The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Slow Start

Slow Start: Whole-series Review and Reflection

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow Start: Review and Reflection at the ¾ Mark

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

​Slow Start: Review and Reflections At the Halfway Point

“The reactions of the human heart are not mechanical and predictable but infinitely subtle and delicate.” –Daisaku Ikeda

After Hana is frightened by a tenant upstairs, Shion introduces her to one Hiroe Hannen, whose tendency to order everyone online hides a situation similar to that of Hana’s. After the two are properly introduced to one another, Hana learns that Hiroe missed her university entrance exams from an illness, and subsequently lost all confidence, becoming a shut-in during the process. Hiroe believes Hana to be better off than her for having continued on her journey and having made friends. Hana decides to bring her friends over to help out Hiroe: they help her pick out some proper clothing to bolster her image and self-esteem. Thanking Hana, Hiroe is grateful for having met Hana, and the two become friends. Later, while deep in thought about Eiko, Kamuri forgets to wear her skirt to school. It turns out that she ran into Eiko’s sister, Miki, and subsequently became confused. Eiko clears things up, and learns that Kamuri, having mistaken Miki for Eiko a year previously, enrolled at Hoshio Girls’ School to be with Eiko again. Later, Tamate recounts her experiences working at a speciality restaurant while walking to Hana’s apartment to study. They run into Hiroe, who decides to help them. Eiko brings up some bath salts that the girls subsequently use to enjoy a warm bath in, and inspired by the water’s consistency, Tamate cooks up chop suey for dinner. Tamate brings out an old dating simulator for Eiko to try out and when Hana has difficulty falling asleep, Tamate reassures her that things will be okay. We thus stand at the halfway point in Slow Start, and with six episodes under the belt, Slow Start has begun hitting its stride, capitalising on its languid pacing to explore the cast in greater detail.

Halfway through Slow Start, it becomes apparent that Slow Start will give Hana plenty of space in which to grow close to her friends and trust them sufficiently so that she may be truthful about her situation. In introducing Hiroe, the largest catalyst is present to drive this change; Hiroe and Hana’s situations parallel one another. Hiroe never did quite recover from her setback, being remorseful of having lied to her friends, and while she’s willing to talk to Hana and the others about her situation, her recovery is a bit of a slower one. Conversely, Hana is unable to talk about her situation because she fears losing Tamate, Eiko and Kamuri, but has begun taking those steps to catch up. The two complement one another well, and it is expected that as Slow Start continues, the two will help one another out sufficiently such that they will overcome their individual challenges. In the meantime, Hiroe looks to join the regular cast in helping them out occasionally with their studies, and in exchange, receives companionship from Hana and her friends. Their interactions are amusing to behold, but aside from putting a smile on audiences’ faces, they also serve to show that slowly and surely, changes are beginning to take place in Slow Start. Recalling that a support system is probably the most powerful tool in maintaining positive mental health, the changes that Hana and Hiroe introduce into the others’ respective lives will play a substantial role in benefitting both.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After a rough start, Shion mediates the introductions between Hiroe and Hana, inviting her to dinner in the process. Shion and Hana are having Karaage (唐揚げ) here, a fried chicken made with chicken marinated in soy sauce, sake, ginger and garlic before applying potato starch and frying it in oil. It’s lighter than Southern Fried Chicken, which is rather more common in North America, but just as flavourful. In this Slow Start post, as with its predecessors, I’ve chosen to go with twenty screenshots.

  • Hiroe slips and falls after receiving one of her latest packages from Hana. As it turns out, Hiroe has lost enough confidence so that she’s unwilling to go outside even to a convenience store, and so, orders everything online, even common everyday objects such as tape and pins and…all sorts of things like, such as that. Services like Amazon are making it increasingly easy to buy things online, although I find that there’s a charm in going to a physical store and browsing through it even if I already have a very clear idea of what I’m to buy.

  • Hana’s the first person that Hiroe’s had over in quite some time, and Hiroe panics when she discovers that she’s got nothing to serve Hana, subsequently attempting to find a service that ships tea out on very short order. When she begins wondering why Hiroe orders everything online and learns of Hiroe’s story, she breaks out into tears. Hana does resemble CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa in this regard – with a kind and gentle personality, Hana is caring of those around her, and grows concerned for them when things seem amiss.

  • Hiroe grows depressed when she learns that Hana’s got friends and proceeds to sulk in the corner; here, Hana is contacting her friends to come over and meet someone. Of everyone, Eiko and Tamate become the most involved: with Eiko’s sense in fashion, she brings over some of her clothing and goes about figuring out what works best for Hiroe, who had, up until now, been clad in sweats. The grey colours reflect on her present state of monotony and isolation.

  • When Eiko is finished with one iteration, the differences are so dramatic that Tamate and Hana don’t initially recognise her. Hiroe wears Eiko’s dresses nicely, and her present choice of clothing hides a surprisingly aesthetically-pleasing figure: of everyone, she’s second to Shion in terms of asset size.

