The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Slow Start, Remarks on Making the Most of Gap Years and the Beauty in Accepting Slow Blooming Flowers

“Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” –Alfred Pennyworth, Batman Begins

When I began my rewatch of Slow Start, I found that I’d skipped the ending sequence, Sangatsu no Phantasia’s While Listening to the Wind’s Voice, during my first viewing three years earlier. With its moving lyrics and an adorable animation of Hiroe pitifully wiggling on the ground like a newborn caterpillar, I swiftly realised that Slow Start had been trying to do something remarkable; although this was lost on me, and both Japanese and Western viewers three years earlier, I now found the answer I was looking for regarding why Slow Start always felt like it had been more than it appeared to be. It seems quite unnecessary to retread the events of Slow Start in the knowledge that I’d previously written about the series three years earlier, but as a bit of a refresher, Slow Start follows Hana Ichinose, who’d missed her high school entrance exams when she contracted the mumps and therefore began high school a year later than expected. While initially hesitant to start a year after her classmates, Hana comes to make new friends in the process and learns that both her neighbour and landlady were in similar situations. Despite its meaningful messages and gentle atmosphere, Slow Start was widely criticised from its onset: reviewers skated over the themes in this series and immediately criticised Slow Start as “the palest of several similar shows to debut thus far” possessing “uninteresting topics and the overly sweet art style encompassing the episode without a hint of realism to ground it”. Reception to Slow Start in Japan was similarly cool: BD sales averaged around 1661 disks per volume. All signs point to a series that prima facie appears unsuccessful with its messages, and I myself indicated that Slow Start dealt with the tried-and-true message of how friendship is integral in helping people overcome adversity in broad terms upon the series’ completion. However, having had a chance to recently revisit Slow Start, it becomes apparent that I missed several integral aspects in the series during my first watch. With this newfound appreciation for Slow Start, I therefore feel it appropriate to revisit the series and consider why I feel the series to have aged so gracefully over the past three years, to the point where I count it worthy of joining the ranks of my all-time favourites.

The answer to Slow Start‘s magic lies within two components. The first of these are support characters Hiroe Hannen and Shion Kyōzuka. While seemingly unrelated to Hana’s struggles to adapt to life in high school after a year’s hiatus, both Hiroe and Shion represent critical figures in Slow Start‘s themes about failure, and about picking oneself up. Shion had lost a job offer and is currently regrouping by acting as a landlady. Hiroe’s story was particularly pitiful: as a high school student, she’d been outgoing and academically capable, but when she succumbed to illness and missed her entrance exams to post secondary, unable to bear the thought of facing her friends honestly, she shut herself away from the world. By the events of Slow Start, she’s reduced to living along in her apartment, ordering everything online and refuses to go out. Hiroe is a hikikomori, an individual who has withdrawn from society as a result of unbearable pressure and failure to meet expectations creating a deep-seated sense of shame. The whole condition evokes a feeling of sadness in me: bright and driven individuals, overwhelmed by expectations and a feeling of never being able to stand up, retreat the only way they can and fall into a hole that becomes increasingly difficult to climb out of with each and every day that passes. I felt bad for Hiroe because I’d been where she was: when my first start-up failed, I found it difficult to get excited about meeting up with my friends, and spoke rarely about my work to those around me. At the beginning of Slow Start, Hiroe’s someone who’d lost so much confidence that even going to the convenience store is too much to bear, and she hardly dressed up for anything. Every setback sends her to the ground, grovelling for forgiveness. However, as Slow Start wore on, and Hana’s friends began entering Hiroe’s life, Hiroe begins regaining her old confidence. By helping Hana and her friends study, and allowing Eiko to help polish her appearance, Hiroe begins to recall her old strength. She takes the initiative of venturing outside again, and by Slow Start‘s end, is able to enjoy a summer festival with Shion, as well as summon the courage to take a summer course and set herself on a path towards post-secondary. Slow Start does seem to suggest that having the right encouragement and human contact in life is the single most important step of recovering from a great fall, and while for hikikomori, who’ve been out of the game for years or even decades, rather than months, some programmes have successfully helped some individuals back into society.

