The Infinite Zenith

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

Slow Start: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” —George MacDonald

Hiroe is unable to decide whether her new outfit is to be worn one way or another, leading Hana to call Shion for assistance. Eiko later drops by, and after clarifying that both are suitable to Hiroe, gives Hana a brooch as a gift. Hana learns that Shion had difficulty finding a job after graduating from post secondary and became a landlady in the meantime so as not to waste her time. Shion feels that this detour wasn’t necessarily a bad one, giving her a different set of experiences and also allowed her to look after Hana. During summer vacation, Hana, Kamuri and Eiko visit Tamate’s house, where Tamate cooks for everyone. The girls don yukatas and set off for a summer festival, where Hana expresses thanks for having met Eiko, Kamuri and Tamate before they watch fireworks together. Hiroe and Shion also visit the summer festival; encouraged by Shion, Hiroe decides to take a preparation course for post secondary and get herself back on track. Later, Hana receives money from her parents, who feel the time has come for her to pick clothes most befitting of her. Struggling to figure out what her style is, Eiko decides to help her out. They find a dress that Hana particularly likes, and after spending the afternoon with Kamuri and Tamate, Hana heads home, where Shion decides to take a photo of Hana and her new dress. Slow Start thus comes to its conclusion, wrapping up its narrative in a manner that I was not anticipating – Slow Start did not see Hana telling her friends about her situation. In retrospect, this outcome would have been too quick for a series like Slow Start, which, true to its name, takes things very slowly. However, even though Slow Start does not reach this point after its conclusion, the anime nonetheless presents several aspects about friendship in details that are often taken for granted.

The reason why Slow Start progresses at the pace the series is titled for is to show the development of trust in a friendship. In order for Hana to be truthful with Eiko, Kamuri and Tamate about being a year older than them as a result of having missed her entrance exam, Hana needs to be able to trust that her friends can still accept her as a peer in spite of this age difference (recall the senpaikouhai dynamics in Japan). This trust is not easily established, and so, Slow Start takes the pains of depicting the different events in Hana’s life that show her growing closer with the mature and reliable Eiko, energetic Tamate and shy but observant Kamuri. In spending more time with them, Hana becomes more comfortable around them; her friends certainly have begun trusting her, and in particular, Eiko is able to share with Hana a secret about her interests in crafts. From various conversations, to sleepovers, shopping together and summer festivals, Slow Start depicts the gradual but steady progress Hana makes ever since meeting with her friends. Along the way, audiences are presented with the eccentrics and attributes for each of Eiko, Tamate and Kamuri. The eventual goal in Slow Start will be for Hana’s growth reaching a point where she is comfortable in bringing up her history with friends, but Slow Start shows that its definitely in no rush to reach this point, and that en route to this end goal, audiences can enjoy the humourous situations that the girls encounter in their everyday lives.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When Hiroe arrives at Hana’s place, she’s in a bit of a quandary, being unable to decide whether or not she should tuck in her top. For folks whose imaginations are a bit more vivid than mine, I’m sure that these moments won’t give any hint that Hiroe’s simply having trouble with picking her style. Of course, if your mind did wander there, excuse yourself from this blog, go play some Battlefield 1 and then return when you’re feeling happier. I’m not much for clothing and fashion, but it really depends. My button-up short sleeve shirts can be worn either way: all of them are fit properly, and for a casual scenario, I leave it untucked and wear them in conjunction with jeans or shorts. It’s when I have a belt and smart casual pants that I tuck the shirt in.

  • Tucked in, Hiroe’s blouse-and-skirt attire sets her in a smart casual manner. With the blouse out, she’d be going for casual look: both are equally viable, as evidenced by the pattern on the bottom. When Hana herself is unsure of what best works for Hiroe, she recruits Shion, who likewise thinks that both approaches seem to work. For this finale post on Slow Start, I’ve chosen to go with thirty images; after the second half, there’s actually a bit more to consider in discussion.

  • Hiroe explains that after Eiko took her shopping for new outfits, and subsequently left her hanging about what the best way to wear this one was, she’d been feeling a bit down. Eiko later arrives to help sort things out, and also gives Hana a brooch. Of all the characters, Eiko seems to get along best with Hana, and while various individuals in Slow Start feel flustered around Eiko, Hana views her strictly as a friend.

  • Entering Slow Start‘s final few episodes, I began wondering about what the thematic elements in this frivolous anime would be. With the finale fast approaching and little indicator that Hana would let her friends know of her being a year older than everyone else, it became clear that Slow Start‘s first season was not simply about how friendship alone can overcome a well-established Japanese cultural element in the senpaikouhai dynamic.

