“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” —Helen Keller
On her first day of high school, Hana Ichinose timidly introduces herself to her new classmates. When her instructor, Kiyose Enami, mentions that this first day of classes also happens to be Hana’s birthday, three of the other girls that Hana had spotted earlier, Eiko Tokura, Kamuri Sengoku and Tamate Momochi, wish her a happy birthday and gift her some ema. They later take the initiative to speak with her and bring her out to gaze at the blooming sakura blossoms near the train station; on the way there, Hana learns more about Tamate and Kamuri’s names. Later that evening, Shion is pleased to learn that Hana’s made new friends, and the next day, Hana properly introduces herself to her newfound friends. While the first episode did not mention thus, Hana had missed her entrance exams the previous year on account of being afflicted with mumps, and so, is a year older than those around her. Being separated from her peers, Hana feels a bit out of place and envies those who know others in her year, but after the first day, she finds herself in friendly company. Slow Start was originally a four panel manga from Manga Time Kirara, and as its brethren in this magazine, possesses the same sort of atmosphere and premise; there’s nothing novel or stand-out in Slow Start, but in this case, simplicity is Slow Start‘s greatest draw right now. While the manga began running in 2013, I’ve not had a chance to read it, and so, going into Slow Start this season, I’ll be entering without a priori knowledge.
Befitting of its name, Slow Start is slow to start, placing a particular emphasis on the minute details and happenings that precipitate a new friendship. From the moment that Hana enters school, her attention is caught by the same three individuals who are the most quick to befriend her: this fateful meeting sets in motion the beginnings of a companionship that will be endearing to behold. Out of the gates, Slow Start possesses the same atmosphere as GochiUsa, conveying a sense of calming that I’ve greatly come to value in shows that I watch. The characters immediately feel familiar despite their novel characteristics: the quiet Hana occupies the protagonist’s role and, despite playing the same role as Cocoa, also exhibits Miho Nishizumi’s shyness. The two share circumstances, and both girls are approached by fellow classmates who will grow to become close friends. As Hana Isuzu and Saori Takebi do for Miho in Girls und Panzer, Eiko and Kamuri do the same for Hana in Slow Start. The role of Yukari Akiyama is then fulfilled by Tamate, who is similarly energetic. Familiar characters mean that the anime immediately feels inviting; moving ahead, one wonders when Hana’s background will be made known to the others. Until then, Slow Start does not appear to have too many surprises in store for viewers: standard-issue high school activities and adventures will likely follow Hana and her friends as we move further into the season.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I realise that I said I would write about Yuru Camp △ soon, but an error of logistics occurred that resulted in my taking a look at Slow Start first: for one reason or another, I somehow got it into my head that Slow Start would begin airing tomorrow, not today, so I’m going to push back Yuru Camp △ by a few days. Kicking things off in Slow Start, Hana receives her school uniform in a pristine state, and her cousin, Shion, is rather excited to see Hana in it.
- The simple colours and textures of Slow Start make it apparent that, like Yuyushiki, the anime is intended to focus on the characters. This is not to say that the visuals of Slow Start are substandard in any way: they are fitting of the atmosphere in the anime. The incidental music is also of a reasonable quality, fitting the overall mood within Slow Start. With the basics covered off, the main focus of the discussion can then be directed towards the characters.
- Besides Miho Nishizumi and Cocoa Hoto, one other character that Hana resembles is CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa, who similarly is behind a year owing to an illness. That Hana seems to draw features from characters in anime that I’ve seen previously could easily be written off as derivative, lazy writing, although I’m a bit more lenient than most anime bloggers and so, will chalk these comparisons as a consequence of the fact that I’ve been watching anime for close to eleven years now.
- While making her way to Class 1-2, Hana sees two friends reuniting for the first time since primary school and feels that high school would be less intimidating if she were to have a few people that she were familiar with. I begin reminiscing about my first days of university: of all my friends, only I enrolled for the health sciences programme and so, I had no friends accompanying me into the program. However, I befriended a handful of the folks early during orientation week, and through our shared experiences with the challenging courses that constitute the honours degree, I became familiarised with over half of my graduating class over my four years in the health sciences programme.
