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Old 2012-10-09, 01:22   Link #1
Triple_R
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What do we call it? (A Slice of Life/genre label discussion)

In recent years, I've seen a mild problem of sorts crop up with some degree of regularity. We've had some discussions on it as tangental discussions for other topics, but I don't think we've ever had a thread all about it.

What I'm referring to is the "Slice of the Life" genre label, a particular type of show that this label is now regularly applied to, and disagreement surrounding that. The "problem" is that this disagreement can leave shows in a sort of genre no man's land, where there's no clear idea of what genre the show should be listed under. This can make discussions about the show a bit more vague, while also potentially making it harder to promote the show (and this kind of "yet to be named" genre that I'm thinking about).


The type of shows I'm talking about share all of the following in common:

1) The main character(s) are all teenagers, or all teenagers except maybe one adult/sensei leadership figure.

2) A high school is the primary setting, or at least one of the primary settings.

3) The show has some drama, but also some more lowkey episodes.

4) The show may have some comedy, but it doesn't have enough comedy to really count as a comedy as primary genre.

5) The show may have romance (or a love triangle) in it, but it doesn't have enough romance to really count as a romance as primary genre.

6) The show has very few, if any, "action scenes". In other words, protagonists engaging in physical combat with antagonists is not a significant element of the show. The show may have actual antagonists, but they generally don't physically fight people. It's nowhere close to shounen action, in other words.

7) The show attempts to replicate the daily lives of high school kids in at least a semi-realistic way. There may be a slight embellishment of cheese, or some fantastical characters, but the show is nonetheless hewing fairly close to being a show about high school life.


Now, I think that everybody reading this probably has a pretty good idea of the sort of show I'm talking about. They're fairly common in the modern anime world, but they're also fairly distinct. You wouldn't mistake Accel World or Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate for the sort of show I'm talking about.

This past season had three prominent shows of this yet-to-be-named genre: Hyouka, Tari Tari, and Kokoro Connect. As such, there were quite a few comparisons made between two of, or all three of, these shows. It made for an interesting running comparison/discussion, imo.

In lieu of this yet-to-be-named genre being, well, yet-to-be-named, a lot of people are calling it "Slice of Life". This is because it's somewhat similar to the classic Slice of Life shows of years past. But inevitably some people object to these shows being called "Slice of Life", and an endless disagreement crops up. Again, this can result in a show being in a sort of no man's land when it comes to genre classification.


Now, I don't think that my lyin' eyes are playing tricks on me. I am seeing a new genre of sorts emerge here - A new genre that includes shows like Hyouka, Tari Tari, and Kokoro Connect. Whatever we call it, I don't see the point in denying that this new genre of show exists, since I think it's a fairly important genre in the world of modern anime and also since I think that recognition of it can allow for smoother comparisons between two different works within that same new genre.

While I can understand people objecting to it being called "Slice of Life", I also can't help but think 'When's the last time we had a show that fit the classic, most purist definition of "Slice of Life" anyway?' That Aria-esque "It's all about the setting!" show... honestly, it's been a long time since I've seen one. If the classic Slice of Life type of show is fading into obscurity, may there be some value in using "Slice of Life" as the term for this new genre of shows that bears some similarities to classic Slice of Life?


And if we don't call this genre "Slice of Life", what should we call it?

One suggestion I can already hear is "Coming of Age". But "Coming of Age" is incredibly broad, and would incorporate loads of Shounen Action shows, and lots of other shows that don't really fit this "new genre" that I'm seeing arise.

Another suggestion I can hear is just plain, old "Drama". Again, I think that's just too broad to be useful. Not to mention that some of the shows I'm thinking of (like Tari Tari) doesn't really have enough drama for "drama" to count as its primary genre.

So what should we call this new genre? I've been half-jokingly calling it "Slice of High School Life" in some posts I've made over the past few months. While I haven't seen much opposition to me doing that, it's also not caught on, probably since it's a bit long and unwieldy.


