“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” –Kahlil Gibran
With their school’s culture festival in full swing, Koharu gloats about her fishing prowess and expresses a want to do something related to fishing. Their class ends up doing a haunted house featuring parasites encountered whilst fishing. Meanwhile, Hiyori and Koi’s class go with a more traditional cafe, where they plan on serving fish sandwiches. While speaking with Futaba, Hiyori learns that she’s worried about reading her essay in front of the entire school. She decides to invite Futaba out fishing with her, and seeing Hiyori attempt to prepare her own bait inspires her to give the essay-reading her best, too. Later, Hiyori and Koharu’s parents attend the culture festival. Hiyori’s father is repulsed by the parasites, but both of them enjoy the fish sandwiches from Koi and Hiyori’s class. Futaba and Aiko arrive too late for the fish sandwiches, but after Hiyori promises to go fishing with her, Aiko asks if she can join, too. This culminates in a girls’ camping trip: Hiyori and Koi’s mothers, along with Futaba, Miyano, also join Koharu, Hiyori, Koi, Futaba and Aiko. During this trip, Koi reassures Aiko that it is enough to spend time with Futaba to maintain their friendship, and the next morning, Koi and Hiyori reminisce about how a slip-of-the-tongue led to Hiyori’s mother tying the knot with Koharu’s father. Although Koi feels like she had been meddling in something outside her domain, Hiyori is grateful for this, as it allowed her to meet and become close to Koharu. While looking through some old photo albums, Koharu learns that Koi had once shown Hiyori how to tie fishing flies and asks her to do the same. During a fishing competition, Hiyori becomes excited to learn that first place is a giant plushie, and she ends up taking home the prize with her catch, while Koharu wants to catch a fish with the fly she’d tied. She succeeds, but accidentally drops her phone in the river. When Koharu’s birthday arrives, after Hiyori spots the gifts that Aiko, Futaba and Koi gift her, she becomes worried her gift (a photo album) would look plain by comparison and hesitates to give it to her. She is able to do so in the end, and the two spend an evening looking at their photos, before promising to go fishing together again soon. This is Slow Loop, the latest Manga Time Kirara series to receive an animated adaptation, and during its run, combines elements from several slice-of-life series to present a generally light-hearted and cheerful story of discovery, and taking a step forwards together with family.
The message that Slow Loop presents in its run is a familiar one: unified by a common interest and a new bond allows Koharu and Hiyori to become closer to one another and rediscover joy anew with one another. Although both had suffered loss in their lives, fate brings the two together and leads them to, as family, rise above their grief together. Along the way, both Koharu and Hiyori have plenty of support from those around them: whether it be the steadfast love from their parents, the wisdom that Koi brings to the table, or the youthful vigour surrounding Futaba and Aiko, Slow Loop indicates that the process of coming to terms with loss, and taking that difficult step forwards, is catalysed by good company, in conjunction with a healthy bit of patience. Living up to its name, Slow Loop slowly allows Koharu and Hiyori to know one another, slowly has the two learn from one another as they fish and cook together, and bit by bit, both mature as a result. Koharu learns to fly fish and becomes more honest about how she feels (where she’d previously masked her feelings with a smile, Koharu now openly expresses her thoughts on things), while Hiyori begins to develop basic understanding of cooking and becomes a little more outgoing (being able to speak with others and even hear out some of their problems). Altogether, the journey in Slow Loop presents a very optimistic outlook on how people can overcome great hurdles: together. In typical Manga Time Kirara manner, Slow Loop delivers a story that tends towards comedy and smiles over more introspective and contemplative moments; exaggerated facial expressions, punch-lines and use of humour remind people that with the right people in one’s corner, there is always new joy to find in the world, even in moments of great sadness. While Slow Loop might not be as focused as Tamayura, Houkago Teibou Nisshi or Yuru Camp△, the series does succeed in its stated goal, hinting at how fateful encounters and shared interests can propel people forwards. This anime ends up being a best-of-both-worlds, showcasing how different elements can come together and impact individuals in unforeseen, but beneficial, ways.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Last I wrote about Slow Loop, we’d left off with Koharu, Koi and Hiyori finishing up their first-ever trip together. After autumn arrives, their high school’s culture festival kicks into full swing, and while Hiyori and Koi’s class go with a wa-maid style café, Koharu’s class decides to go with something a little more unconventional: after her classmates learn of Koharu’s experience in fishing, they decide to do a haunted house-themed exhibit with the horrors of fishing. Before delving further, I will remark that Slow Loop‘s soundtrack actually released back in February, a full month before moving day.
