I’m sure my anime watching habits are a little odd. I mean, I just made a post not long ago about my habit of watching random anime. Hell, I’m making it into a monthly series. With so many wonderful anime to watch out there, why would I waste my time watching something I may not like. I don’t know, to be honest.
I just think it’s fun, and I figure I can likely find something interesting out of whatever it is that I watch. But this train of thought led me to another weird watching habit I have. I watch shows that are of genres I dislike. This decision seems to confuse people. The main reaction that I get is that it seems like a waste of time.
And I can’t exactly disagree with that statement. It is. So why do I do it? The biggest genre I would say I dislike is probably Ecchi first, then Slice of Life second. But despite that, I still watch anime in both of those genres. It seems odd I would do something like that. Still, what’s even odder to me is that I could watch a generic Slice of Life like Slow Start and actually like it somehow.
I don’t understand it myself, but I wanted to try and figure it out.
Too Much Life
First is what I generally don’t like about Slice of Life. For lack of a better word, I find them boring. They’re often just about characters going through their normal lives, and that’s it. If Slice of Life is mixed with other genres, I don’t mind it as much. But pure Slice of Life (and when it’s mixed with just comedy as it often is) isn’t enough to keep me interested.
Slow Start is no different. It is a Comedy Slice of Life adapted from a Seinen (for some reason) manga about Hana Ichinose – a 17-year-old girl who, due to getting the mumps, is held back a year and gets a “slow start” in high school. The series focuses on the hijinks she gets into with her new friends.
Not only is this about as normal of a Slice of Life series you can get, but it’s also a Cute Girls Doing Cute Things anime, which, while not a genre of its own, is a bit of a subgenre of Slice of Life that is my least favorite. Boring is an understatement for how those series generally make me feel. Yet, I still liked Slow Start. Why?
I mulled over that question for a while. The overthinker in me wanted to understand why I suddenly could binge a series I dropped a few episodes into back when it was first airing. Likely, my tastes had just changed. It happens every now and then, and that’s one reason I like to revisit things. I may like something I didn’t before. It happened with Slow Start.
But I still don’t care for Slice of Life, so if my feelings for Slow Start had changed in the past three years, but the genre as a whole hadn’t, there must have been something special Slow Start did in particular. I wanted to figure that out.
When bad Slice of Life comes up, there’s one series that always come to my mind. A series that every 20 minutes felt like about 20 hours to me, and I only finished out of pure unbridled stubbornness of not wanting to have dropped series on MAL. That’s Girl Friend Beta.
Oh, boy. I would have a lot to say about this, but there’s not much to talk about. It was 12 episodes of nothing happening. It wasn’t funny. I honestly can’t remember a single scene in the show. My brain has erased it because it was just taking up space, I suppose.
If you liked the series, more power to you, but it’s what I consider to be the worst Slice of Life I’ve seen. Not because it’s bad per se, but because it shows what’s often wrong with the genre. It’s just boring as hell. Slow Start, on paper, should be no different. It’s about a bunch of high school girls just going through life. Pretty much the same exact thing. Slow Start just manages to do things a bit better.
Let’s be clear; Slow Start is not much different than Girl Friend Beta or any other similar show. The entirety of the plot focuses on the various activities of Hana’s friend group. Forcing their college-aged, shut-in friend to dress nice, having their beach day rained out, so they stay inside in their bathing suits instead, going to festivals. Pretty normal stuff, believe it or not.
The anime does a lot right. It has really appealing art to me. Super colorful, really bright, warm animation that flows gorgeously at times. Clover Works did a great job. Its art highlights what Slice of Life’s should be, and because of that, the whole show just has a nicer, friendlier vibe to it, if that makes sense.
That art also lets a lot of the jokes flow nicer, which I found to be fairly funny. Comedy is hit or miss depending on the person, but I did overall like the sense of humor the series had. Still, Slow Start does suffer from many of the problems the genre has. Yet, I rarely found it boring.
I’ve gotten to the point where I can generally separate something I like from something that is good. I may not like Slice of Life, but I can tell when it’s done well. A series like Yuru Camp, for instance, isn’t my cup of tea, so I haven’t watched much, but I can appreciate how its atmosphere makes people feel. I can appreciate that it’s a well-done series for those who like it.
What Slow Start does so well is its characters, more specifically the way they play off of each other. The chemistry between the characters is great, even if the characters themselves fall into simple archetypes we see all the time.