  • Clothes can make a considerable difference in one’s appearance, and Sam Hui understood this: in his 1980 song, “先敬羅衣後敬人” (jyutping “sin1 ging3 lo4 ji1 hau6 ging3 jan4”), his upbeat lyrics emphasise the importance of being well-dressed: folks who dressed poorly could be mistaken as vagrants or criminals, while smart attire would garner the respect of those around them. Consequently, one should not neglect their choice of clothing. It’s a remarkably fun song, and the closest English translation of the phrase “先敬羅衣後敬人” is “you are what to wear” (a literal translation is “people will judge you for your appearances before they judge your character”).

  • Of course, Eiko is not about to let Hiroe make off with her clothes, and after confirming the styles that work best for her, take Hiroe on a massive shopping spree to bring her wardrobe up to code. Clothes are not inexpensive by any stretch, but as noted in Sam Hui’s “先敬羅衣後敬人”, the value of having good clothing can be counted as such that it is worth skipping a meal to buy said clothing (in a metaphoric sense). I generally buy my clothes during sales, when prices can see reductions as much as eighty percent: being able to buy a 120 dollar button-up shirt for 30 dollars, or a 200 dollar pair of smart casual pants for a quarter of the price is immensely satisfying. With this, I also reveal my preferred dress style now.

  • It was superbly welcoming to see Hana and Hiroe connect with one another over their shared backgrounds, and seeing Hiroe in her situation allows Hana to open up with Hiroe much more quickly than any of the other characters. Similarly, despite their age differences, Hiroe gets along with Hana’s friends like peas in a pod, so I would hazard a guess that spending more time with Hiroe will have a non-trivial impact on Hana.

  • When Karumi becomes consumed in thought, she forgets to put her skirt on, leading Hana to worry that Karumi’s pantsu are exposed. Fortunately, Eiko is on station to lend Karumi her shorts. I’ve decided against including that screenshot: Karumi reminds me a bit of GochiUsa‘s Chino and there are lines that I won’t cross. This sort of occurrence is very unlikely to happen in reality and usually is limited to dreams: if one is dreaming about being out and about in their underclothes, it could indicate vulnerability, fear of exposure or anxiety.

  • Tamate breaks out some photographs of Eiko, and Karumi remarks that the individual seems quite different than the Eiko of the present. Given Slow Start‘s presentation of Eiko, she seems to be a minor celebrity of sorts who all shall love and despair. The limitations of anime and manga mean that particularly beautiful characters are often difficult to differentiate from ordinary-looking characters: the highly-stylised characters do not have facial characteristics of real people, and as such, writers rely on exaggerated personalities or reactions to convey this to viewers.

  • Usually confident and able to charm those around her, Eiko is reduced to trembling on her knees after instructor Enami flips her skirt to “verify that Eiko’s pantsu are not too risqué”. Done purely for comedy, this action in reality would certainly qualify as sexual harassment and result in much trouble for Enami. It speaks to the disconnect between anime and reality that this sort of thing could happen, and the way to recover from this shock is for a friend to pet the affected individual.

  • After a spirited discussion about body doubles, doppelgängers and the like, where Hana admits to running into someone who looked a great deal like Eiko, Karumi runs into the person who looks similar to Eiko. As it turns out, it’s her younger sister, Miki, who was responsible for creating the special soup for Eiko earlier in Slow Start. Some siblings look a great deal alike – I know what this feels like, as people have asked me whether or not I’ve mastered the art of cloning and the like previously.

  • Still a middle school student, Miki looks up to Eiko and her friends on account of their experiences. As the sun sets, the girls share a conversation and clear up the misunderstandings that accumulated from earlier – it is here that Kamuri learns of the happy mistake that allowed her to enroll in the same school that Eiko was attending.

  • It is at the halfway point that Tamate and Shion finally meet for the first time: the two immediately hit it off with their shared love for cooking, and Shion is impressed with Tamate’s skills with cooking. Hana later expresses admiration for how Tamate is able to get along with everyone, to which Tamate responds that it’s really more about her being excited about being able to talk to interesting people. An extrovert, Tamate is very much at home amongst a wide range of people, and amongst the friends, she’s got the strongest presence.

  • Tamate responds that Hana’s got strengths of her own, and when she becomes embarrassed with the praise she receives, Eiko pets her. I’ve heard unverified rumours that Slow Start will become less about Hana’s path to revealing her status and more about the other characters: the anime has not given any indicator of this happening as of yet, and I would further counterargue that doing this would detract from the message that Slow Start is aiming to present in its narrative.

  • After running into Hiroe outside of Hana’s apartment, Hana and the others invite her over, where she offers to help them study. Having finished high school, Hiroe is quite familiar with the material and explains that long ago, she was the student council president and well-respected by her classmates. While her confidence may have taken a dip, her mind has lost none of its potency, allowing her to help the others in her studies. With over a decade separating me from high school, most of my knowledge from high school remains intact, but I’m unlikely to be able to do mathematics with the same efficiency as I once did: math has long been my weakest subject.

