While most people think that an anime should have majestic fantasy settings, super strong or extremely bright heroes, action-packed mecha wars or saccharine relationships; others prefer slower paced, character-centric ones that focus on mundane activities. Slice of life anime is an insight into the characters’ lives, as opposed to many dramatic animes. Viewers have different tastes when it comes to entertainment, so for those who are into the latter, here are some recent slice of life Japanese anime series that you must check out:
The anime begins with a teenage boy waking up from a nightmare, alone in his apartment. The meek and reclusive 17-year-old genius Rei Kiriyama (桐山零) is an acclaimed 5th-dan professional shogi (将棋) player. Despite his accomplishments in the world of shogi and the money he earns at such a young age, Rei has low self-esteem as he often looks back at his bitter past. He lost his biological family and didn’t have a good relationship with his adoptive family. He may have learned to become independent but he still lacks social skills. Even in school, he prefers to eat alone and skip social events.
Although Rei is hesitant to get close to others, he manages to visit the Kawamoto family (川本家). The Kawamotos’ parentless household is full of warmth, unlike Rei’s empty apartment. Akari (あかり), the eldest of the three sisters, is kind and motherly. She takes care of her siblings as much as a real mother would. She also takes care of their grandfather, Rei himself, and the adorable cats. Hinata (ひなた) is the “genki” (energetic or bubbly) middle child who loves to cook but her attempts aren’t always successful. The cutest and youngest sister is Momo (モモ), a preschooler. Though she doesn’t have any memories of their parents, she has their doting grandpa Someji (相米二) to take care of her.
March Comes in Like a Lion focuses on Rei’s shogi matches, his interactions with the Kawamoto family and his character development. This is a seinen, slice of life series from Honey and Clover’s (ハチミツとクローバー) creator Chica Umino (羽海野チカ). The manga has won the Manga Taisho, Kodansha Manga Awards’ Best Shōjo Manga award, and the Tezuka Osamu (手塚治虫) Cultural Prizes’ Grand Prize.
The manga also inspired a spin-off entitled 3-gatsu no Lion Showa Ibun: Shakunetsu no Toki (3月のライオン昭和異聞 灼熱の時代) written by Hideaki Nishikawa (西川秀明). A two-part live-action adaptation will be released in 2017 starring Kamiki Ryunosuke (神木隆之介) as Rei and will be directed by his Rurouni Kenshin (るろうに剣心) director, Keishi Otomo (大友啓史).
— WWW.WORKING!! (@Wagnaria) December 24, 2016
WWW. Working!! is a workplace comedy that follows the dynamics among this quirky cast. Written by Takao Yoshioka (吉岡たかを), this webcomic spin-off is set in a Wagnaria family restaurant chain but the characters are not connected to those who are in the first three seasons of the original Working!!! Series by Karino Takatsu (高津カリノ).
Daisuke Higashida (東田大輔) is a high school freshman who is forced to work part time at Wagnaria Restaurant to support his personal needs after his father’s business has gone bankrupt. After cordial manager Sakaki Kenichiro (榊研一郎) accepted his application he is placed under the care of the restaurant’s floor chef Miyakoshi Hana (宮越華). Hana is also a high school student just like Daisuke. She has a tough personality but she immediately switches into “kawaii” (cute) mode when serving customers.
The other characters that Daisuke meets at Wagnaria are:
- Muranushi Sayuri (村主さゆり) has an eerie vibe around her. She claims she does not believe in ghosts and haven’t seen one but she actually serves an invisible elderly customer.
- Kondou Kisaki (近藤妃) is the smart and sluggish employee who loves to take breaks and smoke. She uses trivia questions to silence those who reprimand her. Her daughter, Hime (姫), seems to have inherited her brains.
- Kamakura Shiho (鎌倉志保) is the spoiled company president’s daughter who usually works with a bunch of cash in hand.
- Shindo Yuuta (進藤ユータ) works different jobs to pay for his father’s debt and save their butcher shop. The creditor turns out to be Shiho’s father. He has known Shiho since they were young and now he somehow regrets the fact that he turned down her marriage proposal.
- Adachi Masahiro (足立正広) is a normal kitchen chef but who knows if he would turn crazy too after seeing Muranushi’s smile. His friend, Takuya Kouno (河野拓哉) is forced to make parfaits due to Miyakoshi’s deadly cooking skills.
- Saiki Kouki (斉木恒輝) is the newest employee is, a university student with Japanese parents but raised abroad so doesn’t speak the Japanese language at all.
Souta Towara’s (俵宗太) father runs an udon shop out in the sticks that Souta was given the chance to take over but decided not to when he was still a child after he was badly teased at school. The anime follows Souta as a 30-year-old who has recently returned from Tokyo to his hometown after the death of his father. His undramatic life in rural Japan suddenly changes after seeing a young boy hiding and stealing wheat from his father’s closed down restaurant. He grows fond of the boy, names him Poco, and gives him the poncho that he used to wear as a child which makes him feel reminiscent of the good times he spent with his family.
The fantasy side of the story comes into play when he discovers that the boy is actually a tanuki. The Tanuki is a real animal called a raccoon dog but in Japanese folklore, this fox-like creature is a mischievous shapeshifter. It usually takes the form of a human and is traditionally regarded as a cause of misfortune. However, people’s beliefs about the tanuki have changed and now it is considered as a lucky charm that brings prosperity. If it’s true that the tanuki bring good luck, Souta may well have just found the perfect partner to revive his father’s udon restaurant. This story sees Souta transform into a loving dad-like figure to Poco.
Although the translation of the anime is Poco’s Udon World, the Japanese title Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari literally means the golden furball of Udon Country. This is a slice of life fantasy series written by Nodoka Shinomaru (篠丸のどか). If you enjoy stories like Usagi Drop (うさぎドロップ), Sweetness and Lightning (甘々と稲妻), and Sweetness and Lightning (甘々と稲妻), then this one is for you.
Natsume Takashi’s (夏目貴志) ability to see ghosts from a young age makes it hard for him to establish normal relationships with real people, especially his relatives. After finding the Yuujinchou (友人帳; Book of Friends) that he inherited from his deceased grandmother, Reiko (レイコ), whom he strongly resembles, he realizes the reason why he is constantly being chased by yokai (spirits). The Yuujinchou contains the names of the spirits his grandmother has taken control of and has bound for servitude. Together with the feline spirit, Madara, who takes the form of a maneki neko, Natsume tries to end the book by returning the contracted names to their spirit owners.
The first season ran for 13 episodes in 2008. Natsume Yuujinchou Go is the fifth season of this critically acclaimed supernatural slice of life manga Natsume Book of Friends by Yuki Midorikawa (緑川ゆき). By now, Natsume is living with his caring foster parents, has already made a few friends, has gotten used to his life surrounded by yokai, have returned several names to their owners,and learned some spells as he continues to trace Reiko’s path and get to know more about how his grandmother lived her life.
Although many people have the impression that slice of life anime can be boring as their is less of a plot, the creators have found ways to make them more entertaining by providing humor or unconventional twists that involve the supernatural. It may not have the adrenaline-pumping action scenes or convoluted storylines that you find in other genres but slice of life has its own charms. It has relatable characters with simple, feel-good stories and, at times, is set in a beautiful rural backdrop. I also enjoy watching slice of life animes and dramas since I do not limit myself to one particular genre. I watch a show as long as I feel that it’s worth my time. How about you? Do you like slice of life anime series? What are your favorites?