Anyway, I hope that this post makes clear what I'm getting at with this thread. I'd be curious to get everybody's thoughts on it.
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Old 2012-10-09, 02:44   Link #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
1) The main character(s) are all teenagers, or all teenagers except maybe one adult/sensei leadership figure.

2) A high school is the primary setting, or at least one of the primary settings.

3) The show has some drama, but also some more lowkey episodes.

7) The show attempts to replicate the daily lives of high school kids in at least a semi-realistic way. There may be a slight embellishment of cheese, or some fantastical characters, but the show is nonetheless hewing fairly close to being a show about high school life.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Hyouka, Tari Tari, and Kokoro Connect
The parts I quoted can be defined as a "genre" called "school". I put quotation marks around "genre" because school is just as much as a genre as mecha is, as in it only describes the setting.

Whatever the hell slice-of-life is, it definitely isn't limited to a school setting. It's just that the Japanese like to use the school setting a lot so they can escape from their screwed up adult working life. Naturally, since high school is looked upon as rosy, romantic and fun by salarymen with horrible, punishing working conditions and culture, it is the basis of a huge portion of slice-of-life stories. That doesn't make it a requirement, though.

As for what I think slice-of-life is, I believe that you just need a fairly relaxing story with a certain easy-going regularity to it, whether it's daily school life or daily working life. It also needs a lack of extreme drama, horror, or comedy like you described.

Natsume Yuujinchou, for instance, I would not classify as a slice-of-life, but as an episodic supernatural mystery/adventure series with some slice-of-life elements. It gets a little horrific and wacky at points to really make me feel relaxed.
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Old 2012-10-09, 02:48   Link #3
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I'd save myself the headache and not call an anime series by its genre.
I think I have opened a topic about this, although it talks about the mystery genre instead, and during that thread's activity I realized that it's best to identify a series by its content rather than some form of boundary that might end up being more vague than helpful.
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Old 2012-10-09, 04:09   Link #4
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@Marcus, I think genre is important, not necessarily for those of us who have already watched a particular show, but for those of us who have yet to watch that show. It helps a lot in determining "Do I want to watch this" (after all, we don't have time to watch every anime).

As for the general topic... It's tricky because Slice of Life doesn't really have an analogue in western cinema or television, and most of are genre labels derive from western cinema.

There is certainly a genre of "Ariaesque" or what I call "mood anime" that channel a very relaxed vibe, I would disagree with tempester about Natsume not being in that genre though. On those criteria that genre would basically be just Aria!

One thing to bear in mind is that almost all the "mood anime" contain elements of the supernatural. Examples of "mood anime" I would say is Mushishi, Natsume Yuujinchou, Aria, Hotarubi no Mori e and certain Ghibli Movies (Most notably My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away). They all have a kind of thread linking them, they're all pretty laid back in their pacing and often concern man's experience of the supernatural. Perhaps I would call them "spiritual", but they also often come under slice of life.

There's another group of "setting" anime which you have referred to, which are about a group of people doing not much of anything in a particular place, basically the titles you're referring (though I wouldn't restrict it to schools). I would personally class those under Drama, not necessarily Slice of Life.

When I say Drama I don't mean that they are akin to JDrama or KDrama (though there are plenty of titles which hew very closely to being animated JDrama), but perhaps more akin to western Drama. The Genre that dominates JDrama and KDrama I would instead call "Soap Opera", which is exactly what it is, albeit with an Asian twist.
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Old 2012-10-09, 04:24   Link #5
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^ I have used "amount of interest" to gauge if I would watch an anime or not, but that's just me. I also agree with you about slice of life. Every single moment of our lives is a "slice of life" literally, so the usage of the term is prone to misjudging.
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Old 2012-10-09, 06:16   Link #6
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I would say they're Coming-of-Age Dramas, and they're set in High School.

The key point is that they are, fundamentally, a drama. They're shows that setup a plot premise and progressively develop the characters over the course of the story to a certain conclusion. The drama revolves around the concept of "Coming of Age" -- learning to come to terms with their feelings, finding their place in the world, and making decisions that will impact their future. It's probably taken for granted that a lot of Coming of Age stories will take place in a High School setting, because that's where most people really come into their own as a person; it's a critical juncture in most people's lives.