  • After an immensely relaxing bath, the girls sit down to chop suey. Food in Slow Start is rendered with a reasonable degree of care so the details are visible, and large prawns are seen in the dinner that Tamate has cooked. Strictly speaking, chop suey is not a true Cantonese dish: while its origins are from Taishan county in Guangzhou province, the iteration as we know it (meat, eggs and vegetables fried and then laid on a bed of rice) is a North American creation. Following dinner, Tamate breaks out the games, and I suppose that I should not be too disappointed that Tamate did not bring the likes of Halo 2, the best sort of thing for a get-together.

  • Eiko’s uncommon talent for flustering other females extends even into virtual space, where she manages to beat a dating sim and win all the routes simultaneously. Her propensities bring to mind Ren of Anne Happy, who likewise used her misfortune of attracting all females of any species to her to her and her friends advantage. Tamate shows a surprising side to her character here, and frightens Hana.

  • Hana is not keen on ghost stories; even though the others tell weak stories that amuse rather than frighten, Hana is visibly frightened. She recalls a screw that fell out of seemingly nowhere and becomes unable to sleep for the remainder of the evening. I found this moment an interesting take on ghost stories of the present day: Eiko and the others use their smartphones to light their faces, whereas traditionally, I’ve seen people use flashlights to achieve the same effect. It’s a subtle but impressive touch that indicates Slow Start is with the times.

  • Noticing that Hana is awake, Tamate joins her and shares a conversation with her. It seems that of everyone, Tamate has grown the closest to Hana. After assuaging Hana’s fears, Hana is able to sleep and wakes up the next morning to find Tamate sleeping like a pharaoh. This brings the sixth episode to an end, and with it, this review also draws to a close. I will be returning very soon to write about CLANNAD, but until next time, I hope you’ve enjoyed this article.

Because Hana’s development is central to Slow Start, I anticipate that the slow, incremental changes over the season is what will lead to Hana eventually coming forward to Tamate, Eiko and Karumi about her situation, and that by this point in time, her friends will have already accepted her and thus, will not be too concerned with her being a year older than they are. As a result, in the upcoming episodes, Slow Start will be likely to explore directions more typical of an anime adapted from a Manga Time Kirara publication – from everyday life at school to time off and what the girls make of their breaks, from memorable events to daily, mundane conversations, audiences are likely to gain more insight into each of the characters and how they uniquely contribute to Hana’s first year back in high school as Slow Start settles into a routine, allowing Hana to ease into things and become increasingly familiar with her friends’ eccentricities, as well as her own place in the group. Manga Time Kirara publications and their adaptations have long excelled at presenting the subtle changes in characters over time, and given what has been shown thus far in Slow Start, it is a reasonable supposition that Slow Start will carry on in the same vein as its predecessors have.

​Slow Start: Review and Reflections After Three

“Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over.” –Guy Finley

Hana recalls how she got sick on the eve of entrance exams, forcing her to miss them while she recovered. In the aftermath, Hana was devastated and fell into a depression. Her mother suggests that she move in with her cousin, Shion, and she spent the year studying to ensure a place in her new high school, as well as to pass the time. Back in the present, Hana struggles through her physical examinations, tiring quickly and suffering from acute muscle soreness as a result of having not partaken in any physical exercise for a year. Her friends show her an ice cream machine on school grounds to take her mind off things. When Golden Week arrives, Eiko and Karumi vote on spending their break studying. Hana goes for a run with Shion to bolster her stamina and prepares for her parents’ arrival. When they arrive, they are relieved to learn that she is doing well; pleased that she’s made friends, they help her make some crafts to liven up her decidedly spartan living quarters. Later, Hana’s friends visit her and throw her a proper birthday party with cake. Hana becomes aware of her age difference with Karumi, Eiko and Tamate and breaks into tears during the party, but pulls herself together. It turns out that it’s also close to Tamate’s birthday, so the girls have a joint celebration. As the day draws to a close, Hana finds a birthday gift from her parents.

