“We never lose our loved ones. They accompany us; they don’t disappear from our lives. We are merely in different rooms.” –Paulo Coelho
On the first day of school, Koharu is disappointed to learn that she and Hiyori are going to be in different classes, while Hiyori is relieved she’s in the same class as Koi, a friend she’d known since pre-school. After classes end, Hiyori takes Koharu to the fishing shop Koi’s family owns, and picks up an all-in-one fishing kit here. The two later visit a lighthouse that Hiyori’s father had once taken her to, and here, Hiyori gifts the all-in-one fishing kit to Koharu. To get Koharu up to speed with fly fishing, Hiyori arranges for a fishing trip with Koi and her father: the latter is very fond of fishing to the point of occasionally forgetting about his family, and while Koharu is unable to catch anything, she is able to speak to Koi and encourages her to look out for Hiyori in her own way. Later, Hiyori learns that Koharu had lost her mother and younger brother in an accident, and despite having lived with one another for a few weeks, Koharu is a little distant with Hiyori’s mother. To this end, Koharu suggest going on a camping trip together with Koi’s family, too. Here, Hiyori realises that fishing of late’s been considerably more enjoyable, but struggles to find the words to thank Koharu, while Koharu catches her first-ever fish and savours it, before helping out with dinner. During the meal preparations, Koharu finds that she’s able to speak with Hiyori’s mother quite naturally, and Hiyori makes an attempt to know Koharu’s father better, as well. As the evening comes to a close, Koharu and Hiyori stargaze together. When Hiyori wonders if her father would recognise her as she is know, Koharu replies that so long as she smiles, things will be fine. Koharu herself grows excited about the prospect of returning to their campsite in the autumn, when the foliage is painted in hues of oranges and yellows. Here at Slow Loop‘s third episode, it is apparent that family will form the focus of this latest Manga Time Kirara adaptation, with fishing being a secondary aspect that gives the characters common ground to build shared experiences and memories from.
Both the second and third episodes provide exposition into how each of Koharu and Hiyori handled loss; Hiyori sought to understand her father better by continuing to fish, while Koharu pushes herself to be more outgoing and bring joy into the lives of those around her to the best of her ability. When these opposites meet, the end result is a sort of synergy: Hiyori is able to appreciate her father’s hobby more fully, while Koharu ends up being able to share her energy with someone. Unlike Tamayura, which presented things in a much slower and measured manner, Slow Loop‘s portrayal is considerably more spirited in nature; different people respond to loss and grief differently, and Slow Loop sets itself apart by showing viewers both the fact that people are quite resilient, but it is together that one is able to really take those difficult steps forward. The fact that Hiyori and Koharu share quite a bit in common (regarding their backgrounds) means that both are well-placed to help one another out, and I imagine that it is possible that there will come a point in Slow Loop where Hiyori will need to step up and encourage Koharu, as well. The idea of being there for one another, in both good times and the bad, is what makes a family: Koi makes this abundantly clear by saying that what a family outwardly appears to be isn’t the whole picture, and while Slow Loop‘s been quite gentle insofar, Koi’s remarks means that there will be points where Koharu and Hiyori encounter challenges, or even clash. However, in typical Manga Time Kirara spirit, whether it be through introspection or support from others (usually, a combination of both), the relationship that Koharu and Hiyori will come out all the stronger. With these directions in mind, Slow Loop has proven to be unexpectedly mature in its portrayal, and at this point in time, it is evident the series has what it takes to differentiate itself from its precursors.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Although Koharu isn’t in Hiyori’s class, she manages to hit it off with her classmates almost immediately. Hiyori, on the other hand, is glad to have ended up in the same class as her friend, Koi. The dramatic contrast in Hiyori and Koharu’s personalities are mirrored in their classroom arrangements; Koharu has no trouble with new people and appears to fit right in, while Hiyori is given a quieter setting where she’s able to be reassured by the fact she’s with someone she knows. After their first day of class, Hiyori decides to take Koharu around to some of the places she frequents.
