Thursday, July 23, 2015

Let's Recycle!

So I am still feeling the effects of this dreaded flu! So what better time than to recycle an old post I made to a blog AAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS ago. I studied the slice-of-life genre in manga and anime as part of my honours project. I was attempting to determine what qualified as a slice-of-life narrative.

I have 10 000 odd words that demonstrates that. Here is my non peer reviewed, solely opinion based article that was never published in a journal on why K-On! is and should never be considered a slice-of-life anime.

Why K-on! Is not a slice-of-life

Seriously, eating sweets and nothing else is not slice-of-life people!
I am new to this. I have blogged before but not long posts of deconstruction. I have not had much to say in terms of anime and manga but as time has gone by and I have been exposed to more and more of the culture I have discovered that yes, I might have a thing or two to say about some things. 

Here it goes. Buckle down your seats my friends because… K-On is not the groundbreaking anime people say it is. Ok so I lied. It’s not much of a revelation. I don’t hate it so much as think that it is vastly improved when sped up by 1.5x. If you can ignore the high pitched cuteness of the characters' saccharine squeaking, you’ll begin to truly believe that this is actually the pace the anime is supposed to be watched at. But I digress.

What I really want to say is that K-On! should not be classified as slice-of-life. I am not intending to get on the “K-On! sucks bandwagon.” Oh no. Regardless as to how I feel about this anime, my recent research just highlighted how little people know about the true meaning behind what makes a slice-of-life.

Let me outline a few things others have to say about the genre. Horton and Romero define the slice-of-life genre as being close to real life. They explain that though slice-of-life may utilise elements such as drama as a way to increase tension and or conflict, this should not be its main focus. However the mundane activities of the characters, settings and plots, whilst based on real life situations, should be “explorations of humanity.”

So how does K-On! not do this? Simple. There is little exploration of what it means to be human. There isn't much depth to the characters either. Rather it is the objectification of cakes, tea and Mio’s underwear. 

Oh my stars! A 'revealing' look at the depth of K-On!'s exploration of humanity.
The focus of the anime is the characters' everyday routine, granted, but that’s all there is to it. Cowboy Bepop by comparison deals with deep moral issues whilst living a life of a space bounty hunter. I have yet to see Faye and Spike talking about how “Kawaii” those cakes are and how they really should be playing music but oh my god, did Mugi bring out another cup of tea potentially laced with alcohol? (Wow… kinda got away from me there.) No, K-On! does not explore the essence of humanity. Rather, it meanders around, going nowhere and doing nothing. The only thing it does do is take up time by eating all the cake.

However, if we were to take Baker’s view that a slice-of-life was to have the absence of a satisfying ending and “a kind of arbitrary ‘core sample’ of life lived”, then hats off to K-On! because it certainly does that. Yet there is another factor that Baker argues that elaborates on this. As far as he is concerned, a story ends when the audience has been presented with enough morals or lessons or with a conclusion of an argument. He does explain that whilst the audience may not be presented with a satisfying ending, they are forced face the reality of the situation with a deeper respect for life as it is presented through the narrative.

Yeah… deep isn’t it? So what moral, lessons or conclusions can we gain from K-On!? If someone mentions cake then no, there is no overarching message or deep investigation or argument that K-On! puts forward. Although I will be the first to mention that it does offer an interesting look at the effects of stooping to the lowest common denominator has on a group of prepubescent girls. Maybe that’s its argument, but I am really not keen to give it that much of the benefit of the doubt. Particularly if we compare it to another, more worth while manga which I promise to stop banging on about to people despite how AMAZING IT IS!

“What a Wonderful World” by Inio Asano’s, strengthens the view put forward by Baker. This manga is a series of short stories, exploring the lives of young adults and their conflicts between their dreams and their perceived expectations from society. The characters are explored over 20 pages before it switches to the next “track.” These “tracks” reflect on what is to be a young Japanese person facing society’s challenges whilst coming to terms with how you feel about pursuing or abandoning your dreams.

I could keep going. But I think I have presented enough evidence to prove that K-On! is not a slice-of-life anime. At most I would call it humour. Or maybe it exists in its own bubble of unclassifiable anime. Where the pacing, characters and lack of story (except for the beach episode, because who doesn’t love a beach episode?) are just too ass retarded to warrant being pigeon-hold into any genre. My friends, if you enjoy K-On! awesome. If not, hats off to you. But take this final word of advice. Watch in 1.5x speed. It really improves the show. At the very least, it is over quicker.

Public Service announcement: If anyone has any information regarding this individual please contact the police. 

References for those who are interested...

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