Slow Start, however, is not purely a story about Hiroe: its focus is on Hana and her concerns about how the gap-year might affect her. As Hana gets to know Kamuri, Eiko and Tamate better, the distance separating her and her classmates begins to lessen to the point where no one really knows that Hana is a year older than they are, and Hana begins having memorable experiences with her newfound friends that give the impression that her gap-year had never happened at all. Hana’s fear of the gap-year being a social impediment is a well-founded one, and especially among students, ages are a quick way of grouping people, to the point where there is a degree of awkwardness when inteacting with folks older or younger than oneself. Her fear here mirrors the idea that people have social expectations to meet at certain ages. Folks who enter high school seek to define their identity. As adults, people set great store in milestones like graduating from post-secondary, landing their first job, buying their first home and having their first serious relationship. Pressure to conform means that missing these deadlines can leave one feeling like a failure, and as things feel increasingly out-of-reach, it becomes more difficult to regroup: all one sees is what they could have and ended up losing. However, resilience is very much a central part of being human, as is the importance of never comparing oneself to others. Again, having the right people in one’s corner is pivotal in helping one to realise this. With Eiko, Kamuri and Tamate, Hana comes to realise that her friends greatly care for her, gap-year or no. In this way, Slow Start speaks to the idea that it’s perfectly okay to be a little behind in life. Finishing a degree a few years later than one’s peers, or being single when everyone else seems to be married is not the end of the world: it doesn’t leave one completely unprepared for real life, nor does it leave one a failure in any way. Not everyone will have a smooth path to a career, home or marriage as fæiry tales suggest, and this is understandable because of the constantly changing demands the world has on people. Instead, as Slow Start shows, one’s path forwards to a productive and fulfilling life is to progress at one’s own pace, and allow for good company in one’s life to act as encouragement towards the future one seeks out. Whereas society is breakneck and demands speed of most everything and everyone, it is held that arriving later to one’s destination is preferred to never arriving at all. Slow Start completely and totally succeeds with conveying this idea.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Slow Start joining the ranks of CLANNAD and Your Lie in April might raise a few eyebrows for some, but I’ve never been one to worry about what popular opinions are: my anime enjoyment largely exists in a vacuum, and at best, recommendations and suggestions from the community are merely thus. I find that making one’s own call for anime and demonstrating patience are two virtues that maximise one’s enjoyment of a given series, as well as one’s enjoyment of being in a community.

  • Because Slow Start aired during the same season as Yuru Camp△ and A Place Further Than The Universe did, it quickly fell by the wayside as Winter 2018’s other slice-of-life series. Lacking the same distinguished use of setting and masterful coverage of the respective topics in Yuru Camp△ and A Place Further Than The Universe, as well as a cast of distinct characters whose personalities were carefully crafted to speak to very specific life lessons, Slow Start‘s characters do prima facie feel more generic, and their adventures are much more mundane, unremarkable by comparison. However, Slow Start is not a bad show in and of itself: Hana, Tamate, Eiko and Kamuri are likeable and friendly characters whose traits serve to create humour.

  • The events of Slow Start are set in Karuizawa, a resort town located in Nagano. I identified the location a ways into the series, and even now, three years later, there’s been no equivalent of a location hunt anywhere surrounding the show. A cursory search turns out no relevant results, and this paves the way for me to try and change that: I would find it enjoyable to take up the Oculus Quest to do another location hunt of the spots that Hana and her new friends visit during the course of Slow Start. The deciding factor will be whether or not such a post will be written depends on whether or not there’s enough spots to showcase.

  • One of the details that people don’t mention about Slow Start is the fact that the music is amazing. Composed by Yoshiaki Fujisawa (YuruYuriA Place Further Than The Universe and Rail Wars!), the soundtrack features a variety of pieces, from the bossa nova vocals that Marie Kocho provides and gentle everyday pieces, to more wistful and melancholy tracks that capture Hana’s doubts about her everyday life with friends who don’t know she’s a year older than everyone else in her class.

