What’s it about? Hana Ichinose is off to a “slow start” on her high school life. She’s just transferred to a new school, and took a year off to study before being admitted. Luckily for her, she’s able to find her niche with three other friendly girls.
I would like to state for the record that this is the first premiere of the season to leave me feeling slightly unclean afterward, as if I had seen someone’s fetish without asking.
The last show I reviewed was DEVILMAN Crybaby.
While Crybaby was completely upfront about what it is, for better or worse, Slow Start has a gloss of respectability that paradoxically makes the glimpses of who it’s pandering to that much more uncomfortable. And the relative polish of the competent art and soothing pastel coloring has the effect of making everything feel plasticky and unreal, as if no one on the team has ever actually spoken with a teenage girl (a fact for which we should probably be grateful). To wit:
This is a “cute girls doing cute things” show about a lead character who’s supposedly seventeen years old but could easily pass for eleven or twelve. One of the girls in her new friend group, Kamuri, is explicitly noted to look exactly the same as she did in elementary school despite being a high school freshman. Most of the other girls are either of similar childlike build, while Hana’s caretaker has water-balloon impossibreasts that prominently wiggle and jiggle and deny the laws of sweater physics.
Hana herself is subjected to a different but equally uncomfortable level of camera leering: detailed shots of the hem of her miniskirt bouncing around, closeups of her pressing her hands to her chest, Tarantino-approved toe wiggling, and a downright pathological focus on her constant embarrassment. This is a girl who responds to a simple question with a full minute of blushing and squeaking and breathy flustering. No human has ever spoken this way, and it happens so frequently in this single 20-minute episode that I’m left imagining the nervous flopsweat of the intended audience.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t discussed the meat of the episode, it’s because there’s not really anything else TO concentrate on. Half of the episode is taken up by a conversation about the girls’ names, which the animation tries valiantly to spiff up with sight gags but that nonetheless winds up spinning its wheels and leaving me longing for death. Even the parts that approach a kind of genuineness about how hard it is to move to a new school and how intimidating it can be to try and make friends is drowned out by the loud and purposeful periphery.
Everything about these girls is manufactured to be pwecious and kyoot (this one has a little fang! This one makes vaguely homoerotic comments that will never actually come to anything!), and it leaves very little room for them to come across as anything but body pillows in the making. It’s extremely alienating, a hollow and dead-eyed thing more soulless and marketing driven than this season’s actual marketing-driven series. Moe fans deserve better than this.