And Yet the Town Moves is one of those silly little slice of lifers built around a slice of the life of Hotori Arashiyama, and her friends, family, high school, and pet. Cutely, mostly it revolves around the maid cafe where Hotori works. It’s run by a local old lady (called a grandmother, as is common for old ladies everyone likes in Japan), also employs her chum Toshiko, and is a safe place for various local merchants plus Sanada, the boy who is hot for Hotori and who is lusted after by Toshiko.
To make a show like that work, you have to have likable characters. Sure. Think of your favorite slice-of-lifer: What’s there to like apart from the characters?
In a lot of ways Hotori is a pretty standard klutz. She’s not real good at school (takes remedial classes), she falls over often enough that everyone gets a good look at her panties on a routine basis, and she’s too big a ditz to be a really good friend, although she does want to be.
So Hotori is a klutz. That’s generally kind of cute and is a good hook to make her a comic character, but if the writers want us to like Hotori they have to give her some kind of positive quality, too.
Right? The simplest way to build a character is to use the simple formula, “The character is a ____ but ______,” where the first blank is some kind of general descriptor and the second a quirk that might allow them to fail (if they are generally successful) or succeed (if they are generally unsuccessful.)
Sure, we’ve talked about this before: Vash the Stampede is a tremendous physical specimen but he won’t kill; Rock Okajima is wannabe gangster but he won’t carry a gun; Usagi Tsukino is a total loser but she’s kind.
Hotori Arashiyama is a klutz but …
What’s most interesting about her is that she loves mystery novels, loves them so much that she wants to be a detective once she’s out of college. That’s kind of unusual: most anime detectives are ALREADY detectives, and most slice-of-life high school kids don’t have much in the way of career plans yet (unless they are enforced by the family, of course). So Hatori wanting to be a detective is interesting in and of itself.
But here’s the “but” part: She’s actually pretty good at it.
Hotori Arashiyama is a klutz but a pretty good detective.
This choice has A LOT of narrative potential, and I mean capitol a A capitol lot LOT. First of all, her competence as a detective is a complete contrast with the rest of her skill set. She’s absent minded and can’t remember simple shopping lists. She’s an awful cook. She has no clue at all that Sanada is sweet on her.
But when she’s on the case she’s very observant, noticing the smallest detail. She’s very analytic and can reason through motives and sequences of events. She actually solves a lot of cases, and even when her friends trick her, it has to be a very elaborate gag they set up, because she’s actually really good at it.
But the real power of her skill is where it can take the story. Remember, a slice-of-life show has no meta-plot: it’s not going anywhere. So to keep the action going the characters need something to do. Go to school. Hang with friends. Go shopping, to the festival, or the amusement park. There. Did I just describe about 90% of slice-of-life episodes?
But because Hotori is a detective and a pretty good one, she gets to go to all sorts of other places to do things. Find lost dogs. Investigate ghost sightings (she solves several of those). She checks out old books and expensive art and lost inheritances.
Do you see it? That one part of her being lets her go anywhere, so long as the case she is working on is not something you want a real, armed cop for. (Obviously not. She’s still just a high school kid.)
And you root for her, too, because she’s such a loser otherwise.
It’s actually fun to look at, because her regular slack features, her staring off into space, all of a sudden snap into focus. All of a sudden she transforms from slacker to doer; she stalks the streets instead of wandering them, she watches what’s going on instead of ignoring it.
The contrast is very effective. She goes from, “Where you going, girl?” to “You go, girl!”
And when the case is solved, back to klutz she goes.
Nicely built character.
I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.