  • Hana’s conflict throughout Slow Start is whether or not she should let her friends know of her situation, and while Hana appreciates their company enough to live in the moment, it remains a lingering topic. One of my disappointments with Slow Start was precisely that this was not resolved by the season’s end, but then I had a moment of clarity: if Hana was able to overcome this particular barrier, then Slow Start would not live up to its name. She asks Kiyose here for advice, who tells her that Hana should do so only when she feels ready.

  • Shion is a visual treat for the aesthetically-deprived, so for my Slow Start talks, I’ve aimed to have at least some moments of her: in the manga, apparently, she’s capable of causing space-time distortion with her assets. Staring at this image will lead viewers to wonder why the bath water in anime is often depicted with a green hue. While the typical explanations range from use of bath salts and mineral water, to depth impacting the wavelength of light the water that can be returned, in Slow Start, the water is actually clear, and there’s simply a green covering for the bathtub. #TeamShower

  • During a conversation with Shion, Hana learns that Shion is having trouble with finding employment ever since their grandfather frightened a company. However, in taking up the post of a landlady, Shion has also gained some unique experiences. The lesson imparted by her story is that setbacks can be turned around if one is open-minded, and new opportunities can arise from taking a detour. Of course, one should remain vigilant and work hard to get back on track: by surrounding herself with people in a similar boat as her, Hana is able to move forward and help inspire those around her to do the same.

  • Up until now, Hana, Kamuri and Eiko have not visited Tamate’s home: everyone’s spent most of their time at Hana’s place, and so, one can suppose that at some point in the future, everyone will visit Eiko and Kamuri’s homes. This would naturally require a second season; Slow Start has been running since 2013 and could have covered quite some ground, but some folks are a bit pessimistic that the series will get a continuation.

  • Tamate introduces her friends to her grandmothers. When they first made their appearance, folks at Tango-Victor-Tango jumped to many conclusions, and I dismissed their conclusions on the basis that they were completely irrelevant to the overall progression of Slow Start. It continues to elude me as to why some trivial details figure so prominently in discussions surrounding slice-of-life anime: I typically make a few wisecracks about things and then trundle along, only stopping to explore thematic elements in greater detail.

  • Karuizawa is located between Mount Asama and Mount Myōgi, deep in the Nagano prefecture. From orbit, Karuizawa looks about as densely built as most suburban areas in North America, but at street level, there are plenty of open fields: Tamate lives in a more rural area near Karuizawa, and here, the girls take a walk in the countryside. The brilliant blue sky here suggests a day that’s quickly warming up; with an average high of 24°C in July, the area has a humid continental climate, the same as Calgary.

  • Roadside fruit and vegetable stands are commonplace in Japan compared to the likes of Southern Alberta. Tamate introduces the girls to some of the freshest tomatoes they’d seen all day, and Hana later struggles to eat one, worrying that its juices will stain her shirt. The trick to eating tomatoes whole would be to take measured bites and suck the juices up as one goes. Back during my trip to Japan last year, I had freshly-picked strawberries from a roadside vendor near Ena in the Gifu prefecture. Free of any pesticides and already washed, they tasted very refreshing on a morning that was rapidly warming up.

  • There’s definitely an appeal about fresh fruits and vegetables in the summer: corn on the cob and watermelon are regarded as staples for long, hot days. I’ve omitted the part of Slow Start where the girls enjoy Tamate’s cooking and their subsequent donning of Yukata, during which Tamate discusses her friends’s character with her grandparents.

  • The combination of warm lighting and a pleasant summer evening means that summer festivals are often the place to have characters visit together, and during their exploration of the summer festival, Hana and her friends run into several classmates, who are capitalising on the free time after club activities to likewise visit. With its large cast of characters, Slow Start

  • Summer festivals in Japan are probably equivalent to the midway at agricultural shows over here in North America, where there are carnival games and whacky foods only available at the midway. Kamuri would definitely be at home with the Calgary Stampede’s midway: last year, we had the one-metre-long sausage, deep-fried jello, funnel cake poutine, chili-lime popcorn shrimp perogies, tempura-fried soft-shell crab tacos and other mad foods. I only ended up trying the Tropical Bobster, a lobster-covered poutine, and conclude that to try everything out would probably involve multiple trips.