  • As an anime, Slow Start is under-appreciated: looking beyond the fluffy cute-girls-doing-cute-things setup, the psychological elements of being a year behind forms a majority of the conflict within the anime. After she misses her exams, Hana initially worries that she’ll be an outcast and refuses to leave home, leading her parents to suggest moving out and living on her own to gain a new start on things. This change of scenery allows Hana to spend her days studying, and she thus enters her first year of high school well-prepared for the academic component.

  • Indeed, being able to do something like studying with Eiko, Kamuri and Tamate helps Hana to settle back into a routine. Her parents’ assistance prevents Hana from being a hikikomori, an individual who has withdrawn from society and spends an overwhelming majority of their time at home. Stories surrounding hikikomori are always sad: these individuals were once bright and energetic people with a passion and drive, but challenges of the real world, whether it be academic success or the job search, sap these people of their confidence. It’s a vicious cycle, and people feel as though there’s only the choice to run away and shut themselves away from the world.

  • One particularly heartbreaking story tells of a man who had a solid job and was on the path to marriage, but when the relationship fell apart, he lost his confidence. Initially declining invitations to hang out with his friends, he eventually changed his phone number and severed ties with his friends, retreating to his room and the internet. While he’d wanted to recover, days turned to weeks, and weeks to years. Slow Start‘s Hiroe follows this exact route: she fell ill prior to the university entrance exams, and because of her reputation, had lost the courage to face her friends and be truthful about what happened, eventually withdrawing into seclusion.

  • When Hana first meets Hiroe, the two get off to a rough start, and Hiroe’s state becomes apparent: she uses the internet to order most everything and doesn’t even swing by the local convenience store for food. The propagation and ubiquity of the internet has made it easier for hikikomori, and experts suggest that the increasing ease of use for ordering things, from fully-cooked, ready to eat meals to computer hardware, books, groceries and clothes, will mean that more people will trend towards a hikikomori lifestyle. The global health crisis has certainly accelerated this process: during the past year, as the virus forced people to spend more time at home.

  • Hana completely sympathises with Hiroe, and in fact, is the first person that she opens up to about being a year behind. Seeing how hard Hana is trying to make things work would eventually compel Hiroe to push herself a little harder. After introducing Hiroe to her friends, Eiko figures that what Hiroe needs is a new wardrobe, and with new clothes, Hiroe begins to consider making visits to the nearby convenience store her objective. What happens next is hilarious and adorable: Hiroe does manage to go out and eventually has the confidence to visit any convenience store within ten kilometres of home.

  • With time, Hiroe is able to turn that towards more ambitious goals. However, she still has moments where self-doubt and uncertainty kicks in, and it is with Hana’s friends that Hiroe is freed from her rut. When Slow Start first aired, I chose to focus on other elements of the show beyond the yuri that most of the community was concerned with. This left a fair number of readers dissatisfied: Slow Start undoubtedly has a nontrivial yuri component, whether it be Eiko’s propensity to flirt with everyone she meets or Tamate’s preference for female relationships, but I always got the impression that this was done for comedy rather than as something directly related to the series’ main themes.

  • Folks with a more extensive background on yuri would naturally be able to do a better job of explaining its relevance, and as such, I’ve chosen to focus on the themes that I have more confidence in writing about. The idea for revisiting Slow Start came a few months ago: I’d just wrapped up updating a series of view controllers to use a new aesthetic for my previous position, but a sense of hollowness filled me in place of my usual sense of accomplishment when this task was completed. Coincidentally, an article about hikikomori and the pandemic was trending on social media, and I decided to take a look out of curiosity.

  • After reading through the article, it hit me as to why I’d been feeling so empty: the pandemic had hit my last company hard, and funds were dwindling, since our customers were small businesses and e-commerce merchants, many of whom had been (understandably) less willing to spend money owing to their own circumstances. Working from home on a project whose future was uncertain had left me quite depressed. I completely empathise with the hikikomori, having spent a over a half year working in near-isolation on iOS projects, and it was ultimately this feeling that sent me in search of new opportunity. Working with a team now means more collaboration, and even though we’re working remotely, knowing there’s people to talk to is a massive psychological boost.

