Summer of SoL: Dwelling in the Ordinary

Every year, liturgical Christian churches celebrate a season called “ordinary time.” It’s like the “slow arc” of the church calendar: no Easter or Christmas, no super special feasts—just quiet, normal life. I think the citizens of the metropolis of slice-of-life are always celebrating ordinary time. After all, they spend each and every day in the ordinary. They celebrate, but not grandly. They encounter disappointment, but only fleetingly. Things are peaceful in this city. Things are ordinary. 

Now, maybe you’re asking, “What’s the big deal with ordinary time? Why make a whole season out of it?” Or maybe, “Why watch a genre where everything is ordinary?”

Great questions! In short, ordinary time does three key things: it reveals grace, cultivates growth, and anticipates hope—and so does slice-of-life. Let me unravel each of those three threads.

Ordinary Glimmers of Grace

Did you know that there’s a song being sung right now, as you’re reading this article?

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4

No matter where you are in the world, or what time of the day it is, all nature is singing out a new song about God. Each new day has something to say about who he is. Each new night has something to say about what he’s done. In the ordinary rhythms of life on this whirling space rock that the Lord’s made our home, we hear echoes of his presence. Our daily lives are showered with hints of something beyond ourselves: something beautiful and true and good.

No matter how ordinary, every created thing is shot through with grace.

And that’s true in slice-of-life anime as well. I’m reminded of that scene from Laid-Back Camp where Rin’s perfect mountain camping plans collapse before her eyes, leaving her disappointed and frustrated—that is, until she sees the view at the mountain’s summit, which stuns her speechless, taking the edge off her former complaints. Or that scene from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid where we witness Kanna’s childlike wonder at rain and ladybugs and rainbows. Things like good views and thunderstorms quiet our anxieties and awaken our hearts to the wonder of our world—and to the wonder of God.

When we have eyes to see God in the ordinary, it starts to become a little less ordinary.

Ordinary Character Arcs

Change never happens overnight. Or rather, when it does, it’s either a great miracle or a catastrophic failure. Most change happens during the struggle and grind and toil of the everyday. Athletes train each and every day to build strength and technique and skill. Gardeners get down into the dirt and pluck weeds and water their gardens. Even Jesus worked an everyday job as a carpenter for many years before beginning his public ministry!

The point? Big things take time. And so also it is with our hearts. If actions become habits and habits become character, then habits take a long time to set up. Character takes years to build. Change is often slow.

Slice-of-life shows remind our hurried hearts of this truth. As we follow the characters through their everyday lives, we begin to see them grow in these little things. Bit by bit, they grow as they interact with their friends, who comfort and challenge them and push them forward. They grow as they work diligently and enjoy the fruits of their work. They grow as they discover themselves and their longings and their purpose.

Slice-of-life teaches us that change happens in ordinary time.

Ordinary Seasons of Waiting

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie just finished up a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll admit it—I passed on the series after watching a few highlights. I didn’t see the series going anywhere interesting, I wasn’t too invested in the characters, and SPY×FAMILY was airing at the same time. Now that I’ve seen articles on the last few episodes, though, I’m starting to regret my decision. Twwk posted (beware spoilers!) on Instagram about how culture has conditioned us to be impatient with our media, always wanting the payoff now, always wanting characters to get better soon, always dropping shows that don’t do these things when we want them to.

Ordinary time challenges our fast-paced mindset. Ordinary time encourages us to wait: to wait for the coming celebration.

The reality is I do not control time. Every day I wait. I wait for help, for healing, for days to come, for rescue and redemption. And like all of us, I’m waiting to die. And I wait for glory: for the coming King, for the resurrection of the body. Christians are people who wait. We live in liminal time, in the already and not yet. Christ has come, and he will come again. We dwell in the meantime. We wait.

Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary

Often the payoff in slice-of-life shows doesn’t come until near the end of the season, if it comes at all. Yet as we wait, we remember that a better day is coming: a day when we will no longer wait, but will enjoy in full everything that we long for now. As this sinks in, our restless hearts begin to settle down. We begin to open ourselves up to hope. 

We begin to rejoice.

Dwelling in the Ordinary

So ordinary time opens our eyes to God’s presence in our daily lives. Ordinary time shapes us slowly and gently into better people. Ordinary time encourages us to slow down and wait. 

And slice-of-life shows help us to cherish ordinary time. Slice-of-life reminds us of the way these three threads weave throughout our own lives, as we see them in the lives of the characters on screen. 

Slice-of-life makes the ordinary beautiful.

So as we watch slice-of-life anime, let’s remember these three threads: that there’s grace in the ordinary, there’s time to grow, and there’s hope in the midst of our waiting. May we enjoy the slow arcs. May we dwell in the ordinary. And above all, may our thoughts dwell upon our extraordinary Savior.

May we remember the abundant gift of grace and let it shape the way we watch slice-of-life.


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