The Infinite Zenith

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

Slow Start: Review and Reflection at the ¾ Mark

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” —Bilbo Baggins, Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien

On Eiko’s birthday, she receives a large number of hair-clips from the other students; instructor Kiyose asks Eiko to put them away, as they are unsightly and only gifts her a paperclip. Later, Kiyose finds herself face-to-face with Eiko at her apartment. It turns out that after getting hammered the previous evening, Eiko looked after her after Kiyose mistakes her for someone else. When she sees Kiyose wearing a unique-looking necklace at school, Eiko reveals to Hana that her hobby is creating accessories and expresses happiness that her crafts are being worn by others. When Hana is late for her duties, fellow classmate Nanae Takahashi reassures her that it’s alright. Hana reveals to her friends that she’s having trouble speaking with her classmates, and so, Tamate, Eiko and Kamuri introduces Hana to the others in her class. With summer approaching, the girls go shopping for swimsuits, and later, Hana musters the courage to speak with Nanae. Hana learns that Nanae is responsible for managing the school flower garden and promising to see the flowers bloom with her. On the day that the girls were scheduled to hit the beach, an unexpected rainstorm rolls in. Eiko and Kamuri suggest to a crying Hana and Tamate that they wear their swimsuits indoors, and invite Hiroe to join them when she drops by with lychees. Shion later reveals that she’s got tickets to a nearby pool at a hotel. While Hana learns to swim, Shion and Hiroe take a massage. Hana, Kamuri and Tamate forget a change of clothes, and Shion provides some questionable replacements for them.

Taking the time to delve into other aspects of Hana’s world outside of her concerns about the age gap that separates her from her friends (and the corresponding doubts), Slow Start has shifted largely to exploring more of Hana’s growth in interacting with other characters, as well as presenting more about the other characters. Time is spent following Eiko, whose dynamics with instructor Kiyose are interesting, to say the least, and who also opens up to Hana, indicating just how far their friendship has come since Slow Start‘s beginning. By showing the increasing extent that Hana’s friends trust her, Slow Start aims to set the stage for the, perhaps unsurprising, revelation that the age gap that Hana worries about simply is not an issue. Making an honest effort to support her friends, Hana also begins maturing when she seizes the initiative to learn more about her other classmates. It is therefore possible that there will come a point where Hana herself will develop the confidence to let Tamate, Eiko and Kamuri about her situation. Because of this progression, Slow Start has moved in a different direction: everyday misadventures are now the norm in Slow Start, with more humour being presented as the girls end up spending more time together. Slow Start is thus moving in a more familiar manner, dealing with the ordinary experiences for each of Hana, Eiko, Tamate and Kamuri, although unlike other Manga Time Kirara works, there is something that sets Slow Start apart from other works of its origin: in a manner of speaking, Slow Start resembles Hinako Note to some extent.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Slow Start submits that if anyone can pull off the multiple hair-pin look, it’d be Eiko. Unlike the Slow Start posts that I’ve written up until now, this one will feature thirty images as opposed to the usual twenty. This is not because there’s inherently more content to discuss in Slow Start‘s third quarter, but because there are some moments in the ninth episode that are worth sharing: very few discussions out there about Slow Start exist.

  • The very few discussions that exist primarily deal with the characters, whether they be Eiko’s growing feelings for Kiyose or Tamate’s fixation on wandering around without clothing, as well as episode summaries, but otherwise do not delve into anything more substantial. Early speculation supposed that Hana would quickly be forgotten in favour of the more colourful characters, similar to how Akari Akaza of Yuru Yuri was left behind, but considering the anime’s premise and theme, this was unlikely to ever be the case.

  • Eiko’s night with Kiyose is initially the subject of a bit of mystery, but through flashback, audiences learn that Eiko spent the night looking after Kiyose, who had a few drinks too many and ended up hammered as a result. Kiyose is generally quite cold towards Eiko, and having grown accustomed to being able to win over the hearts and minds of those around her, Eiko develops a bit of interest in trying to conquer Kiyose, as well.

  • Eiko’s thoughts reveal that she regards capturing the attention of those around her as a game of conquest, one in which she’s never lost until she’d met Kiyose, who manages to surprise her at every turn. I’ve heard some folks claim that the interactions between Kiyose and Eiko have resulted in Slow Start being banned in some areas, but having seen the contents of Slow Start up until now, there’s really nothing about Eiko and Kiyose, or the remainder of the cast and their stories, that make the series worth banning.

