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Who wouldn't like a slice of life

Someone commented over on facebook the other day about the previous entry, saying that anime doesn't do anything for them. Recently, Brian also shot me back a reply about how he loathes anime but may take a look at the new one coming out based on Dragon Age, a game he's completely infatuated with. That got me thinking a bit about just how vast the genre of anime is. You can have a totally different experience based on the type of anime you end up watching, and there could be very little overlap between fans. It's sort of unfortunate that the closest comparison we have is anime = western cartoons, because in the latter there really is a lot more homogeneity. For one, they're almost exclusively geared towards kids/families with all the topic and content restrictions that implies. If you described the first half of the plot of any western animated film or cartoon, I don't think it's hyperbole to suggest that I could probably tell you how the story will generally flow and end just based tropes and convention.

By comparison, anime really is more of a medium rather than a genre. It'd be hard for someone to say they either like or hate, say, movies because the category is so large and encompassing. You might hate actions or dramas but love comedies, watch only indie flicks or films in black and white. The only commonality being that it's some sort of story featuring characters caught on film. As far as anime goes, I've avoided (or just not gotten to) anything with a serious bent or features mecha/robo/'realistic' action. Kinda odd considering that it's the sort of thing I would have loved as a kid given how I followed voltron, transformers, thundercats, ronin warriors, etc. It may just be that I haven't found a good intro series back into the genre. Instead, I've spent all my time watching things that could either be categorized as girly or crazy-otaku anime.

One type of anime I've seen a lot of lately is the slice of life anime. At this point I think I must've watched at least a majority of the slice of life comedies out there. They usually feature 'ordinary' characters living out their daily lives. By 'ordinary', I don't mean that these individuals are like the people you know or the average person off the street. In this case, ordinary simply means they don't have super powers or transform into robots or are really space aliens. Personality-wise they may be anything but normal and if you knew some of them in real life you would probably avoid them like the plague or wonder what the hell kind of drugs they were hopped up on. For all that, it's still considered normal just for the fact that nothing exotic or fantastical usually happens. You can think of it like Seinfeld except for the fact that not every character is a jerkass (though there will always be one somewhere).



So Minami-ke (The Minami Family) is the latest slice of life comedy I finished watching and it tells the story of a family of three sisters living together and their daily travails. It just so happens that their ages are spaced out perfectly so that one is in high school, one in middle school, and the last in elementary school. This means that there are also three different sets of peers and classmates which all entangle themselves into the characters' lives.

I think that by now I've seen so many slice of life comedies that I'm pretty blase about the entire genre in general. They've all been entertaining so far, and Minami-ke is no exception, with interesting characters and interactions but not much really happens in the grand scheme of things. It sort of reminds me of that one Simpsons episode where Homer and Ned become friends and Bart and Lisa are creeped out by it. They reassure themselves though that by next week (the next episode) everything will have gone back to normal. In the end, all slice of life comedies end up working like that more or less as nothing really disturbs the basic setup. Events happen and time passes but the characters don't really change all that much. You don't get successive slices of someone's life as much as you get the same slice over and over but with a different fruit garnish each time to match the occasion.

This is not to say that I didn't like Minami-ke, which ends up suffering due to the fact it's probably the 6th or 7th slice of life series I've seen as opposed to the first. If it were the first, I'm sure I would be raving about it. Instead, it's hard not to have a sort of been there, done that feeling. There were however some real gems in Minami-ke like the human teruterubozu moment where the youngest sister is hung up like a life-sized doll in the hopes for good weather.



There are also other scenes and plots that will stick with me, but most will probably fade over time into the general hodgepodge of the cake of life. I can't help but think all of these various slices might have been more interesting and memorable if there were actually some real character development and advancement, but that would probably destroy the point of the genre in the first place. Slice of life comedies are supposed to be like a pair of comfortable old slippers. It's probably pointless to wonder what they'd be like if steel toes or a boot knife were added.

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