Like all seasons of anime, Winter 2018 is contentious, and whether or not you’re a fan of it seems to come down to one specific thing: how much you’re a fan of slice-of-life. There are of course other popular anime this season, with genres ranging from mecha, to absurdist comedy, to good old isekai, and even to yuri. But, and I’m certainly biased in saying this, many of Winter’s best shows are slice-of-life, and those who dislike the genre could easily end up watching half as many shows as I would this season.
If I were to look for another season that was this good for slice-of-life, I’d have to go back a good bit. Winter 2017 was pretty good, with shows like Urara Meirochou, Maid Dragon, Demi-chan, and Kemono Friends, but even that doesn’t really compare to the depth of great slice-of-life shows this season, and some of those shows were more heavily comedy oriented.
Going back further, Summer 2016 poses a bit of a challenge. Anime like New Game, Amaama to Inazuma, and Amanchu aired, but again, while that season had many great slice-of-life shows, the pool isn’t quite as deep. Going any further back is somewhat unnecessary; suffice it to say that this is the most solid season for the genre in over two years.
To demonstrate that, let’s start with Hakumei to Mikochi. Focused on a pair of cute, tiny women, this nature-filled slice-of-life anime is a great time. Reminiscent of stories like the Borrowers, its set in a world where tiny human-like creatures peacefully coexist with animals who, while not anthropomorphized, certainly possess human-level intelligence.
This show gets straight into the thick of things, never really explaining what’s going on, and I kind of like that. Sure, there’s an interesting world here which could be explored, from the intelligent bugs to the odd supernatural occurrences to the fact that there are tiny humans building tiny cities. But, as many a great slice-of-life show has done in the past, it ignores that, because it isn’t important. What is important — the characters and atmosphere of the world — are what’s actually brought forward, and this is done to great effect.
Our characters, especially the eponymous Hakumei and Mikochi, are super cute. As I said, this show plops us right in the middle of things. We don’t see how these two met and began living together in the first place — though I suspect we will eventually — but we don’t really need that. Their dynamic is great; they bicker and make fun of each other but not to the extent that it’s hard to believe they even care. It’s actually quite rare for me to see a depiction of friends who take shots at each other while also lifting one another up done so well.
The other characters we’ve met so far are nice too but the other thing I need to highlight here is the backgrounds. They’re excellent, which is pretty important since being absorbed into the setting is clearly what the show wants from you. They’re all quite beautiful and I’m honestly surprised how little they’ve been passed around since they’d make wonderful wallpapers. Altogether, this show isn’t particularly special but it’s a good time and quite a pleasant way to spend a Friday evening.
Mitsuboshi Colors is a very different sort of slice-of-life. To be brief, this is not a show to watch if you hate seeing bratty anime children because they’re the focus of the show. But if you’re the kind of person who likes seeing children be awful in a vicarious way, this is probably the show for you. Sure, these kids are causing all sorts of havoc throughout the town but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy seeing that.
And while these kids are certainly goblins, determined to make the local cop’s life miserable, they’re still pretty adorable at the same time. Something I particularly have to praise is the fact that the show managed to meaningfully separate their personalities. Kids in anime often feel like they fit into one of two archetypes; the perfect, innocent little angel or the awful bully demon child. The kids here aren’t really either. They all cause trouble but it’s just because they’re young and don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions.
They’re all clearly different people, not interchangeable in any way. Yui is the leader but a bit of a naive crybaby, Kotoha spends all her time on her 3DS and is undoubtedly the member of the trio with the most violent ideas, and Sacchan is overly eager and very into poop jokes. The supporting cast is great for bouncing off of Colors, either contributing to or disrupting their plans. Like HakuMiko, this isn’t going to blow your mind, but it’s a very fun experience.
If the previous two shows weren’t the most original than Slow Start is probably the most generic show in existence. And that title wouldn’t exactly be unearned. This is a Cute Girls Doing Cute Things show that follows the genre’s trappings to a tee, mostly without the gimmicks that shows like Anne Happy, Gochiusa, or KinMoza use to feel fresh while still fitting in the genre’s mold.