  • Back in Slow Start, Eiko’s heart skips a beat when she speaks with Kiyose about a necklace she’s wearing. Hana is completely out in the dark as to what’s going on, and Eiko decides to take her to a secret spot to share in what’s happening.

  • The secret turns out to be an innocuous one; Eiko’s simply fond of making crafts, and her mother sells them in her shop. It brought her great joy to see them being worn, but Eiko decides not to let Kiyose know that they’re of her making. Most of the seventh episode’s setup with Eiko is intended to provide viewers with an idea of who she is, and that despite having known Hana for the shortest period, she’s now familiar enough to share a secret with her. Having spoken with Hana now, Eiko feels a bit more comfortable with letting Kamuri and Tamate know, as well, hinting at Hana’s own path to letting her friends know of her situation.

  • The page quote for this Slow Start talk comes from The Fellowship of The Ring at Bilbo’s birthday party, where he announces that he knows half of his party’s attendees half as well as he’d like, and he likes less than half of them half as much as they deserve. The relevance of this line to Slow Start is found in Hana, who feels like she knows half of her class half as well as she’d like. I do not believe the other half of the statement really applies to Slow Start: this particular remark has caused a bit of confusion amongst the readers as well as the party-goers in The Fellowship of The Ring, but using a bit of logic, it could be taken to mean “of the half he does know well, he should like them a bit more”.

  • After she freezes in fright while trying to speak with Nanae, Hana voices her concerns to her friends; despite longing to try her hand at speaking with everyone at least once, Hana still feels a bit nervous. Thanks to Eiko and Tamate, Hana has a chance to properly introduce herself to everyone in her class, and during the course of lunch, speaks with her classmates. Each of Hana’s classmates are uniquely designed and likely have different voice actors: this is indicative of the effort that went into Slow Start.

  • Eiko speaks with Tsubaki, another classmate who is quiet and reserved. She has a profound love for salmon – a piece is just visible in this screenshot of her eating an onigiri. High in protein, with a distinct, oily flavour, salmon is delicious and can be prepared in a myriad of ways: my favourite is a baked salmon with a BBQ sauce glase and black peppers. Back in Slow Start, Tsubaki unexpectedly makes off with Tamate at breakneck speed, and no explanation is offered as to what prompts this. It’s a bit out of place, and with no context offered, one imagines that it’s done purely for comedic effect.

  • While Kiyose might be disinterested in her profession as a teacher and distant from her students, there are occasions where she offers sound advice. Here, she shares a few words with Hana, commenting on how she’s glad that Hana’s found her place with Tamate, Eiko and Kamuri and that she needn’t force herself to be more sociable so quickly. Kiyose gently encourages Hana to move at her own pace, a far cry from the trolling that she is wont to dispense on Eiko.

  • To the right is Nanae Takahashi, one of Hana’s classmates who is assigned to help her with the daily duties. Nanae’s voice actress is not published anywhere at the time of writing, but she’s voiced by Inori Minase (GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, Chito of Girls’ Last Tour); aural characteristics from Chino’s voice are just noticeable when she speaks. While not much more of Nanae’s personality is presented in Slow Start, it stands to reason that she’s responsible and friendly. Besides being voiced by Chino, there is one other aspect about Nanae that stands out, and it would not be unwelcome to see her interacting with Hana and her friends with a greater frequency.

  • While Tamate is usually happy-go-lucky and boisterous, her disposition sours whenever asset size is brought to the table: unlike the others, Tamate is True Level. True Level refers to a hypothetical surface where every point on that surface is perpendicular to the direction of force due to gravity. In other words, it is a perfectly flat surface: in my colloquial usage, I’m accustomed to using it to describe something that is flawless owing to its usage in Rick and Morty, but in this case, Tamate’s True Level is not exactly a compliment.

  • Enjoying the shade under the warm sun, Tamate, Hana, Kamuri and Eiko’s thoughts turn towards summer and the attendant activities. However, everyone’s in need of new swimming attire, so the girls decide to hit a local shop and browse around for swimsuit. Prices seem to vary greatly depending on what one picks, and while anime like Locodol or Amanchu depict characters as being hesitant to buy new swimsuits on the basis of price, most anime will skate over the prices in favour of using the experience as an opportunity for the characters to try on swimsuits for the audience’s enjoyment.