  • A large number of people have suggested that the global health crisis has exacerbated the hikikomori phenomenon, which likely increased in prevalence since the pandemic began, and it is not difficult to see why this holds true. Being made to not spend in-person time with friends and family has had a nontrivial impact on people, and while technology has bridged the gap somewhat, there is no substitute for the real deal. I therefore look forwards to the day when the proportion of vaccinated individual reaches a point where I can work out of the office again and go for poutine weekends.

  • Taking that first dose is merely the first step in returning to the world as we’d known it previously, and while a lot of folks are sharing their vaccination visit as a hero’s journey, I personally find that this first dose is a starting point; until the second doses are available, we’re not quite ready to open the throttle yet. It’s now been two days since my first dose, and while my arm ached mildly yesterday, I think the worst is behind me. I am a little nervous about the second dose, which is said to knock people out of their game if they’d gotten past their first dose without trouble, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

  • Before delving into the heart of Slow Start, namely, Hana’s journey and the anime’s assertion that it’s okay to be delayed, the elephant in the room that’s worth addressing is the yuri piece. With Eiko and instructor Kiyose Enami, Eiko finds her usual charms and tricks are completely ineffectual on her – in fact, Kiyose is wise to Eiko’s tricks and oftentimes, completely turns the table on her. The manga covers this more thoroughly, but what is known is that Eiko soon develops a crush on Kiyose.

  • Kamuri of Slow Start is an amalgamation of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid‘s Kanna and GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu in appearance and manner. Eiko dotes on Kamuri, who becomes shy in other people’s presence, and Kamuri’s thoughts never stray far from Eiko – she attended Hoshio Private Academy because she figured Eiko would be going, too. Despite her quiet personality, Kamuri opens up to Hana and Tamate, even making comebacks during their conversations.

  • When Kiyose gets hammered one evening, Eiko ends up taking her back home. While under the influence, she ties up Eiko to prevent anything weird from happening. The next morning, Kiyose’s completely forgotten what happened the previous night, and although Eiko teases her about what’d happened, she’s quite unexpected for what happens next, likening it to the opposing team scoring a pair of goals after pulling their goaltender with less than a minute left in regulation time. The surprise this imparts causes Eiko’s heart to flutter in ways that messing with her peers do not, and I expect that the pursuit of this novel experience is what leads Eiko to develop feelings for Kiyose.

  • That Eiko chooses Hana to share her secret hobby of accessory-making with is indicative of her trust in Hana: Hana is an unremarkable character, essentially Girls und Panzer‘s Miho Nishizumi in appearance and without a profound knowledge of panzerfahren. Kind, gentle and shy, Hana nonetheless finds her place amongst her new group of friends quickly. Despite her progression, Hana never finds the courage to tell her friends that she’d actually been delayed a year during the course of the anime. Instead, things get out when one of Hana’s classmates transfers to her school and wonders why Hana is a year below. Hana’s friends are not terribly surprised, feeling that there’d been something different and special about Hana from the start.

  • Hiroe manages to pick up a luxurious sashimi set from a store, but gladly trades it for the obentō that Shion had made for Hana. While Shion feels it to be a bit overkill, Hiroe’s joy comes from being able to relive an old memory, of eating a hand-made lunch, just like in high school. I admit that I am very nostalgic sort of person; this is why I reminisce a great deal on this blog. Looking at the calendar, today is precisely a full decade after Otafest 2011, the year Otafest captured my attention. A friend had gone in and captured video of the days he’d attended, and while I’d been curious to attend, that long weekend, my schedule was packed. On Friday night, as the opening ceremonies began, I swung by a friend’s place for a Halo: Reach LAN party.