For the newcomers, the three episode mark is where I decide whether or not to continue with a particular show, and Slow Start has done a fantastic job of maintaining my interest after three episodes. At this point in time, the largest conflict within Slow Start is Hana’s reluctance to let her newfound friends know of her situation: she worries that the revelation will alter the dynamics she shares with Eiko, Karumi and Tamate, especially with regard to creating an awkward senpaikouhai dynamic that is not so easily reconciled. While not of a concern in the Western world, the hierarchy formed by this system is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, where the juniors are expected to express proper respect towards their seniors and not cause them to lose face, while seniors are expected to instruct their juniors and pass on knowledge. In short, it’s a non-trivial matter, and Hana’s constantly struggling with being truthful in the light of changing their current friendship, which has a flat hierarchy on account of everyone (ostensibly) being of the same age: having missed out on a year, Hana longs for nothing more than being able to spend time with her peers and experience high school as per her expectations. Having found friends now, Hana is thus unwilling to risk this, but at the same time, finds herself unable to fully open up to her friends, leaving moments that feel unnatural. As such, one of the challenges that Slow Start faces moving forwards will be how to create a heartwarming story of acceptance without discarding the Japanese values within its thematic elements: as a Western viewer, it might be easy to disregard the senpaikouhai dynamic, but considering its weight in Japanese culture, it should be clear that Slow Start cannot remove this factor from its story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The hikikomori phenomenon in Japan refers to shut-ins who become withdrawn from society after suffering from significant setbacks in life as a consequence of extreme social pressures in Japan. When a despondent Hana declares that this is the only way left to her after she recovers from the mumps, her mother manages to convince her to seek another path. Hikikomori are a non-trivial matter in Japan; there are an estimated five hundred thousand individuals in Japan who fit the definition, and the topic is quite difficult to discuss in reality, but anime such as Slow Start present Hana’s situation as adorable rather than troubling – my heart melts when I see characters such as her in situations like these.

  • Hana is spared the fate of becoming a hikikomori, pulls herself together and manages to set out on her path again, even if she occasionally doubts how things will turn out. Her serendipitous meeting with Eiko, Kamuri and Tamate helps her regain confidence, and as we continue into Slow Start, I’m slowly beginning to feel that Tamate is Girls und Panzer‘s Yukari Akiyama rolled into one with Tamayura‘s Norie Okazaki: excitable and energetic, but also a good cook and highly fond of visual novels, Tamate is voiced by Ayasa Itō, a newcomer whose other roles remain quite unknown to me.

  • It seems as though there are few discussions on Slow Start out there, and even less talk on what themes Slow Start is dealing with from the big-picture perspective. As such, I am stepping up to the plate to add tinder to kindle the discussions out there – I will be writing about Slow Start in the same manner as I am for Yuru Camp△, but there is one minor difference. As enjoyable as Slow Start is, there is an upper limit to how much I can write about it, and so, Slow Start talks will feature twenty screenshots rather than thirty.

  • Composed and capable, Shion is a college graduate voiced by Mao Ichimichi (And You Thought There Is Never a Girl Online?’s Kyou Goshoin). When she prepares Hana’s lunch, the care put into it leads Tamate to wonder if Hana’s cousin, hitherto unknown to Tamate and the others, have feelings for her. Hana voices this concern to Shion, who decides that the solution is to dispel the myth by crafting another lunch that indicates that nothing interesting is going on between the two. This particular plot device might be used for comedy or drama in other series, but it doesn’t belong in something like Slow Start.

  • Since the topic of fitness forms the basis for a part of the second episode in Slow Start, my mind wanders to physical activity, and I open with the remark that for all of my propensities towards sitting down at a desk or in a comfortable chair with a computer or good book in hand, I do make an effort to keep in reasonable shape: I lift, hike and do martial arts, and it suddenly strikes me that I spend about the same time working out or being active in some way every week as I do my other hobbies. This is why posts don’t come out more often or faster here.

  • Characters with exceptionally low physicality are usually portrayed in a manner as to evoke a few laughs from viewers, and Hana, having not done anything for a year, is so weak that warming up blows her away. I certainly found it amusing in the context of anime like Slow Start, but as with Hikikomori, it’s less amusing in reality. I’ve heard that anime fans generally aren’t big on fitness, and while the metrics for determining what counts as fit has a long, scientific and probably uninteresting process, I posit that being of average shape means being able to do thirty pushups (on your knuckles), five pull-ups and touch your toes. So, if you’re reading this and you’ve got some interest in fitness, drop a comment down below and show me what you’ve got.

  • I’ve just recently gotten into doing squats, and now that I’m not so sore as to find myself unable to walk the next day, the time has come to raise the weights. It stands to reason that, while I’m not the epitome of fitness, I’m at least in better shape than Hana, who’s completely blown away with her physical exam. Her friends suggest bananas to help her out, and there’s truth in this – the potassium in bananas are electrolytes that aid in muscle function and recovery. I have a banana every weekday for lunch, and while I disliked them back in my days as a primary school student, my current laziness in preparing other fruits, coupled with the benefits that potassium brings, means that I’m totally good with them now. Hana has no access to bananas, but Tamate find an ice-cream machine on campus and the girls share a moment enjoying the ice-cream.

  • After Hana learns that there is not a second half to the physical exam, she enters a state of zen lasting for several hours in relief that the day’s not going to be any longer than it is. I’m not sure if her subsequent reaction is in response to the thought of Tamate sans clothing or not, but the flowers indicate she’s zoned out considerably. It’s not until dinner with Shion that she recovers from this.

