice actors. But it’s the characters are truly what sell the show, from Daikichi and Rin themselves to the friends they make and the family who inevitably involve themselves in Daikichi’s life.
  • Caveats: This is a pretty simple show at heart. In all honesty, it benefits very little from being animated rather than live-action. And the studio seems to have taken the opportunity of the lower demands that this entails to be a bit looser with the animation and musical score. Episodes switch between basic watercolour backgrounds and barebones character designs to merely average versions of both. That said, they largely get away with it; the show itself doesn’t lose much by not being the most visually stunning thing out there.
  • Themes: Parenthood. The rewards, costs, and stresses of raising a child alone. The importance of family.
  • Similar works: Wolf Children

Sakura Trick

Sakura Trick

sakuratrick

  • Trailer: PV Trailer
  • What it’s about: Haruka and Yuu have been best friends for most of their lives. After transferring into the final intake of a high school due to be closed, Haruka is worried that their friendship won’t survive the transition. As a sign of how serious the two are about each other, they make a dare to kiss one another in an abandoned classroom. From there, their relationship only gets deeper, but they have to keep it a secret from their classmates and families.
  • Why you should watch it: Sakura Trick is one of the most adorable romcoms that I’ve seen in a long time. The key ingredient to the whole mixture is the innocence of the relationship, though having two or more extended kissing scenes in every episode certainly makes a nice counterpoint to the “show no progress” mentality of most such shows. The animation is simple but bright, and the comedy of the show is endearing. If you want a case of the warm fuzzies, pick up the show at your convenience.
  • Caveats: Each episode is broken into five-minute “sketches” with only a loose overarching continuity. There’s no real long-running storyline here, though certain elements continue to develop as the show goes on.
  • Themes: Blurring the line between friendship and romance.
  • Similar works: Candy Boy, Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo

sakurasou

  • Trailer: PV Trailer
  • What it’s about: The Sakurasou dorm has a reputation at Suimei University – it’s where the administration houses its most troubled, desperate, or just plain weird students to keep them out of the way. Sorata has been living in the house for the better part of a year, after refusing to abandon an adopted cat. Now word has come in that a new resident is arriving; a transfer student from England named Mashiro. While extremely artistically talented, it turns out that she’s completely unable to look after herself, and Sorata is left in charge of handling her everyday life.
  • Why you should watch it: Sakurasou has a lot going for it. It’s a slice of life romcom, but those words don’t really do it justice. The heart of the series is in how it plays every member of the core cast off against one another. There’s enough space in the 24-episode run to explore each of the relationships in depth, to build the characters up from their initial impressions into fully-fledged personalities. You really get a sense that these people are friends, rather than actors. And if that’s not enough, the plot of the show is deeper than it appears at first glance, and it addresses its central themes with adroitness. The artwork is warm and bright, and I was quite impressed with the detail that the animators put into the manga, paintings and other artwork within the show itself.
  • Caveats: The romance aspect of the show is a little weaker than the rest, playing off of the typical anime-protagonist indecisiveness and denseness to delay resolution. The show has a moderate amount of fanservice, mostly frontloaded into the first few episodes. Finally, avoid the Coalgirls-subtitled version. The changes they make to the script aren’t really an improvement. Go with the Crunchyroll or Rori subs.
  • Themes: Talent and hard work, in combination and competition. The show deviates slightly from the standard “you can do anything if you try hard enough” anime storytelling approach. It’s remarkably realistic in showing interactions between those with natural talent and those without. At the same time, it’s careful to show that it’s not the be-all and end-all when it comes to living happily.
  • Similar works: Toradora!

Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken

Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken (I Don’t Understand What My Husband is Saying)

dannaga

  • Trailer: PV Trailer
  • What it’s about: Hajime and Kaoru are a happily married couple with wildly divergent personalities and interests. But what they both agree on is that they’re nonetheless perfectly suited to one another. The show follows their daily lives as they interact with each other, their family and friends, and face various milestones together as husband and wife.
  • Why you should watch it: Most comedy short series stick to a single gag and pad the episodes out around it. Danna ga, on the other hand, integrates the slice of life elements really quite well, while still eliciting a few big laughs in every three minute episode. See if you can pick up on the pop-culture and otaku-culture references in every episode. The story actually progresses a bit and you do come to like the characters for themselves rather than as tropes. It’s also just plain nice to see a pair of happily married adults as the focus of an anime for a change. With little time commitment required and a second season already announced for early Spring, it’s a good time to pick the show up.
  • Caveats: None really, beyond the basic ones accompanying any comedy short series. The one episode that switches to a different art style to cover Kaoru’s backstory saw a little grumbling, but you’d have to be a real curmudgeon to look down on a little experimentation in a three-minute piece.
  • Themes: Relationships are best when both partners love and celebrate differences, rather than similarities.

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru

yuyuyu

  • Trailer:Note that the promotional materials for this show were created to be deliberately misleading, painting it as a simple Slice of Life show. Nonetheless, here’s the official preview trailer
  • What it’s about: Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero. That is, she’s a proud member of her middle-school Hero Club, and she spends her days helping others with tasks great and small. As it turns out, however, the club is a front. It’s an excuse to gather together girls with the potential to use Holy Magic in defense of the world against the alien Vertex threat. This looks like a dream come true for the valiant Yuuki, but nobody seems to be able to give a straight answer about the details of the threat they face.
  • Why you should watch it: The show is quite explicitly modeled after the hugely successful and influential Mahou Shoujo “deconstruction” Madoka Magica – just look at the character designs and colour schemes and you’ll get a good idea of the roles each of the girls are going to play in the show. That said, the series takes its own path, spending a great deal more time developing its characters and showing them living their lives, and all the while the audience waits for the other shoe to drop. The audience gets a sense that something is off, something is wrong, but without anything specific to put a finger on. This tension is maintained marvelously. The show slowly builds upon itself, reaching a crescendo, allowing for all of the built up emotion and uneasy feeling to spill over. The result is a consistent ride of trepidation that never lets up.Backing this up is some seriously gorgeous artwork for the “battleground” world and an energetic soundtrack that keeps up handily with the action set pieces.
  • Caveats: First off, this is unapologetically a Mahou Shoujo series, complete with fan-servicey transformation scenes and butt-kicking middle school girls. What “twists” there are are also spread across the whole series, so you’re going to be spending a great deal of time watching general Slice of Life scenes with the characters interacting in a relatively normal middle school environment.
  • Themes: Sacrifice and altruism, friendship and family. Power comes with a price, but that price is worth paying to protect those you care about. As the show explicitly states, anything is possible if you try hard enough with your friends.
  • Similar works: Madoka Magica, Selector Infected WIXOSS.

One Off

One Off

oneoff

  • Trailer: PV Trailer
  • What it’s about: Haruno dreams of growing up and getting away from her small life in the local inn. She wants to travel the world! But she doesn’t have the will to go through with it. One day a new guest arrives, a gregarious blonde Australian girl named Cynthia who has led the exact life that Haruno so eagerly wants for herself, visiting far-off places with her Honda motorcycle. Will Cynthia’s stories be enough to motivate her to get up and do something?
  • Why you should watch it: At first glance, One Off seems more like an advertisement for Honda than anything else, but the director (Junichi Sato) soon demonstrates his credentials in establishing an endearing cast and story for this short slice of life OVA series. The scenery is very well-animated and the characters of Cynthia and Haruno both have their own distinct personalities and goals. Cynthia in particular makes for a great comic relief counterpoint to Haruno’s pessimism and daydreaming. Everything just meshes together nicely; the series is a perfect short “pick me up”, motivational without being mawkish.
  • Caveats: The rest of the cast are mostly just window-dressing. We don’t really get enough time with any of them to get much of an appreciation of their individual qualities, just a single defining trait for each of them. Which is fine as far as it goes, particularly for such a short series, but the show is definitely more about creating a mood than about things actually happening.
  • Themes: Finding the motivation to live your dreams. Growing up and moving on.
  • Similar works: Tamayura, by the same creator