• Member Since 27th Dec, 2011
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You'll find, my friend, that in the gutters of this floating world, much of the trash consists of fallen flowers.

More Blog Posts116

  • Friday
    I watched Alita: Battle Angel today

    I was a huge fan of the manga when I was a kid. Nah, it wasn't too violent! Besides, my younger sister introduced it to me. :pinkiehappy:

    Read More

    4 comments · 42 views
  • 1 week
    Thoughts on Theme and Choice

    I played this boardgame, Quadropolis, a pretty simple SimCity-simulator. Surprisingly, it reminded me of Uwe Rosenberg's complex Farming Simulator-simulation, Agricola.... well they're completely different, but just one interesting simulation simularity that got me thinking....

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    6 comments · 62 views
  • 5 weeks
    Forward and Backward

    I kept deleting this draft several times over the past few months, because it seemed like something everyone else already knows. It's just redundant common sense. Will I delete this draft too? Read on to find out!

    I went on about this once before, but I'll just repost the entire quote since the original author explains it well enough:

    Read More

    9 comments · 92 views
  • 5 weeks
    I did a cover art

    go here to look at it closely.

    EFall Back
    It's just a giant festival with carnival rides, food, and games that Discord's put together outside Ponyville to celebrate the end of Daylight Saving Time. Why should Twilight be concerned?
    Baal Bunny · 7.1k words  ·  121  4 · 703 views

    people judge books by their covers, so give it lots of praise! but you can also read the story before voting on it, I suppose...

    1 comments · 37 views
  • 10 weeks
    Which is funnier, good or evil? (review of Scootertrix the Abridged)

    The newest episode of Scootertrix the Abridged is just brilliant, and I wish I could talk with someone about its narrative. But I don't know any friends who even watch it!

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    4 comments · 51 views

Winter wrap-up, because tomorrow Blue Spring is here · 3:22pm Jul 8th, 2018

Been wondering for years. What IS a "slice of life"?

And how do you distinguish it from what the critics call "fluff" - cute and enjoyable yet shallow and disposable?

I suspect some critics will say there's no difference between the two :trollestia:

The meaning seems to get stretched a lot. A lot of fans call the MLP show a slice of life, especially the first season. Cute characters, cozy atmosphere, less action/adventure. Like a Studio Ghibli movie. Having young female characters and a rustic setting helps too, I've noticed.

But each of those episodes has a clearly defined conflict, arc, and lesson. They're dramas.

So at least as I'm understanding the term Slice of Life, the form needs to be seperated from the contents. Otherwise you could call any adventure an SoL if it's cute & cozy enough.

Earlier this year I revisited an old manga I owned. I'd always liked it, but this time it struck me that the stories didn't seem to follow the traditional rules. There was action, but they weren't adventures. There were character conflicts, but they weren't dramas. And I think this one book taught me so much about what exactly a SoL is, and how it can be used for great effect instead of just "fluff".

And it also helped that it wasn't about charming characters in an picturesque setting. It was about apathetic high school delinquents.


When I was in high school, I was not the type you would label, "delinquent." But I had friends who would gather on the school roof after class. They would demand that I take their photos with graffiti such as "Yoroshiku" and "Good Fighter" in the background.

Without exception, each one of them loved having his photo taken. But when, out of consideration for them, I'd warn that "the angle was bad," or "the light was reversed," they'd tell me to hurry it up, and produce wide smiles - their front teeth rotten from huffing thinner.

In retrospect, I realize that for these youth, for whom the present was already the past, the camera was an important item. But at that time, when their actions didn't quite make sense, I was strangely attracted to them.

They answered to reason with their fists and never questioned their excessive passions. Their frankness and their sense of being true to themselves won me over. They were my heroes.

Spring will come again.

1993, February 19, Taiyo Matsumoto
(book afterword)

Matsumoto has a surrealist art style, heavily influenced by European comics artists like Moebius. It stands out for being wild and unpredictable, almost avant-garde at times. On the surface, the characters look more punk than pretty.

But his character-driven stories show enormous empathy for the people he writes about. Like I said before about how the original Rocky wasn't really about the boxing match at the end, Matsumoto's Ping Pong only pretends to be a standard sports story. The tournament at the end will change the lives of the characters forever, but the story isn't centered around who wins, because you're cheering for all of them. It's not about ping pong, it's about characters who just happen to play ping pong. Tekkon Kinkreet isn't really a superhero / crime-fighting story, it's about the relationship of two stray boys who just happen to have special powers. Hana Otoko is.... maybe it is just a drama about a father and son, until it turns into something grander than that. I can't describe it.

So when he wrote Blue Spring, a collection of one-shots about delinquent troublemakers, he made some uncommon decisions about how to tell their stories.

Stories about young punks are everywhere. They usually get glorified, whether from an author outside or within. I've noticed it's easy to get the audience to identify with anyone and cheer for them. Just give them a character arc! Even better, make sure they're the Underdog!

I'm reminded of Truffaut's famous saying about how every film about war unintentionally ends up being pro-war, because they ennoble the subject. And Spielberg had the exact opposite view, that every war film is anti-war, whether it's good or bad. Personally I think it's really problematic when culture can only judge art as being propaganda on the subject, one way or the other, without any other messages or expression possible. But whatever.

Matsumoto doesn't give his characters any kind of arc. They're apathetic, nihilistic, and have no direction or future. Their lives are full of conflict, but not the kinds that get meaningful resolution. They don't learn anything or grow, and barely notice what's happening around them. They're constantly living in the present moment, so quite naturally their stories are slices of life.

And that's why these are so interesting. Instead of building them up as heroes like usual, it's an «objective» look into their little worlds, their mindsets... while still showing the context of the world around them.