  • The girls begin discussing their plans for Golden Week, which spans from April 29 to the first week of May. It’s so-called for the fact that many Japanese holidays converge here, leading institutions and businesses to close. The closest equivalent for Western students would be Spring Break, but for folks who work, there’s not any similar break except at the end of the year with the Winter holidays. Back in my days as a student, I spent all of my spring breaks, and later, reading week, studying or catching up on things: I’ve certainly not travelled or done anything too outrageous, but in retrospect, this was time well spent. I study while others vacation, and vacation when everyone else…isn’t.

  • Hana grows discouraged after a run with Shion leaves her exhausted; at Hana’s mother’s request, Shion is helping her out. I’ve long found that the morning is by far the best time of day to exercise for me: back during the summer, I attempted to lift weights at night after dinner, but felt weighted down and unnecessarily tired. The gym is also more crowded by night. By comparison, I feel fired up and ready to roll in the morning: I tire less easily and lift with more intensity. There’s no best time to lift: this is strictly a matter of personal preference, and on my end, my inclination towards mornings is because I’m a morning person.

  • Just for amusement’s sake, I’ll feature an unnecessary close-up of Shion and her uncommonly large assets for no reason beyond the fact that I can. She’s visually appealing, and if there are any episodes to be set at a beach or hot springs, I might just make that discussion a larger one, with the full thirty screenshots, purely for moments such as this if Shion should accompany Hana and her friends.

  • Eiko hangs out with a friend, and her actions seem to put her friend in a rough spot. Matters of yuri are serious business out there, and for some folks well-versed in the matter, can form the basis for lengthy discussion. The extent of what I can offer such conversation is that, if yuri were to be as prevalent in real life as it were in anime, our species would stop propagating and it’d be the end of human civilisation as we know it.

  • Kamuri’s day is spent enjoying a scrumptious breakfast that she takes several hours to finish. It is shown here that Kamuri comes from a wealthier background: her residence is quite large. Going purely from her interactions with the others at school, one could never guess that she’s of money, so episodes depicting characters outside of school often yield insight into aspects of characters that add dimensionality to their personalities.

  • Tamate is evidently a major fan of dating sims and doujin: if her constant mention of dating sims in everyday conversation were not sufficient to indicate her hobbies, she’s shown visiting Comiket and leaves with a good haul of swag. Her propensity for related jargon often leaves her friends in confusion, and I’ve heard unverified claims that this Tamate and the Tama of Bottle Fairy are one and the same on account of both Slow Start and Bottle Fairy having art from Yukio Tokumi. Officially, Tokumi has stated that the characters are meant to be similar in mannerisms and designs, but otherwise reside in different universes.

  • Hana’s parents swing by for a visit and are pleasantly surprised to find that Hana is doing quite well. They thank Shion for having looked after her for the past year, and when they learn that Hana’s to host some friends, they express an interest in meeting Eiko, Kamuri and Tamate. Feeling that Hana’s quarters are a bit spartan, they help in crafting some hand-made decorations. Hana’s parents remark that Hana’s a great deal happier, and Hana herself notes that she usually becomes lonely when her parents leave after their visits, but with her friends, things don’t seem so bad.

  • While the manga leaves the location of the town that Hana moves to undisclosed, Slow Start‘s anime adaptation is set in Karuizawa of the Nagano Prefecture. The town is a small one, with a population of close to twenty thousand: with its temperate climate, the town is a popular vacation destination for visitors. Among the area attractions include hot springs, outdoor sports facilities and Ginza Street, a famous historic shopping street. Hana visits Ginza Street in the first episode with her friends, and here, she meets Tamete at Karuizawa Station.

  • With three episodes in the books, I’ve found all of the characters in Slow Start to be likeable in their own way: Hana reminds me a great deal of Miho, and Tamate is similar to Yukari. Kamuri and Chino are likewise reminiscent of one another, and Eiko’s quite interesting. Here, Hana bursts into tears after being reminded of her age gap, but her friends assume she’s simply moved and don’t think anything of it. It remains to be seen when and how Hana will break the news to everyone – given the nature of things, I imagine that this will likely for the basis for the anime’s overarching plot for this season.

  • While the girls partake in some cake, Eiko leaves briefly to use the bathroom, and exploiting the moment, Tamate decides to tease Kamuri; in Eiko’s absence, Kamuri becomes completely shy and silent. I wonder how often this will be exploited for comedy, although it is also likely that Kamuri will mature as the series wears on, to the point where it is no longer possible to pull this off.

  • After cake is enjoyed, the girls settle into their studies and are impressed that Hana’s so familiar with the materials. It turns out that Hana had exclusively spent the previous years knee-deep in the books: this shows that she’s a very determined individual and will make the most of things in her own manner. While initially a dreary existence (as I can attest, having spent a summer with my face in books in preparation for the MCAT some years back), Hana’s efforts have some positive consequences, as well, allowing her to keep ahead of the course materials. With this in mind, audiences needn’t worry about how Hana’s performing, allowing the story to focus purely on her social developments.