Incidentally, I don't think you would call Shounen Action shows "Coming-of-Age" precisely because they're action-oriented. From the Great Source of Human Knowledge (TM):

Quote:
Coming-of-age film is a film genre which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood. Personal growth and change is an important characteristic of this genre, which relies on dialogue and emotional responses, rather than action. The main character is typically male, around mid-teen and the story is often told in the form of a flash-back. Themes of developing sexual identity, personal philosophy, and political opinions are often featured.
Now in anime it's probably a bit different because the main character often isn't male (sometimes it revolves around a whole group rather than an individual person), and the story is usually told in a linear fashion and not as a flashback (though you could take the show on the whole as if it were a flashback on a pivotal point of the character's lives)... but it's still a pretty useful description in terms of the key elements. A focus on dialogue and emotional responses, along with psychological and moral growth. I think those all describe the shows mentioned in the opening post quite well.

So how is this different from "Slice of Life"? Well, slice of life shows aren't necessarily going anywhere with their episodes except for whatever it is that's contained within the episode itself. Whatever they're trying to show or whatever moral that's being told is basically self-contained, and whatever connection it has to what happens next is loose and not terribly important. The first two seasons of Aria are basically like this (note: not the third). Most of Lucky Star is arguably like this. You might argue that Minami-ke is like this, and possibly even something like Acchi Kocchi, though like Lucky Star these get classed more as comedies. It's almost to the point where you could just shuffle the episodes and you'd basically get the same thing out of each episode because you're really just looking at arbitrary "slices" of the characters' lives (hence the term). (Hidamari Sketch literally did show some of their episodes out of sequence, particularly in the first season, and it wasn't really to be tricky -- it was just presented in a slice-of-life fashion.)


So yeah... I think coming-of-age is actually the right term here, and isn't really as broad as the OP fears.
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Old 2012-10-09, 06:18   Link #7
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Originally Posted by Marcus H. View Post
^ I have used "amount of interest" to gauge if I would watch an anime or not, but that's just me. I also agree with you about slice of life. Every single moment of our lives is a "slice of life" literally, so the usage of the term is prone to misjudging.
Well, everyone has a different tolerance for different genres. For instance, I'm willing to watch all but the worst Mecha or Sci Fi shows, but I'm only willing to watch the very best shojo shows.

Also, some days I want to see a science fiction show, and others days I might want to watch something more romantic. Good genre labelling is important. Though often some of the best shows are the most difficult to label (for instance, how do you label Madoka Magica? Magical Girl doesn't really fully describe it...)
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Old 2012-10-09, 06:50   Link #8
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My immediate thought on this is that I'll simply just call it School Life, like the way they do over at Mangaupdates. If the setting is at any kind of school, then it goes under School Life.

Taken from MU:
Quote:
Having a major setting of the story deal with some type of school.
Of course, this is assuming that titles are not limited to just one genre.
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Old 2012-10-09, 06:56   Link #9
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Personally, I think it's incorrect to limit the genre to schools. Schools might be the most common setting, but there are others, and it's not like this genre has properties that ceases to work outside an educational setting.
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Old 2012-10-09, 07:21   Link #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tempester View Post
The parts I quoted can be defined as a "genre" called "school". I put quotation marks around "genre" because school is just as much as a genre as mecha is, as in it only describes the setting.
Hhmmm... Your "School" approach is interesting. I think that the "School" element of these shows is one of its main appeals for a lot of the people who are into this yet-to-be-named genre of shows, as these shows tend to put a great emphasis on school life. While high school is an exceptionally common setting in anime, many don't do as much with that setting as what shows like Hyouka and Tari Tari do.

