slice of life

Candy Boy

Candy Boy

13663l

  • Trailer: No trailer
  • What it’s about: The story follows Kanade and Yukino, a pair of sisters in a boarding school, and their daily lives. A romance blooms between the two of them, despite the intrusions of an obsessive first-year student named Sakuya who has designs of her own upon Kanade.
  • Why you should watch it: Forget the incest part, since the show itself does absolutely nothing with it. What Candy Boy offers is a wonderful slice-of-life romance that treats a relationship between two girls as being as normal as one between a straight couple. The pair are adorable and affectionate, and completely devoted to one another. It’s also relatively short, with each of the seven episodes taking only 15 minutes. If you’re in the mood for a sweet bit of relaxing nothingness, Candy Boy is perfect for you.
  • Caveats: Most of the caveats I can think of are mostly to do with the type of show that it is. If you’re looking for boobs and ass and long make-out sessions, you’re not going to find them here. PDAs are limited to handholding and quick pecks and the pair are more likely to complain about the other’s cold feet in bed than get up to anything raunchy. Perhaps the oddest thing is that the relationship isn’t treated as abnormal – while turning it into a full-on drama wouldn’t be necessary, it’s a little odd that nobody points out that an incestuous homosexual pairing between high school girls living in the same dorm room is in any way out of the ordinary for Japan.
  • Themes: Relationships, commitment and the non-flashy side of love. Family, and not just in the obvious sense.
  • Similar works: Inugami-san to Nekoyama-sanIf you want more actual kissing action, Sakura Trick
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Daily Lives of Highschool Boys

Daily Lives of Highschool Boys

nichibros

  • Trailer: DVD Trailer
  • What it’s about: Tadakuni, Yoshitake, and Hidenori are three utterly ordinary high school students. There’s no secret plot to take over Japan, no sports trophy to be won or grand romance to play out. There’s just the everyday world of teenagers in an all-boys academy; arguments, fantasies, awkward encounters and amusing yourself and your friends while hanging out.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s one of the most accurate renditions of male adolescence that I can think of. All of the social awkwardness, jokes that only make sense to you and your friends, and all-around low-stakes activities that nonetheless have all the characters invested in their outcomes. The show is hilarious, and the short sketch format (each episode being broken into three or so individual segments) lends itself well to the setting. The cast steadily expands to keep things interesting, to the point where several of the original characters more or less fade into the background by the end. The Japanese voice actors play their parts perfectly, every single one. The “Literary Girl” skits are some of the funniest stuff I’ve seen in anime for a long while.
  • Caveats: As with any comedy, there are going to be a few jokes you find unfunny, and when that happens you’re stuck with it while it plays out for the next ten minutes. It’s an almost exclusively male cast, so don’t go into it expecting your standard boobs-and-cute girls high school anime.
  • Themes: Adolescence. Friendship and social awkwardness.
  • Similar works: Nichijou, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Robotics;Notes

Robotics;Notes

roboticsnotes

  • Trailer: FUNimation trailer
  • What it’s about: The Robotics Club of Tanegashima High School has seen better days. Reduced to just two students – the ever-enthusiastic Akiho and the cynical Kaito – it’s time for a revival. The club enrols in a fighting-robot tournament in an attempt to gather enough funds to pursue Akiho’s true dream – building a giant “mecha” robot to impress her sister. Along the way, Kaito stumbles into a conspiracy that holds the fate of the world in balance.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s a light-hearted comedy-drama romp, complete with a diverse cast of characters each with their own motivations and quirks. It captures a lot (though not all) of the charm of its highly-acclaimed predecessor, Steins;Gate, but forges its own path. The series will never hit anyone’s “Best of all time” list, but it’s a solid all-rounder that definitely deserves more attention than it’s received.
  • Caveats: While there are similarities, this is not Steins;Gate. Don’t go into it expecting it to match the second-most-popular anime series of all time. While the central plot is solid, Robotics;Notes throws out a lot of plot threads and doesn’t really fully exploit a lot of them. The series takes a long time to truly hit its stride.
  • Themes: Defining one’s own goals, and meeting them. Self acceptance. Nothing very deep here, as it’s a bit chaotically thrown together.
  • Similar works: Steins;Gate and Chaos;Head are the obvious choices, and while everyone should see Steins;Gate,  I’m slightly hesitant to recommend the latter (maybe go for the Visual Novel instead). The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya is very similar to Robotics;Notes both in its premise (weird high-school club with sinister goings-on) and in its cast of characters and brand of humour.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and its follow up film Disappearance