- As the daughter of a fishing fanatic, Koi works at a fishing store and is familiar with all of the gear that Hiyori could require in-field. Koi’s known Hiyori since pre-school, and consequently, Koi understands her quite well. Koi is voiced by Tomomi Mineuchi (Eiko Tokura of Slow Start Ilulu from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and GochiUsa‘s Kano), although in appearance and personality, she’s similar to Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s Remon Yamano or perhaps Please Teacher!‘s Ichigo Monino: all characters have a quiet but somewhat mischievous disposition.
- Viewers are given an introduction to the different types of lures: Koi classifies them into four groups (dry, nymphs, wet and streamers) based on the type of organism they’re supposed to mimic and correspondingly, the type of fish they’re intended to catch. Most guides I’ve found on a cursory search give three distinct categories, omitting the wet lure. Wet lures are stated to be a hybrid between streamers and nymphs: they float in the water, whereas dry lures sit on top of the water.
- Although Koi’s name is evocative of the koi, a kind of Amur Carp, she explains that the kanji for her name is actually written as love (恋): it turns out on the day of her birth, her father had rushed off to fish, leaving her mother to give birth. Koi’s father is portrayed as being obsessed with fishing, and he often leaves Koi to run the store while he runs off to fish after her classes end for the day. This sort of behaviour has given some viewers trouble by making the show “unrealistic”, but for me, exaggerated traits are a signature part of Manga Time Kirara series.
- The goal of characters like Koi and her father are to remind viewers that this is a world where both Koharu and Hiyori have experienced people in their corner. Since we are early in the series, the worth of people like Koi’s father won’t be immediately apparent, but as Slow Loop wears on, the additional expertise will become valuable. It turns out that Hiyori had wanted to pick up a special all-in-one fly fishing lure kit. The close interactions between Koi and Hiyori is such that Koi has a special name for Hiyori: “Yamahi”. This came from the fact there were two Yamakawas back during pre-school.
- This revelation imparts a bit of jealousy in Koharu, who becomes a bit pouty after learning of this fact. Koharu continues to give off Cocoa vibes in Slow Loop, and like Cocoa, Koharu’s mood is quick to change: all jealousy evaporates when Hiyori reveals that she’d had one more destination in mind for their time together: a spot that she and her father had once visited together. Along the way, Koharu remarks on how it’s so nice that the ocean is within a stone’s throw. Koharu’s love for the ocean brings to mind Aoi and Chiaki’s response to the fact that Rin was sending so many ocean photos back to everyone in Yuru Camp△ – the ocean is especially beautiful to those who live in landlocked areas.
- Different anime utilise different approaches when it comes to how they portray characters relative to their environments. Anime with simple backgrounds and characters that stand out indicate to viewers that the characters are the focus, while anime where the backgrounds are richly detailed remind viewers that the setting is also important; in offering something unique for the characters (such as the ocean’s bounty, or untamed natural beauty) to the extent where it can be considered a character in its own right. This was the case in anime like Yuru Camp△ and Houkago Teibou Nisshi. Here in Slow Loop, the latter seems to hold true.
- Because the background is portrayed as being quite vibrant, it is significant to the story. I had indicated a few weeks earlier that that Slow Loop was set in Kanagawa: upon spotting this lighthouse, I turned my location hunting skills to use and did a query for all of the lighthouses in Kanagawa. This quickly allowed me to narrow the setting to Yokosuka, as this particular lighthouse is Kannonzaki Lighthouse. While not quite rural (Yokosuka has a population of 409 hundred thousand as of 2017), there is a corner of the city near the lighthouse that is a little less built-up. Knowing that Hiyori and Koharu live within walking distance of Kannonzaki Lighthouse makes location-hunting a little easier, and I just might return to do such a post in the future if Slow Loop presents enough places of interest.
- It turns out that the all-in-one lure kit Hiyori bought was for Koharu, as a way of really welcoming her into the family and further kindle her interest in fly fishing. With her excitement still in full swing, Koharu accepts a chance to go fly fishing with Hiyori, Koi and her father. Koi’s father is all too happy to accept the chance to go out and fish, although Koi herself is less enthused by the excursion.
