Oh God, Another Genre Debate (OR The True Genre of Lucky Star)

It's definitely a futuristic psychological cop drama...

It's definitely not a futuristic psychological cop drama...

Genres are always a tough subject to discuss because they are based on the decisive reasoning of a group in an attempt to classify something and thereby give it a place in the greater database of human thought. Genre debates are a pain in the ass because many people seek to diversify the definitions of a genre, which doesn’t make any sense because the entire point of a genre title is to be absolute and objective.

The reason for the debating is that some people grow defensive and think that certain genre titles carry negative connotations that they refuse to associate themselves with. Many people will even try to claim that genres don’t matter. To anyone who thinks that way, I direct you to this old post by a guy named Jakehammeran who explained the importance of genres very well in regards to metal, and it applies for any kind of genre debate.

To jump very suddenly into the meat of things, I think Baka-Raptor’s judgement of Lucky Star as a comedy is quite irresponsible for the very reasons he states himself, oddly. (I think he’s probably posting more out of his thinking that he is a comedy guru than a genre guru anyway, which is why I’m making this post at all, since I do consider myself a genre guru.) Meanwhile, Micheal of Low on Hit Points is pretty on-point in recognizing that Baka-Raptor is biased, and that bias is a big factor in debate, but it’s irresponsible of him as well to claim that genres are effected by bias in definition. A definition is a definition, regardless of bias.

Which is why Baka-Raptor is almost right – he’s right that Lucky Star is a comedy. Where he’s missing out is that it can also be other things – sub-genres come into play here. Irresponsible Captain Tylor is a comedy, but you wouldn’t go comparing it to Lucky Star, would you? Both of them have situational set-ups for their gags and tons of parodies and references, so they stand on the same comedic basis, but the two shows are different to the point that they probably share very few fans.

It has nothing to do with one show being ‘funnier’ than the other, either. ‘Funny’ is not something that can be defined like genres can, it’s simply an opinion, and we can’t consider it a dividing force if while some people find one show funny and the other not, others like myself will find them both funny. There is a better reason that you wouldn’t compare them, and it’s because while they share the blanket-genre of ‘comedy’, they belong to totally different sub-genres.

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To begin with, the debate of whether or not Lucky Star is Slice-of-life. First things first, there’s a good reason that we can’t trust Baka-Raptor’s dictionary definition of ‘slice-of-life’, which is that by that definition, it would be impossible for anime to ever be slice-of-life, because it’s a fucking cartoon and is therefor unable to be realistic. Of the anime commonly considered to be ‘slice-of-life’, not one of them is truly ‘realistic,’ and all of them contain other elements.

– Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is about a fucking robot in post-apocalypse
– Aria takes place in outer fucking space
– Hidamari Sketch is a mindfuck and has magical widefaces
– Bartender has fuckwin drama and ridiculous drinks
– Figure 17 has badass action scenes and aliens
– Genshiken has some fucking hilarious comedy and occasional drama
– Just have a look at the list of shows tagged ‘slice-of-life’ on MAL, not fucking one of them doesn’t contain other elements.

We should conclude that the definition of the phrase ‘slice-of-life’ has it’s own meaning as an anime genre. (Not unlike how in the metal community, the term ‘Viking Metal’ was coined in regards to a band who sang about Vikings, however actually singing about Vikings does not make you a Viking metal band. It is the name of the genre, but does not necessarily represent the actual works classified within.)

The way ‘slice-of-life’ is described in terms of anime does not actually permit it alone to be the defining genre of a show. ‘Slice-of-life’ is an element, and could only truly be used as part of defining a sub-genre. The element is defined by the community as a show wherein while things may happen at times to fall into a regular genre, there is also time spent that merely follows the daily lives of the characters and does not necessarily contian an element of any other genre.

For instance, Aria is a series that has many dramatic moments, many comedic moments, and definitive plot progression, but also takes a lot of time to explore the lives of characters without any kind of drama or comedy, and the series is not paced or directed in the way a comedy or drama would be. Therefor, the correct genre definition of the series would be something along the lines of ‘slice-of-life/comedy/drama/sci-fi’. Because Aria in particular has a stronger slice-of-life element than any of it’s other elements, it could still be considered a prime example in defining the genre and would be most defined by that element, but it would not be proper to simply label it ‘slice-of-life.’