  • Tamate fixes one of her classmates’ geta with a clever application of a handkerchief while Kamuri is seen munching on summer festival foods. Her shy disposition and quiet voice means that she’s quite similar to GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu and Himōto Umaru-chan‘s Hikari Kongō, but unlike Hikari and Chino, who are both voiced by Inori Minase, Kamuri is voiced by Maria Naganawa. Kamuri also differs from Chino and Hikari in that she’s a lot quicker on the uptake and will occasionally crack bad jokes.

  • Eiko runs into Kiyose in front of an ice cream shop and gets trolled yet again when an attempt to give Kiyose ice cream backfires: after Eiko picks stray ice cream off Kiyose’s face with her finger, Kiyose proceeds to lick Eiko’s finger. I’m not too sure what’s going on, but as Slow Start chooses to depict Eiko’s losing battle purely for humour’s sake, I’m going to say that there’s decisively nothing of note to discuss.

  • Elsewhere, Hiroe and Shion take in the culture at their own pace. Watching Hiroe enjoy herself was a sure sign of her progress, and in the time since audiences have met her, Hiroe’s come quite a long way. While seemingly comical, that she’s made this much progress illustrates just how much of a catalyst Hana and her friends have been for her, as well as how supportive Shion’s been.

  • Lighting senko hanabi  (incense-stick fireworks) is a quintessential part of summer in Japan: these slow-burning fireworks are nothing like the bombastic western sparklers, burning with a much gentler flame that requires a steady hand to maintain. The quiet fire is said to lead partakers to consider the mono no aware of all things, unlike the exciting, spirited sparks that sparklers emit right from the beginning. This difference is primarily a result of the addition of a metallic fuel in sparkers that senko hanabi lack. The metal combustion results in the immediate formation of large sparks, which signify festivities and excitement.

  • Enjoyable that Slow Start might be, I am not without a few critiques here and there, most of which is based purely on what I’ve seen so far. The first is that Hiroe and Hana’s interactions, where seen, were very meaningful in helping both understand the other’s situation and in turn, respectively allowing each to reflect on their own situation and figure out how to make the most of things. It therefore would’ve been nice to see Hana spend more time with Hiroe than was seen in Slow Start. My second is that Nanae and a few others in Hana’s class should also be featured more frequently. I’m especially fond of Nanae, and it was a shame she only made a major appearance in one episode.

  • Under a firework-filled sky, Hana tells Eiko, Tamate and Kamuri that her wish was really more of a thanks for having been blessed to meet the people that she did. The page quote thus comes from Hana’s growth over the course of Slow Start – in choosing to direct the story where it ended, it turns out that Slow Start‘s aim was to illustrate the gradual building of trust that Hana has in her friends, the more time she spends with them. It’s been a bit of a lengthy investment, and serves to show audiences just how much time Hana’s spent with Eiko and the others, to be able to begin trusting them. On the flipside, trust can evaporate in a heartbeat, as well.

  • All of my criticisms of Slow Start would easily be rectified with a second season: as is customary for 4-koma slice-of-life anime adaptations, second seasons usually are where the cast expands as the central characters begin interacting more with those around them, having established their relationships with one another. Consequently, if there is a second season, one can hope that Nanae would join Hana and the others to places like the beach, pool, et cetera. As for the reasons why, I’ll keep that to myself for the present.

  • Twelve episodes into Slow Start, I’ve accepted that Kiyose and Eiko’s interactions are purely intended for comedy and therefore, lack the depth and meaning to be treated with any degree of seriousness. There have been folks who felt that the yuri elements in Slow Start were off-putting and that it detracted from their enjoyment of the series, but personally, it’s nothing outlandish or excessive compared to other adaptations of works from the Manga Time Kirara lineup.

  • The other complaint I’ve heard about Slow Start is how the anime allegedly regresses into a more familiar approach from its initially promising premise. This particular individual does not elaborate further, leading me to conclude their opinions are not meritorious of further consideration. I posit that Slow Start manages to keep the central theme close to the foreground with acceptable frequency and makes detours to help establish moments where Hana becomes closer to her friends. These detours happen to take the form of familiar jokes and events, but on the whole, the pacing is deliberately chosen to match the series’ theme, that things like trust can take a considerable amount of time to be earned.

  • After receiving some cold, hard cash from her parents one day, Hana wonders if her parents are cutting her lose, but it turns out they’re simply interested in having Hana buy her own clothing and are curious to see what styles Hana picks. After talking it over with Eiko and the others, they decide to take Hana shopping for clothes and aim to have her discover her own style.