- Having long been friends with Eiko, Kamuri is intimidated by Tamate, who knows Eiko from middle school. I’m not sure how it works elsewhere in the world, but in Canada, school assignments are based on geographical locations rather than academic performance, and so, I remained with most of my friends during primary and secondary education. Of course, some folks, I’m still friends with even if at present, we’re all occupied with our careers and the like, as opposed to spending lunch breaks and classes together each and every day.
- This is, then, the joy of being a student: as we age and mature, more of our time is spent on other things. Back in Slow Start, Hana introduces herself to Class 1-2. So far, instructor Enami has only made a short appearance and going strictly from appearances, is a no-nonsense individual who is voiced by Manami Numakura, who’s also played roles in anime such as Hibike! Euphonium (Mamiko Oumae), Rail Wars! (Aoi Sakurai), Love Lab (Riko Kurahashi) and Dagashi Kashi (Saya Endō).
- Before I push any further into Slow Start, I will remark that Slow Start has absolutely nothing to do with the TCP congestion control strategy of the same name: slow starts are used to avoid network congestion. Since TCP and computer networks are hardly the focus of Slow Start, it stands to reason that the title itself refers to the delay that Hana’s had getting into high school.
- Each of Kamuri, Eiko and Tamate give Hana a phone strap-sized ema that is intended to provide luck in safety while travelling. While three times the ema should hypothetically confer three times the safety, I’m not sure of this is quite how it works. One way or another, the friendliness exhibited by each of Kamuri, Eiko and Tamate sets in motion the events of Slow Start. While four characters were introduced right off the bat, I’ve experienced no difficulty in remembering everyone’s names.
- Excitable like Girls und Panzer‘s Yukari Akiyama, and being similar to Tamayura‘s Norie Okazaki in both appearance and manner, Tamate prefers to be called by her nickname. Eiko is a bit more mature than the others but seems to be fond of jokes, while Kamuri’s speech patterns is reminiscent of both Chino and Renge’s. It is therefore unsurprising to learn that Kamuri is voiced by Maria Naganawa, who provided Kanna’s voice in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. On the topic of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, I’ve not actually watched it, and while I’ve been hearing positive reception for the anime, I’m still wondering if it’s my cup of tea.
- Slow Start was originally announced seven months ago, and was confirmed for this anime season in July 2017. Looking around, excitement on this series has been limited discussions as to whether or not Slow Start is something that A-1 Pictures should be working on, rather than the anime’s content itself. The manga has also been quite challenging to find, making it difficult to gauge what Slow Start would entail prior to its airing.
- Tamate feels that her full name is a bit embarrassing on account of it being derived off 玉手箱 (Romaji tamate bako); 玉手 yields “beads” in a direct translation, whereas “Tama” alone (玉) can be seen as referring to a treasure of sorts. In Chinese, 玉 is “Jade” (jyutping “juk6”), and the last character of my name is a derivative of this, being meant to symbolise “double Jade”. Its character “珏” is read “gwok3” in jyutping, although hilariously, it’s rare enough so that most folks do not know the pronunciation for the character in Cantonese, and the jyutping dictionary I use returns nothing when I do a search for the character.
- Arriving at the sakura trees near the station, Hana and the others arrive to find the trees in full bloom. It’s a beautiful sight, and one that I was a month too late for last year when I visited Japan: sakura blossoms are best viewed in April, which is also when the academic term starts in Japan, but my visit there was in May. In spite of this, the trip stands as being one of the most enjoyable (if not the most enjoyable) I’ve been on, and I’ve got plans to return in the future.
- Hana’s simmilarities to Miho become more pronounced here as she admires the blooming sakura, and one could easily suppose that Slow Start is what would have resulted had we taken the Panzer out of Girls und Panzer. Unlike Girls und Panzer, which was concealing one hell of a ride, however, I think that there won’t be any surprises in Slow Start, and strictly speaking, that’s fine, as well.
- The conversation topic soon turns to food, and it is here that Hana reveals that she’s not from the area, having moved here recently, so she’s not too familiar with local shops or specialties. Her dialogue hints as the fact that she’s late by a year, but owing to the fact that she doesn’t really know Eiko, Kamuri and Tamate yet, she’s not ready to disclose this yet. They likely have missed this moment and view it as Hana being a bit shy around them. Listening to Hana’s voice further brings to mind Miho: while Miho is voiced by Mai Fuchigami, Hana is voiced by Reina Kondo, who’s a relative newcomer in the voice acting industry.