Likewise, Lucky Star cannot simply be called a comedy. It does contain the slice-of-life element, albeit to a far lesser extent than Aria, and I would most likely classify it as ‘Comedy/Slice-of-life/Moe’. It is the elements of ‘slice-of-life’ and ‘moe’ that define my need to separate it from the ‘Comedy/Sci-fi/Action’ anime Irresponsible Captain Tylor, and more than how ‘funny’ either show is, it will be those differences in sub-genres that will decide either show’s audience.

Baka-Raptor is right that you are ‘watching Lucky Star wrong’ if you view it just as a slice-of-life anime, but it’s also not right to watch it as just a comedy. I think people who enjoy the show do so based on their love for comedy, slice-of-life, and/or moe, and I know that my own love for the show is defined by my love for each of those three elements.

20 thoughts on “Oh God, Another Genre Debate (OR The True Genre of Lucky Star)

  1. (Slightly off-topic) I propose a new genre: “reference” which would be applied to Lucky Star, Seitokai no Ichizon and the like.

    Also, you’ve been posting a lot about subjective topics lately, haven’t you? (yes I think genres are subjective, at least in a medium that mixes as many elements as anime tends to do)

    • ‘reference’ is a type of comedy. The reason I didn’t specify what kind of comedy Lucky Star is is that it utilizes a fuckton of them – reference, sit-com, occasional slapstick, and the core of the Konata/kagami exchange is the tsukkomi/boke style. It’s much easier to just label it as ‘comedy’ altogether, since it’s so all over.

      Seitokai would be much easier just to call referential comedy.

      But NO genres are NOT subjective by DEFINITION. If you want to fucking call them subjective FUCKING DONT CALL THEM GENRES. You are defeating the entire purpose of a genre if you do that!!!

      • I went with the wikipedia definition: “a loose set of criteria for a category of composition” the loose part implies, as far as I understand it, that in order to classify a work as belonging to a certain genre, its contents need to be evaluated, which introduces the subjective element

    • I think genres are actually pretty objective. I’m confident you could create a simple definition of each genre, in such a way that a majority of people would agree with it. What’s subjective is the classification of a piece of work under that genre.

      Take Lucky Star for example. Pretty much everyone would agree that it’s a comedy (although I’m sure there are some jackasses that would challenge that). You also can’t argue that there’s elements of slice of life, moe and like you mentioned “reference” involved as well. The question is, how much of a certain genre does a show need to incorporate for you to consider it to be part of that genre? If 10% of Lucky Star’s scenes are slice of life, would you consider it a slice of life? 25%? 50%? Of course it’s rarely as cut and dried like that.

      Regarding genre biases, I don’t think it’s natural to review something specifically within its genre. Rarely is anyone going to say, oh Lucky Star was a shitty slice of life, but a fantastic comedy. Or the mystery in Death Note sucked, but the drama and action was great. A show is either good or bad, because of X, Y, Z reasons, not because of genre-specific reasons. Genres themselves are inherently neutral.

      • What’s subjective is the classification of a piece of work under that genre.

        Yes, that’s what I meant to say. As long as the subjective part is present the whole… concept, I guess, can become subjective when put to the test

      • >>Of course it’s rarely as cut and dried like that.

        Isn’t it though? I really don’t think it’s that hard to honestly classify a scene by exactly what’s going on in correlation to a genre title. You do, though, raise a good point of how much slice of life there would have to be for it’s classification as such (since one or two scenes a genre would not make) I do think that it would be pretty easy for someone to gut-place a show in it’s proer genre arrangement by what they see, but both of you are right that this would be a subjective placement.

        >>Genres themselves are inherently neutral.

        This.

        • Well, I think it’s pretty cut and dried. For myself. It took me about 2 nanoseconds to declare Lucky Star slice of life enough to be considered a slice of life. But a million different standards make for a million different arguments.

  2. First off, I wasn’t trying to say that Baka-Raptor was biased in his genre definition, or that bias had anything to do with defining genres. I was saying that he has a bias in his impression of Lucky Star, which is what any impression will contain. The bias argument was levied towards the other point of his original post, that of “it is what it is” and “you’re watching it wrong” being invalid arguments (I say that they are… to an extent).