haruhi

  • Trailer: English dubbed version
  • What it’s about: Haruhi Suzimiya is bored. This isn’t an unusual trait for a high-schooler, but her solution is unique: set up a club dedicated to investigating the paranormal and supernatural. Dragged along for the ride is the cynical Kyon, who takes the general weirdness and domineering personality of Haruhi in his stride.
  • Why you should watch it: Haruhi is a cult sensation within anime, and she’s far and away the most popular character for female anime cosplayers. She’s an incredibly strong and well-developed character and anchors the entire show. Kyon, likewise, is one of the best realisations of the “cynical, sarcastic narrating teen male lead” that’s almost omnipresent in the world of Visual Novels. The series itself is easy to pick up and drop whenever, leaning towards episodic content and with a non-linear storyline. It’s funny, it’s addicting, and it’s weird. Finally, even if you don’t enjoy what you see in the series itself, the movie conclusion Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is quite rightly lauded as one of the best anime movies out there today.
  • Caveats: Viewing order for the show is a little contested. See this image for a breakdown of the argument. Pacing-wise, the original broadcast order is fantastic, but it makes some bizarre choices in what to show and when. Particularly with the first episode, which is a home-movie created by the characters and has an entirely different style, storyline and aesthetic than the rest of the show. To anyone who’s already seen the whole show, I should only have to mention the words “Endless Eight”.
  • Themes: The power of imagination is the surface theme but, if you dig even slightly below the surface, there’s a strong urging by the creator to the audience to try to find joy in the “merely real”. You don’t need espers and time travelers for the world to be interesting, and if they did exist, they’d quickly become mundane anyway.
  • Similar works: Robotics;Notes and Angel Beats! both have a somewhat familiar set of characters and share the same premise: weird stuff going on in a high-school environment.

Yama no Susume

Yama no Susume

yamanosusume

  • What it’s about: Aoi is an introverted middle-schooler afraid of heights, struggling to her new classmembers. At least until her childhood friend Hinata shows up and begins encouraging her to take up the hill-climbing they both enjoyed when they were younger. The show follows the pair as they explore the local sites, learn about mountaineering as a hobby, and make new friends from the people they meet along the way.
  • Why you should watch it: On the surface, Yama no Susume is just another moe show about a random hobby for cute girls to do cute things. And to a large extent it really is just that. It’s the execution that sets it apart: superb animation quality, characters presented in just the right length of time to flesh them out without dragging on, and a cute, calm and relaxing environment with some gorgeous background art. The extension of the episode running time from 3 minutes to 15 minutes in the second season did wonders for the story. In the end, a Slice of Life show lives and dies with its characters and, while the entire cast start out fairly stereotypically defined by single traits, soon into the second season they get a lot more depth. Hinata isn’t as airheaded as she acts, Kaede isn’t the hyperfocused and accomplished student that she appears, etc, etc. Even when the episode follows the cast not really doing anything, it’s fun.
  • Caveats: This ties into the section above – while it’s a well-executed example, this ultimately is “yet another” series following cute girls doing cute things. It’s pretty calorie-light in terms of deeper themes and meaning, but if that’s what you’re after, slice of life probably isn’t the best place to look for it anyway.
  • Themes: Learning to socialise, the beauty of nature.
  • Similar works: Aiura, K-On!

