I love the slice of life tales, stories of characters going through their daily lives with all the struggles, drama and comedy that ensues. From romance to drama to moe moe, there is a lot to the genre and many series seem deeper then they appear. For this first list I will focus on the more serious slice of life shows with strong characters and tones. Also including romance series of different varieties. The next list will be more comedy based. Rave on!
- The exciting concert band show from Kyoto Ani, Kumiko is a new member in her school’s troubled concert band. Spirits are rejuvenated as the passionate first years join and the club aims for the top. Hibike! Euphonium doesn’t mess around, these are seriously passionate characters working hard to crush everyone. The central interest in the show is Reina, a talented trumpet player with bad social skills. A great relationship builds between Kumiko and Reina, both with contrasting attitudes. Reina is serious and passionate about music and winning. Kumiko is fairly indifferent. It’s dramatic and beautiful to look at, the animation quality is simply superb, beyond the norm for TV anime. The depth of field, colours and detail are wonderful. Hibike! Euphonium is a great show about the most serious high school concert band in history. It’s a human story.
Kimi ni Todoke
- Heartbeating shoujo romance, Kimi ni Todoke is literally too sweet to exist. It follows Sawako, the most angelic high school girl ever, the only issue…everyone assumes she’s ghostly and spooky due to her appear and social awkwardness. No one has ever tried to be friends with her until local nice guy Kazehaya comes into her life. Romance blooms between the two and while it should be simple, complications arise and man it takes forever. This show is SLOW. But it’s focused on creating a great cast, Sawako’s friends have depth and their own struggles and goals. Even her love rival Kurumi is developed well and made likable as we understand her deeper. Kimi ni Todoke takes a while but it has a lovely tone, pure innocent first love romance.
White Album 2
- Ignore the 2, this heartbreaking and depressing series is it’s own story, no need to see 1 as it’s a different story. The tale of three angsty high school students, acting on impulsive emotions and hurting each other. It’s a dramatic love triangle story with mature romance and realistic characters. Music is the theme, the thing which brings them together, but the romance is what powers the show. It’s a mean show and not one which will make you happy in the end. Human characters doing human things. For myself there is no better in romance anime, it effected me like nothing else in the medium ever has.
- The deepest character story I have ever seen, Nana is a remarkable shoujo about two girls with the same name who come together through fate. The two Nanas move into the same apartment and form a bond together as their two opposing worlds mush together. With 47 episodes the show takes it’s time developing both characters as they go through their struggles, trying to support each other while complex relationships tear them apart. It’s quite a profound story, there is a great cast of supporting characters who complicate things further. It’s an anime of romance, music, friendship, and drama. Touching on some pretty heavy themes as it goes. It takes a while to get going and the art is not the best, but Nana is a truly fantastic anime.
Tamako Love Story
- While the Tamako anime is flawed, the movie Tamako Love Story is an adorable first love tale of a shy boy and overwhelmed by love girl who slowly come to realize their feelings. It’s a beautiful film with fantastic visuals, nice characters and a warm tone. The show had a lot of this, but had an odd side story that took away from the romance element. The movie is all romance, you might need to see the show first for all the details, but it’s not completely necessary. Regardless it’s a great film that must be mentioned!
Sketchbook Full Colours
- A pleasant and slow moving show about a young girl, her friends, and their daily adventures. Sketchbook is one of the slowest “healing” type shows there is. Sora is shy but does her best, she is surrounded by a cast of eccentric weirdos which adds contrast to the pacing and tone. Sketchbook is the kind of show you need to be in the mood for, it’s a seriously wonderful show that hits on a lot of great themes like rejuvenation and stopping to smell the roses. Of all the soul melting slice of life out there I would personally nominate Sketchbook Full Colours as my favourite, it was an experience like no other and something that really left a mark. Also “Kaze Sagashi” the opening song is simply a delight.
- A 27 year old with no direction is given a chance to go back to high school. Kaizaki, after a night of drinking meets a strange man from “ReLIFE labs”. He offers him a pill that will make him 17 again with the purpose of re-entering high school in the modern day. So we have a beaten down business man in high school, seeing how office life contrasts with school and how he effects the lives of others. There are great conflicts and the characters are seriously incredible. Lots of drama but great character development, Chizuru also makes it all worth the while. Highly recommended.
- Hard hitting dramatic messy high school romance. Ryuuji is a pleasant soul who loves cooking & cleaning, but is judged for his hard delinquent appearance. One day he has a fateful encounter with his vertically challenged hot shot neighbor, Taiga, the mad abusive tsundere. She likes his best friend and he likes hers, a connection builds between the two and soon enough…romance! Toradora! is one of the strongest romance series in terms of characterization. It gets dramatic to and oh boy does it ever. There are two full on catfights in this show, I will let that speak for itself.
- With a touch of whimsy magic and fun creatures, Flying Witch is a slice of life about a witch in training Makoto who moves to live with her normal cousins. There are lots of spells and strange people they meet but the show never stops feeling grounded. The art is fantastic and the soundtrack enhances the mood. Everything is normal in this world, casually flying with a broom, turning into a dog randomly, Flying Witch is great fun. A slow show and one to take at a moderate pace. It’s another mood piece, not something for everyone, but a lovely show regardless.
- The tale of friendship and drama, Little Busters is a high school anime about growing up. It touches on a lot of big themes and while I dare not spoil the ending, there is a big picture to it all. Rikki, our hero, is forced to make friends with a bunch of troubled girls. The idea is to space out his pal’s baseball team, but that has little focus as we go arc to arc exploring each character’s troubles. It’s melodramatic but damnit if it’s not a nice series. Rikki and Rin are great characters, developing and growing together. Like a normal Key story each heroine has her own issues. By the time of the second season everything really explodes. The soundtrack is great with many memorable pieces, the opening song is also a top favourite. It’s a nice show that hits great themes. It had big impact on me, I’m not sure how well others will enjoy it, but I think there is great depth to Little Busters.
- I laughed, I cried, I had an experience like no other. Clannad is a soul ripping tale that will destroy the most sensitive of hearts. Tomoya is a normal high school boy with a troubled relationship with his father. One day he meets a girl with her head in the clouds, Nagisa, on his way to school. They come together and soon Tomoya meets all kinds of interesting characters. As the cast builds so does romance and in the second season Clannad After Story…oh my God. Tears. Many times. Clannad has all the classic elements of a Key story, and the adaptation was handled masterfully. It’s a really nice tale, that has some fantasy elements to detract, but in the end it’s a worthwhile and impactual experience. I don’t think I’ll ever see another show quite like it.
- Here we have it, the greatest slice of life anime in my opinion. K-On is an incredible story of five high school girls who form the light music club. They play together, eat a lot and get up to fun antics. Through it’s two seasons we form great bonds with the characters as they are incredibly and subtly developed. It’s grounded and presents great scenarios every episode. We see the characters in a variety of situations and get great depth of their personalities. They are so easy to relate with as well, as they have weird quirks about them. The show is a wonder to look at with beautiful animation and great direction.
- There is no detracting factor, K-On is simply a remarkable show.Although it’s not in your face there is a progression and narrative to K-On, we see a complete high school story. There are lots of musical bits, and that’s great, but the focus is on the cast. It’s a show like no other, there is no equal to K-On. It’s a true anime masterpiece. It took me two watches to truly realize it’s greatness. I adore K-On with a high level of affection that is unmatched by any other anime. Know what your getting into with this series, it’s not some band drama, but it’s also not just fluffy tea drinking antics. It’s just K-ON!