- The soundtrack has a surprisingly diverse range of incidental pieces, some of which resemble Koisuru Asteroid‘s songs, and my favourite songs are SLOW LOOP II, Kindness, and Koharu’s Kitchen. Back in Slow Loop proper, Koharu’s smugness at having some success in fishing brings to mind how Cocoa is whenever she’s praised: this is a classic Manga Time Kirara trait, but while it is quite destructive in reality when people act as though they’re more knowledgeable than they are (I can think of no finer example than discussions surrounding current events at a certain anime forum), anime tend to portray this as being more light-hearted.
- Meanwhile, Futaba worries about being asked to read her composition in front of the entire school. Her friends are ultimately able to convince her to summon up the courage to do so, and this is helped by a day spent fishing with Hiyori: Hiyori needs to catch enough horse mackerel fry for the culture festival, and since fishing is how Hiyori has come to deal with stress, she imagines that giving Futaba a day at the breakwater might also help her to regroup.
- As it turns out, Futaba is a deft hand with fishing and knows about techniques outside of fly fishing, sufficiently well as to guide Hiyori. She helps Hiyori to set up, but Hiyori begins to go outside her comfort zone by attempting to hook on live bait herself, after imagining Koharu mocking her in a manner not too dissimilar to what had happened in Yama no Susume, when Aoi would suppose Hinata was making fun of her behind her back and in turn, spurring her to venture outside of her comfort zone, as well. In no time at all, both end up with a successful catch. If memory serves, Houkago Teibou Nisshi had Hinata start out with Horse Mackerel Fry.
- After seeing Hiyori venture into new directions, Futaba decides that she’ll put her best foot forwards, as well: she ends up reading her composition in front of her classmates without any trouble, and exceeds expectations. Sometimes, it takes that little push to send people through challenges, and Slow Loop indicates that this push can come from unexpected places. It was absolutely adorable to have these sorts of dynamics.
- While Futaba reads her essay in front of the entire school, including Aiko, who’s happy that Futaba had gotten past her nerves, I recall a time more than a decade ago when I was invited to participate in my Chinese school’s recital competition. Despite my generally being terrible with public speaking at that time (I didn’t become a passable public speaker until later in my undergraduate programme, when I spent several courses learning to hone how to present), I managed to win second place in my year, and in fact, I still have the trophy from that time. These days, I tend to put a presentation together with an outline of what I wish to say, and then I improvise the rest, although one thing remains constant: I do not like to have wordy slides. This is to ensure the audience stays focused on what I have to say, as opposed to reading my slides.
- On the day of the culture festival, Hiyori and Koharu’s parents swing by their school to check out what their children are working on. Being an integral part of the Japanese education system, anime feature them with great frequency, and what’s fun for viewers is seeing which elements said anime chooses to emphasise. This is why no matter how often culture festivals are portrayed in an anime, they never become tiring to watch, and in fact, seeing all of these events do create, amongst some viewers, a sense of nostalgia for what most English-speaking viewers have not experienced.