  • The next day, while cosplayers roamed campus grounds amidst panels and events, I strolled along a chilly Lake Minewanka and the quiet of Bankhead under a spring sun an hour to the west in the mountains. Sunday would see me go out for dim sum with the family, before swinging downtown to pick up the HGUC Unicorn Gundam model with the 1/48 head display stand. However, in my downtime, after watching my friend’s videos, I decided it could be worth checking out the local anime convention. While the year after, the MCAT meant I was too busy to do so, I would have a chance to experience it fully in the years subsequently. Back in the present, Otafest is doing a virtual convention this year, and I’ll streaming it on the side if I’m not terribly busy. I do hope we’ll see a return next year – I plan on volunteering again as I am able.

  • Contrary to online articles that count it detrimental, recalling older times with a fondness only serves to increase my resolve to make the most of the present. Revisiting Slow Start brings back memories of when I first watched the series, and looking back, watching the show again has allowed me to see it from a different perspective than I did three years ago. I believe that’s enough of a tangent for the time being: we recall that Hana is the star of the show, and her experiences throughout Slow Start are integral to the series in telling its story. In conjunction with the manga’s outcomes (namely, that Eiko, Tamate and Kamuri do find out about her situation), Slow Start indicates to viewers that, while perhaps not optimal, it is okay to have a gap-year in life when things go sideways.

  • The notion that Slow Start tries to sell viewers, then, is that being delayed towards a milestone is not detrimental to the point of rendering one a failure or a lesser person in any way. Through Hana’s experiences, it becomes clear that while Hana did lose a year, when things resume for her, she gets to pick up right where she left off, making friends and making the most of her time in high school with Eiko, Kamuri and Tamate. On first glance, it is not apparent at all that Hana’s a year older than everyone. This is something that becomes increasingly prevalent as one grows older: age differences stop being such a big deal.

  • The gentle narrative of Slow Start thus serves to present a different perspective of life than what existing expectations are. As people mature, they are expected to hit milestones like finding a partner, get married and have children. However, trends in society are shifting away from getting married and starting a family early as people prioritise their careers and things like travel. There is no right way to live life per se, and Slow Start indicates that while Hana might be a year behind, she’s not necessarily missing out on anything.

  • Of course, the key here is moderation: the idea is that setbacks are fine so long as one actually has a plan for getting back on track. I appreciate that momentum can be hard to gain back: putting things off causes a positive feedback loop in which one continues to lose time and motivation the longer they hold off. This is something that Hiroe succumbed to after missing her entrance exams, but after meeting Hana and her friends, Hiroe slowly, and naturally, returns back to the real world, simultaneously determined to change things up for the better and inspired by the sincerity that Hana demonstrates despite her own shyness.

  • Seeing these sorts of themes in Slow Start seems a world away from the carefree, seemingly-frivolous experiences that are shown on screen. It is understandable to some viewers, Slow Start can appear to portray mundane, unremarkable occurrences in Hana’s life: the series is very subtle about its themes, and the non-sequitur jokes take centre stage in most episodes. This gives Slow Start the undeserved reputation that it is little more than trite, seemingly unrelated moments loosely held together by Hana and her desire to live out her life as normally as possible.

  • This time around, I won’t disparage Anime News Network’s writers for having thought poorly of Slow Start (even if I do disagree vehemently with their asinine choice of language in their reviews): upon finishing Slow Start, I similarly felt the anime to be quite overshadowed by the likes of A Place Further Than The Universe and Yuru Camp△, two excellent slice-of-life series that dominated all discussions during the winter 2018 season. Against these giants, Slow Start can feel positively underwhelming and dull by comparison.

  • However, like Hana, who trundles through life at her own pace, Slow Start‘s success is that it never tries to play the role it was not suited for. Rather than a manifesto, Slow Start strives simply to make a statement, and at present, having had the chance to sit down and go through things again, it becomes apparent that Slow Start had succeeded on its own merits. This revelation comes three years after the fact, showing how anime can oftentimes be more enjoyable when one revisits it: umpteenth re-watches can help one to see details they missed earlier, and a greater understanding of the contexts behind certain actions amongst the characters makes some moments more meaningful.

