"Slice of life" is a term you might encounter in different media, but nowadays you are more likely to see it describing anime. In the past, "slice of life" would usually describe a still moment in a work that closely resembles real life, in which nothing much would happen beyond everyday occurrences.
But anime shows are very diverse and different genres bleed into one another, meaning that many anime with other genre elements and tropes are categorized as a slice of life. So what are some of the best slice-of-life anime of all time? Here’s a list:
Fruits Basket hardly needs any introduction. Since the manga came out back in the early 1990s, countless fans have fallen in love with the adventures of high-school girl Tohru Honda, who finds out her new flatmates are afflicted by a Zodiac curse; when hugged or ill, they transform into the animal they’re possessed by.
If this doesn’t sound slice of life to you, you need to read the manga or watch the anime (preferably the 2019-21 version, although 2001 original is charming for its day). Sure, there are supernatural elements, and the story wouldn’t exist without them, but the story is so much more than that. From meals with friends and high-school shenanigans to tackling loss, grief, abuse, or bullying, the anime features everything you would expect to see in a high schooler’s life, not shying away from life’s darkest moments.
Unlike pure fantasy shows, Fruits Basket might have you think the zodiac curse is ultimately a mental state rather than a shapeshifting superpower. Even when the curse seems to be the main source of the characters’ plight, their struggles are so human you won't help to identify with at least some of them.
Fruits Basket has achieved the perfect balance between hope and darkness, which makes it totally worth watching; the characters have a lot to teach us about living our best life, acknowledging the existence of trauma, but also the possibility of healing.
Anohana is another work you wouldn’t automatically treat like a slice of life, but to do so is to acknowledge its merit for viewers. And part of its merit is this: it tackles a very difficult topic, one we all face at some point. Losing a loved one is always heartbreaking, but it can be particularly devastating to those who were too young to make sense of it and did not receive support when they needed it.
In the A-1 Pictures anime, Jinta, a reclusive teenager who doesn’t attend school is visited by the ghost of his best friend Menma who died five years ago. To fulfill her wish and help her move on to the afterlife, Jinta must bring together their old friend group. And to do that, he must persuade them that he’s actually seeing a ghost.
Despite this supernatural premise, this anime is, once again, very human and realistic in its depiction of the main characters’ mental states. Each processed the death of their friend very differently, and much of the show is about them learning to recognize and honor their feelings to finally be able to move on.
Kyoto Animation is great when it comes to heartfelt, slice of life works, and Clannad is a relatively early example of that. The show, and particularly its 2008 sequel Clannad: After Story, are considered by many to be one of the greatest slices of life stories of all time.
This beautiful story starts with Okazaki, a purposeless boy, whose life changes when he’s befriended by Nagisa, a girl who has missed a lot of her schooling due to an illness. Okazaki decides to help her with the dream to revive the school’s drama club. The new friends he makes along the way and their respective stories help him develop a new appreciation for life.
Even though Clannad isn’t always the most realistic, it’s all about appreciating beautiful moments, and After Story has had many fans seeking a show with a similar emotional impact and failing to find it.
A1-Pictures is another good studio for a slice of life, as it seems. Much like Anohana, the 2014 show deals with grief, and the ways it can change a person and does so in a realistic, heartbreaking way.
Pianist Koisei Arima finds himself unable to play, or even bear the sound of his own music, following the death of his mother. Two years later, he still avoids music in an attempt to avoid his pain – and his life is all the dullest due to this. But when he meets Kaori, a violinist, his journey back to music begins.
The anime is based on a manga of the same name and it’s been commended for its depiction of recovery, its beautiful music, and its realistic portrayal of conflict and character growth.
Based on a light novel series that inspired a video game adaptation as well, the award-winning Toradora! is a show you don’t want to miss if you’re a fan of slice of life anime.
The Studio J.C. Staff anime follows Ryuuji Takasi, a mild-mannered high-schooler who enjoys doing household chores but often gets misunderstood due to his intimidated face. Compare that with Taifa Aisaka, a short girl who hides a fierce personality behind her doll-like appearance. The two are as different as can be until their paths crossed, and the students decide to help each other with their respective crushes, forming an unlikely alliance.
Even those who don’t usually opt for romantic comedies have good things to say about Toradora! The characters feel real, as they have their own weaknesses and quirks behind their usual demeanor and the chemistry between them has been praised. The fact that the show mostly manages to stay away from predictable cliches is definitely a perk!
