Toradora: Slice of Life Frontier

toradora-t-shirt

We Remember Love has lavished attention on Toradora! I think it’s the anime that has gotten more attention here aside from Macross and Gundam. I’ve even been one of the few fans that have taken Kitamura seriously. In the most recent episodes (13 and 14) Toradora! I believe has elevated itself. I’m a big fan of Hachimitsu to Clover, and the second season of that anime, while not as highly regarded as the first has one of the most beautiful and sad moments in the anime that I’ve seen. Toradora! is directed by Nagai Tatsuyuki, the director of the said second season of Hachimitsu to Clover (interestingly enough, he also directed an episode of Gundam 00).

The last 2 episodes for me felt like the world just opened up. If you’re familiar with console RPGs like the Final Fantasy series, Toradora’s episode 13 felt like an important mid-story boss battle. After your characters defeat the boss, important dramatic scenes ensue and move the story forward. Episode 14 felt like the world map just opened.

ff7map

In such games, the early stages are ‘contained in a small world’, meaning your characters travel and explore only a smaller vicinity of the whole world within the game. This is usually the home town, city, or country/continent of your characters. Events that happen in this stage, while belonging to the main storyline, only act as both exposition and set up for the main gaming experience: that is to make your characters powerful while exploring the gaming world.

Episode 14 felt like that. How so? It’s due to the ‘pulling out’ of the lens from focusing on Taiga and Ryuuji. It happens precisely when the insert song plays, showing us a montage of the five main characters – in their various states of melancholy. It’s quite awesomely done. It doesn’t feel cheap, forced, nor does it call too much attention to itself as a directorial artifice. That’s what I feel anyway. The second half of the season presents us the possibilities and fulfillments of the sub/secondary plots for the different characters. And Kitamura by the steps was a good moment, understated and restrained the way I like it.

hc01

Hachimitsu no Clover was my introduction to contemporary slice of life, having seen only Umi ga Kikoeru beforehand (you should all see this anime from Studio Ghibli). And Toradora I believe continues exploring the genre’s (if it could indeed be called that) frontiers.

On a personal note, I wish I could be writing the above paragraphs about Macross, all the time. I don’t have anything for Macross at the moment, but I will leave you with this MAD. Forgive the bad joke, I do find it awesome in my fanboy way.

Some things I need to be told about:

  1. What other anime do you think is representative of Slice of Life?
  2. In what ways is this genre growing, in terms of innovation (plot, characters, execution), or there’s really not much to expect beyond what’s already been shown?

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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21 Responses to Toradora: Slice of Life Frontier

  1. I need to hurry up and catch up god fucking dammit!

    Also, slive of life = Aria, Sketchbook, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou and for the purpose of this message, NOTHING ELSE.

  2. bluemist says:

    For me slice-of-life is To Heart, Kokoro Library, NieA_7, and Haibane Renmei. Soon enough I’ll finish Aria and watch other @digitalboy mentions.

    If you count Toradora as a slice-of-life, you could say that the genre grows in terms of having at least story progression and pace. I may consider it more of a non-cliche harem anime. It started out harem for me but each passing event takes it beyond that premature categorization of mine. This show amazes and elevates itself every episode lately.

  3. The_Observer says:

    What else was left out?

    Hidamari Sketch (SoL with a Studio SHAFT touch, it was good in my books)

    Bartender (Not that highly rated, but it launched my foray into cocktail making. Since then, the bar is always stocked up and have been shaking all sorts of concoctions).

    But Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (Yokohama Shopping Log) is still the best SoL out there, perhaps the defining show of the genre.

  4. Ryan A says:

    I think TD is more LovCom that slice, but it does have aspects.

    The difference comes when looking at pure slice-of-life stuff like Aria, Sketchbook, Manabi Straight.

    Slice-of-life generally is about the moment and seeing how awesome the subtleties of now are. This comes with having lovable characters which add to the atmosphere.

    I suppose it’s a lot about setting and characters, with a little reliance on premise. Slice, generally, lacks a plot.

    Related but not, the film maker Yasujiro Ohzu had a style which felt a lot like slice-of-life. A recent tribute film, Cafe Lumiere, is a great example of slice-of-life in film.

  5. ghostlightning says:

    @ Everyone, since your comments are related

    bluemist makes a point, that Toradora! is innovating in that there’s story progression, character arcs, and the like. But didn’t H&C have that as well?

    It doesn’t really convince me that slice of life doesn’t have a ‘story’ necessarily. It may be just that there’s no driving, overarching plot.

    I haven’t seen the YKK anime, but I’ve read the entire manga and it’s quite breathtaking.

    @ Ryan A

    Good job on pointing out how the subtleties are becoming more important. I enjoy nuance, and am interested in the taxonomy of genera.

    In any case, I’m interested in what you (and everyone else) may have to say about the genre as distinguished. Point me to relevant blogposts, I’ll appreciate if you leave a link. Pimp your own posts, I’d be glad to get the links.

  6. gloval says:

    I agree with Ryan A’s points. TD! is more of a high school romance-comedy to me, just that unlike the usual RomCom out there, it has an updated (if not realistic) take on relationships–the focus on the five main character’s friendship rather than or before the romantic pairings seems to resonate with an apparent trend for today’s generation of adolescents and young adults (see article and discussion).