  • Hana returns home from school here during the early afternoon, running into Shion and Hiroe. Unlike other anime, Slow Start does not have a soundtrack release in a standard album format: similar to The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, the soundtrack and vocal albums will be bundled in parts with each of the BD volumes, with the first releasing today, and the last releasing in August. The music in Slow Start is satisfactory in contributing to the atmosphere within the anime, having a very breezy, bossa nova tones that captures the gentle, relaxed manner within the anime.

  • After accompanying Hana to the stores, Kamuri and Tamate disappear when they hear of a tuna-cutting demonstration, leaving Eiko and Hana to shop on their own. Hana soon sees a dress that she likes and finds that it’s suited for her. She also asks Eiko about other shopping, having grown in more ways than one. Because Slow Start was more open with its jokes than most anime of its group, it therefore came as a surprise when this shopping was cut off with Tamate and Kamuri’s return.

  • Slow Start chose not to fully explore Hana’s development to the extent where she can share her history with others, and I initially felt that this was to the anime’s detriment. This sense is lessened by the fact that Slow Start is ongoing, and when sleeping on what to write, I also realised that the development of trust over time isn’t something that can be rushed. It would seem that many viewers were also expecting the story to go where I was initially expecting it to go, but on closer inspection, it’s actually more in line with Slow Start‘s themes that the first season concludes where it did.

  • Looking back through this post, I am surprised that I was able to find enough to talk about for each of the figure captions. I believe this is the only place online where one can get a reasonably detailed discussion of Slow Start that extends well beyond mere summarisations of what happens; it seems that most reviewers tend to focus on snapshots of the characters interacting with one another without considering that moment’s contribution to the theme.

  • Shion prepares a fish head for dinner on top of the sashimi: fish heads have a stronger flavour and a surprising amount of meat. As well, the eyeballs are also packed with nutrients. While food has never been a focus in Slow Start, the meals that Hana shares with Shion are rendered with a high quality. The Japanese hold the notion that food should look as good as it tastes, and so, place a particular emphasis on preparations that are unmatched.

  • While Hana and Shion pose for the camera so they can send a photograph of Hana wearing her new outfit back to Hana’s mother, I’ll wrap up by saying that I intend to break the trend of giving Slow Start a seven of ten – I feel that this series has earned a B+, an eight of ten by my old university’s grading scale, which is a whole point above the norm. Entertaining, humourous and occasionally thought-provoking, the strikes against Slow Start for me come in introducing new characters where more time should have been spent on consolidating existing relationships. With this being said, if there’s a second season that expands on things further, I will certainly be watching it with interest.

When everything is said and done, Slow Start is a bit more meaningful than its premise and individual moments suggest. While prima facie another 4-koma adaptation with a high yuri density, the worth of Slow Start lies not in its jokes or situational irony, but for the depiction of a very natural friendship that slowly helps Hana develop confidence. It is not easy to recover in the face of adversity, and Slow Start suggests that recovery should be a gradual process done at a pace appropriate for the individual. By all counts, Slow Start is successful in conveying its themes by using the pacing of the series itself. The crisp artwork in Slow Start breathes life into the world that Hana and the others reside in without taking focus off the characters, who are fluidly animated, and with consistently solid sound, the production values of Slow Start make it a visually appealing series to watch. While my positive impressions of Slow Start might look like they’re leading towards a recommendation, Slow Start might not be for everyone. The underlying narrative and themes of Slow Start are often lost among the yuri elements, and so, while I personally enjoyed Slow Start to a considerable extent, I find that Slow Start is best suited for folks with a keen interest in 4-koma adaptations for their strengths in character interactions and gentle comedy. For everyone else, there are plenty of other shows out there that can deliver comedy without sacrificing the presence of the main narrative (A Place Further Than The Universe comes to mind). At present, no news of a continuation have materialised, but if Slow Start were to receive a continuation, the first season has been of a satisfactory quality so that I would likely enjoy a second season.

9 responses to “Slow Start: Whole-series Review and Reflection

  1. Daryl March 29, 2018 at 08:17

    There will be two volumes of soundtrack (OST), bundled with BD/DVD Vol.1 and 2 respectively. Character songs and audio drama have 6 volumes.

    I somehow appreciate Kiyose, who can be friendly with the students. It’s romantic when she put the candy into Eiko’s mouth, but is it okay (appropriate) to keep the head teacher waiting? And in terms of hygiene, I am afraid that it’s a bit…


    • infinitezenith March 29, 2018 at 18:19

      …much? Kiyose seems to care for her students despite her lethargic disposition, and nowhere is this more apparent than her giving Hana advice. I think she’s well aware of Eiko’s attempts at conquest and responds in kind; being older than her, Kiyose might’ve seen this sort of thing before and so, knows how to bite back. With this being said, there are some things that audiences will need to suspend their disbelief for, but in Slow Start, these moments are infrequent enough so they’re not a major distraction.

