What’s it about? Hiyori learned to fish from her now-deceased father, and whenever she’s anxious she heads to the pier. One day her fishing session is interrupted by a girl running down the dock, stripping to her swimsuit, and preparing to dive into the ocean—despite it being early spring and freezing cold. Hiyori stops the stranger from yeeting herself into the frigid sea, and the two get talking, sharing the wisdom of the fly fisherman… only to realize that they’re about to become stepsisters!
Slow Loop is capital-F Fine. It follows the steps of the hobby anime dance with competence: the burgeoning friendship between the withdrawn enthusiast and the bubbly newbie. The cute and accessible guides to the tips and tricks of the hobby itself. The relaxed and comfy vibe. Slow Loop does them all perfectly well. The trouble is, I’ve seen other series that do them much better, which makes this poor little fly-fishing anime look a little lackluster by contrast.
Having watched series like Super Cub that put so much effort into scene-setting and building atmosphere, the backgrounds and environment feel a little flat and artificial. After the meticulously-crafted wintry coziness of series like Laid-Back Camp, this one feels a little stiff, with its many animation shortcuts and simple shot composition. There’s nothing wrong with Slow Loop (except some potential yellow flags in the dynamic between these soon-to-be stepsisters, which I’ll get to in a second) but it just doesn’t earn the kind of gold star I know this genre can.
Which is a shame, because there’s potentially some interesting stuff here to explore. Hiyori has a deep and emotional tie to her hobby and is clearly doing her best to wrestle with her grief while everyone around her—including her mother, who is remarrying—seems to be moving on just fine. She does her best to be unapproachable but is secretly pleased when Koharu, the would-be ocean-swimmer and Hiyori’s future family member, shows an interest in fishing.
Koharu blasts past any initial awkwardness by being bubbly, energetic, and charming, disarming Hiyori from her usual shyness. The slapstick opening gives way to a sweet little bonding moment more rooted in realism. There’s a tender undercurrent of grief and healing to this story that I wish came through stronger in the visual language, atmosphere, and characterization.
I want to be enthused and excited about this cute little story about the growing sisterhood between these two very different characters, who found themselves thrown together by chance. I wish I could say with certainty that the show wasn’t going to Get Weird about it. I mentioned that Koharu’s intro is pretty slapstick: she flings off her clothes and her swimwear is revealed with multiple dramatic zoom-ins on her bust and bottom, and when Hiyori pulls her back from leaping into the sea (with a fishing line, naturally) we’re treating to an awkward, blushy, “oh no! We’ve fallen together!” moment. You know, the kind of moment usually used to establish comedic sexual tension between characters.
Maybe nothing will come of it. Maybe nothing, likewise, will come of the sparkles and pink cheeks that erupt when Koharu takes Hiyori’s hands and says she’s delighted to become her sister. Maybe the fact that the two share a bedroom only divided by a sliding door that, when opened, leaves them lying right next to each other, will also not be relevant. Maybe the show will never get weird about this and it will abandon these shippy-type moments in favor of more focus on their relationship as parts of a blended family. But the potential to Make It Weird is there and I feel the need to flag it.
Which is a shame because, again, the potential narrative here about rebuilding a family after a great loss, and healing through a shared hobby with a new family member, is really sweet. Even if the demonstrations of that hobby are a bit dull, I could get hooked in by the emotionality informing the growth of this new passion.
I would love a show about two girls developing a crush on each other while they go fishing together. I would love a show about complicated and meaningful stepsibling dynamics as they work through their new situation together. I would love for these not to be the same show.
Slow Loop: it’s Fine, a passable and sweet enough hobby show that runs the risk of Making It Weird between its two leads. If you’re looking for something chill this season, you might want to check it out, but honestly I’d rather point you towards the other series I’ve mentioned in this review instead. They’re better showcases of the slice-of-life genre’s restorative power and, I cannot stress this enough, they don’t stress me out by implying they want you to ship two stepsisters.