  • Unfortunately for Slow Start, while the series is technically excellent, featuring above-average artwork, animation and music, Japanese sales were very weak. With some exceptions, performance in the domestic market is the primary deciding factor behind whether or not most anime get a continuation, and since Slow Start sold poorly, it stands to reason that we won’t be seeing more of this series. This is unfortunate, since later manga chapters do have Hana come forward with the truth, only to learn that the status quo wasn’t disrupted to any way.

  • I had initially wondered whether not not Slow Start would actually see Hana overcome this particular barrier, and when the season ended, I had expressed hope that there might be a continuation. Yuru Camp△, which had aired alongside Slow Start, ended up getting its second season three years after its first, and this was with an overwhelmingly positive domestic response to the show. In the absence of a second season, to give this series some love, I ended up picking up Slow Start TV Anime Guide Book: Slow-blooming flower, the artbook for this series.

  • I had originally wished to buy this book alongside the official guidebook for Yuru Camp△ but relented at the last second. However, upon revisiting Slow Start, I realised that the series had been much more meaningful and enjoyable than I’d originally remembered it. On account of the ongoing health crisis, however, SAL shipping is offline, and I ended up paying an arm and a leg for the faster modes: the artbook arrived within a week of my ordering it, whereas with SAL, it normally takes two to three weeks. I’m not in any rush for my artbooks, so I typically go with SAL to conserve on funds.

  • Being able to read through the artbook gave me unparalleled insights into what the anime had intended to accomplish: between director’s commentaries, and interviews with the voice actresses, it became clear that Slow Start had always intended to be more than just a fluffy slice-of-life anime. Besides interviews, commentaries and episode summaries, the Slow Start artbook also comes with high-resolution artwork of the characters, even works that were not featured in the Megami and Newtype magazines, as well as storyboards and sketches of the locations in exceptional detail.

  • Seeing the effort that went into the anime increased my respect for the series, although at the same time, I am aware that the strongest shows of a given season will convey the staff and creators’ feelings to the viewer without the need for supplementary materials. I’d already found Slow Start a respectable series without the extended materials, and my conclusions drawn now were not derived from what was said in the commentaries or interviews: Slow Start had intrinsically did a satisfactory job of conveying this to me, and I admit that my initial impressions were more from having three years less life experience than I do at present.

  • Towards Slow Start‘s endgame, Hiroe becomes confident enough to attend a summer festival with Shion. After everything that happened in Slow Start, Hiroe quickly became my favourite character: Hana had found her strength to continue through her parents, Shion and then with Tamate, Kamuri and Eiko. However, with Hiroe, she starts her journey in isolation, fearful of even speaking with others. While Hana, Eiko and the others do support her, it’s not as though they spend anywhere nearly the same amount of time with them as Hana might. In spite of this, Hiroe is able to take her own steps forwards.

  • Slow Start might be treating the topic with more optimism than is likely plausible in reality, but it does seem to suggest that positive change comes from within. Once an individual receives the right push, it’s really up to them to make the most of things. As such, when Hiroe finds it in herself to slowly return to a world that once left her behind, I was all smiles. The same holds true for Hana: all the help in the world from Shion, Tamate, Kamuri and Eiko wouldn’t cut it if Hana had simply closed herself off, but Hana’s own desire to make friends and memories means she’s very open to others in spite of her shyness.

  • With her newfound confidence, Hiroe resolves to take the entrance exam for her post-secondary of choice even though this means facing off against this year’s cohort of starry-eyed high school graduates. Viewers are left with the assurance that from an academic standpoint, Hiroe’s lost none of her edge: she’s occasionally joined Hana and her friends to help them study. Hana herself is no slouch in the academic department; both she and Hiroe spent most of their spare time hitting the books, and although Hiroe had lacked direction in her last year, meeting Hana sets her on a course back to the path she previously desired to take. I imagine that in time, Hiroe would be able to tell her friends the truth without fear of judgement, similarly to how Hana’s secret turned out to be minor.

