Alex's Favorite Slice-of-Life Anime

Introduction

Note from the editors: If you already know what Anime is, skip the intro! If you don’t, this post will either radically change your life for the better, or you’ll go back to enjoying reality tv (don’t worry, we have reviews for that coming too). This series is intended as a fun “what to do on a break” from grinding on whatever you’re working on at the moment.

Anime refers to hand-drawn and computer-generated animation originating from Japan [1]. While similar to its Western counterpart, both are animated mediums and can cater to youth and adult demographics, anime, perhaps for its breadth, is more diverse in the genres and themes it typically covers. From comedy (the most common genre of Western animation) to action, to even shows about almost nothing at all (see: slice-of-life animes, the topic of my post today [2]), anime is a versatile entertainment form that can cater to any prospective viewer.

My Favorite Slice-of-Life Animes

Disclaimer: as I re-read this I’ve come to realize that this list might not only cover my favorite animes of this genre, but as my favorite animes, period. Just like some of my favorite movies of all time--The Royal Tenenbaums, Away We Go, Magnolia--I live for well-written dialogue and character development. As such, this list will reflect that. :)

My Top Recommendation

Chihayafuru

# of Episodes: 74 (3 Seasons)

Studio: MadHouse

Genre: Slice-of-Life, Sports, Romance

Ongoing: Yes

Synopsis: Chihaya Ayase is a first-year in high school trying to start her extracurricular karuta club. To most people in Japan, karuta, a reflex-based sport built around 100 poems written in the 12th century [3] [4], is an archaic memorization game played by schoolchildren and on holidays; however, to Chihaya, karuta encompasses her entire life. With aspirations to become the #1 female karuta player (also known as the Queen) and build the best high school karuta team in the nation, she is obsessed with making her dreams a reality. Unfortunately for her, there is more to life than karuta; the show follows her journey as she works to become the best while learning what truly matters along the way.

My Two Cents: Since I first was introduced to Chihayafuru in early 2020, I have watched and rewatched the show 3-4 times. Between the heartfelt storyline, the dynamic and richly developed characters, as well as the excellent art style and animation by MadHouse (arguably one of the best animation studios in Japan bar none), there is much to love about this anime. For action fans out there, while you won’t be seeing Chihaya fight demons or summoning any ancient spirits, there are some beautiful and fluid animation sequences during karuta matches that will be sure to blow you away. I’ve already written about and showcased this anime on three different occasions already, here's another, I can’t stop saying enough about just how much I love this anime.

If you’re looking for…

Coming of Age

Silver Spoon

# of Episodes: 22 (2 seasons)

Studio: A-1 Pictures

Genre: Slice-of-life, Comedy

Ongoing: No

Synopsis: After failing to make it into any prestigious high school, Hachiken Yuugo runs away from the city and enrolls in an agricultural high school in the countryside of Japan. Mentally defeated, he enters into a more rural lifestyle that he had never before experienced. With the help of new friends and activities, Hachiken embarks on a journey to learn more about himself, breaking down his insecurities and, in turn, watching his dreams and once uncertain future blossom before his very eyes.

My Two Cents: Created by Hiromu Arakawa, the very accomplished author of the critically acclaimed anime/manga Fullmetal Alchemist, Silver Spoon is a touching coming-of-age story loosely based on her childhood growing up on a farm in Japan. Much like her other works, it’s a masterfully crafted story with deep, dynamic characters and realistic and believable set pieces. With beautiful art and a heavy focus on food and agriculture, I often salivated while watching the cooking scenes and went so far as to make tamago kake gohan [5] for four days straight because it looked so damn good when Hachiken was eating it. Personal gluttony aside, Silver Spoon presents a compelling and relatable story of overcoming personal failures and actualizing one’s dreams. Not only is Hachiken’s journey emotional and enjoyable to watch, so too is his classmates’ journeys, as well. With a spotlight on the difficulties of farming and agriculture in an ever-growing technological age, Silver Spoon did not pull punches in showing the harsh realities farmers face in the 21st century. As this was the most recent anime I’ve finished from this list, I can’t help but feel more biased when I highlight how amazing this anime is, but Silver Spoon is among the best of the best.

Note: while the manga covers their entire high school experience, the anime concludes after the first year only, so keep that in mind if you decide to give it a chance!]

