Summer of SoL: Resting in a Busy World (or Another World)

I have heard it said that slice-of-life series do not engage viewers intellectually, in that they do not have complex plots or go deep like dramas. Yet, this criticism overlooks the fact that beneath the slow and easy-going pace of each episode, slice-of-life anime often center on meaningful themes. But rather than packaging them with heavy action and complex plotlines, they present these themes while maintaining a relaxed feel to the show. And for a genre of shows that are popular among those looking for a way to rest and unwind, it is quite fitting that a key theme that comes up again and again is, well, the importance of rest.

People frequently admire “hard workers” who put in a lot of time and energy to achieve their dreams. Unfortunately, we live in a world where all too often, admiration of hard work turns into disdain for those looking to rest. This leads to toxic workplace cultures where everyone is expected to overwork themselves, both emotionally and even physically. In the worst-case scenario, an unfortunate worker could even work herself to death, at which point she finds herself in an alternate fantasy world where she decides to just take things easy and kill some slimes every day until she becomes a powerful centuries-old witch.

Okay, maybe that last bit is just the starting point of I’ve Been Killing Slimes For 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, a light novel series with an anime adaptation, rather than a real-life scenario, but it does go to show that the problems in modern work culture and perils of not getting enough rest are pervasive enough for light novel authors to sit up and take notice.

I’ve Been Killing Slimes is just one in a long line of “slice-of-life light novels” or “slice-of-life isekai” that take on these modern-day ills in one way or another. There are also series like By the Grace of the Gods, My Quiet Blacksmith Life in Another World, and several others, enough so that slice-of-life is actually a popular sub-genre of isekai. While they may have some action here and there, the focus of these novels tends to be less on fulfilling some grand quest and more on simply enjoying day-to-day life in a fantasy world.

In fact, after Truck-kun and his compatriots, overwork is the next most common way of sending hapless Japanese citizens on a one-way trip to another world. In other words, death by overwork is pervasive enough to have become a trope.

This is not at all the life that God intends for us.

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

Genesis 2:2, ESV

This verse is one of the most impactful verses of the entire Creation story. Imagine if God did not rest on that day: we could very well be living in a world where we are expected to be working every waking moment of our lives. But with this verse, God sends a powerful message for everyone, regardless of their beliefs about the rest of the Creation story: rest is good.

God is not saying hard work is bad, of course; He did just create an entire universe before resting, after all. But rest is an essential part of our lives as well.

Killing Slimes emphasizes how the protagonist, Azusa, prioritizes finding a proper work-life balance. And each other character starts to live with her for one reason or another, Asuza also encourages them to not overwork themselves either. This is most notable when the dragon girl Laika joins her and works to build an extension on her house, and Azusa has to stop her from working overnight on it.

Azusa: "It's not good to overuse the phrase 'work hard' in a positive light!"
When it’s time to rest, you rest. Don’t make a virtue of working too much. As long as I’m around, I won’t tolerate poor working conditions.

Beyond the idea of not working all of your waking hours, Azusa also makes a point of doing work that you find fulfilling. Obviously, in our modern world this is not always possible when our first priority is putting food on the table, but it does highlight how “rest” includes not just stopping work, but also lightening our mental burden during work, finding ways to lower stress levels even in the midst of busyness. Even Jesus uses the idea of lighter burdens as a type of rest.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

This verse is mainly in reference to legalism and the burden of believing your salvation is based on your works. The “easy” yoke that Jesus offers is not a complete lack of work, but knowing that your work is not the basis of your self-worth. Azusa also makes sure that her newfound “family” know that they belong, regardless of what they do for her. Many other slice-of-life series also lean into this theme, with characters who maintain close relationships with each other without caring about whether the other “deserves” their love.

Isekai slice-of-life is not the only place you will find this theme of finding rest. This theme pops up in various other slice-of-life series taking place in the modern world, like The Helpful Fox Senko-san, in which an 800-year-old fox goddess helps an overworked salaryman relax when he gets home. In this case, rather than trying to directly resolve his working situation (at least at first), Senko aims to get the worker, Nakano, to get more rest during his time at home by putting work and other stressful things out of mind and accepting her pampering. The show is a reminder that rest goes beyond simply working fewer hours and includes what we do with our time off the clock.

So how about spending some of that time watching slice-of-life anime?

Even when rest is not a direct theme of a slice-of-life show, most slice-of-life shows have a “restful” feel to them. The characters are shown doing fun and relaxing things while building their relationships with each other. Drama is kept to a relatively low level and any long-running plots are kept simple. They are the perfect type of show for those who are looking to unwind and enter a restful frame of mind at the end of a hard day… watching anime.

And on the seventh day, Senko offered her tail for fluffing.

Slice-of-life anime not only models the importance and value of rest through characters like Azusa and Senko, but also provides a source of rest in our own lives, particularly when we engage with it in a healthy way.

The bottom line is, rest is important. God established as much from the start, and slice-of-life anime can remind us why we need rest in a busy world that so often tries to take that rest away from us.

I’ve Been Killing Slimes… can be streamed on Crunchyroll, and The Helpful Fox Senko-san, also on Crunchyroll.


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