- It turns out that Koharu’s class focused on parasites and other marine horrors: while some folks have wondered why Lophiiformes (anglerfish) are absent, the explanation is simple enough: Koharu finds that things that she might encounter on a day-to-day basis while fishing to be more frightening than life forms that are unlikely to be seen. Lophiiformes typically are found in the aphotic sections of the ocean, where sunlight does not reach, and as such, those fishing are unlikely to encounter them. Conversely, parasitic worms afflicting fish, or the Cymothoa exigua (common name, “Tongue-eating louse”), can be quite common.
- Contrary to the little shop of horrors Koharu’s class have put together (and the attendant lack of visitors from their rather grotesque topic), Hiyori and Koi’s class do something that’s a lot more approachable, being a Japanese-style café with serving a special fish sandwich. Although Koharu’s father experiences a dulling in his appetite after viewing her exhibit, Koi’s cooking is good enough to turn things around for him. I’ve come around to Koi’s character: while she’d been a steadfast source of support for both Hiyori and Koharu throughout Slow Loop, taking things in the same way Remon and Ichigo do, she’s remarkably well-written and plays a crucial part in helping the others to step forwards. For me, bonus points go towards the fact that her eyes are a very pretty shade of amethyst.
- As promised, Futaba and Aiko show up to visit Hiyori at their culture festival. Although they’re out of fish sandwiches now, Futaba has no qualms in going out fishing with Hiyori so they can catch more fish and make some sandwiches. Not wanting to miss out, Aiko wants to go, too. This promised is fulfilled shortly after, as Aiko joins Hiyori, Koi, Koharu and Futaba on a family trip of sorts. This time, Hiyori and Koi’s mothers, as well as Ichika and Miyano, also show up. That the entire cast has gathered for one final event is a reminder that Slow Loop‘s was fast approaching.
- While Koharu might be excited about fishing, there are nuances that she still has yet to pick up. Fortunately, Koi is on hand to explain the differences between different gauges of fishing wire. This is a reminder of how there is always something to learn about a given field, and this is why I never suggest I am a “master” of something. For instance, with my recent computer build, having not built a new desktop in just a shade under nine years, the Non-Volatile Memory express (NVMe) standard has matured greatly. In 2013, 1.0e was released, but it was still quite expensive. Fast forward to the present, and we’re up to 2.0: these drives plug directly into the motherboard and offer up to 3.6 GB/s, nearly six times faster than my previous SSD, which used a SATA connection. I was therefore surprised when the technician indicated that I actually had a spare SATA bay available to me since the NVMe SSD plugged into the motherboard.
- This time around, with 1 TB of storage for my OS, I don’t expect to run out of space as I had previously as a consequence of system files. Back in Slow Loop, Aiko shares a moment with Koi: since Koi grew up with three younger brothers, she’s accustomed to offering advice to those around her. When Aiko becomes worried that Futaba may leave her behind, Koi reassures her that owing to their bond, there isn’t a replacement for her so long as Aiko makes an effort to spend time with Futaba. Reassured, Aiko heads out to help Futaba net a fish. Such advice is reassuring to Aiko, accentuating the fact that Koi does much to improve the lives of those around her, and being an older sibling myself, I’m guilty of doing this to folks I know, too.
- While Slow Loop doesn’t have the same visual quality of some of the top-tier slice-of-life series out there, and the series would require more skill than I’ve got to do location hunts for, overall, the background art and settings in Slow Loop are still very well done, sufficiently as to convey the aesthetic within each moment. I recall a time when prevailing sentiment against Koisuru Asteroid was that its background artwork and visual effects were “forgettable”. It is true that some anime do simplify their background art, but this is usually a deliberate choice, meant to focus the viewer’s attention on the characters, and as it is, both Koisuru Asteroid and Slow Loop have good artwork that conveys to viewers the sort of world their respective stories are set in.