In other words, a lot are action shows that happen to take place at school, like Accel World and Shana.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus H. View Post
I'd save myself the headache and not call an anime series by its genre.
I think I have opened a topic about this, although it talks about the mystery genre instead, and during that thread's activity I realized that it's best to identify a series by its content rather than some form of boundary that might end up being more vague than helpful.
I disagree, for the reasons that Don has already brought up. Good genre labeling can be very useful. Shows have certain core elements that often define them, and these core elements are often what appeals the most to certain subsets of viewers. These core elements hence can become genre labels, and they tie together shows that share those core elements. Such genre labels hence become very effective shorthand for helping people find more shows of the type of shows that they like.


Quote:
Originally Posted by relentlessflame View Post
I would say they're Coming-of-Age Dramas, and they're set in High School.

The key point is that they are, fundamentally, a drama.
People who like serious drama, and are looking first and foremost for serious drama, may well find that a show like Tari Tari is not dramatic enough for them. Labeling shows like Hyouka and Tari Tari as "dramas" may well do a disservice both to these shows, and people who specifically go out of their way to find dramas.

I can certainly see labeling a show like AnoHana a "drama". The drama is thick enough in that show that I think it would satisfy drama lovers who are specifically looking for "drama". But is the drama thick enough in Tari Tari that it should first and foremost be labeled "drama"? Honestly, I really don't think so.


Quote:
So yeah... I think coming-of-age is actually the right term here, and isn't really as broad as the OP fears.
Honestly, I have to disagree, and for many reasons.

First of all, let's go back to the argument I made for why good genre labeling is important. Good genre labeling involves genre labeling that speaks directly to the core element(s) of a show that appeals the most to a specific subset of viewers.

With the more well-known genre labels, this is obvious - "Comedy" speaks directly to people who find comedic elements the most appealing. "Romance" speaks directly to people who find romantic elements the most appealing. "Sci-Fi" speaks directly to people who find science fiction elements the most appealing. Heck, even "Mecha" speaks directly to people who genuinely find large humanoid robots really cool.

Now, how many people consider "Coming of Age" to be their favorite narrative element? How many people go "Man, I could really go for a great coming of age story now!"? Personally, I've very rarely, if ever, heard or read that. But I frequently do hear or read "Man, I could really go for a great comedy show now!" or "Man, I'm in the mood for some nice romance!".

There's something about shows like Hyouka, Tari Tari, and Kokoro Connect that appeals to people, and I don't think that "Coming of Age" captures it well (for one thing, many of the characters in a couple of these shows haven't yet come of age).

Tempester's suggestion of "School" actually captures it better I think, as broad as it is itself.


Another issue I see with "Coming of Age" is that it really is extremely commonplace. Would anybody deny that Accel World is a coming of age story? Would anybody deny that many Gundam shows are coming of age stories? Would anybody deny that Gurren Lagann is a coming of age story?

Part of the reason why I don't think many people would go out of their way to find a "coming of age" story is because of just how incredibly common it is in anime. If you're a big anime fan who watches a lot of anime, you'd actually have a harder time avoiding them than you would have finding them. And since genre labeling is ideally about helping people find more shows that they'd like... (I feel very confident in saying that if "Coming of Age" is used as a genre label, it's going to get applied to the Accel Worlds and Gundams of the world).


So, with all of these arguments being made, I really don't think that the "Coming of Age" or "Drama" labels would prove helpful here. Tempester's "School" idea is an interesting one, because I do think it captures much of the essence of the core appeals of these shows.

Anyway, I'll leave it at that for now. Thanks for all the replies everyone, even the replies I didn't particularly agree with.


Edit: I like Coldlight's suggestion of "School Life". One thing I like about it is how it could smoothly replace "Slice of Life" for people who like using that label for this type of show. As Marcus H. makes clear, a lot of people use "Slice of Life" for this type of show because the genre label itself tends to make people think "A slice (period of time) in a person's life". I think that "School Life" gets across much the same implicit idea.
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Old 2012-10-09, 07:42   Link #11
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Further reading and previous discussions on the topic.

http://forums.animesuki.com/showthread.php?t=107641
http://forums.animesuki.com/showthread.php?t=88032
http://forums.animesuki.com/showthread.php?t=43756
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Old 2012-10-09, 07:55   Link #12
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I don't know I personally love coming of age stories. Probably the main reason why I still enjoy stories about kids & teens as an adult.