    “Baka-Raptor is right that you are ‘watching Lucky Star wrong’ if you view it just as a slice-of-life anime…”

    From what I’ve gathered reading Baka, the very reason he wrote this post is that he was sick of being told that he was ‘watching series X wrong’ because he wasn’t viewing it as a slice of life. Baka didn’t like being told that he was watching something wrong, but in effect it now becomes obvious that he is doing unto others the very thing he disdains (though I’m not sure if that’s intentional — taste of your own medicine — or not).

    • I’m not sure if it’s intentional either, so I’d like to wait until he either reacts to my post or finally makes his promised post on the general concept of ‘watching shows wrong’ before I argue the point further.

      I will, however, correct that statement: I do not think there is actually a ‘wrong’ way to watch a show, and that statement must have come up in my head just to press the point.

  3. Every show is different and there’s no precise way to easily classify an anime.
    Let’s take Aria as an example:
    It’s setting could be classified as sci-fi but you wouldn’t recommend it to a sci-fi fan would you? Is there such a thing as a sci-fi fan? Can sci-fi even be classified as a genre? I believe the answer to be no because even if you like the sci-fi aspect of something, that’s just the setting and a setting doesn’t classify something.
    Can it be called a drama? There are many kinds of drama. There’s tragic drama and there’s comedic drama(not very sure about this one), which one is it referring to?

    I could go on but I think I made my point clear.
    Aria could be classified as a slow paced slice-of-life, with recurring comic relief and strong interactions between character, set on a sci-fi scenario, and it could be classified as a completely different thing.

    Genres are what define a show, yet a show cannot be defined without setting, sub-genres, motifs and many others. Pretty interesting if you think about it.

  4. I have been awake for 27 hours. I feel unusually lucid for such a stretch of consciousness, but it’s entirely possible that the following post will be incoherent in form or substance. So, two things first: one, if this doesn’t make sense, say so. Two, a summation in advance:

    Fuck genres. Shite upon the carcass of their monumental worthlessness.

    Let me explain. The worth of genres is in their ability to facilitate debate by abstracting out general common themes from their particles. Subjects. Parts. Genre-works. Whatever. And also, okay, subgroup self-identification and circle-jerking. I don’t care about that. The problem is that… media (do we have a good catch-all term for books, tv, movies, animated shit, graphic novels, radio, music, fucking direct brain induced hallucinations or whatever? “works” doesn’t work for me) don’t cluster nicely. There’s not even really a nice precipitative drop in density we can use as a rule of thumb. Jakehammeran is correct when he says the locus of genres (they’re perfect forms) are not subject to opinion. You can’t say that “Iron Maiden is R&B”. Well, maybe if you were deaf. But I guess then you could still differentiate them by the bassline? But the boundaries of genres, those are fuzzy as fuck and vary wildly with opinion.

    No, wait, I’ve changed my mind. The locii are subject to opinion, but only weakly. Jakehammeran’s fallacy is to transform a quantitative statement- the defintion of metal is subject to opinion, but not to the degree where any sane train of thought could conflate it with RnB- into a qualitative one- the definition of metal is not subject to opinion at all.

    What was the thrust of this post again? I’ve forgotten :(

    Let me go and read the opening again.

    Right, right. So the problem here is media do not fit nicely into genres. Worse, most of them don’t fit. If 50% of the cases handled by a general rule are special cases, you need to lose the rule. Actually, you should probably burn it. Because if you lose it, you might find it again.

    Let’s detour again. You went off on remm for calling genres subjective, because “genres are objective by definition”. That may well be true, but our experiences of media, from which we construct genres and sort media into genres, are not objective. To paraphrase NGE, because it fits nicely here,

    There is the Lucky Star in digiboy’s mind, the Lucky Star in Autonomous’ mind, the Lucky Star in psgels’ mind, the Lucky Star in animekritik’s mind, the Lucky Star in wah’s mind, the Lucky Star in remm’s mind and the Lucky Star in Viggo Mortensen’s mind

    …along with the Lucky Star in each of the other six billion or so entities’ minds that we might reasonably expect to have or have the potential to have an experience of Lucky Star.

