The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Hana Ichinose

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow Start: Whole-series Review and Reflection

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

  • Tamate’s 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. This is untrue: Tokumi has stated that the characters are meant to be similar in mannerisms and designs, but otherwise reside in different universes, and moreover, these assertions originate from one individual. It is fortunate that they’ve not gained any momentum. Such discussion brings to mind the likes of Myssa Rei, who was fond of making baseless speculation in her time, but it looks like this won’t be a problem in the future: Myssa Rei is finally stepping back from all discussions surrounding Manga Time Kirara (and military-moé) series, citing her being called out for “…[putting her] foot in [her] mouth a lot, especially when [she’d] gush about stuff [she wasn’t]…really an expert on [and] called a hack as a result” as the reason why.

  • Both Yuru Camp△ and Slow Start are airing this season are Manga Time Kirara series, and Myssa Rei has been very prominent in influencing the community’s opinions of CGDCT and military-moé series, to the point where she was able to convince people to accept her speculation as fact and fixate on irrelevant details as being significant while ignoring other viewpoints. Her presence significantly degraded anime discussions, and it meant that people like myself would constantly be ignored, since we’re not “popular” enough. Without Myssa Rei around, it should mean that more perspectives should get their fair chance at being heard, and this couldn’t have come at a better time. Back in Slow Start, 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.