The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

​Slow Start: Review and Reflections At the Halfway Point

“The reactions of the human heart are not mechanical and predictable but infinitely subtle and delicate.” –Daisaku Ikeda

After Hana is frightened by a tenant upstairs, Shion introduces her to one Hiroe Hannen, whose tendency to order everyone online hides a situation similar to that of Hana’s. After the two are properly introduced to one another, Hana learns that Hiroe missed her university entrance exams from an illness, and subsequently lost all confidence, becoming a shut-in during the process. Hiroe believes Hana to be better off than her for having continued on her journey and having made friends. Hana decides to bring her friends over to help out Hiroe: they help her pick out some proper clothing to bolster her image and self-esteem. Thanking Hana, Hiroe is grateful for having met Hana, and the two become friends. Later, while deep in thought about Eiko, Kamuri forgets to wear her skirt to school. It turns out that she ran into Eiko’s sister, Miki, and subsequently became confused. Eiko clears things up, and learns that Kamuri, having mistaken Miki for Eiko a year previously, enrolled at Hoshio Girls’ School to be with Eiko again. Later, Tamate recounts her experiences working at a speciality restaurant while walking to Hana’s apartment to study. They run into Hiroe, who decides to help them. Eiko brings up some bath salts that the girls subsequently use to enjoy a warm bath in, and inspired by the water’s consistency, Tamate cooks up chop suey for dinner. Tamate brings out an old dating simulator for Eiko to try out and when Hana has difficulty falling asleep, Tamate reassures her that things will be okay. We thus stand at the halfway point in Slow Start, and with six episodes under the belt, Slow Start has begun hitting its stride, capitalising on its languid pacing to explore the cast in greater detail.

Halfway through Slow Start, it becomes apparent that Slow Start will give Hana plenty of space in which to grow close to her friends and trust them sufficiently so that she may be truthful about her situation. In introducing Hiroe, the largest catalyst is present to drive this change; Hiroe and Hana’s situations parallel one another. Hiroe never did quite recover from her setback, being remorseful of having lied to her friends, and while she’s willing to talk to Hana and the others about her situation, her recovery is a bit of a slower one. Conversely, Hana is unable to talk about her situation because she fears losing Tamate, Eiko and Kamuri, but has begun taking those steps to catch up. The two complement one another well, and it is expected that as Slow Start continues, the two will help one another out sufficiently such that they will overcome their individual challenges. In the meantime, Hiroe looks to join the regular cast in helping them out occasionally with their studies, and in exchange, receives companionship from Hana and her friends. Their interactions are amusing to behold, but aside from putting a smile on audiences’ faces, they also serve to show that slowly and surely, changes are beginning to take place in Slow Start. Recalling that a support system is probably the most powerful tool in maintaining positive mental health, the changes that Hana and Hiroe introduce into the others’ respective lives will play a substantial role in benefitting both.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After a rough start, Shion mediates the introductions between Hiroe and Hana, inviting her to dinner in the process. Shion and Hana are having Karaage (唐揚げ) here, a fried chicken made with chicken marinated in soy sauce, sake, ginger and garlic before applying potato starch and frying it in oil. It’s lighter than Southern Fried Chicken, which is rather more common in North America, but just as flavourful. In this Slow Start post, as with its predecessors, I’ve chosen to go with twenty screenshots.

  • Hiroe slips and falls after receiving one of her latest packages from Hana. As it turns out, Hiroe has lost enough confidence so that she’s unwilling to go outside even to a convenience store, and so, orders everything online, even common everyday objects such as tape and pins and…all sorts of things like, such as that. Services like Amazon are making it increasingly easy to buy things online, although I find that there’s a charm in going to a physical store and browsing through it even if I already have a very clear idea of what I’m to buy.

  • Hana’s the first person that Hiroe’s had over in quite some time, and Hiroe panics when she discovers that she’s got nothing to serve Hana, subsequently attempting to find a service that ships tea out on very short order. When she begins wondering why Hiroe orders everything online and learns of Hiroe’s story, she breaks out into tears. Hana does resemble CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa in this regard – with a kind and gentle personality, Hana is caring of those around her, and grows concerned for them when things seem amiss.