  • Eiko seems to wear any swimsuit well and has no trouble picking one out. Eiko dismisses Tamate’s attempts to figure out if she’s wearing anything underneath while trying in various swimsuits, and at this point, I began wondering what became of my life, if I’d fallen to watching shows such as this. With this being said, it’s not as though the whole of Slow Start is like this, so it would be unfair to make any conclusions about the anime based merely on a few scenes. Ever-bashful, Hana is reluctant to show her friends, but they barge in and find that there’s nothing out of the ordinary.

  • Kamuri, meanwhile, has managed to find one to her liking, leaving Tamate, who tries on a variety of unusual (and impractical) swimsuits. While I find Tamate to be similar to Girls und Panzer‘s Yukari in mannerisms, there are key differences – Tamate is fond of things that stand out, while Yukari prefers practicality. While shopping for swimsuits with Miho and company, Yukari recommends a wetsuit of the same variety used by the SAS and Navy Seals, but ends up choosing a swimsuit with a military camouflage pattern.

  • While not shown here in this discussion, Hana grows a bit flustered and starts flailing her arms around, causing the others to imagine her as penguin-like. Similar to other anime of its class, Slow Start makes use of chibis and distinct visual cues to capture how a character is feeling. The next morning, Hana finds Nanae, who is tending to the school’s flower garden. Capitalising on the moment, Hana shares a conversation with her and agrees to view the flowers with Nanae once they begin blooming.

  • When a rainstorm forces the girls to discard their plan to hit the beach, Hana bursts into tears. It’s a bloody riot to see this happen, and audiences get the sense that  A bit of lateral thinking from Eiko and Kamuri sees the girls switch into their swimsuits, where they plan to spend the day at Hana’s. Eiko decides to capitalise on the moment to ask Hana a question related to their coursework, and here, Tamate becomes salty after she attempts to prank Eiko: it turns out that string is merely a joke and has no structural value. Later, Tamate becomes salty about being True Level, lending itself to the ninth episode’s unusual title.

  • When Hiroe shows up with a basket of lychees to share with the girls, she’s shocked to see everyone in their swimsuits. Eiko immediately seizes the moment to strip down Hiroe and give her a swimsuit of her own – the end result is something that Tamate enjoys gazing upon. I note here that I’ve seen enough anime and related media to roughly know what Tamate is talking about, whenever she starts mentioning events and flags, even if I myself are not versed in visual novels to any capacity.

  • I live in a completely different universe; events are actions that software recognise, and a flag is a boolean value that indicates a state that can either be true XOR false. These are used to handle conditions and can make code more readable/maintainable (as opposed to using nested conditionals). On closer inspection, boolean flags, in representing conditions, is likely what propagated into visual novel jargon, since they similarly are used to trigger specific events within the game. For the reader’s benefit, here is what Hana and the others are seeing.

  • After Hiroe gets past her initial embarrassment, she settles down with the others and share the fresh lychees. Kamuri soon starts using them as a euphemism for papilla mammaria, which have been mentioned in previous episodes, as well. Such topics seem far removed from the sort of thing that Hana is comfortable with, but she seems to roll with them as they occur. Here, the girls react in a variety of ways when Shion decides to drop by. After seeing everyone in their swimsuits, she peaces out, leading Hana to wonder what will happen next. A quick glance at everyone’s eyebrows immediately allows one to work out what each of Hiroe, Kamuri, Eiko, Hana and Tamate are feeling at this moment.

  • As it turns out, Shion’s merely headed off to change, and announces that she’s got tickets to a hotel’s swimming pool, which in turn corresponds with an opportunity for Hana to learn how to swim. When asked about the possibility of being seen outside, Shion responds that the three-second rule applies here: it’s a basketball phrase referring to a player’s positioning in the restricted area, and in the context of Slow Start, simply means that Shion did not linger for long outside.

  • While Hiroe attempts to take off, Shion invites her along to join the others, much to Hiroe’s embarrassment. As Hiroe finds herself roped into things, I’ll go on a tangent here and remark that I’ve unlocked all of the basic variants of the new weapons in Battlefield 1‘s Apocalypse DLC: the new lMG 08/18 is said to be a beast of a weapon that gives the Parabellum MG 14/17 a run for its money, and I’ve also set off on my quest to unlock the Howell Rifle’s sniper variant, which features a good set of optics for long-range shooting. In The Division, I’ve reached World Tier 5 and have a gear score of 275, a major upgrade from my starting gear score of 177 from two weeks back. I’ve managed to get a few exotics, as well – besides finishing exploration of Manhattan and finishing off the remaining side quests, I should also give resistance missions a whirl as time allows.