    About the MAD, this Macross fanboy appreciates the use of Triangler as the song for love triangles. The use of the duet version was a nice touch in that Taiga had Sheryl’s voice and Minorin had Ranka’s

  7. Baka-Raptor says:

    Joke answer: Lucky Star.

    Real answer: Touch.

    Here’s my “highlight reel” theory: slice-of-life takes life as it happens whereas non-slice-of-life cuts you a highlight reel of the characters’ lives (all the funny, dramatic, plot-progressing, etc… moments). Based on this theory, I agree with Ryan A that Toradora is less of a slice-of-life show and more of a love comedy. I think it fits best in the “school life” genre, but nobody really knows what means.

  8. neither Toradora nor Honey and Clover is slice of life, doi.

    To be true slice of life, a show must contain zero comedy nor drama or at least very little. There are some ‘partial’ slice of life anime like Haubane Renmei which only gets dramatic at parts, or Hidamari Sketch which is only partly comedic, and shows like Kokoro Library that are SOL but portrayed really dramatically.

    I had forgotten Bartender, the TRUE MEN’S slice of life anime. Everyone needs to watch Bartender!!!

  9. Loki says:

    Is Grave of the fireflies slice-of-life? If not then I’ve never seen good slice-of-life anime.

  10. ghostlightning says:

    @ gloval

    Interesting links, but I gather from reading them is that it’s not so much the friendship that’s being valued necessarily – but rather the fear of intimacy that’s being fed, ergo safety in numbers – then a crapshoot by the end of the evening.

    Toradora’s depiction of friendship is of the kind that is genuine, filled with good intention and love for each other.

    @ Baka-Raptor

    I’ve read about Touch before, maybe years ago. The length of the series intimidates me at 101 episodes. But, I won’t be averse to it.

    I really like your ‘reel’ theory. If I understand it correctly, slice of life would be more raw, filled with empty moments the viewer is left to make something of. While it can’t be ‘truly emptly’ these moments are devoid of the dramatic contrivances and conflicts that can be found in the love stories.

    The more dramatic, or played-up for laughs moments a series has, the less slice of life it becomes. Which leads to…

    @ digiboy

    By zero to very little comedy or drama, you must mean the artifice/contrived (when I say this I don’t mean bad) elements such as:
    (when played up to elicit an audience reaction)

    confrontations
    confessions
    farewells
    sight-gags
    jokes
    slapstick
    etc.

    I say played up to elicit an audience reaction because, the abovementioned elements does happen in a story, or in life, for that matter. It’s a matter of treatment, I suppose. YKK (manga) had all sorts of dramatic tension, but held tight and never allowed to explode into confessions or confrontations. It was funny while not jokey.

    By these things I would agree that Honey and Clover as well as Toradora! are less generic slice of life. Given what I just said discussing your comment and Baka-Raptor’s reel theory, what shows would fit the slice of life genera?

  11. gloval says:

    Ah yes, I forgot about the crapshoot part, and the fact that it’s an observation of American culture. I guess I mentioned above (focus on the friendship) instead because I think it is how I translated the article into my personal experience.

    It’s interesting though how the five characters in TD don’t confess/court/pair up yet but rather develop their friendship first. I’m a sucker for such things, friends turning to lovers. Aside from making the story last for 20+ episodes, I like how the series is progressing this way, it’s more natural than using some emotionally charged external event (like a final battle, threat of destruction, etc.) to finally resolve the pairing. I hope they do something like ep 13 for the climax.

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  13. omisyth says:

    WellI’m not particularly well-learned (lol) in the slice-of-life genre, but I thought it slice-ofl-life was about taking everyday things and making them interesting through those things that you and digiboy mentioned. There’s always some element of dressing-up with any slice-of-life, even with the chracters; if there wasn’t then it would just be uninteresting.

  14. ghostlightning says:

    @ gloval, omisyth

    Dressing up is inevitable. Real life, in real time, is boring.

    The deliberate act of not adding drama while making the scene interesting is an artifice on its own.

  15. otou-san says:

    IMO people overuse the term slice-of-life. To me, a series like Azumanga was slice-of-life, but then again it’s more accurate to say it’s a 4koma animated. Hidamari, same way. Aria is the truest representation that I can think of.

    I wouldn’t call Toradora, with its story progression and character development, an expansion of the genre but rather another genre altogether. I think it’s safe to just call it a drama or romance (or dramedy? one of my least favorite words). Just because it’s not a soapy, overdone mushfest doesn’t make it not a drama — it just makes it a good one.

  16. ghostlightning says:

    @ otou-san

    When I wrote the post I did see Toradora! as an expansion of the genre. Digiboy and the others disabused me of the idea.

    Dramedy is an ugly word, almost as awkward as ‘blogosphere’.

    I forgot all about this graph.

    Some of the arguments in the post are relevant here.

    Owen’s idea on the micro focus (at least on the surface) agrees with Baka-Raptor’s ‘reel’ theory.

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  18. Aizen says:

    That video was really uncalled for and made me wtflol.

    Really, I don’t think any of the Anime I watch are considered “slice of life”… or maybe I just don’t understand the concept of “slice of life”, so sorry I can’t answer those questions for you :(

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