  • One thing that I’ve not made mention of until now, and is skipped over in virtually every conversation about Slow Start, is the fact that that Hoshio Private Academy has an ice cream vending machine that Tamate, Kamuri, Eiko and Hana make use of. While ice cream is usually a treat, that the girls have access to ice cream so readily while at school becomes something to transforms something special into something typical: Slow Start cleverly uses vending machine ice cream to show how what’s ordinary and extraordinary is purely a matter of perspective, and that with time, some things simply won’t stand out as much as people initially feel them to.

  • Towards the end of Slow Start, Hiroe gears up to take her exam, promising that starry-eyed high school graduates or no, she’s ready to continue on with her life. The new Hiroe more closely resembles her old self, lacking the lethargy and awkward disposition that she had when first meeting Hana. Hana herself, while still yet to be forward about herself, is now more outgoing and willing to connect with new people. Slow Start doesn’t have dramatic events or major discoveries quite to the same level as the likes of Yuru Camp△ and A Place Further Than The Universe, and as the final few episodes aired, the series maintained a very consistent, slow pacing.

  • It should be evident that I had fun while watching Slow Start back in 2018, and three years later, that enjoyment has only grown. With this in mind, I understand that this show isn’t going to be something for everyone. As with my other posts, my goals with such posts are not to change people’s minds about the series, but rather, the share the withertos and whyfores on why I find a series praiseworthy.

  • My love for slice-of-life series comes precisely from the fact that I choose my entertainment to help me unwind and relax, and whereas most people look for realism or comedy in theirs, my single metric for whether or not a given slice-of-life work was successful boils down to how effectively a series conveys its themes to users. If the characters gain something from their experiences such that there is a life lesson here, then I am satisfied with the work. I’m not looking for world-changing messages about the human condition or any of that sort of thing, but rather, learnings that can be applied in life to make one more empathetic and understanding of those around them.

  • As I see it, Slow Start brings two relevant messages to the table and conveys them gently, but clearly to viewers: it’s okay to fall behind sometimes, but with a bit of determination and the right people in one’s corner, one will be able to get back up again. Having experienced what Hiroe and Hana have, I applaud Slow Start for having the audacity to take on a topic that can be quite sensitive for some folks and indicating that there is a silver lining. For this, Slow Start joins my Masterpiece club alongside the likes of CLANNADSora no Woto and others, having shifted my world views for the better. With the Victoria Day long weekend here now, I think it’s time to wrap things up: it’s forecast to be a sunny day, and it means I should get to mowing the lawn and backyard before the grass becomes untamable.

Having now tread through the themes Slow Start had intended to convey (but were presumably lost to viewers amidst the overt displays of yuri within the series), I conclude that the reason why Slow Start left such an impact on me was precisely because I related to both Hana and Hiroe so strongly. My life has been one slow start after another: I had a gap-year of my own between finishing my undergraduate degree and starting graduate school, during which I had been making an attempt to apply to medical school. To complete the applications and secure the course requirements, I did a year of open studies. During this time, I ended up making the decision of going to graduate school instead, and after I finished, I ended up working for a startup, as my software development skills were lacking behind those coming from a pure computer science program. My decision in life are my own, and on first glance, appear to have left me at a considerable disadvantage in life. I am, at any given point, about five years behind any competent iOS developer my age because half my education was about Diels-Alder reactions and the p53 oncogene rather than algorithmic complexity and user experience. However, I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world: the year “off” I took ended up being time I spent working on a prototype of what would become my graduate thesis, and my background in health science allows me to approach software development from a different perspective. My own slow start had its costs, but it has its advantages, as well; I would’ve likely not discovered this had I gone down a more conventional route. My experiences now have allowed me to reach a point now where I’m minimally competent as an iOS developer, and at the end of the day, it matters little if I took a few more detours than necessary to reach this point – what matters is that I am able to be useful with the skills that I have picked up. I therefore count Slow Start a masterpiece in my books for being a reminder that it is okay to take detours and it is okay to lose direction – in good company, one will find their path once again. It was admittedly a little surprising that all of these thoughts came from a simple, but heart-melting animation of Hiroe in the ending sequence, perhaps acting as a reminder to me that I probably shouldn’t be so swift to skip the endings to anime and watch them at least once. It only took me three years to realise this, but there is a simple reality: flowers that bloom more slowly also tend to retain their beauty after the quicker flowers have lost their petals, and that counts for something.

