When it comes to Slice of Life, I typically avoid most of what comes out each season.
My biggest issue with this genre, particularly the “girls doing girl things” type of slice of life, is that they’re 1. predictable, and 2. only mildly funny. Be it K-On! or Non Non Biyori, most slice of life just bores me to tears. So, when I find one that I actually like, I get really excited. Thus is the case with Three Leaves, Three Colors (Sansha Sanyou).
Yoko Nishikawa is a former rich girl whose father recently lost his wealth, leaving them extremely poor. Despite this, Yoko still retains her snobby, rich girl attitude as she struggles to survive on the bare minimum. While approaching her favorite lunch spot, she meets two other students: Futaba, an energetic food glutton; and Hayama, the class rep with a surprising sadistic streak. These three unlikely students soon become good friends and go through zany and bizarre experiences together.
As I mentioned, one of the things that usually turns me off about slice of life is that they always seem content to go for a milder, less gut-busting joke; an attitude that this series kicks to the curb fairly quickly.
This is probably the hardest I’ve laughed at an anime since KonoSuba, the hysterical parody of last season. The timing and sense of humor for this series is pretty great, often going to more extreme lengths to sell a joke, and it’s definitely a step above others in its genre.
On top of that, it does its best to take the jokes less traveled, rather than go for the low-hanging fruits of basic, predictable humor. There were so many times while watching this that I thought I knew the punchline already and was ready to groan in exasperation, but was taken aback when the joke went in a completely different direction. Admittedly, it doesn’t do this all the time and there are a few misses here and there, but the comedy is very solid for the most part.
The characters are also a step above the typical threesome of slice of life archetypes. With a lot of other shows in this genre, you can predict what a character will be like just by looking at their appearance, and they rarely ever deviate from this, but this is where Three Leaves really shines. Whereas Yoko’s character design suggests that she is the quiet and more serious “straight man,” she’s actually the “ditzy rich girl;” while Hayama’s design suggests a ditzy rich girl, even though she actually has an almost mean-spirited and sadistic personality. Futaba is still the hyperactive “funny man,” but she pulls it off so well that she holds my interest anyway. A comedy that can rouse me from the doldrums of predictability is always welcome to me, and this series pulls that off extremely well with its characters.
Aside from the comedy, the characters also have some depth to them as well. Yoko in particular is a really fun character to follow as she tries to adjust to a life of being poor after growing up wealthy for so long. You can tell that she’s trying her best to move forward, but still trips at quite a few of the hurdles, and she becomes a very endearing and lovable character very quickly. With the side stories that other characters deal with, be it the grudge match between Hayama and her classmate, Nishiyama, or the rivalry between Futaba and fellow binge eater, Tsuji, everyone seems to have something going on that makes them more than a one-note character.
The animation by Dogakobo has proven to me once more that this studio is the only place I can find slice of life that I really enjoy, my previous experience being with Engaged to the Unidentified.
While director Yasuhiro Kimura doesn’t have much experience leading other projects, his background as a key animator shines through beautifully here. The motion of characters is typical Dogakobo greatness with its hyper-fluidity and extreme cuteness, the background art is unique and eye-grabbing, and the character designs are hugely appealing as well. The comedic reactions also push this show to be much funnier than it would have been without them, almost always earning a huge grin from me whenever the punchline landed and the reactions appeared.
On the topic of dubs, FUNimation does an alright job, but I’d have to stick with subs on this one.
The fact remains that I have yet to see a single anime about girls doing girl things that actually sounds good with a dub. It’s just one of those things that will never sound right outside of its native language, mostly because they sound so much older with English voice actresses. Speaking of native language, I was absolutely blown away when I learned that the three main VAs are all fairly new to the industry, but still having pulled off these characters so wonderfully. In fact, a huge portion of the staff is entirely new, which really blew my mind, having expected a lineup of Dogakobo veterans.
As for the music, this is yet another area where my expectations are far exceeded. Normally, music in slice of life is simple, boring, and stays in the background for the majority of the runtime. However, Shuuhei Mutsuki’s score is exciting and energetic, often providing scenes with more zeals and engagement than they would have had with a more toned-down soundtrack. Though there isn’t a particular track I can think back on, the overall sound is very impressive.
Despite its less-than stellar reputation amongst other anime fans, I found Three Leaves, Three Colors to be one of the better slice of life anime I’ve seen in a long time, and you might even see it again when my Best of Spring 2016 article comes out. Though not all of the jokes land and there are a few dead spots, I can definitely recommend this series to anyone looking for some great comedy and cute girls.
Three Leaves, Three Colors is licensed by FUNimation and it available from them for streaming, with physical copies being available some time in the near future.
Final Score: 7.5/10