  • Hana’s friends bought her and Tamate a pair of stuffed bears to signify their togetherness; Tamate decides to leave her bear with Hana’s to reinforce that they’re friends. The snow globe is from Hana’s parents, who’ve not forgotten Hana’s birthday. As the sun sets, casting the room in a warm light that glitters in the snow globe, Hana smiles. This brings my Slow Start discussion to a close, and while the post was a bit unexpected, this means that I will be continuing with Slow Start. In the meantime, it’s time to quickly catch up on the fourth episode before the fifth releases, and I also note that Battlefield 1‘s North Seas update has released, which brings Heligoland Bight’s naval combat and the new TTK patch into the game. My experiences have been overwhelmingly positive, and I’ll be writing about that in the very near future.

With the challenge of balancing a meaningful message without disregarding Japanese values, Slow Start has more to offer audiences than merely antics surrounding high school girls in their everyday lives: it provides a (albeit highly watered-down) bit of insight into the way Japanese society is structured and the implications this has on the well-being of people who find themselves stepping away from the rigidly-choreographed path in life they’re typically expected to follow. By comparison, things in the West seem to be much more lax, and individuals who miss a year can still recover should they put in the requisite effort – consider that I took a year off to do open studies between my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. That particular detour was the consequence of my aim to decide once and for all whether I wished to write software or become a medical doctor, and during this time, I blended into classes without standing out, even if I did feel a little out of place amongst the students. Returning to Slow Start, while the series is not expected to undergo any major shifts in mood and should continue on presenting Hana and her friends’ time as high school students in an adorable manner, I am curious to see just what sort of path awaits Hana as Slow Start progresses. The clean, simple artwork and smooth animation make the anime a visual treat to watch: nowhere nearly as detailed as Violet Evergarden or distinct in design as A Place Further Than the UniverseSlow Start nonetheless comes across as having a solid execution that makes the episodes something that I look forward to each week.

The First Butterflies: Slow Start First Episode Impressions and Review

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” —Helen Keller

On her first day of high school, Hana Ichinose timidly introduces herself to her new classmates. When her instructor, Kiyose Enami, mentions that this first day of classes also happens to be Hana’s birthday, three of the other girls that Hana had spotted earlier, Eiko Tokura, Kamuri Sengoku and Tamate Momochi, wish her a happy birthday and gift her some ema. They later take the initiative to speak with her and bring her out to gaze at the blooming sakura blossoms near the train station; on the way there, Hana learns more about Tamate and Kamuri’s names. Later that evening, Shion is pleased to learn that Hana’s made new friends, and the next day, Hana properly introduces herself to her newfound friends. While the first episode did not mention thus, Hana had missed her entrance exams the previous year on account of being afflicted with mumps, and so, is a year older than those around her. Being separated from her peers, Hana feels a bit out of place and envies those who know others in her year, but after the first day, she finds herself in friendly company. Slow Start was originally a four panel manga from Manga Time Kirara, and as its brethren in this magazine, possesses the same sort of atmosphere and premise; there’s nothing novel or stand-out in Slow Start, but in this case, simplicity is Slow Start‘s greatest draw right now. While the manga began running in 2013, I’ve not had a chance to read it, and so, going into Slow Start this season, I’ll be entering without a priori knowledge.

Befitting of its name, Slow Start is slow to start, placing a particular emphasis on the minute details and happenings that precipitate a new friendship. From the moment that Hana enters school, her attention is caught by the same three individuals who are the most quick to befriend her: this fateful meeting sets in motion the beginnings of a companionship that will be endearing to behold. Out of the gates, Slow Start possesses the same atmosphere as GochiUsa, conveying a sense of calming that I’ve greatly come to value in shows that I watch. The characters immediately feel familiar despite their novel characteristics: the quiet Hana occupies the protagonist’s role and, despite playing the same role as Cocoa, also exhibits Miho Nishizumi’s shyness. The two share circumstances, and both girls are approached by fellow classmates who will grow to become close friends. As Hana Isuzu and Saori Takebi do for Miho in Girls und Panzer, Eiko and Kamuri do the same for Hana in Slow Start. The role of Yukari Akiyama is then fulfilled by Tamate, who is similarly energetic. Familiar characters mean that the anime immediately feels inviting; moving ahead, one wonders when Hana’s background will be made known to the others. Until then, Slow Start does not appear to have too many surprises in store for viewers: standard-issue high school activities and adventures will likely follow Hana and her friends as we move further into the season.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I realise that I said I would write about Yuru Camp △ soon, but an error of logistics occurred that resulted in my taking a look at Slow Start first: for one reason or another, I somehow got it into my head that Slow Start would begin airing tomorrow, not today, so I’m going to push back Yuru Camp  by a few days. Kicking things off in Slow Start, Hana receives her school uniform in a pristine state, and her cousin, Shion, is rather excited to see Hana in it.

  • The simple colours and textures of Slow Start make it apparent that, like Yuyushiki, the anime is intended to focus on the characters. This is not to say that the visuals of Slow Start are substandard in any way: they are fitting of the atmosphere in the anime. The incidental music is also of a reasonable quality, fitting the overall mood within Slow Start. With the basics covered off, the main focus of the discussion can then be directed towards the characters.