10 responses to “Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Slow Start, Remarks on Making the Most of Gap Years and the Beauty in Accepting Slow Blooming Flowers

  1. Michael E Kerpan May 22, 2021 at 10:21

    Thank you for adding to my pile of older shows I need to explore. 😉

    This sounds like it is very much worth checking out. Right now, however, I am enjoying Kamichu (thanks to finding a not-TOO-expensive DVD box set on ebay). It is sad how some shows seem to evaporate (outside the realm of some sketchy pirate sites — if you are lucky). Reminder to self — grab Windy Tales the next time it goes on sale at Rightstuf.


    • infinitezenith May 24, 2021 at 13:59

      This goes to show that there’s no shortage of shows to watch, ever 🙂 It probably is worth reiterating that Slow Start might not be for everyone, and a lot of viewers found the cutesy, but oftentimes mundane conversations to lead nowhere specific. Seeing this anime as being about accepting one’s situation and making the most of things is what helped me to appreciate it more, although the folks holding contrary opinions are unlikely to come across my post.

      Hopefully, you’ll find success in acquiring Windy Tales! Older series can be trickier to find than newer ones, and Slow Start, being a mere three years old, looks like it’ll be easier to buy in comparison.


      • Michael E Kerpan May 28, 2021 at 19:03

        Windy Tales went back on sale at Sentai — so I ordered it (and Non non biyori).

        I had to resort to ebay for Someday’s Dreamers (not too expensive, even though unopened) and Kamichu (used and not nearly so cheap). Luckily, Princess Tutu came out on inexpensive bluray.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Fred (Au Natural) May 22, 2021 at 14:12

    I wish I could have had a gap year. Traditionally (at least in the US) gap years are opportunities to expand your world and learn in ways that do not involve a classroom. It would have given me the opportunity to regroup and get my head on straight.


    • infinitezenith May 24, 2021 at 14:02

      A gap year could very well be nice to have at that intermission between milestones: although very few people I know did the gap year after secondary school, many did in fact take time off to travel after earning their Bachelor’s degrees to do some soul searching. Depending on the individual, it does come at a cost: some folks who travelled found it very difficult to regain momentum after returning home from their travels and ended up giving up their careers to continue travelling. Everything is best done in moderation, and at least for me, the appeal of travel comes from knowing that returning home means returning to my work and family.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Michael E Kerpan June 1, 2021 at 17:41

    I worked my way through this, 3 episodes at a time. My only (relatively small) complaints — the girls looked and acted a bit too young for high school students, their skirts were generally way too short, and there was a bit more fan service than seemed appropriate for such young looking characters. The content was mostly charming and the themes were good. Thank you for calling this to my attention.


    • infinitezenith June 4, 2021 at 21:44

      I’m glad to hear you generally found Slow Start enjoyable. The fanservice in this series is quite brazen, and admittedly, perhaps doesn’t fit with the art style quite as well as one would like; Slow Start could’ve dialed things back some and still succeeded. I’m guessing this is why reception towards the series is cool: people are visual, and the first thing one is greeted with in an anime isn’t the themes, but what’s shown on screen. This, I absolutely get, but a little bit of patience is helpful to sit through these moments to get to those instances where Slow Start really shines!


  4. K at the Movies November 2, 2021 at 13:49

    Never heard of this show before, but you sold it well. It has a lot of cute designs and seems like a nice series to wind down with, interesting review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith November 4, 2021 at 20:02

      Slow Start is one of those anime where, as they say, one’s mileage will vary: on the surface, it’s a light and fluffy slice-of-life show with seemingly very little substance, and for me, the reason I ended up getting out of Slow Start what I did might have been a consequences of my own experiences.

      Having said this, if the setup in Slow Start isn’t intolerable for one, then yes, I’d say this one is worthwhile 🙂


  5. Pingback: A Very Unique Girl: Slow Loop First Episode Impressions | The Infinite Zenith

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