ANIME & MANGA - Review
11:00 - 9th April 2016, by NEO Staff

Hidamari Sketch

Yuno wants to be an artist and, after being accepted into art school, moves into the Hidamari apartment building directly opposite her new school. She quickly befriends her new fellow resident students, ditzy Miyako who is perpetually hungry, Hiro who is constantly dieting, and tomboy Sae.

Hidamari Sketch is adapted from a four-panel comic strip by Ume Aoki, who did the character designs in the excellent Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Chief director on the anime adaptation is Akiyuki Simbo, who likewise worked on Puella Magi and is a regular director on the Monogatari series. Some of the aesthetic of the latter creeps in to Hidamari Sketch, with geometric backgrounds and the striking use of colours. The two series also share a love for puns, which may explain why there is no English dub, as some of the jokes would be very tricky to transpose into English (for example, in Japanese, the words for ‘ghost’ and ‘stairs’ sound the same, leading to a confused exchange between Yuno and Miyako). However, Hidamari Sketch has a much gentler sense of humour than the twisted and often dark Monogatari series, and scores very high on the moe-o-meter with its school girl protagonists.

Much like Hetalia, which was similarly based on a four-panel comic, the series doesn’t have a plot to speak of. Instead, it uses a slice of life format that dips into the girls’ every day activities and watches them being adorable. Episodes typically begin with Yuno waking up in the morning and then going about her day. Conflict is the essence of drama, and on that score Hidamari Sketch is drama-free. Everyone is lovely and gets along and they always have a great time together. They go to a festival and have fun; they go for karaoke and have fun; they set up an inflatable pool in the backyard and have fun. Even when Yuno has the flu, her friends bring her food and drinks and soon she’s right as rain. The flu episode is one of the most visually striking of the bunch, thanks to Yuno’s vivid fever dreams, but her delirium induced imaginings are not the harbingers of anything sinister, just a brightly coloured diversion.

There are several recurring motifs – the girls frequently discuss their favourite foods at length, and Yuno typically ends every episode by taking a bath. The fanservice is not too heavy-handed, despite the odd cheeky shot of a backside, and much of that quota is filled by the girls’ eccentric art teacher, Yoshinoya, who loves posing in sexy costumes, much to the consternation of the school’s elderly principal.

Production values are modest. The animation is not the equal of the Monogatari series and can look quite clunky at times, making repeated use of still frames, and most dialogue is rendered with just the characters’ mouths moving in their perfectly still faces. But the use of colour is appealing and the use of photographs amongst the animation suggests mixed media, reflecting some of the girls’ art assignments

The US sitcom Seinfeld always joked that it was a show about nothing. Hidamari Sketch has a certain charm, but it is a very lightweight series. There are some gags, but the lack of any real substance means it has a tendency to fade from the memory quickly, despite the four girls trying so very hard to be kawaii.
SCORE: 3/5
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