- Alongside with Koi, Futaba’s also become a favourite character of mine – she’s very enthusiastic about fishing and is more experienced than Hiyori, but at the same time, is troubled by the sorts of things that would bother a grade-schooler. The constant exchange, of give-and-take, between the older members of the cast, and the younger members, helps everyone to grow: the older members may learn things from younger members just as readily. Adding grade-schoolers and adults to Slow Loop brings to mind GochiUsa and Kiniro Mosaic, which similarly has the main cast interacting with both older and younger characters. While in school, people often are mindful of the ages of those around them, age stops being a significant factor in the real world.
- By evening, although Koharu’s been unable to catch anything of note despite her earlier enthusiasm, her spirits return as she tasks Futaba and Aiko with helping out with the cooking. At this point in time in Slow Loop, the cast have been on several excursions outdoors, and at the penultimate episode, it becomes clear that this series draws elements from Tamayura (learning to rediscover joy in life after a loss), Yuru Camp△ (appreciating the great outdoors) and Houkago Teibou Nisshi (seeing the process of catching food from start to finish and being more mindful of the effort it takes to bring something to one’s plate). While folks have previously derided anime for being generic or similar, I comment that it is combinatorics that makes every anime unique.
- To put things in perspective, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and a handful of elements, when placed together, create organic compounds with a myriad of properties, and whose interactions are sufficiently varied such that predicting the products of certain reactions is challenging even for experts. Slice-of-life anime is similar in this regard: although the core premise might be the same, how things unfold can be so varied that even if an anime draws elements from other series, the outcomes can be dramatically different. When I’d seen the key visuals for Slow Loop, I’d initially imagined that Aiko was Koi’s younger sister. This misconception endured until I read the cast list, upon which things became more clear to me.
- While everyone enjoys an outdoors dinner with the freshly-caught fish and hot soup that Futaba and Aiko help to prepare, Koi reminds Koharu of never exaggerating the size of her catch, since it tends to become greatly exaggerated. Such life lessons are subtle, but this is one area where Manga Time Kirara series tend to be effective; discussing these sorts of things openly can become sanctimonious if not done correctly and irritate viewers, so things usually come down to how well a series can weave life lessons into its stories. Doing so through conversation is effective, and Koi is able to capture the idea of not hyperbolising things with a proverb I’m not familiar with.
- The next morning, Koi and Hiyori share a conversation under a swift sunrise: as it turns out, Koi had long been worried about saying the wrong thing and overstepping. Before Hiyori’s mother had remarried, Koi had heard her mother speaking with Hiyori’s mother about such a possibility and imagined that it was a sure things, so she hastened to tell Hiyori, who in turn asked her mother. While it was the case that Hiyori’s mother was only considering such a route, hearing Hiyori’s enthusiasm for things accelerated her decision to move things ahead. Koi, however, had felt that she had ruined things for Hiyori. Being able to get this into the open helps Koi to learn that Hiyori sees things quite differently, and while Koi may occasionally see herself as immature, insensitive, it is the case that imperceptible actions can have dramatic outcomes.
- This is something that Manga Time Kirara series also excels in conveying: small decisions can set off a chain of events that tangibly benefit those involved, and all it takes is an open mind to embrace these changes. The fact that Koi is doubting herself does speak to her own maturity; she’s wondering if she could have worded things differently, and this shows both a willingness to self-reflect, as well as weigh the consequences of her actions. With time, Koi will become more confident in helping those around her in life-related matters, to the same extent she is confident in helping Koharu with fishing terminology and technique.
- After a beautiful sunrise, Koharu has also awoken and finds Koi and Hiyori sharing a conversation that Koi dubs a private one. Although mildly frustrated at not being in on things, Koharu joins the pair for breakfast: fresh salmon on a baguette. A long time ago, I wasn’t a fan of smoked salmon: I recall sharing this story elsewhere, but the combination of Survivorman and anime like Slow Loop have allowed me to come around; a few years ago, I decided to try a lox bagel from the Rocky Mountain Bagel Company and subsequently became receptive of smoked salmon. These days, I enjoy nigiri, too.
