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Minatsu is a lively, popular teenager and star of the girls' softball team. Her chief admirers are her childhood sweetheart, Akiba, and her perverse softball coach, Yamazakura. But while Minatsu falls for Kadomatsu, the boxing champ from a rival school, he is not interested in her. In fact, he is only interested in "Maria," a pretty girl with glasses, though he is unaware that "Maria" is really a disguise Minatsu uses to avoid a gang of thugs that's intent on getting back at her for reporting them in a hit-and-run incident. Kadomatsu and Akiba soon come to blows over their love for the same girl, and Coach Yamazakura, a former high school boxer himself, agrees to teach Akiba how to defend himself. Meanwhile, Coach's orphaned niece, Chika, is determined to find a wife for him so she can have a new mommy and daddy. Throw into this mix Somei, the newest teacher at the school, who's a gorgeous hunk but is scared of all women . . . except Sawamura, the school bad-girl who wants Yamazakura for herself.

An addictive blend of softball, boxing, and nostalgic school-day intrigues that adapts the entirety of the short 1987 manga by Mitsuru Adachi in Ciao magazine. Not as well known as the same creator's Touch, H2, Nine, or Miyuki, SS remains unavailable in the U.S. and has achieved the questionable distinction of being the U.K.'s worst-selling anime from 1995 to 2000, a record broken only by the release of the Kimagure Orange Road videos. This is a great shame because it retains Adachi's masterful qualities of character interaction and observational comedy. The early episodes of quick-change farce are soon discarded for a complex mating dance, as Mina-tsu deftly deals with her suitors and tries to decide which (if any) to choose. Needless to say, after much comedy business divided, like the original manga, into seasonal chapters, the show ends happily with a spring wedding attended by several couples formed from the supporting cast.

SS is fascinating both for its portrayal of everyday Japan and for the "everyday" aspects that seem so alien to the Western viewer. These include the Japanese attitude toward smoking and sexual harassment, teen rebellion expressed through littering or (the horror!) buying alcohol from a vending machine, as well as the Japanese concept of what makes a man marriage material, and what aspirations a 17-year-old schoolgirl should have. A charmingly conservative story, with beautiful backgrounds and some wonderful humor, including the boys' vehement complaints about the service at a holiday resort, chiefly because they are unable to peek at the girls bathing. Parts three and four were run together as a single feature-length episode in the British version in a feeble attempt to avoid having to pay the classification board for two separate titles.

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Name: Slow Step
Release Date: Jan. 1, 1991
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Rating: None
Runtime: 45 (mins)
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