  • Thus, despite a day of rain shutting out any opportunity to swim in the ocean, Hana and her friends are able to enjoy swimming at the next best option. Hana’s evidently been excited about things, practising keeping her face underwater while bathing, hence her initial disappointment that their original trip to the beach was rained out. Going into this episode, I imagined that their antics would soon be broken up by sunshine, but Slow Start defied my expectations and took things in a different direction that ended up working quite nicely.

  • One of the main reasons why I’ve not gone swimming for quite some time is my aversion to chloramines, which result from the interaction between chlorine and various excretions. The smell lingers long after I’ve left the pool and for me, it’s quite unpleasant (although for some folks, it evokes summer imagery). In Jay Ingram’s The Science of Why II, one of the questions the book addresses is how much urine there is in a pool, and the answer is “too much”. Although urine is not pathogenic, it can cause irritation of skin and respiratory systems.

  • While Hana and the others swim, Shion and Hiroe get massages at a spa. It’s an opportunity for the two to share a conversation, and I’ll leave readers with yet another screenshot of Shion, who is enjoying the massage. I would feature a similar screenshot of Hiroe, but it was already tricky enough to pick the right screenshots for this post without going over the limit.

  • When Hana accidentally drops Eiko’s bracelet into the pool, she prepares to dive in to retrieve it, but gets stuck in a small inner tube before she can do anything else. Her friends extricate her from the situation, and Eiko expresses gratitude that Hana was thinking of them ahead of her own concerns, even if the inner tube would have prevented Hana from actually getting to the bottom of the pool. A small bit of trivia is that I used to be uncomfortable around deep water in pools until I familiarised myself with treading water and understood concepts of buoyancy.

  • I’m actually a bit surprised that there can be enough to talk about for a Slow Start post featuring thirty screenshots, especially considering that 46.67 percent of it is fanservice. The next Slow Start talk I write will deal with the series as a whole and will also have thirty screenshots, since I’ll be dealing with thematic elements and the like. I’ll be using that additional space to flesh out what my final impressions of the anime are in greater detail, so there will be more relevant screenshots and discussion than present in this here talk.

  • When Tamate and Hana realise they’d forgotten to bring a change of clothes, they exude a visibly gloomy aura. “Fortunately”, Shion is on station to provide assistance. While such an oversight is unlikely and perhaps laughable, we consider that everyone was quite excited for an opportunity to swim and in the heat of the moment, simply forgot. Eiko, on the other hand, is prepared and is spared the trouble of having to count on Shion’s replacements.

  • The gear that Shion’s brought is questionable, certainly not suitable for me to show here if I wish to stay in the search engine’s good graces. I’ll leave it to readers to watch the episode for themselves to see what I mean when I say this, and also ask why such impractical clothing even exists, when it is quite clear that such clothing looks very uncomfortable on top of being embarrassing.

  • This brings my Slow Start post to an end, right as the first weekend of March draws to a close. Looking ahead into March, the first few weeks are going to be exceptionally busy, so my posting schedule will be on hiatus until I sort these things out. Later this month, I will be returning to write about Slow Start‘s finale, as well as the finale for Yuru Camp△. On top of this, there will also be a post dealing with the final act of CLANNAD, alongside a special post for Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s first episode.

While Hinako Note and Slow Start have differing premises, both anime share an uncommonly shy protagonist whose goal is to improve her self-confidence. Both works also feature a noticeable emphasis on elements that are more suggestive in nature. In Hinako Note, I found it to be quite unnecessary, as it contributed little to the main narrative. In contrast, Slow Start seems to drive some of the girls’ conversations based around this sort of material; from pantsu to papilla mammaria, Tamate and Eiko do not shy away from bringing these topics out into open discussion. It comes across as a bit unusual, considering the initial premise of the anime (I personally found the anime to feel like GochiUsa right up until this sort of thing is mentioned), but now that such matters are more established in Slow Start, it is not unreasonable to suppose that Eiko and Tamate simply a bit more candid about what they talk about. While perhaps somewhat off-putting, it also drives the humour somewhat, providing something outrageous for Hana to react to; an exasperated Hana is bloody hilarious. Consequently, for Slow Start, mention and portrayal of risqué topics does not end up impeding the narrative, even if it can seem as out-of-place in the presence of characters like Hana and Kamuri; I certainly won’t hold it against Slow Start, since they’ve integrated this more seamlessly into the story than Hinako Note, and looking ahead, I’m curious to see what the remaining quarter has in store for viewers, as well as whether or not the thematic elements I’ve been speculating about are in fact what Slow Start was aiming to present to audiences.

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