- On the day of the fishing trip, Koi comes with an umbrella and is content to sit things out while her father, Hiyori and Koharu fish. It suddenly strikes me that Koharu’s got a very adorable-looking hat: it’s reminiscent of a lop-eared bunny, and coupled with the chibi art style, really accentuates the fact that Slow Loop, no matter how serious conversations might get, at the end of the day, such series are about finding the joys in life and putting a smile on viewers’ face.
- Chibi moments like these serve to give every character more personality, and Slow Loop has utilised the transition between its normal art and chibi art to really convey how someone feels in a moment. Koharu is raring to get the party started; although she’s quite motivated and determined, poor form as a result of her still being new to fly fishing means she gets nothing.
- On the other hand, with her experience, Hiyori begins picking fish up almost immediately. When Koharu finds herself skunked by the fly fishing, she stops to take a break and starts up a conversation with Koi. As it turns out, Koi had been worried about Hiyori ever since Hiyori’s father had passed away, but never felt it was her place to support and encourage Hiyori. Seeing Koharu come in so casually and lifting Hiyori’s spirits makes Koi wish that she’d done more for Hiyori.
- While Koi had been doing her best to be considerate, Koharu has no such context and is therefore able to act without treading around eggshells. Seeing the change in Hiyori once Koharu shows up is ultimately encouraging for Koi, who is able to take a step forwards, as well. To accentuate this, once Koi comes to realise that she can still be there for Hiyori in her own way, similarly to how Koharu’s brightened Hiyori’s world up, she puts her umbrella away and steps out of the shadows, into the light.
- This sort of thing was common in Tamayura, where Fū’s friends worry about whether or not the smallest thing could cause Fū grief in the beginning. However, the combination of Fū’s own open-mindedness and her friends’ unwavering support means that Fū is able to not only stand of her own accord, but flourish, too. Slow Loop does seem to be going in this direction; because of the positive energy Koharu brings to the table, Hiyori’s become excited at having a fishing partner, someone to share in her (and by extension, her father’s) love of the ocean.
- By having Koi come to see how Hiyori’s begun taking those same steps that Fū had, Slow Loop both sets in motion Hiyori’s growth, as well as removing one more obstacle that keeps Koi from being her true self. In a Manga Time Kirara series, this means that Koi will likely become more expressive, resulting in interactions between herself, Hiyori and Koharu that are more consistent with the gentle, fluffy and humourous tone that Manga Time Kirara works are best known for.
- The biggest surprise in Slow Loop so far was learning that Koharu’s background is at least as tragic as that of Hiyori’s, but in spite of this, she’s able to put on a smile and brighten up Hiyori’s day anyways. I expect that this will be something left for future episodes: for now, Hiyori’s the person who’s growing, and as Hiyori becomes increasingly able to stand of her own accord, she’d be able to support Koharu on the days where she’s not at the top of her game. For now, however, Koharu is all smiles, and she’s able to reminisce about her family without becoming saddened.
- Koharu understands that the process isn’t going to take place overnight, but because there’s a distance between herself and Hiyori’s mother, she longs to close that distance over time. Like Sayomi and Nadeshiko, Koharu believes that adventure is the key to this, and ends up booking a fishing/camping trip. Koi and her family are also invited, but Koi’s a little befuddled as to why they’re to partake even when they’re not family. However, Koi’s father immediately jumps on the chance, seeing it as another chance to go fishing.
- Slow Loop‘s use of familiar elements initially can come across as being derivative, but the activity isn’t the star of the show here; even assuming this was to be the case, my discussions would veer towards the differences in how Slow Loop and Houkago Teibou Nisshi portray fishing; one key difference is that Houkago Teibou Nisshi purely has the girls fishing from the breakwater (shore fishing), and Slow Loop portrays boat fishing. For now, however, Hiyori must first get the boat into the water, and while she’s done it before, it was adorable to see her struggle with Koharu in the boat.