    There is no privileged viewpoint, so unless you wish to preface every discussion of genres with an argument for the existance of God the search for the objective here was pointless to begin with.

    So again, fuck genres. Useless bloody things. If you’d rather an empirical rather than theoretical argument, consider that we are having this discussion. Consider how many times this has been hashed out. If genres are a dialetic tool, the fact that they do more to invite endless bickering on the definitions of the different genres than to facilitate debate is a point toward their dissolution.

    That sentence took five minutes to write. I’m not fucking proofreading it.

    Right, anyway, I’d propose replacing genres with aspects. Or elements, or themes or whatever you want to call them. Interfaces instead of superclasses, for any Java programmers who may be listening. You’re doing it already, when you call LS ‘Comedy/Slice-of-life/Moe’. Actually, I suspect most people are doing it.

    Right, okay, that last bit was a wash. That’s all the sense you’ll get out of me tonight. Time to sleep.

    • I love the way you write. Please join Suspended Animation Dreams. That is all.

      No it’s not: you owned me, I have to admit. You are right, and I am humbled. I tried to blow the debate open, but you blew it open much wider. To say the least, I now feel blind.

    • I don’t see how aspects, elements, or themes are any better than genres. They’re all just adjectives anyway. Meant to bring order (around common themes as you mentioned). Nothing more, nothing less.

      Replace genres with one of the others, and you’ll get the same arguments. Next thing you know, you’ll be commenting about how themes are “useless bloody things.” :-p

  5. Baka didn’t like being told that he was watching something wrong, but in effect it now becomes obvious that he is doing unto others the very thing he disdains (though I’m not sure if that’s intentional — taste of your own medicine — or not).

    It is intentional. I’m really not quite sure what “you’re watching it wrong” is supposed to mean. It’s just so deeply ingrained in blogosphere rhetoric that I had to use it to show how annoying it can be. I did a similar thing with “it is what it is,” though I ended up phrasing it as “it should be acknowledged for what it is.” Perhaps I should’ve masturbated after that line to make it more apparent.

    it would be impossible for anime to ever be slice-of-life, because it’s a fucking cartoon and is therefor unable to be realistic

    Anime can’t be real, but it can surely be realistic. In my post, I was going to include a part about different types of realness, but it was getting too long, and I have a very strict policy about not publishing tl;dr posts. I haven’t ruled out writing a separate post about it in the future, so I’ll spare you the details for now.

    I absolutely agree the genres should be well-defined (otherwise they’re useless). What we’ve seen recently with the term slice-of-life is that it’s used unnecessarily/unreasonably often, rapidly evolving, and never seems to mean the same thing twice.

    We should conclude that the definition of the phrase ’slice-of-life’ has it’s own meaning as an anime genre.

    The anime community’s definition of slice-of-life has changed drastically from pre-Lucky Star to post-K-ON. We need to set some boundaries and rein it in before it loses all meaning.

    I like your sub-genre proposition. I can deal with something like “Lucky Star is a comedy with moe and slice-of-life components.” It acknowledges multiple elements without misleading anyone.

    • i like it too :D Yeah, slice of life is not defined very well by most. All we can do is carve out our own definition, set it in stone, and belt it out every time the subject comes up, unwaveringly.

  6. This is a grave misreading of definitions. Just because there’s no human meat involved doesn’t mean that anime is less capable of pulling off classic slice of life than, for example, a stage play. 5 Centimeters Per Second is a perfect example, because it follows no dramatic conventions, and hardly even has a plot beyond “boy ignores his childhood romance and regrets it.”

    I agree completely with the rest of your post, though. I’m actually going to write a post soon regarding slice of life and Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, so please look forward to it. Cheers.

  7. Pingback: Slice of Life at the End of the World: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou « 2-D Teleidoscope

  8. Aw man, and you didn’t even mention the battle that Owen and I had about Lucky Star as slice of life compared to Hidamari Sketch as slice of life last year. I’d like to joke that I was the reason why Owen didn’t post on his blog for months after that. But that obviously wasn’t the case. :P

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