If you’re looking for…

Mindblowing Action

Mob Psycho 100

# of Episodes: 25 (2 seasons)

Studio: BONES

Genre: Slice-of-life, Action

Ongoing: No

Synopsis: On the surface, Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama is a mediocre eighth-grade boy. Unathletic, gullible, and unpopular, he has gone through most of his life living in anonymity. However, Mob possesses a skill seldom found in anyone else: a psychic ability that can generate a power of cataclysmic proportions when unleashed in times of emotional distress. Under the guidance of his “mentor”, Arataka Reigen (a “psychic” con-artist), Mob tries to learn how he can harness his limitless potential in the hopes of one day also learning to accept himself and untangle his own moral and personal insecurities.

My Two Cents: Mob Psycho 100 is a masterpiece. While fans of mainstream anime may hear of the author’s other work, One Punch Man brought up more often in conversation, Mob Psycho 100 is the superior of the two. Combining frenetic, kaleidoscope-light show action and animation sequences with gut-busting levels of humor and parody, the show perfectly blends action and slice-of-life character development into an epic adventure saga. I admit that it was difficult to get into the anime at first due to its somewhat jarring and unflattering art style; however, once I bought into it, I binged the entire series in a weekend. So for those whose rougher edges may turn off, I understand. However, I’d go so far as to say that Mob is my favorite protagonist out of any anime I’ve ever seen, as witnessing his maturation and journey towards enlightenment was a rewarding and emotional experience for me. So you’re interested, give it a couple of episodes to warm up--I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

If you’re looking for…

A Little Bit of Teen Romance (without the drama)

HoriMiya

# of Episodes: 11

Studio: CloverWorks

Genre(s): Slice-of-life, Comedy, Romance

Ongoing: No

Synopsis: Miyamura and Hori are high school classmates who both lead secret lives outside of school. When they serendipitously meet one afternoon, the two almost immediately begin falling for each other. HoriMiya follows the two as they traverse their first true love. It also includes a massive cast of side characters who are a bunch of fun, too!

My Two Cents: For those who love skit-based television shows with a loosely-told main storyline (e.g., Friends or Parks and Recreation comes to mind), this is the anime for you. It subverts many of the tropes you’d expect from a high school romance anime, filled with excellent dialogue, rich characters, and heartwarming storylines. Instead, it opts for a down-to-earth, honest experience. For those who need drama and action with their shows, you may find HoriMiya dull or slow. The truth is, HoriMiya rewards those who appreciate the details. Also, not sure if this is included in the manga or exclusive to the anime, but the animation and its dynamic style-changing between chibi (a more cartoony, cutesy Japanese art style) and traditional anime art add even more character depth I hadn’t seen before in many other slice-of-life shows. By juxtaposing and highlighting comedic moments and melancholic ones with different art styles, it added emphasis to every scene’s emotional impact. I think there is only one season, which is a shame, but hey —it makes for a quick and satisfying binge!

If you’re looking for…

Spirits, Demons and some Japanese mythology

Natsume’s Book of Friends

# of Episodes: 74 (6 seasons)

Studio: Brain’s Base/Shuka

Genre(s): Slice-of-life, Fantasy

Ongoing: No

Synopsis: Ever since he was little, Takashi Natsume has been able to see spirits invisible to everyone else around him. Inherited from his late grandmother, Reiko Natsume, his strange ability made him an outcast to his parents and peers. One day, while living with a distant relative (it’s mentioned briefly that his parents have also passed), he discovers a notebook labeled “Book of Friends,” a ledger containing a collection of names of spirits that had sworn loyalty to Reiko long ago. With the help of Madara, a powerful demon fox who takes the shape of a cute “lucky cat” statue (see here), he embarks on a mission to return the names to the spirits his grandmother once stole.

My Two Cents: Unlike the animes listed above, I am still working through this one. Every episode stands independently as its little vignette rather than a piece of a greater plot; it feels sacrilegious to blaze through this show at my usual pace of 4-6 episodes a day. Natsume’s Book of Friends is a charming, poetic breath of fresh air that works more like a palate cleanser rather than a standalone meal. While every episode I’ve seen so far follows a similar trend of Natsume returning a name to a spirit, the true brilliance of this show comes from catching a glimpse into each spirit’s past experiences: what they lost in the past life, why they remain bound to the human world, how they reach solace and inner peace. Natsume’s Book of Friends is an ethereal experience that I can only describe as meditative and calming. Like sliding into a bed recently made with freshly washed sheets or getting into a hot bath after a long day of work, I find myself going back to watch an episode or two when I want to unwind.

Until next time,

Alex

Credit to Pixabay for the cover image for this article.