Just because it's a slice of life doesn't mean it can be mundane and average. It has to be a particular unique day of their lives, which reveals more about the whole picture. Such as the group that can't work out how they're splitting a restaurant bill and end up arguing constantly. Their various conversations keep melding into panels of surreal imagery and the chatter of supposedly civilized people around them.

My favorite one-shot is the baseball club that burns off the frustration of their loss by shutting themselves in a shack and playing mahjong for days. The story isn't asking us to care about who wins the baseball game, or who wins the gambling. It's not a drama where they work out their problems with each other. Instead it keeps cutting to baseball scenes, without much explanation... are they flashbacks of their game? Sidecuts to the game currently broadcasting on the radio? Their future? One character seems to hallucinate from the heat, while another keeps reliving the pitch that haunts him.

Maybe it's all and none of the above, since it's ambiguous as to what's physically happening. It's a short story that's could never be retold in prose or film, but is only possible with the juxtaposition possible in comics. The story's intensity builds up, not as a suspenseful arc, but as a portrayal of their frustration and aimlessness.

Only one of the stories, the longer 3-chapter piece "Revolver" (guest written by Marley Carib, better known for writing Old Boy), has any hint of a grander adventure to it. Three boys receive a loaded gun that probably belonged to a yakuza. Who gave it to them, and why? What will they choose to do with it?

After some trouble and wandering around, they squander all the bullets and throw it away. They pretty much refuse the call to adventure and stay exactly where they are in life (probably a good thing for them that the gun didn't result in a tragedy). They were bored, but now they had some fun.

There's one work of art that comes to my mind to compare this to. And it's not even Japanese, but a hugely successful piece of American literature:

Beavis and Butt-Head

(I think their haiku are actually pretty good. I'm serious!)

(oops, the haiku blogpost is still coming someday, I promise. I had to write this one first)

When Siskel & Ebert reviewed Beavis & Butt-Head Do America on their show, they enjoyed it. They argued that the show wasn't glorifying stupidity, as it was often accused, but it was a satire against the title characters. (Again, there's that idea that it can only be for or against the subject. Which way depends mostly on your gut reaction - if you liked it or not!)

The movie looks like an epic roadtrip adventure, but B&B are never fully aware of what they're doing or why. They just want to watch TV. They physically move around a lot and learn nothing. And many of the short TV episodes have little stories where they just do various things to entertain themselves, without ever having a climax or payoff. It's not quite glorifying them, because it's careful to show the smarter characters around them in a positive light (e.g. Daria). Yet I don't agree that it's a satire either, because B&B themselves rarely suffer consequences or are made to look like fools (I mean, they're already doing that themselves, without irony). It's showing them at their most genuine. 60% of their screentime is having them react to TV shows and music videos.

Beavis & Butt-Head feels bizarre and unique, because it's a slice of life. This isn't the typical approach everyone else uses to make a satirical cartoon, like Simpsons or South Park or Family Guy. B&B sure are a lot less cute than any of them too. :unsuresweetie:

Going back to MLP, the only true SoL episode I can think of is #100. It's titled "Slice of Life", natch. The monster attack is barely focused on. There's sort of an issue about a wedding, but "solving" it isn't really the point, because it's not under threat, just pushed forward unexpectedly.

Everypony just kinda runs around without an easily digestible arc or friendship problem. They don't learn anything, but you learn something important about each of them.

You can criticize the episode (I wonder if anyone disliked it...?), but I think it's clear that M.A. Larson tried hard to make sure each vignette was not boring. It's not a nihilistic average day where nothing special happens and it's all senseless, but glimpse into Ponyville where every day has the possibility of surprises and revelations, if you just look around you.

And that's more than I can say about some later episodes, such as "Fluttershy Leans In", which come across to me as pointless cutesy fluff. There's no clearly defined arc or conflict to let you cheer for her as a heroine, yet you don't learn anything interesting about the character that you didn't already know. She likes animals? You don't say! :pinkiegasp:

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Comments ( 5 )

This was an enjoyable read

Personally I consider "slice of life" to be the point on the Venn diagram of genres that's not covered by anything else. If something is defined by travel and character arcs, it's adventure; if it's defined by inter-character conflict, it's drama; if it's about the kissu, it's romance; etc. That you can still tell interesting stories without those frameworks is what makes the question interesting enough to explore as you did above.

I kind of wish there was a good word for the genre so that we didn't have to find it by looking into negative space.

That's a good point, and I hope I'm not defining it too narrowly. I don't want to rule out that a Slice a Life can contain some romance or conflict... in the same way an adventure story can have a bit of romance (because danger can be sexy?) but that doesn't necessarily make it a romance story.

I guess this means I'm sorting genres based on their intended goals, and the goal of Slice of Life is, paradoxically, that there is no goal? :derpytongue2: or something like that.

Make your characters want something right away even if it's only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.
- Vonnegut

I'm reminded of this, and it took me a while to figure out that maybe he didn't mean you gotta make every story into Hero's Journey For Glass of Water. Just that the same things that make a traditional story interesting and relatable also apply to a Slice of Life. perhaps more so, because a SoL lives or dies on that interestingness alone. :pinkiehappy:

I don't think I've ever heard the second part of that Vonnegut quote!

And yeah, I agree, so not much more to add.

Edit: Except that I suspect a lot of people call non-genre fiction, aka "slice of life", simply "literature" (or "literary fiction") — which drags a lot of baggage into the discussion, and a lot of pretension and exclusivism that serves the discussion even more poorly. I'm not wholly satisfied with SoL but it's still a better baseline term than the existing alternative.

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