That being said I don't think all shows people call "slice of life" so neatly fit into coming of age or that coming of age is exclusive to slice of life.

Gurren Lagann to me is coming of age but its definitely not slice of life.

Slice of life is hard to categorize I think because it isn't a pure genre. You might have slice of life with comedy, drama, romance & supernatural elements. But then again I think that is true for most genres. There are very few pure genre stories anymore.

I think another issue with slice of life is it means different things to different people. For some people it's that laid back/relaxing feel. But I have all seen it used for series that just deal with daily/regular things a character goes through, things we can all relate to.

Although thinking about it perhaps healing anime might be a better descriptor for my first definition. So I think the second definition is the better one for slice of life.
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Old 2012-10-09, 08:45   Link #13
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There's something that strikes me as odd about requirement 1 and 2 of this "genre" we're trying to label,they define the age and the setting quite specifically,is there any genre that does that?

drama,comedy,sci fi,fantasy,action,mystery,horror...these words don't give you a specific setting or character age,so I'm not sure why we'd have to create a genre that does.

Which is why I think the high school versions of this a subgenre of something larger.

Take usagi drop,I think it fits requirement 3,4,5,6 but not 1,2,7 due to the setting,or take Ikoku Meiro no Croisé that also fit requirement 1,3,4,5,6 but not 2 and 7 due to its setting,yet both of these are shows I'd recommend to people who like Tari Tari and Hyouka.

The Japanese refer to shows like "Aria" or "Tamayura" as "healing animes" but show like Tari Tari have more drama in them so this leads to my humble proposition: "Healing Drama".
Too much drama to be purely a "healing" anime but not enough to be a full blown "drama".Some healing dramas can be set in highschool.

Of course nobody uses this term now I wouldn't bet on it catching on but I had fun coming up with it
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Old 2012-10-09, 09:11   Link #14
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Yeah I don't agree with the age/setting restriction either.

Would we say series set in college or even the work place can't be slice of life? I think saying it can only involve high school kids is a bit too restrictive.
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Old 2012-10-09, 09:23   Link #15
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"slice of life" it'self is pretty hard to define or describe, i think it can be called slice of life when the character grows or moves on in life or takes the next step in life by going through all the events shown throughout the series, like graduation in most of the high school slice of life
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Old 2012-10-09, 11:17   Link #16
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I do not consider "Slice-of-Life" to be a genre or sub-genre (sub-genre would be a better starting off point). SoL is more of a mood (how the audience is supposed to feel about the story) or tone (how the author feels about the subject matter) and sometimes even an overall style of writing rather than a specific genre. With a focus on the mundane (which is the sole requirement for anything to be classified as SoL), SoL is used to explore the small dramas or small comedies (or romances or adventures, etc) of a fictional world.

(Others have already shown how the OPs criteria do not really work, so I will not focus on them.)

That being said, SoL can be part of a Bildungsroman (a "Coming-of-Age" story), but a work that uses SoL is not strictly a Bildungsroman. Specifically, too often in shows that use the SoL mood/tone, the focal character(s) exhibit little to no actual growth (their development is not a facet of the story, in fact in many cases character development is anathema to the mood/tone of the story).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Another issue I see with "Coming of Age" is that it really is extremely commonplace. Would anybody deny that Accel World is a coming of age story? Would anybody deny that many Gundam shows are coming of age stories? Would anybody deny that Gurren Lagann is a coming of age story?
You don't like Bildungsroman because the term is used to much for a large variety of shows? Fair enough, but why do we need a new term to co-op much of the same meaning?