  • Hiroe grows depressed when she learns that Hana’s got friends and proceeds to sulk in the corner; here, Hana is contacting her friends to come over and meet someone. Of everyone, Eiko and Tamate become the most involved: with Eiko’s sense in fashion, she brings over some of her clothing and goes about figuring out what works best for Hiroe, who had, up until now, been clad in sweats. The grey colours reflect on her present state of monotony and isolation.

  • When Eiko is finished with one iteration, the differences are so dramatic that Tamate and Hana don’t initially recognise her. Hiroe wears Eiko’s dresses nicely, and her present choice of clothing hides a surprisingly aesthetically-pleasing figure: of everyone, she’s second to Shion in terms of asset size.

  • Clothes can make a considerable difference in one’s appearance, and Sam Hui understood this: in his 1980 song, “先敬羅衣後敬人” (jyutping “sin1 ging3 lo4 ji1 hau6 ging3 jan4”), his upbeat lyrics emphasise the importance of being well-dressed: folks who dressed poorly could be mistaken as vagrants or criminals, while smart attire would garner the respect of those around them. Consequently, one should not neglect their choice of clothing. It’s a remarkably fun song, and the closest English translation of the phrase “先敬羅衣後敬人” is “you are what to wear” (a literal translation is “people will judge you for your appearances before they judge your character”).

  • Of course, Eiko is not about to let Hiroe make off with her clothes, and after confirming the styles that work best for her, take Hiroe on a massive shopping spree to bring her wardrobe up to code. Clothes are not inexpensive by any stretch, but as noted in Sam Hui’s “先敬羅衣後敬人”, the value of having good clothing can be counted as such that it is worth skipping a meal to buy said clothing (in a metaphoric sense). I generally buy my clothes during sales, when prices can see reductions as much as eighty percent: being able to buy a 120 dollar button-up shirt for 30 dollars, or a 200 dollar pair of smart casual pants for a quarter of the price is immensely satisfying. With this, I also reveal my preferred dress style now.

  • It was superbly welcoming to see Hana and Hiroe connect with one another over their shared backgrounds, and seeing Hiroe in her situation allows Hana to open up with Hiroe much more quickly than any of the other characters. Similarly, despite their age differences, Hiroe gets along with Hana’s friends like peas in a pod, so I would hazard a guess that spending more time with Hiroe will have a non-trivial impact on Hana.

  • When Karumi becomes consumed in thought, she forgets to put her skirt on, leading Hana to worry that Karumi’s pantsu are exposed. Fortunately, Eiko is on station to lend Karumi her shorts. I’ve decided against including that screenshot: Karumi reminds me a bit of GochiUsa‘s Chino and there are lines that I won’t cross. This sort of occurrence is very unlikely to happen in reality and usually is limited to dreams: if one is dreaming about being out and about in their underclothes, it could indicate vulnerability, fear of exposure or anxiety.

  • Tamate breaks out some photographs of Eiko, and Karumi remarks that the individual seems quite different than the Eiko of the present. Given Slow Start‘s presentation of Eiko, she seems to be a minor celebrity of sorts who all shall love and despair. The limitations of anime and manga mean that particularly beautiful characters are often difficult to differentiate from ordinary-looking characters: the highly-stylised characters do not have facial characteristics of real people, and as such, writers rely on exaggerated personalities or reactions to convey this to viewers.

  • Usually confident and able to charm those around her, Eiko is reduced to trembling on her knees after instructor Enami flips her skirt to “verify that Eiko’s pantsu are not too risqué”. Done purely for comedy, this action in reality would certainly qualify as sexual harassment and result in much trouble for Enami. It speaks to the disconnect between anime and reality that this sort of thing could happen, and the way to recover from this shock is for a friend to pet the affected individual.

  • After a spirited discussion about body doubles, doppelgängers and the like, where Hana admits to running into someone who looked a great deal like Eiko, Karumi runs into the person who looks similar to Eiko. As it turns out, it’s her younger sister, Miki, who was responsible for creating the special soup for Eiko earlier in Slow Start. Some siblings look a great deal alike – I know what this feels like, as people have asked me whether or not I’ve mastered the art of cloning and the like previously.