Colorful

Colorful

colorful

  • Trailer: PV Trailer
  • What it’s about: A nameless soul, about to leave the cycle of re-incarnation for a sin that they can’t even remember, is offered the chance to redeem themselves on an “internship”, living in the body of a young boy who just committed suicide.
  • Why you should watch it: Adapted from an award-winning novel, the anime adaptation of Colorful received great acclaim in its own right. The trope of swapping into a new life, finding problems, and fixing them is well-worn, but Colorful avoids a lot of the cliches. It doesn’t play down the issues that Mokoto was facing before his suicide, and the resolution of them is neither saccharine nor simple. Some things just can’t be fixed, and the mature solution is to learn to live with them regardless. The character of Purapura is a refreshingly different take on the “guardian angel”.
  • Caveats: The middle section drags a little, but it’s a necessary step in the protagonist’s character development
  • Themes: Forgiveness and acceptance, both of the sins of others and of yourself.
  • Similar works: The obvious comparison point is the classic American film It’s a Wonderful Life. Within anime, Harmonie and Haibane Renmei. Some of the same themes are picked up in Angel Beats!, but they’re otherwise very different works.

Ristorante Paradiso

Ristorante Paradiso

ristorante paradiso

  • Trailer: PV Trailer
  • What it’s about: Nicoletta came to Rome with one goal in mind: to track down her mother and gain some measure of petty vengeance for abandining her as a child by spilling the beans to her new husband. She did not expect to get side-tracked into striking up friendships and romance with the middle-aged waitstaff of a backstreet restaurant, but then life is full of surprises, neh?
  • Why you should watch it: It’s interesting to see a slice of life/romance show with such a different setting to the anime norm. There are no teenagers, no slapstick comedy, and no pointless fanservice. The show is definitely aimed at an older audience and it does its best to present a relaxing, comfortable story to sink into. There’s an overarching romantic storyline, but each episode is more or less a self-contained exploration of a single character’s backstory, meaning that every one of them gets some time in the spotlight.
  • Caveats: It’s fairly slow-paced. The watercolour-like background art can come across as a little lazy at times. It does initially come across as a weird sort of reverse-harem show, but that’s not the direction that it ends up taking – there’s only ever one romance on the table.
  • Similar works: Bartender

Aiura

Aiura:

aiura

  • Trailer: PV trailer
  • What it’s about: The story follows the daily lives of three schoolgirls as they generally goof off both inside class and out. There’s really not much more to say, since each episode is only three minutes long.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s just a short bit of silly fun, an endearing slice-of-life show that follows “cute girls doing cute things”. The watercolour backgrounds of the exterior scenes are nice to look at. If you’re looking for something to cheer you up quickly, or a show to fit into short gaps while you wait for something, it’s definitely worth giving a shot.
  • Caveats: Don’t go in with high expectations about the scale of the plot.
  • Themes: Fitting in, socialising.
  • Similar works: Yama no Susume and K-On!.

The Garden of Words

The Garden of Words

Garden of Words

  • Trailer: Subtitled version
  • What it’s about: Takao habitually skips class on rainy mornings, choosing instead to hang out in a nearby park and draw sketches in preparation for his dream career as a shoemaker. Each time he goes there in one particular summer, he runs into Yukino, an older woman with a penchant for beer and chocolate. The film explores the budding relationship between the two as the days pass.
  • Why you should watch it: I cannot emphasis enough how utterly gorgeous the artwork is, with particular effort put into the ever-present rain and water. The story has a slightly meditative quality about it that you don’t find in many other anime works and, while it’s slightly slow-paced, it remains intriguing from start to finish. If you’re a fan of excellent animation or romantic drama, Garden of Words is very much worth a look.
  • Caveats: It’s very similar in tone, style and approach to most of the other works produced by the director – Voices of a Distant Star in particular. If you’re familiar with Makoto Shinkai’s body of work, this doesn’t offer much new material. It’s still very pretty, though.
  • Themes: Like most of Makoto Shinkai’s works, there’s a focus on the idea of “distance” in a relationship. Where Voices of a Distant Star went for physical distance and Someone’s Gaze went for emotional distance, in this case the gap is maturity. Can a relationship really work out for the best when one partner is so much more worldly than the other – a literal teacher and mentor figure.
  • Similar works: Voices of a Distant Star, 5cm per second.