Additionally, there are variations and sub-genres of Bildungsroman already in use: Entwicklungsroman (literally "development novel") which is a general memoir-esque story of aging and the various adventures and encounters during the process of growing up (there is no real focus on character growth, though). An Erziehungsroman ("education novel") focuses on basic school life. And an Kunstlerroman ("artist novel") is a specific story about a young protagonist who becomes an artist (unlike many Bildungsroman, a Künstlerroman will often end on a sour note).

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Old 2012-10-09, 17:21   Link #17
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I personally agree more or less with relentlessflame about coming-of-age and slice-of-life definitions. I have no great experience of the latter by the way, but I have to say that SoL definition is quite useful to me to avoid it. Or at least to set my personal expectations about a series which has been labeled as such.
So to me coming-of-age fits quite well distinguishing itself by a slice-of-life. Basically both haven't any typical genre traits that stand out that much to label them as such, whatever traits they have, romance, action, drama, etc. Inside this sub group anyways, I still see a differentiation between SoL and what I would call coming-of-age. And it's basically stated by the names itself, coming-of-age implies pointing toward something. For that reason I preferred to use CoA instead of SoL defining Tari Tari or Kokoro Connect, because in these shows the characters had to face some issues trying to overcome them. Tari Tari would fit quite perfectly as CoA, because leaving aside Wakana central plot the theme of the show IS about coming of age. Each character has to face his own issues that are related with the adult world, does "going into adulthood" really mean giving up your dreams? The series dealt with their coming of age.
Even Kokoro Connect, in its own way , dealt with it, so far at least, even if it could be said to be more drama oriented. Maybe more like overcoming your own issues as a way to mature. Anyways, in both shows you could identify a path character(s) (try to) follow that take them from point A to point B. Just to pick up the most evident ones, Wakana and Inaban.
As I said I have no big experience about Slice of life, one of the few I saw is Minami-ke in which I didn't see anything of the above. So basically I identify SoL as shows where the characters start in the show at point A and end at the same point, A. But it's more a deduction of mine
I haven't said anything about Hyouka because I tend to put it into SoL, or mystery, but since I didn't liked that series probably it is my bias that speaks.

Now I don't know if coming-of-age should become a standard or anything, but in these two particular cases I think the definition fits quite well.
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Old 2012-10-09, 17:51   Link #18
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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
People who like serious drama, and are looking first and foremost for serious drama, may well find that a show like Tari Tari is not dramatic enough for them. Labeling shows like Hyouka and Tari Tari as "dramas" may well do a disservice both to these shows, and people who specifically go out of their way to find dramas.

I can certainly see labeling a show like AnoHana a "drama". The drama is thick enough in that show that I think it would satisfy drama lovers who are specifically looking for "drama". But is the drama thick enough in Tari Tari that it should first and foremost be labeled "drama"? Honestly, I really don't think so.
It's because you've exchanged "melodrama" for "drama" in your mind. "Drama" is just about a story that emotionally develops characters, usually with realistic themes, usually revolving around a critical juncture in their lives. I added the "coming-of-age" description to further describe the juncture at issue (the threshold between childhood and adulthood).

Part of the problem in the first place is that people are using terms incorrectly. The only way to fix this is to help people understand what the terms mean (preferably per some sort of standard, accepted industry definition) and help them use it correctly. To that end, we have to help people understand that "drama" and "melodrama" are not the same thing. AnoHana is a melodrama. Kokoro Connect is also a melodrama. Obviously, Tari Tari and Hyouka are not, but they are still dramas.


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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Another issue I see with "Coming of Age" is that it really is extremely commonplace. Would anybody deny that Accel World is a coming of age story? Would anybody deny that many Gundam shows are coming of age stories? Would anybody deny that Gurren Lagann is a coming of age story?
I think you're confusing "theme" with "genre". Coming of Age may be a theme in many works, but it is not a defining genre. I do deny that Accel World is a "coming of age story"; it's a science-fiction action story. If people start misapplying the label to everything, then we have to tell them they're doing it wrong, just like people are currently doing with Slice-of-Life.

