Having read and enjoyed Chihiro Harumi's other works, such as 'Koi wo Suru no ga Shigoto desu' and 'Velvet Kiss', I found this manga to be severely disappointing. Though the art was as good as always, the story and characters were abysmal, demonstrating none of the finesse displayed in previous works.
Where the initial premise lay, one would expect to see a development akin to the series 'Kuzu no Honkai'. Two people who do not love each other come together in a shared intimacy driven by loneliness, and a longing desire for that which they cannot have. However, 'Slow Starter' lacks the intelligence shown in 'Kuzu
no Honkai', and most disappointingly, the mangaka seems more focused on creating surprising plot twists, to the extent that they forgot a coherent story-line is still required.
Stories about traumatic experiences can add incredible depth (see Bitter Virgin), but in 'Slow Starter', this is horribly mishandled. Inserting it for the sake of inserting it causes more harm than good, as these types of story-lines require careful and deliberate construction. The nonchalance a certain character showed towards her traumatic experience greatly disturbed me, mainly because she seemed to be so unaffected by the fact that her bodily integrity had been brutally violated.
And that's exactly it, the characters as a whole were poorly written, which played a part in preventing the story from achieving its potential. Through the surface, there is very little depth to the characters, who often carried out actions that innately contradicted the qualities that were supposed to define them. First off, the lesbian Azami being fierce towards other guys for trying to take advantage of her drunken state, but makes an exemption for the male protagonist to exploit her inebriated stupor? Credit can be given, on the broad spectrum of emotions she exhibited, reflecting the pains and conflicting feelings of being in a love seen as socially taboo. I was also satisfied with the answers she found to her questions at the end, as well as how she turned out.
Nonetheless, despite being the main heroine, she was largely absent for the remainder of the series, that it was difficult for me to feel attached to her as a character. Instead, the story became about how the main character interacted with the person Azami loved, which led to a dead end the mangaka desperately tried to salvage with a plot twist that came out of the blue.
That is to say, although I was satisfied with the character Azami finally developed into, I would like to have seen an actual transition from her former self, rather than getting a sudden change that is difficult to justify.
Kaoru ended up becoming the main heroine of the series, in my opinion. She was meant to be the enigma who drove the progression of the story. Unfortunately, she became the scapegoat for what I reckon was a massive cop out, and too much was left unanswered. All the suggestions made by other characters, which were supposed to imply something about Kaoru, were never really addressed. The hints were all there, but the puzzle pieces never fell into place. Additionally, it was both frustrating and concerning that one of the messages this manga seemed to advocate was slut shaming. In this story, certain actions are justified, if the girl 'acted' in a way to somehow deserve it. That is to say, being perceived as flirtatious and inviting, invites sexual assault upon oneself, which I cannot agree with whatsoever.
At first, I felt that this series showed some real promise by seeking to deal with some pretty complex emotional questions on sexuality. However, the lack of character development really hurt it, and the ending as a whole was unsatisfactory. Most of all, its mishandling of a sensitive issue such as rape, is something I personally cannot justify.