  • Besides Miho Nishizumi and Cocoa Hoto, one other character that Hana resembles is CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa, who similarly is behind a year owing to an illness. That Hana seems to draw features from characters in anime that I’ve seen previously could easily be written off as derivative, lazy writing, although I’m a bit more lenient than most anime bloggers and so, will chalk these comparisons as a consequence of the fact that I’ve been watching anime for close to eleven years now.

  • While making her way to Class 1-2, Hana sees two friends reuniting for the first time since primary school and feels that high school would be less intimidating if she were to have a few people that she were familiar with. I begin reminiscing about my first days of university: of all my friends, only I enrolled for the health sciences programme and so, I had no friends accompanying me into the program. However, I befriended a handful of the folks early during orientation week, and through our shared experiences with the challenging courses that constitute the honours degree, I became familiarised with over half of my graduating class over my four years in the health sciences programme.

  • Having long been friends with Eiko, Kamuri is intimidated by Tamate, who knows Eiko from middle school. I’m not sure how it works elsewhere in the world, but in Canada, school assignments are based on geographical locations rather than academic performance, and so, I remained with most of my friends during primary and secondary education. Of course, some folks, I’m still friends with even if at present, we’re all occupied with our careers and the like, as opposed to spending lunch breaks and classes together each and every day.

  • This is, then, the joy of being a student: as we age and mature, more of our time is spent on other things. Back in Slow Start, Hana introduces herself to Class 1-2. So far, instructor Enami has only made a short appearance and going strictly from appearances, is a no-nonsense individual who is voiced by Manami Numakura, who’s also played roles in anime such as Hibike! Euphonium (Mamiko Oumae), Rail Wars! (Aoi Sakurai), Love Lab (Riko Kurahashi) and Dagashi Kashi (Saya Endō).

  • Before I push any further into Slow Start, I will remark that Slow Start has absolutely nothing to do with the TCP congestion control strategy of the same name: slow starts are used to avoid network congestion. Since TCP and computer networks are hardly the focus of Slow Start, it stands to reason that the title itself refers to the delay that Hana’s had getting into high school.

  • Each of Kamuri, Eiko and Tamate give Hana a phone strap-sized ema that is intended to provide luck in safety while travelling. While three times the ema should hypothetically confer three times the safety, I’m not sure of this is quite how it works. One way or another, the friendliness exhibited by each of Kamuri, Eiko and Tamate sets in motion the events of Slow Start. While four characters were introduced right off the bat, I’ve experienced no difficulty in remembering everyone’s names.

  • Excitable like Girls und Panzer‘s Yukari Akiyama, and being similar to Tamayura‘s Norie Okazaki in both appearance and manner, Tamate prefers to be called by her nickname. Eiko is a bit more mature than the others but seems to be fond of jokes, while Kamuri’s speech patterns is reminiscent of both Chino and Renge’s. It is therefore unsurprising to learn that Kamuri is voiced by Maria Naganawa, who provided Kanna’s voice in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. On the topic of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, I’ve not actually watched it, and while I’ve been hearing positive reception for the anime, I’m still wondering if it’s my cup of tea.

  • Slow Start was originally announced seven months ago, and was confirmed for this anime season in July 2017. Looking around, excitement on this series has been limited discussions as to whether or not Slow Start is something that A-1 Pictures should be working on, rather than the anime’s content itself. The manga has also been quite challenging to find, making it difficult to gauge what Slow Start would entail prior to its airing.

  • Tamate feels that her full name is a bit embarrassing on account of it being derived off 玉手箱 (Romaji tamate bako); 玉手 yields “beads” in a direct translation, whereas “Tama” alone (玉) can be seen as referring to a treasure of sorts. In Chinese, 玉 is “Jade” (jyutping “juk6”), and the last character of my name is a derivative of this, being meant to symbolise “double Jade”. Its character “珏” is read “gwok3” in jyutping, although hilariously, it’s rare enough so that most folks do not know the pronunciation for the character in Cantonese, and the jyutping dictionary I use returns nothing when I do a search for the character.

  • Arriving at the sakura trees near the station, Hana and the others arrive to find the trees in full bloom. It’s a beautiful sight, and one that I was a month too late for last year when I visited Japan: sakura blossoms are best viewed in April, which is also when the academic term starts in Japan, but my visit there was in May. In spite of this, the trip stands as being one of the most enjoyable (if not the most enjoyable) I’ve been on, and I’ve got plans to return in the future.

  • Hana’s simmilarities to Miho become more pronounced here as she admires the blooming sakura, and one could easily suppose that Slow Start is what would have resulted had we taken the Panzer out of Girls und Panzer. Unlike Girls und Panzer, which was concealing one hell of a ride, however, I think that there won’t be any surprises in Slow Start, and strictly speaking, that’s fine, as well.

