Slice of life
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Slice of life as a term has two distinct but overlapping meanings. In theatrical parlance, it refers to a very realistic depiction of everyday experiences in art and entertainment, while in literary parlance it refers to a narrative technique in which a seemingly arbitrary sequences of events in a character's life are presented, often lacking plot development, conflict and exposition, and often having an open ending.
Film and theater
In theatrical parlance, the term "slice of life" refers to a naturalistic representation of real life, sometimes used as an adjective, as in "a play with 'slice of life' dialogue". The term originated between 1890 and 1895 as a calque from the French phrase tranche de vie, credited to the French playwright Jean Jullien (1854–1919).
Jullien introduced the term not long after a staging of his play, The Serenade, as noted by Wayne S. Turney in his essay, "Notes on Naturalism in the Theatre":
The Serenade was introduced by the Théâtre Libre in 1887. It is a prime example of rosserie, that is, plays dealing with corrupt, morally bankrupt characters who seem to be respectable, "smiling, smiling, damned villains..." Jullien gave us the famous apothegm defining naturalism in his The Living Theatre (1892): "A play is a slice of life put onstage with art." He goes on to say that "...our purpose is not to create laughter, but thought." He felt that the story of a play does not end with the curtain which is, he says, "only an arbitrary interruption of the action which leaves the spectator free to speculate about what goes on beyond your expectation..."
During the 1950s, the phrase was commonly used in critical reviews of live television dramas, notably teleplays by JP Miller, Paddy Chayefsky, and Reginald Rose. At that time, it was sometimes used synonymously with the pejorative "kitchen sink realism" adopted from British films and theatre.
In literary parlance, the term "slice of life" refers to a storytelling technique that presents a seemingly arbitrary sample of a character's life, which often lacks a coherent plot, conflict, or ending. The story may have little plot progress and often has no exposition, conflict, or dénouement, but rather has an open ending.
Japanese animation and comics
The common use of the term "slice of life" as a genre of anime and manga borrows from the theatrical meaning of the term, but also from the distinct literary meaning of the slice of life narrative technique. While "slice of life" is sometimes used to refer to anime and manga with realistic situations and dialogue, as in the theatrical and film sense, it is more commonly used to refer to episodic series which lack an overarching plot, conflict and ending, regardless of the surreality or realism of the setting itself, suggesting that the term's origin here derives more from the literary terminology rather than the theatrical terminology.
Robin E. Brenner's 2007 book "Understanding manga and anime" holds that in anime and manga, "slice of life" is a genre that is more akin to melodrama than drama, bordering on absurd due to the large numbers of dramatic and comedic events in very short spans. Themes usually range from teen coming-of-age, interpersonal relationships, family, romance, to fantasy and science fiction. A common trait in slice of life anime and manga is their emphasis on seasonality or procedures.
- Jewell, Elizabeth J. & Abate, Frank R. (editors) (September 2001). "Slice of Life". The New Oxford American Dictionary (First ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-511227-X.
- "Slice of life". Random House Unabridged Dictionary. 2006.
- Turney, Wayne S. "Notes on Naturalism in the Theatre". wayneturney.20m.com.
- Gottfried, Martin. All His Jazz, Da Capo, 2003.
- Dowler, Kevin. "Reginald Rose". Museum of Broadcast Communications.
- Stuart Eddy Baker (2002). Bernard Shaw's remarkable religion: a faith that fits the facts. University Press of Florida. pp. 83–84.
- Robin E. Brenner (2007). Understanding manga and anime. Libraries Unlimited. pp. 112–120.