- In the end, the pair end up over the lake despite Koharu’s inexperience with rowing. Boat fishing offers numerous advantages over fishing from land: for one, range is improved, and one can hit spots that are otherwise inaccessible on land. However, fishing from the shore has less setup and teardown. In Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Hina and the Breakwater Club fish from the shore exclusively because their home, Sashiki, is a fishing town: there’d be a lot of commercial boats on the water, making it difficult for the Breakwater Club to head out into open water. Conversely, Slow Loop has Hiyori and Koharu do a combination of both kinds of fishing, acting as a metaphor for how different approaches and tools both have their pluses and minuses.
- While Hiyori and Koharu enjoy lunch, Hiyori (somewhat insensitively) brings up fishing superstitions that leave Koharu disappointed. Here, I will note that insofar, discussions on Slow Loop have been fairly limited: the larger blogs I visit don’t appear to be writing about this series. While I normally welcome discussions, especially for the hotter series, slice-of-life anime are something I’d prefer to watch in a vacuum: I’ve never received a satisfactory answer as to why people take these anime so seriously, and discussions inevitably devolve into attempts to psychoanalyse even the most minor of actions the characters take.
- Far from reading between the lines, such discussions invariably miss the big-picture message the work was originally intended to go for. Attempts to bring topics like philosophy and psychology into Manga Time Kirara works is therefore of limited value at best, and I’ve found that characters’ interactions and intentions in these series should be taken at face value. Here, a sudden rainfall forces Koharu and Hiyori to take cover under some branches by the shore. Hiyori thinks to herself that of late, thanks to Koharu’s presence, fishing has become much more enjoyable: it’d taken Rin two full seasons of Yuru Camp△ to appreciate this, so to see Slow Loop not-so-slowly convey this to viewers is a clear indicator of where this series intends to go.
- Although Hiyori isn’t quite able to openly thank Koharu yet, the weather unexpectedly becomes pleasant again, and while Hiyori suggests returning to shore, she spots a few fish underneath the water. She seizes the moment and asks Koharu to ready her line while she prepares a lure. Earlier, Koi had set the condition that in order to partake in dinner with the others, each of Hiyori and Koharu needed to catch something. For Hiyori, this isn’t a problem, but Koharu is still a novice who has yet to catch anything. Feeling like she should return the favour to Koharu, Hiyori swiftly gears up.
- In the end, Koharu is able to catch her first fish, following suggestions from Hiyori. This is a milestone moment for Koharu, who can now be said to be hooked on fly fishing. Unlike Hina, who’d outright fainted at the prospect of having to gut and clean a fresh catch, Koharu is much more accepting of the process, and again, this is an aspect to Slow Loop that differentiates it from other series of its lineage. It takes no small measure of subtlety to really appreciate slice-of-life series; for those unfamiliar with the genre, all slice-of-life series feel similar and are about “nothing”.
- This couldn’t be further from the truth, and it does take a bit of open-mindedness to be open to what slice-of-life series are intended to convey. This is the reason why I am such a staunch defender of slice-of-life anime: these aren’t series that can be graded on conventional metrics, and their worth comes from whether or not they are able to present a meaningful message about life itself. Back in Slow Loop,. Koharu wonders if this fish’s experience is akin to being burnt at the stake. For a fluffy and cheerful individual, Koharu certainly has no qualms about speaking her mind, and this has led some to wonder if she’s quick to antagonise those around her for this.
- I’d counter that in Manga Time Kirara series, character traits are exaggerated for comedy’s sake. If it is indeed necessary to explore this side of Koharu’s character later, then I will consider Koharu’s loose lips later on. Like the Breakwater Club’s doctrine in Houkago Teibou Nisshi (“eat what you catch”), Hiyori observes the idea that one should eat their catch to appreciate what goes into it. There’s a barbeque facility at the camp site, making it easy for Koharu to prepare her fish and eat it, as she says, as one would in a manga. The technique of eating fish this way is known as shioyaki, a practise that has been along for a very long time.