  • Still a middle school student, Miki looks up to Eiko and her friends on account of their experiences. As the sun sets, the girls share a conversation and clear up the misunderstandings that accumulated from earlier – it is here that Kamuri learns of the happy mistake that allowed her to enroll in the same school that Eiko was attending.

  • It is at the halfway point that Tamate and Shion finally meet for the first time: the two immediately hit it off with their shared love for cooking, and Shion is impressed with Tamate’s skills with cooking. Hana later expresses admiration for how Tamate is able to get along with everyone, to which Tamate responds that it’s really more about her being excited about being able to talk to interesting people. An extrovert, Tamate is very much at home amongst a wide range of people, and amongst the friends, she’s got the strongest presence.

  • Tamate responds that Hana’s got strengths of her own, and when she becomes embarrassed with the praise she receives, Eiko pets her. I’ve heard unverified rumours that Slow Start will become less about Hana’s path to revealing her status and more about the other characters: the anime has not given any indicator of this happening as of yet, and I would further counterargue that doing this would detract from the message that Slow Start is aiming to present in its narrative.

  • After running into Hiroe outside of Hana’s apartment, Hana and the others invite her over, where she offers to help them study. Having finished high school, Hiroe is quite familiar with the material and explains that long ago, she was the student council president and well-respected by her classmates. While her confidence may have taken a dip, her mind has lost none of its potency, allowing her to help the others in her studies. With over a decade separating me from high school, most of my knowledge from high school remains intact, but I’m unlikely to be able to do mathematics with the same efficiency as I once did: math has long been my weakest subject.

  • After an immensely relaxing bath, the girls sit down to chop suey. Food in Slow Start is rendered with a reasonable degree of care so the details are visible, and large prawns are seen in the dinner that Tamate has cooked. Strictly speaking, chop suey is not a true Cantonese dish: while its origins are from Taishan county in Guangzhou province, the iteration as we know it (meat, eggs and vegetables fried and then laid on a bed of rice) is a North American creation. Following dinner, Tamate breaks out the games, and I suppose that I should not be too disappointed that Tamate did not bring the likes of Halo 2, the best sort of thing for a get-together.

  • Eiko’s uncommon talent for flustering other females extends even into virtual space, where she manages to beat a dating sim and win all the routes simultaneously. Her propensities bring to mind Ren of Anne Happy, who likewise used her misfortune of attracting all females of any species to her to her and her friends advantage. Tamate shows a surprising side to her character here, and frightens Hana.

  • Hana is not keen on ghost stories; even though the others tell weak stories that amuse rather than frighten, Hana is visibly frightened. She recalls a screw that fell out of seemingly nowhere and becomes unable to sleep for the remainder of the evening. I found this moment an interesting take on ghost stories of the present day: Eiko and the others use their smartphones to light their faces, whereas traditionally, I’ve seen people use flashlights to achieve the same effect. It’s a subtle but impressive touch that indicates Slow Start is with the times.

  • Noticing that Hana is awake, Tamate joins her and shares a conversation with her. It seems that of everyone, Tamate has grown the closest to Hana. After assuaging Hana’s fears, Hana is able to sleep and wakes up the next morning to find Tamate sleeping like a pharaoh. This brings the sixth episode to an end, and with it, this review also draws to a close. I will be returning very soon to write about CLANNAD, but until next time, I hope you’ve enjoyed this article.

Because Hana’s development is central to Slow Start, I anticipate that the slow, incremental changes over the season is what will lead to Hana eventually coming forward to Tamate, Eiko and Karumi about her situation, and that by this point in time, her friends will have already accepted her and thus, will not be too concerned with her being a year older than they are. As a result, in the upcoming episodes, Slow Start will be likely to explore directions more typical of an anime adapted from a Manga Time Kirara publication – from everyday life at school to time off and what the girls make of their breaks, from memorable events to daily, mundane conversations, audiences are likely to gain more insight into each of the characters and how they uniquely contribute to Hana’s first year back in high school as Slow Start settles into a routine, allowing Hana to ease into things and become increasingly familiar with her friends’ eccentricities, as well as her own place in the group. Manga Time Kirara publications and their adaptations have long excelled at presenting the subtle changes in characters over time, and given what has been shown thus far in Slow Start, it is a reasonable supposition that Slow Start will carry on in the same vein as its predecessors have.

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