But I more want to focus on Hana, our lead, and the way she blends into the friend group. The whole reason the series happens is that she transferred to a different school to get a fresh (slow) start. She was an already shy child that kept to herself who only fell deeper into her own mind after being held back. She just wanted friends but was scared she would never get them back.
Already we have someone to root for—an underdog. We want to see Hana grow. We want to see where her new life will take her. Already a somewhat compelling setup for a Slice of Life. One that might be able to keep my interest.
We watch the first episode, Hana makes her friends as we expect, but the series did something I didn’t think it would do. I was expecting her to make friends, and they would accept her for who she is, blah, blah, blah. That didn’t happen.
Being too anxious about it, Hana kept her whole being held back a year secret from them. Something she continues to do as the series goes on. She’s so stuck in her own head that she continues to lie to these three girls that mean so much to her. And I mean lie. She actively avoids the truth or, in some cases, agrees with them even if they aren’t right. She lies about being the same age as Tama, for instance. She lies about why she’s so godawful at physical activities.
It gives you this sense that she doesn’t really think of them as true friends, or what’s really her problem, that she doesn’t think she’s their friend, no matter what they say or do. This is perpetuated by the fact that she’s lying to them constantly. She’s going deeper into her own head. It’s just making her fears worse. Something that will continue to happen as time goes on.
It’s such a simple problem to us from an outsider’s perspective. They’re nice people. They wouldn’t care at all if she told them now, or 2o years from now. They wouldn’t be bothered. Her being held back a year is a very trivial thing. We know that. But you have to think about it from her view.
I know what it feels like to be Hana. I’m also a very quiet person that overthinks everything. I’ve gotten better, but it still happens from time to time. I know how small problems to everyone else can stay in your mind and eat away at you until they become something much bigger, especially when it’s something that was pretty traumatizing to her, something that really changed Hana’s whole life.
My favorite scene that is much deeper than I expected from a Slice of Life is when Hana is bonding with her shut-in neighbor Hiroe. She is one of the only people she’s ever told about being held back, and she discusses why she doesn’t tell her friends.
She says there are times when she thinks it wouldn’t matter and that nothing would change, but part of her worries that it would. That they wouldn’t like her anymore or that they’d hold her lie against her. We know this isn’t the case, and part of her does, but she can’t shake the fear that it might nonetheless.
She finally has what she wanted. The worst experience of her life gave her irreplaceable friends. Friends that she cherishes more than anything. Why would she rock the boat? If she even has the smallest inkling that she could lose them, what’s the point? To us, the answer is clear; to Hana, not so much.
She’s a surprisingly deep character with a lot of inner turmoil, all of which is created by her own mind because she doesn’t talk about her fears and instead lets them meld into bigger problems. Problems that will persist until she finally airs everything out with the people she cares about, yet the longer she waits, the worse it will feel.
For a genre that often just friends doing lighthearted dumb crap, Slow Start manages to be just that with having a somewhat dark undertone to the whole series. That creates suspense, which is the furthest word I ever associate with the genre. I wanted to see Hana tell them. I wanted to see how the characters would react. I wanted to see her fears put to rest.
Sometimes it made me want to jump through my TV and tell them myself. She’s an idiot by not telling them. But as I said, I get it. I don’t know how I would react in her situation. I very well may have done the same thing. Hana won’t feel like a true friend unless she tells them, but she might lose them if she does. It’s tough for her.
I’m not saying Slow Start was some masterpiece of storytelling. It wasn’t. It’s still just a Slice of Life. That’s it. You know what to expect. But this is a good example of why I don’t give up on a genre just because I’m not a fan of it. Slow Start didn’t suddenly make me a fan, but it managed to tell a story that I could genuinely enjoy. It told a story that kept me interested in a genre I find anything but.
If I shut myself away and never gave these series a try, I would just dislike the genre, and that would keep spinning in my mind until it eventually became a fact. Next thing you know, there would be a great Slice of Life that I couldn’t enjoy because I’ve told myself time and time again that I don’t like the genre. I’d be stuck in an endless loop in my mind, much like Hana, unable to ever grow.
That’s why I’ll continue to watch things that aren’t to my tastes. Your tastes change over time, and you just might find a flavor that’s to your liken. Every once in a while, give something you didn’t like another chance. You never know what might happen.
Thank you very much for reading
What merits do you see in watching a genre you don’t like? Or are there none? Let me know. I think there’s always something small to gain from everything you watch, whether you like it or not.