  • The conversation topic soon turns to food, and it is here that Hana reveals that she’s not from the area, having moved here recently, so she’s not too familiar with local shops or specialties. Her dialogue hints as the fact that she’s late by a year, but owing to the fact that she doesn’t really know Eiko, Kamuri and Tamate yet, she’s not ready to disclose this yet. They likely have missed this moment and view it as Hana being a bit shy around them. Listening to Hana’s voice further brings to mind Miho: while Miho is voiced by Mai Fuchigami, Hana is voiced by Reina Kondo, who’s a relative newcomer in the voice acting industry.

  • Shion’s mannerisms bring to mind those of Mocha Hoto; she’s Hana’s cousin, as well as the landlady for the apartment that Hana lives in, and here, the two celebrate Hana’s birthday in style with a fancy dinner that has prawns and egg roe on rice with peppers, mushrooms and lotus rhizome (蓮藕). Sashimi can also be seen, as well. Now that I’m back home, sashimi is not likely to be on the home menu; things like today’s lunch of homemade honey-garlic sausage dog infused with double cheese and tomato sauce, or tonight’s Louisana-style breaded wings for dinner, are more of the norm. It’s been a bit of an eventful day for Hana, and one she’ll likely remember for a while. On my end, today was a quieter one compared to last week, and I spent it shredding bosses in The Division, before watching the Flames humiliate the Anaheim Ducks – with only sixteen seconds left on the clock, Dougie Hamilton scored to put the Flames up 3-2.

  • While Kamuri earlier expressed a desire to get Hana a birthday cake, Shion buys a proper cake and gifts to Hana an umbrella styled after a leek. Being older than Hana, Shion also seems to be this series’ provider of fanservice, given the placement of camera angles, and seeing as the other characters don’t seem well-suited for that sort of thing. With this in mind, it’s quite clear that Slow Start is not about unnecessary focus on mammaries or posteriors, although audiences may be subject to such moments if the oft-utilised hot springs or beach episode is present later in Slow Start‘s run.

  • On a phone call with her parents, Hana assures them that everything is fine, and they seemed immensely relieved to learn that Hana’s fitting into her new environment. Unlike Miho, whose relationship with Shiho was a quite cool at the start of Girls und Panzer, Hana’s on excellent terms with her parents, so I imagine that she moved to get away from the stigma associated with missing a year and gain a fresh start. I further imagine that what Hana did during the year in between missing the exam and her present enrollment at Hoshio Private Girls’ Academy will be the topic of a later episode.

  • The apartment that Hana lives in is a small one that looks well-maintained. With A-1 running the party, the animation quality of Slow Start‘s been of a good quality, and as this post draws to a close, I note that for Slow Start, I’m bypassing the three episode rule and committing to this show for the season. Reviews will come out at the halfway point and the finale, simply because shows of this category, while immensely effective at being relaxing, may not always be conducive for interesting discussions. Writing for shows of this sort usually takes me more time as I try to figure out what to say, so the fewer ideas I have, the longer the post takes.

  • It turns out that Hana’s new friends do not quite remember her name yet, recalling her as the birthday girl. However, their warm welcome suggests that the events of yesterday are not a one-off. Encouraged by this, Hana introduces herself formally to them, setting the table for the remainder of what’s upcoming this season. While an unassuming anime, Slow Start‘s looking quite encouraging, and while it won’t be a world-changer as far as moral implications or thematics go, sometimes, easygoing entertainment is precisely what one needs after a long day’s work.

  • With Slow Start in the books, I’m going to begin setting up the post for Yuru Camp △ soon, as well as turn my attention towards Episode Zero of The New Colossus.  As I’m also closing in on level twenty in The Division, I will be dropping by to write about that experience, as well. That’s pretty much it for now, and looking ahead, the winter anime season looks to be quite a good one for someone of my uncommon interests. Finally, there’s a CSI Miami reference in this page somewhere for readers to search for, if this post’s contents were not sufficiently exciting for readers.

The slower pacing and content of Slow Start means that I’m unlikely to write about this series at a higher frequency, although this isn’t to say that Slow Start is lacking in any way: in fact, I found the first episode of Slow Start immensely enjoyable. However, with this being said, even with my proficiency with English, there is an upper limit to how many variations of “this is adorable” one can say before it becomes stale. I imagine that the heartwarming moments of Slow Start will continue with its current frequency, making Slow Start another excellent show for folks seeking to relax in this upcoming season; the anime itself is visually appealing, with simple, clean environments and expressive characters that contribute to the lively atmosphere in Slow Start. Folks who’ve enjoyed GochiUsa and Kiniro Mosaic will be right at home with Slow Start, and while I might not be doing a large number of posts for Slow Start, readers can reasonably expect me to drop back in at the halfway point and once more at the finale, where I can offer more comprehensive thoughts on the anime once additional episodes have been aired and gain a better insight as to what’s really going down in Slow Start.