And yet I really enjoy watching Slow Start, because it’s just well executed. Bear in mind, you’re going to get nothing new out of this show, but if you’re a diehard a fan of the genre as I am, then it’s a very good time. The animation is fantastically bouncy and the show just generally has a level of movement that I’m frankly not used to seeing in TV anime. The first episode might’ve had more cuts on ones than I’ve seen in years. And while that episode’s constant sakuga every single second wasn’t upheld, the show is still better animated than basically anything else this season, with only Darling in the Franxx and of course Violet Evergarden posing any sort of competition on that front.
The characters are not nearly as stand-out as the animation but they don’t hold the show back. They’re fun despite being fairly cookie-cutter and I do like some of their dynamics. Eiko being suave as all hell and somehow being able to naturally charm every girl in the world is quite amusing. The yuri in this show, in general, is pretty interesting; while it’s certainly used for comedy at many points, there’s a sort of genuine feeling to it that I often don’t get out of these shows, which is real nice to see. It’s definitely worth taking a look if you’re a yuri fan. Also, Eiko and Kamuri’s relationship is adorable and I dare anyone to prove me wrong.
The main thrust of the show: that being the fact that Hana is a year behind everyone else, is honestly not that compelling, though the show does do a good job of selling it as it goes on. It’s believable that a teenager would worry over something as silly as that, though it’s not the kind of thing that can really power a whole show so it’s good that the character dynamics are charming. Hiroe’s introduction certainly made this narrative work a bit better, though it’s still not the driving force behind my enjoyment of it.
Once again, I have to say: do not watch this show if you’re not a big fan of the genre. It’s not worth it. But to Cute Girls Doing Cute Things fans as well as yuri fans, it’s at least worth a shot. It’s likely this’ll be my go-to example of how generic material can be sustained by excellent execution.
But the real stand-out slice-of-life show this season, the reason I believe the genre is doing so well, and the entire purpose of this video is the absolutely excellent Yuru Camp, also known as Laid Back Camp.
Yuru Camp is easily my favorite of the shows I’ve listed, but more than that, it’s an anime of the season contender. This show is so my kind of thing that it’s mind-blowing. If you’re a fan of iyashikei, this is the show for you, because we haven’t gotten a show this good in the genre since at least Flying Witch and Amanchu, and I’d argue that, if this show can manage to maintain its current quality, it’s even better than those two.
Shows set primarily outdoors have a natural advantage when it comes to setting a great atmosphere. But it takes skill to really bring out that potential. Yuru Camp’s backgrounds do this perfectly, setting the quiet mood that you’d associate with a camping trip. The show boasts some real craft in making the camping believable; lots of focus is put on the setting up of tents, the cooking of food, and other tasks which need to be accomplished while camping.
Even better is the characters. Nadeshiko and Rin, our two leads, are both great. At first, you’d expect Nadeshiko to be the ditzy, way too upbeat girl that causes problems for Rin. And that does seem to be the case in the first episode. But we quickly come to realize that she’s far more reliable than first thought, and their relationship quickly becomes a beautifully mutual one. And Rin, who you’d expect to be somewhat stoic and uptight, shows a lot of adaptability, having fun with her friends and quickly coming to like Nadeshiko.
This is the kind of show that requires I make myself a cup of tea before watching each episode. It’s just so nice and warm, the perfect kind of show to watch in the morning before doing things or in the evening after a long day. In many ways, it’s a spiritual successor to Yama no Susume, and it’s absolutely holding me over until we get the third season of that show in Summer. If it keeps up the current quality, it has a very serious shot at being my anime of the season.
And that’s just all the slice-of-life shows I’m watching. There are others in the genre that I’m not watching and there are plenty of anime that still have that comfy feeling even if they don’t count as part of the genre. Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card, A Place Further Than the Universe, Koi wo Ameagari no You ni, and 3-gatsu no Lion all share that nice, down-to-earth feeling with the shows I talked about. If that’s not the kind of mood you want in your anime, then this season’s probably not doing much for you. But for someone like me, who craves that kind of show above all else, this is a monster of a season, one which is unbelievably good for Winter, a period I’ve traditionally not loved. I’d be happy to get this many shows made for me in a year, so Winter 2018 is absolutely a god-tier season for me.