- The finale opens with Hiyori recalling a time when Koi had offered to show her how to tie a fly, but, unable to make them as good as her father’s, begins to cry. It typifies the ability of anime to really emphasise just how adorable children are, and a few nights earlier, after I’d finished moving, my parents arrived. After a traditional dinner of char sui, crispy pork and chicken, they sat down and read through the first book I’d learnt to read on my own: Little Duck’s Moving Day. Being read the book aloud in Cantonese brought back some of my earliest memories of holding a book.
- In the present day, Koharu becomes curious about the process, and Koi, who now can make commercial-grade ties, has no qualms in showing her how. Together with Hiyori, the three spend an afternoon tying flies. The terminology confuses Koharu, but the process is something she can go with. Through the course of an afternoon, Koharu makes a few ties she’s proud to use, and as it turns out, there’s a fishing competition which looks to give her the perfect opportunity to do so. I remark here that, while I will, over time, acclimatise to technical jargon, initially, I experience the same as Koharu. During university, I was always lost when my peers were talking about cAMP (cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate, a messenger molecule involved in a large number of biological pathways) or design patterns (reusable approaches towards creating organised, clean code, of which my favourites are MVVM and decorator, but for which the details are outside the scope of this discussion).
- Befitting of a competition, there’s prizes to be won. The lower-tier prizes include new fishing gear from the shop Koi’s family runs, while second place is a Roomba. First place was a bit of a surprise: a full-sized plushie. While originally just a chance to get out and fish during the crisp autumn air, the plushie produces a motivated and determined Hiyori. Koharu initially struggles to catch anything, a result of her fly being unsuited for the current conditions, but because she’s not eying the prizes as Hiyori is, her goal is to successfully catch something with her own hand-made fly.
- Hiyori is seen using techniques to really persuade the fish in, and manages to reel in a large trout that ends up being the game-winner. Spotting this, Koi goes in to assist with the net, and it’s an impressive moment that speaks to just how well Koi knows Hiyori, as well as fishing. For many viewers, Koi ended up being Slow Loop‘s MVP: while she’s a static character who remains consistent throughout the series, her role is vital, acting as a reliable source of advice and support to both Koharu and Hiyori alike. Static characters are often frowned upon in writing, but this is only the case if a primary character is static.
- Secondary characters can get away with being static because they’re either an opposing force, or because they’re a source of guidance, and there is a misconception that a static character is synonymous with a flat character (someone who isn’t particularly fleshed out). Koi certainly isn’t flat by any means: she may be a little more stoic and deadpan than Hiyori or Koharu, but this is in her favour, giving viewers the impression that Koi is dependable and solidly present. Small moments, such as her fist-bumping with Hiyori after a successful catch, serve to remind viewers that Koi is a very round individual, with a full spectrum of emotions.
- Koharu, meanwhile, manages to catch a fish with the fly, and while it’s not as impressive of a specimen as the one Hiyori had caught, she had both done it on her own skill, and using the fly she’d created. Such a moment would definitely be photo-worthy, but unfortunately for Koharu, her smartphone also ends up taking a swim, rendering it little more than a several-hundred dollar glass, metal and plastic brick. Some smartphones are water-resistant and survive being dropped into a foot of water, but even with phones that aren’t rated with water-resistance, they may yet be able to survive depending on the make and model. For Koharu, her phone’s hit the end of its lifespan with this incident, and she ends up picking up a new one.
- On Koharu’s birthday, Koi, Futaba and Aiko show up to celebrate: Koharu’s whipped up a delicious takikomi gohan, a pilaf-like dish where rice is cooked with other things. Besides the rainbow trout that Hiyori had caught, this particular dish also has carrots and enoki mushrooms. In the blink of an eye, the rice disappears. After their meal ends, Koi, Futaba and Aiko respectively gift a new apron and hairclips to Koharu, both of which were thoughtfully picked. Feeling somewhat insecure, Hiyori puts off giving Koharu her gift, a photo album. As Koi predicts, this causes Koharu to become quite pouty, and she ultimately expresses her displeasure openly.