- By evening, the families prepare to set up a hearty dinner. Thanks to Koharu, an acqua pazza soon takes shape. With the rainbow trout salted and grilled shioyaki-style, Koharu adds Manila clams and cherry tomatoes. Once the flavours get to know one another, the dish is done. The fact that Koharu is so knowledgable about cooking impresses Hiyori’s mother, who comments that Hiyori’s father had always been the cook, and after his passing, they’d gotten by on convenience store meals. In no time at all, cooking allows Hiyori’s mother and Koharu to bond.
- The portrayal of camping in Slow Loop brings back memories of last year’s Yuru Camp△ 2: at this time last year, the third episode had just aired. Rin spent the day with Nadeshiko in Hamamatsu and explained her reasons for enjoying solo camping – Yuru Camp△ is one of those series where every episode offered something distinct to talk about, and I did episodic discussions for the second season during its airing. For Slow Loop, I’ve elected to write about it with my usual frequency (every three episodes). While World’s End Harem has proven interesting, the setup means that I might write a single post about it once it’s over – there’s a lot of moving parts right now with this one. On the other hand, Girls’ Frontline has been a bit of a disappointment insofar; the series has not established its characters well yet, and I’m not sure where this series intends to go.
- Back in Slow Loop, seeing Koharu taking the initiative spurs Hiyori to do the same, and here, she offers a bowl of acqua pazza to Koharu’s father. After dinner’s done, Hiyori and Koharu decide to go star-gazing, where, away from the city lights, they’re able to spot Ursa Major in all of its glory, plus the Milky Way itself. While a stunning sight to behold, one reminiscent of how Ao and Mira had met in Koisuru Asteroid, a quick look around light pollution charts around Japan suggests that such gorgeous skies would be outside the realm of possibility nearest the larger cities.
- It is under the vast night sky where Koharu explains how she’s able to put one foot in front of the other despite what’d happened in her past: keep smiling, because even though those around her might be gone, they’ll still be able to remember her smile from the other side. What Koharu means that her mother, and Hiyori’s father, would’ve wanted them to keep on moving forwards in their lives, to keep finding things to smiling about (i.e. make new memories). This is the sort of thing that Tamayura had particularly excelled at, and with Koi joining the group, I’m rather curious to see when Ichika, Futaba, Aiko, Niji and Tora enter the picture. In the meantime, speaking of enjoying family time, we’ve just picked up some Southern Fried Chicken and fries, and I’ve not sat down to a dinner of this sort since the New Year began, so it’s time to go ahead and enjoy this to the fullest extent possible on this unexpectedly warm but blustery winter’s night.
With this being said, Slow Loop‘s incorporation of elements from other slice-of-life series, like Houkago Teibou Nishi, Yuru Camp△, Tamayura and Koisuru Asteroid means presenting to viewers a familiar experience. Whether or not this is a bad thing will depend on the individual: amongst the community, some folks contend that if something is “generic”, it counts as a strike against a given work. For me, this isn’t ever a problem: treading on previously explored territory allows an anime to quickly establish its premise, and this in turn provides more time to focus on what the work intended to convey. In other words, whether or not a work contains derivative elements is irrelevant to me: what matters is how well said work can deliver a relevant, meaningful message. Here in Slow Loop, Hiyori and Koharu’s dynamic had previously been seen in Yuru Camp△‘s Rin and Nadeshiko, while the events forming the backdrop for Slow Loop‘s story is similar to Tamayura‘s. Hence, viewers can reasonably expect that Slow Loop would be a story of opposite personalities coming together to drive individual growth. However, because the setup is quite distinct from those of Yuru Camp△ and Tamayura, Slow Loop provides an opportunity to show something neither of these works focused on: how the combination of Koharu’s cheerful, happy-go-lucky personality and Hiyori’s introspective, quiet traits complement the other in a way as to allow both characters to come to terms with their losses, support one another and ultimately, step forward together. I’ll admit that this was something I wasn’t expecting from Slow Loop based on its synopsis alone, but now that we’ve seen three episodes, I am looking forwards to seeing how this anime explores more challenging topics about handling loss and grief while at the same time, continuing to remind viewers to be appreciative of the smaller things in life, like sharing a meal with loved ones.