      ​I appreciate the information on the soundtrack, thanks!


  2. DerekL March 29, 2018 at 09:07

    “Roadside fruit and vegetable stands are commonplace in Japan compared to the likes of North America.”

    That depends on where you are in North America I guess… They were pretty common down South when I was growing up, they’re less common here in the Pacific Northwest. That’s mostly a consequence of our shorter growing season.


    • infinitezenith March 29, 2018 at 18:19

      ​I come from a comparatively colder side of North America: in Alberta, it’s summer for around five months of the year, and so, I hardly ever see any permanent installations where I could drive up to and buy fresh vegetables from. With this being said, there are produce trucks that haul fresh corn and cherries from farms to sell. We’ve brought corn from these places before, and they’re a world apart from the corn one buys in grocery stores. I should’ve specified “where I’m from”!

      What did you think of Slow Start?


      • DerekL March 30, 2018 at 12:46

        Overall, not too bad… But too many squicky bits to truly enjoy as a CGDCT. Particularly the fanservice elements/ep and the constant emphasis on Shion’s “plot”. Take those away and you’d have a very good show.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Domi March 30, 2018 at 11:02

    Yurucamp took all the sales this season and Houbunsha is all about money, so the chances of this show getting another season are slim to none because the only logical step is to invest in something that actually gives them money.

    Why am I saying this? Because it’s time to read the manga, there are 20 chapters translated so far, but you can read all 61 ones that are out so far if you know japanese. After you read them you’ll realize that the romantic interactions between Kiyose and Eiko aren’t intended purely for comedy, sure it’s easy to get that Eiko is truly in love with Kiyose just by watching the anime, but Kiyose’s motivations, backstory and the reason she acts like that around Eiko are all related and it’s something that the anime couldn’t cover with just 12 episodes. After reading all that and knowing more about Kiyose it becomes pretty clear that comedy isn’t the goal for their relationship.

    And something else, something completely different. You tend to focus too much on Hana but I feel like all 4 characters are main characters because the title “Slow Start” applies to all of them, just in different things: Hana in starting her high school, Kamu in starting to warm up to characters that aren’t Eiko, Eiko in starting her relationship with Kiyose (read the manga, 2nd season never) and Tama I don’t know, probably in starting to develop her chest, but it could be something a bit more relevant and interesting, I just missed it, but if all the other 3 main characters had some kind of slow start, Tama must have one too.


    • infinitezenith March 30, 2018 at 12:35

      You’ve got an impressive knowledge on things for a fan. Since you’ve mentioned the manga’s untranslated chapters, I’m a bit curious: are you sufficiently fluent in Japanese to have read beyond chapter twenty?

      This blog’s modus operandi is “anime-first”, meaning that I usually start with the anime and draw my conclusions based on what is shown on screen. It’s the fairest assessment for people who’ve not read the manga, which are sometimes inaccessible, and against your point that I’m only covering Hana, the anime itself is based on Hana’s interactions with those around her.

      If it was about everyone, then there should be episodes also dedicated to Tamate, Kamuri and Eiko on their own without Hana. This is something that GochiUsa‘s second season did, but going purely from what we’ve seen in the anime, it is not unreasonable to reach the conclusion that the current season’s focus is about Hana.


      • Domi March 31, 2018 at 14:01

        Actually, someone spoiled me various scenes from the manga, one of them being about Kiyose, and that explained a lot of things. Yeah, I can’t read japanese, but I have the RAWs of the first 5 volumes translated by someone else. It’s worth reading.

        And Eiko get some scenes to herself without Hana (one of them episode 7 from the anime), while Kamu gets some bonding with Tama in the anime, some on-screen some off-screen, but that shows she slowly learned to warm up to other people when she was even scared of Tama in the first episode. But yeah, now that I think about it the anime really tried to have Hana in almost every scene.


        • infinitezenith April 2, 2018 at 22:11

          I see; it sounds like the manga is worth giving a go, then. I will take a look as time permits 🙂

          While a second season might not be likely, if one were to be made, it could certainly detail dynamics amongst the characters without Hana; this would contribute to the themes that Slow Start have in its long game that were not conveyed over the anime’s shorter run, but only time will tell whether or not audiences will receive a continuation. Sales figures and the reality of hard business aside, would you watch a second season?


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