- As it turns out, Hiyori’s fears were completely unfounded, and once the pair reconcile, they head up to their room and begin sorting through their photos, deciding on which ones to put into it. Koharu’s photos also survived, since she’d enabled cloud backups, and here, I will remark that while my move was largely smooth, one of my hard drives did suffer a catastrophic failure while I was moving files from my old desktop to the new one. This meant the loss of my collection of rare Cantonese albums, all of my travel photos, and every last file, presentation and paper I had from high school up to, and including my graduate studies. It is some consolation that I can get my Cantonese music back, and that some of my travel photos are also backed up to cloud storage, but my old work is gone forever.
- I personally see this as a sign: with the move, I am to take it that it’s time to leave the past where it is and embrace the fact that there’s a host of things I can, and will, need to tend to now. With this finale post on Slow Loop in the books, this is the first anime-related post I’ve written after the move, and the second post I’ve written on this new desktop. Before I wrap things up, the observant reader will have noticed Koharu and Hiyori’s parents peering in a crack in the door on their daughters, who’ve become as close as biological sisters can be. To viewers, then, this is a definitive way of showing that from here on out, Koharu and Hiyori have one another’s backs, reading to help and support the other should anything happen.
- While Slow Loop never does venture into the more serious territory despite hinting at this on several occasions, overall, the anime still succeeds in conveying the message it had set out to present. For this reason, I am quite happy to recommend Slow Loop to slice-of-life fans who are curious to see what the intersection between Tamayura and Houkago Teibou Nisshi is: this series earns a grade of A- (3.7 of 4.0, or 8.5 of 10 for those who prefer the 10-point scale) for its portrayal of family and finding new joys in life, losing points only for leaving some elements unexplored. This is a relatively minor issue, and overall, I had a great deal of fun both watching, writing about and perusing thoughts from readers on this series.
Overall, the light-hearted approach Slow Loop takes towards portraying what one journey of recovery could look like ends up being one of its merits. These topics had previously been explored to an unparalleled extent through anime like Tamayura, which set a very high bar to overcome. Rather than attempt to excel where Tamayura had, Slow Loop instead utilises aspects from other series to show how, while the approach might be dramatically different, the outcomes are the same. Rather than taking photographs, Koharu and Hiyori fly fish in the serenity of mountain lakes and the vastness of the ocean. Away from the endless hustle and bustle of the cities, Koharu and Hiyori are given a more laid-back atmosphere to gather their thoughts. In this way, Slow Loop also indicates that recovery and growth is something that nature can help with: in this day and age, people are glued to their smartphones, and in difficult times, tend to withdraw into virtual spaces rather than connect with other people in a meaningful way. By removing the virtual aspects, both Koharu and Hiyori are compelled to face their feelings, doubts and concerns head-on. Nature, however, offers a gentle setting for this, spurring the characters to do so at their own pacing. The choice of activity, coupled with the fact that both Koharu and Hiyori had lost family, would therefore show that one means of gaining perspective and learning to take a step forwards entails becoming more connected with others, treasuring the bonds one has, and becoming more attuned with the land, to truly spot that life and death is a part of the natural order, and that honouring those who’ve come before simply means being respectful to the land, as well as living life in an honest, sincere and compassionate fashion. Despite being a slice-of-life comedy on the surface, Slow Loop‘s topic and choice of imagery creates a convincing argument for how people can overcome their own struggles if they have the right people with them, and if they take such incidents as an opportunity to step back and open themselves up to new experiences. Seemingly simple anime can have surprisingly meaningful themes to them, and Slow Loop is no exception to this: its twelve episode run may be characterised by comedy and heartwarming moments, as is expected of a Manga Time Kirara work, but beyond this is a touching message about what it means to truly live.