Slice of Life animated works often have a nostalgic quality about them. This means that to better understand the genre, it might be a good idea to go back in time and check out some classics that made it what it is today.
Nowadays, Studio Ghibli is largely known for fantasy favorites, from Spirited Away to Howl’s Moving Castle but if there’s one thing that all Ghibli films have in common, is the beautiful way in which they demonstrate an appreciation of the little things.
Only Yesterday is a film about memory. The main character Taeko Okajima, a 27-year-old woman agrees to a holiday in the countryside, where she gets free time to reflect on her life and sort out her childhood memories. If you think this will reveal some huge, traumatic, or otherwise life-changing event, this anime might not be for you. However, even if you don’t like a slice of life show, we still recommend giving Only Yesterday a chance.
For a film that glorifies the ordinary, this is really unique and well done. Only Yesterday is all about these random family moments that shaped us not because they were necessarily the most important, but simply because they remained vivid in our psyche for all sorts of reasons. These moments are all portrayed in an honest, artistically sound way you are bound to find relatable.
Yet another Ghibli and one all aspiring artists can benefit from watching when young. Not only is Whispers of the Heart a sweet story but it contains specks of a theory about artistic creation that will help young aspiring writers and not only!
Shizuku, a 14-year-old girl who loves reading and wants to be a writer realizes that all the books she reads have also been checked out by Seiji Amasawa, a boy she decides to find out more about. When she and Seiji end up meeting, they both like each other, but Shizuku feels a little intimidated by his determination and certainty regarding his goals for the future. Spending time with Seiji and his grandfather, who owns an antique shop eventually inspires Shizuku to work towards her goal to write a book guided by the whispers of her heart.
Once again, this is a simple story compared to other Ghibli works, and its focus is on everyday life, rather than big historical or fantastic events. But even if you’re a hardcore fan of the more fantasy anime, Whispers of the Heart is worth checking out, as Shizuku’s inner world is fascinating to watch, and her coming-of-age tale is truly heartwarming.
Back to Kyoto Animation: there’s something about this studio’s aesthetics and themes of choice, that makes it ideal for a slice of life works full of beautiful little details and characters that stay with you.
Based on an award-winning light novel, Hyouka tells the story of Hotaru Oreki, a student who cares little about the adventures that come with school life and wants to save up his energy by putting as little effort as possible. But when he enrolls in his school’s Classics Club, he has to forget his energy-conserving ways, as he finds himself involved in a 45-year-old mystery.
Along with fellow club members Satoshi, Mayaka, and Eru, Oreki must use his hidden gifts to balance school work, club activities, and mystery solving.
While said mysteries take up a significant portion of the anime, the show’s real strength is its nostalgic school atmosphere and the relationships that develop between the club members, making Hyouka a slice of life anime that can’t be missing from your list.
A lot of slice of life works from this list and not only, tend to focus on coming-of-age themes or aspects of school life. If you want something a little more adult for a chance, Barakamon might be for you.
The Kinema Citrus show follows Seishuu Handa, a calligrapher who has everything: talent, physical beauty, and youth. Unfortunately, these come with more than a bit of a temper and a narcissistic attitude. When Seishuu disgraces himself in front of an art gallery director who criticized his work, Sei’s father temporarily removes him from the comfortable city life he’s used to.
Exiled to the Goto Islands, Sei must reflect and find new inspiration – although this rural life ends up being less peaceful than he had expected! Barakamon is an exciting story about a journey of learning, self-discovery, and human relationships, showing us that you don’t always need big events or magical tropes to weave an intriguing tale.
For fans of shows that focus on music, K-On! by Kyoto Animation is an iconic anime you should at least try out.
The show, which received a Best TV Animation Award back in 2010, follows Yui Hirasawa, who accidentally signs up for her school’s “Light Music Club.” Upon realizing the club is actually serious about music, Yui, who doesn’t even know how to play an instrument, decides to leave.
As it turns out, the club is in desperate need of new members, even inexperienced ones like Yui. In their attempts to make her stay, they awaken her passion for music, inspiring her to learn.
The show doesn’t have much of a plot besides that, but if you must watch a representative slice of life show about students doing everyday things, K-On! is the one – there’s a nostalgic sort of charm in the characters cute, carefree interactions.