It’s hard to see exactly why slice of life, a genre that is merely a series of realistic events without a significant “plot”, seems to be appealing to so many. Anime viewers, including myself, spend countless hours watching japanese highschool girls going camping, playing in a school band, or running cafes in a pseudo-french, rabbit prevalent setting.
In my attempts to explain why this genre is so popular, I’ll be looking at SLIVER LINK’s Tanaka-Kun is Always Listless and breaking down its two slice of life elements — relaxing atmosphere and enjoyable characters — to explain what makes Tanaka-Kun such an entertaining show.
Tanaka-Kun is Always Listless, like the name suggests, is about Tanaka-Kun whose life motto is to be as listless as possible. And the show does a lot to match this atmosphere of the show. First, is the colors; Tanaka-kun uses colors with low saturation. Most of the colors used in Tanaka-Kun belong to the top left area of the color wheel, meaning that the colors are desaturated with high luminosity. These pastel colors give the whole atmosphere a very calming and soft atmosphere which perfectly matches that the show’s main mood that it tries to establish.
It’s really easy to notice these relaxing colors when you compare this to a higher paced, adventure/comedy show like Konosuba. Konosuba, in order to push the upbeat nature of its tempo and plot, using hard regular versions of primary colors (red, blue, and yellow on Megumin, Aqua, and Darkness respectively) to bring out the vibrant nature of the characters and the story.
On top of these pastel colors, Tanaka-Kun has this overlay of a tint of brown throughout the whole show. Slinverlink most likely added a layer of color dodge of light brown on low transparency to make this effect happen. You can clearly see in the lines that rather than having the normal black lines, the lines in Tanaka-Kun lean slightly more towards the browner side. This adds a lot into the relaxing atmosphere because it avoids using harder black colors that may conflict with the pastel tone of the show.
This is very similar to Director Shinya Kawatsura’s other work, Non non Biyori. Similar to Tanaka-kun, Non Non Biyori has this rustic, brown-like touch looming to it which really adds to the countryside and relaxing atmosphere of Non Non Biyori. Of course, Tanaka-Kun makes it even easier for the eye by not coloring the hair with harder colors like orange or heavier brown like they did with Komair or Natsumi’s hair color.
While the show definitely is meant to be relaxing, there is another aspect of the show: comedy. And the music is the fundamental part that makes this mix of comedy and relaxfulness possible. The OP and ED both sound great with OP really reflecting the peacefulness of Tanaka and the ED reflecting the more happy adolescent atmosphere of Shiraishi. But the main praise comes from the soundtracks.
Most of the soundtracks in Tanaka-Kun have a soft piano as its main melody which makes it really easy to just listen to on the side and I find them to be great. The soundtrack’s first song, Languissant Kedaruge, for example, is probably one of the most demotivating anime soundtracks that I heard in a good way. The rest of the soundtrack is rounded up by waltz, acoustic guitar centered, or flute involving pieces. All these pieces, while they are more exciting than the piano pieces, still stay in the realm of relaxing. The jumpy tone of the waltz, for example, leans more to a playful, lighthearted piece rather than a louder, full orchestra or band involving pieces in action shows. With the appearance of other characters who aren’t as listless, like Miyano or Shiraishi, Tanaka-Kun does a great job keeping this relaxing mood of the whole show yet addressing the more playful nature of these other characters, preventing the show from feeling too dragged.
This leads to my second point of analysis: the characters. Tanaka-kun is slightly special compared to other slice of life shows in that it doesn’t revolve around a group of characters. Rather, Characters in Tanaka-Kun, with the exception of Tanaka and Ohta, are all side characters that complement Tanaka. Of course, this is mainly done to prevent the show from getting caught up too much into the listlessness of Tanaka.
Take Miyano, for example. At first glance, miyano seems as though she is running this relaxing atmosphere. As the show puts it, she definitely is more like a “bullet”. But as mentioned, Tanaka-Kun isn’t just a simple relaxing show; it’s also a comedy. And Miyano is really the final touch, who sets up this comedic atmosphere to the show.
Episode one of Tanaka-Kun serves as an introduction to Tanaka and Ohta. And while it does a great job establishing Tanaka and Ohta’s daily routines, it’s definitely a lot slower than the rest of the episodes. This comes from the fact that episode one overall has the weakness scene distribution as it spends a lot of time on still frames with minimal camera effects and eye movements to convey most of its idea. With Tanaka being the center of this episode, it adds to the overtly slow nature of episode one.
Of course, this isn’t to say this was bad; it matched the relaxing atmosphere and did relatively well setting up the rest of the show. But if the pace of this episode continued, it would have been harder to see this show anything more than relaxing.
However, with Miyano, the tempo is forced up even with the slightly lingering animation and frame related problems in episode two. Being the human bullet that she is, Miyano creates tension in the story which is supported fantastically by Miyano’s voice actress who does an absolutely fantastic job getting that hyperactive nature of Miyano. When Miyano appears, the story shifts slightly from Tanaka’s relaxing life to Tanaka wanting to relax. Though this, the show is elevated from a normal relaxing slice of life show to a comedy with interesting character dynamics with that relaxing element.
In episode two, Miyano’s introduction, we really get a sense of how Miyano breaks up the possibly dragging aspect of the show. We start off episode two with Tanaka praying for a non eventful day, which is shattered immediately by the shining eyes of Miyano. Tanaka’s dead expression which follows is one of the funniest moments in the show. The whole scene with Miayno’s hyperactiveness being portrayed ends up in great comedic effect when Miyano ends up being even more listless in the C part of episode 2. In a sense, Miyano is almost like a Foil to Tanaka’s character.
In fact, every character in Tanaka-Kun works well off of every other character and is super vibrant with character.
Echizen has this “gap moe” created by her cute personality contrasting with her appearance and wishfulness to be a delinquent. She directly compliments Miyano as her best friend, asks Tanaka to have competitions every time, and in the manga becomes close with Shiraishi, showcasing that unexpected chemistry.
Shiraishi, who seems like a perfect girl at school, is actually a shy character who spent most of her days in middle school without friends. The romantic feelings of Shiraishi are so built from her experience of not having any friends in her middle school life, making her attempts to get Tanaka’s attention is one of the most heartwarming and comedic parts of the whole show.
Damn you Ohta!
Rino and Saya are cute characters that reflect the relationship between their brothers (though, their relationship is less expanded upon in the anime compared to the now-completed manga). And they have this nice chemistry that comes from Rino’s love for her brother and Saya mixed with her hatred for Saya’s brother/her brother’s best friend Ohta. Shinmura, Katou, and Saionji all also have a fair share of comedic appearance.
It’s not as though these characters go through any “development” that people seem to look for in a show. But that’s not really the appeal of Tanaka-kun or any other slice of life shows; it’s more the interactions between the characters (though you can argue that the growth of the main cast of K-On or Yuno from Hidamari Sketch are big parts of their shows). By creating characters that are so fun to just watch as they are in their current state, and with the frequency of their appearance being relatively low, every episode feels so fresh to watch.
I do have a fair share of problems with Tanaka-Kun which comes mainly from the CG background character and pretty choppy animations (especially in episode 1 as I have mentioned) but because of how strong these character interactions are, Tanaka-kun always feels so fun to watch at any time.
That’s about all I have to say for this show. I think overall it’s definitely a fantastic show that anyone who loves these types of slice of life shows should check out! Thanks for reading!