- Shion’s mannerisms bring to mind those of Mocha Hoto; she’s Hana’s cousin, as well as the landlady for the apartment that Hana lives in, and here, the two celebrate Hana’s birthday in style with a fancy dinner that has prawns and egg roe on rice with peppers, mushrooms and lotus rhizome (蓮藕). Sashimi can also be seen, as well. Now that I’m back home, sashimi is not likely to be on the home menu; things like today’s lunch of homemade honey-garlic sausage dog infused with double cheese and tomato sauce, or tonight’s Louisana-style breaded wings for dinner, are more of the norm. It’s been a bit of an eventful day for Hana, and one she’ll likely remember for a while. On my end, today was a quieter one compared to last week, and I spent it shredding bosses in The Division, before watching the Flames humiliate the Anaheim Ducks – with only sixteen seconds left on the clock, Dougie Hamilton scored to put the Flames up 3-2.
- While Kamuri earlier expressed a desire to get Hana a birthday cake, Shion buys a proper cake and gifts to Hana an umbrella styled after a leek. Being older than Hana, Shion also seems to be this series’ provider of fanservice, given the placement of camera angles, and seeing as the other characters don’t seem well-suited for that sort of thing. With this in mind, it’s quite clear that Slow Start is not about unnecessary focus on mammaries or posteriors, although audiences may be subject to such moments if the oft-utilised hot springs or beach episode is present later in Slow Start‘s run.
- On a phone call with her parents, Hana assures them that everything is fine, and they seemed immensely relieved to learn that Hana’s fitting into her new environment. Unlike Miho, whose relationship with Shiho was a quite cool at the start of Girls und Panzer, Hana’s on excellent terms with her parents, so I imagine that she moved to get away from the stigma associated with missing a year and gain a fresh start. I further imagine that what Hana did during the year in between missing the exam and her present enrollment at Hoshio Private Girls’ Academy will be the topic of a later episode.
- The apartment that Hana lives in is a small one that looks well-maintained. With A-1 running the party, the animation quality of Slow Start‘s been of a good quality, and as this post draws to a close, I note that for Slow Start, I’m bypassing the three episode rule and committing to this show for the season. Reviews will come out at the halfway point and the finale, simply because shows of this category, while immensely effective at being relaxing, may not always be conducive for interesting discussions. Writing for shows of this sort usually takes me more time as I try to figure out what to say, so the fewer ideas I have, the longer the post takes.
- It turns out that Hana’s new friends do not quite remember her name yet, recalling her as the birthday girl. However, their warm welcome suggests that the events of yesterday are not a one-off. Encouraged by this, Hana introduces herself formally to them, setting the table for the remainder of what’s upcoming this season. While an unassuming anime, Slow Start‘s looking quite encouraging, and while it won’t be a world-changer as far as moral implications or thematics go, sometimes, easygoing entertainment is precisely what one needs after a long day’s work.
- With Slow Start in the books, I’m going to begin setting up the post for Yuru Camp △ soon, as well as turn my attention towards Episode Zero of The New Colossus. As I’m also closing in on level twenty in The Division, I will be dropping by to write about that experience, as well. That’s pretty much it for now, and looking ahead, the winter anime season looks to be quite a good one for someone of my uncommon interests. Finally, there’s a CSI Miami reference in this page somewhere for readers to search for, if this post’s contents were not sufficiently exciting for readers.
The slower pacing and content of Slow Start means that I’m unlikely to write about this series at a higher frequency, although this isn’t to say that Slow Start is lacking in any way: in fact, I found the first episode of Slow Start immensely enjoyable. However, with this being said, even with my proficiency with English, there is an upper limit to how many variations of “this is adorable” one can say before it becomes stale. I imagine that the heartwarming moments of Slow Start will continue with its current frequency, making Slow Start another excellent show for folks seeking to relax in this upcoming season; the anime itself is visually appealing, with simple, clean environments and expressive characters that contribute to the lively atmosphere in Slow Start. Folks who’ve enjoyed GochiUsa and Kiniro Mosaic will be right at home with Slow Start, and while I might not be doing a large number of posts for Slow Start, readers can reasonably expect me to drop back in at the halfway point and once more at the finale, where I can offer more comprehensive thoughts on the anime once additional episodes have been aired and gain a better insight as to what’s really going down in Slow Start.