If your objection to coming-of-age is that it would apply to too many shows, I have to think that School Life is even worse in that regard. I'd estimate that at least half of all anime have "School Life" as a central element in the story. So I'm not really sure how this is better just because you've specified the setting and because it still has "life" in it. Why carry that over when people are doing it wrong to start with? And I still don't think it really tells me anything about the type of story it will be, just that it concerns students. If you're worried that people will errantly apply "coming-of-age" to Accel World, surely they'd apply "School Life" to it as well -- and in the latter case they're probably more arguably right.
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Old 2012-10-09, 18:11   Link #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by relentlessflame View Post
It's because you've exchanged "melodrama" for "drama" in your mind. "Drama" is just about a story that emotionally develops characters, usually with realistic themes, usually revolving around a critical juncture in their lives. I added the "coming-of-age" description to further describe the juncture at issue (the threshold between childhood and adulthood).

Part of the problem in the first place is that people are using terms incorrectly. The only way to fix this is to help people understand what the terms mean and help them use it correctly. To that end, we have to help people understand that "drama" and "melodrama" are not the same thing. AnoHana is a melodrama. Kokoro Connect is also a melodrama. Obviously, Tari Tari and Hyouka are not, but they are still dramas.
I actually agree with this wholeheartedly but didn't bring it up because it seems asking people to use the term "melodrama" without associating a negative connotation to it is a lost cause,but I'd love to be wrong about this.
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Old 2012-10-09, 18:25   Link #20
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Hmm ... I have wondered about the same thing for some time now (this is in response to the OP and his general ideas and questions)....

I would definitely agree that slice-of-life as a genre is largely (but not solely) based on mood or ambiance. Maybe even the "label" of slice of life could be where that ambiance or mood or setting is the "main character" of sorts in the story?

But it is not just that - it seems that the slice-of-life genre is most often labelled at those aspects of life that are quietly positive, provoke reflection and (very often) gratefulness for the "simple" things in life that we "take for granted" ... perhaps a retaining of the best aspects of being child-like: things that are easily forgotten and regarded as "non important".

It's almost a whole presentation or perspective combined with a reminder on a certain of spectrum of attitudes and dispositions that the producers of the art form (whether manga or anime or whatever) feel are lacking. In many ways it is reminds me of a certain type of 19th century European Romanticism in the arts such as that promoted by the British poet Wordsworth - things like simplicity and spontaneity (associated primarily with the sort found in children, again).

With this in mind series that have most often been associated with "slice of life" come more into focus for me: things like the Aria series, the Tamayura series, the Hidamari Sketch series, the Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou manga, Sketchbook Full Colors, etc.

There are plenty of other series, though, where "slice of life" qualities are present and maybe even stand near the "primary elements" of the series: things like Acchi Kocchi, Lucky Star, Miname-Ke and such - although for me the "main elements" in these stories is comedic.

Coming-of-Age, Comedy and Drama (which seem the most common elements associated with those series to which the slice of life term is most commonly associated) are all, of course, elements of "life" ... and life in the sense of the sort that the slice-of-life most generally focuses on (as opposed to the "nitty gritty of reality" or the "hard boiled realism" that for some people is "real life" much more so than some sort of "vague emotionalism hankering after a period in ones life that is impossible to return to" or some such).

Yet I guess for me the main focus is the question - some examples: Aria is slice of life primarily, but has sci fi elements and coming of age elements as well. Miname Ke is comedy primarily, but has slice of life and coming of age elements. In Aria the world, mood, backdrop and ambiance is the main focus (and even "character" in a way), whereas in Miname-Ke it is comedy that holds the primary place.

In this sense slice-of-life is a much rarer creature than people take it to be - and I guess of the three recent anime series that ended in summer 2012 that were mentioned in the OP I would guess (just my opinion, of course) that Hyouka is nearer than the other two to the slice of life genre - but I am not sure that I would call the main character and mood of Hyouka to be slice of life per se ... although of the three it certainly painted the strongest setting and background and the like: Kokoro Connect was much more of a drama focus for me personally, and Tari Tari was more of a Coming of Age.

At least for me.
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