Hidamari Sketch Season 1 Collection (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, February 11, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Four girls, one apartment complex and a life inside an art based high school populates this laid back and relaxing series based on the four panel comic strip.

What They Say

Art was her life... Now her life is art!
For years, Yuno's dreamed of attending Yamabuki Arts High School, but now that she's been accepted, it means the scary prospect of moving away from her home and family for the first time! Fortunately, Yuno quickly learns that if her new neighbors at the eclectic Hidamari (Sunshine) Apartments aren't technically family, at least the majority share the bond of being fellow art students.
From second year students like Hiro and Sae, who try to behave like helpful older sisters (mostly successfully) to her hyperactive new neighbor, classmate, and best friend Miyako (who has the scariest apartment ever), Yuno begins to build the support network she'll need for dealing with strange characters like her oddly masculine landlady, her cosplay-obsessed homeroom teacher, her tooth-chattering principal and all of the other odd denizens who inhabit her chosen world of art.
It won't be easy, and it won't always be pretty, but with her friends at her back Yuno's going to reach for the stars!

The Review!

Hidamari Sketch doesn’t get a dub with this release so we have the standard stereo Japanese mix here encoded at 224kbps. A series like this isn’t one that will give your speakers any kind of workout as it’s about ninety-nine percent dialogue outside of the opening and closing sequences. There are a few music cues that work out well in terms of providing a full feeling but they’re few and far between overall. Dialogue placement is solid when required and there are times with some noticeable depth to it. Everything comes across well and dialogue is strong as we had no problems with dropouts or distortions while listening to it.
Originally airing in 2007, this TV and OVA combo release is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series has fourteen episodes all told when the two types are combined and we get seven on each disc. Hidamari Sketch has a really nice look to it overall with some pleasing soft colors that doesn’t introduce a significant amount of noise and looks rather solid considering its style. Colors look really nice with a good mix of soft earthy tones and sharp vibrant colors tied to various items. The opening sequence tends to look the best with the colors and vibrancy but the episodes themselves hold up well too. The series is fairly laid back throughout so there aren’t a lot of high bitrate scenes but when there is a lot going on everything holds up well during regular playback.
Though I’m not entirely sure that the color choice for the background works, the overall cover design is spot on here as it makes the whole thing look like a notebook with the rings on the left side and the tabs on the right. The characters have a bit of that cutout feel to them that does work as well as the doodles that are behind them on the notebook itself. The logo looks cute and fits well with it as does mentioning that this is season one with the full episode count for it. The back cover does something I don’t like and that’s to put all the text inside a circle with it being so uneven as it gets wider and then smaller. Surrounding the lengthy summary piece is a bunch of other circles with shots from the show along with a few doodles as the back cover fleshes out more of what the front cover did with the notebook angle. Add in the production credits with a few little cute character pieces along the bottom and a smooth clean technical grid and it’s a decent piece overall but misses the mark in one or two areas. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for Hidamari Sketch are rather simple but at least they’re done in a way that helps to set the mood for the show nicely instead of just bland background with no artwork and listing only episode numbers. The menu has a bit of a split to it with the top half showing a trio of girls, albeit a bit softly, set against the school with the logo next to them. The bottom half has a street design to it with the episodes numbers spread across it and the special features (which aren’t special) accessible just below that. There’s a decent cute music loop with vocals playing for just under forty-five seconds as well. With no language selection here (though you can change subtitles on the fly), it’s a weak menu in terms of offerings but it’s smooth and problem free, allowing you to jump right to the episodes and get on with it.
The only extras available for this release are fairly typical ones with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences on the second disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the four panel comic by Ume Aoki, released as Sunshine Sketch by Yen Press in the US, Hidamari Sketch is a twelve episode series with two OVAs that follow it. The original comic ran in a seinan magazine and the show itself plays in the realm of the mildly cute while avoiding anything really tantalizing when it comes to the fanservice. A lot of four panel comics have been adapted into anime over the years with different approaches. Some expand events out to entire episodes while others do a series of relatively short cut scenes that sometimes have threads that tie it all together. Hidamari Sketch reminded me of Lucky Star without the geekiness and a bit more relaxed.
The central focus of the show is on a group of high school students attending the Yamabuki Art high school. The main focus is on their various artistic sides but they attend general classes as well, though it's very rare that we see anything related to that. By and large it's about the kids as they deal with their classes and life in general. The stories are fairly mundane and without the geek aspect, it's the kind of show where you feel you're getting a bit of an honest glimpse at part of what a student in this life would actually be like. It's fairly simple as we see them living on their own in an apartment complex across from the campus with two of them freshman and another two of them having been there for a year or more so they play the role of upperclassman.
While this is a fairly small ensemble cast show, it does focus somewhat centrally on one student, freshman Yuno. Yuno's a decent girl who isn't too sure of where she wants to go artistically at the school, which is normal for a freshman. She's not bad at what she does, she doesn't struggle too much but she does put in effort and works on her projects. She's a good kid with an honest heart who looks out for her friends and is finding that she does well living on her own. The other freshman is a girl named Miyako who is a touch ditzy but not in a way that makes you think she's braindead. She has a different view of life as she tries to do things that attract her attention but she's not a dangerous type who goes after things that will bring problems. She wants to enjoy life but not at the expense of others.
The upperclassmen are where the characters are a bit more interesting for me. Hiro isn't quite the outgoing person that Miyako is but she's similar in some ways. Hiro's cute in that she's easily susceptible to other opinions when it comes to certain subjects, particularly that of her weight. She certainly doesn't have any true issues when it comes down to it, but she's very sensitive to itt and it impacts the way she lives, though she does often give in to the hundred yen cake slice sales that are common in the area. Rounding out the group is Sae, the eldest of the group who does a lot of writing professionally already yet has come to the school because she wants to do her own artwork. Her personality is definitely standard for her look but it works very well within the group dynamic as she's both the serious one and the one most easily flustered. She plays up the wise elder at times but also has a great child-like sense of wonder many times. She quickly became my favorite character in the show simply because she felt the most well rounded when it came to how she deals with life.
Though this is a co-ed high school, there's only one male character with any amount of significant lines and that's the principal. He's quite an amusing character as he's a whisper thin old man who is frustrated in dealing with a particular teacher. Like the students, he has his quirks and there's numerous pieces of artwork sculpted around his design that gets used in a variety of ways throughout the classes. He has a good wise old sage feel to him that allows the character to work well without being too strange. What offsets him is the art teacher the kids have, one Yoshinoya. She's a rather restrained cosplay enthusiast who brings it to school often as a model for the kids in their classes but she's also somewhat lighthearted and all about connecting with the students. Like a lot of young teachers, she's also the type who still lives at home with her parents who treat her more like a student than a teacher.
The stories within the show are fairly mundane as they play out but they do mix it up in an interesting way. The show changes when it takes place throughout the year with each episode, moving back and forward in time so it's not sequential. One episode may be in April, then August and then back to May. This does pose a problem if you want to figure out the continuity of the show, but there really isn't anything like that here as the kids all deal with basic slice of life material. Doing some shopping, talking about favorite foods, going through art classes, karaoke or coping with a cold. There's very little stand out material in terms of story, but when you watch Hidamari Sketch you're getting a good glimpse at these characters lives. For me, it's not so much that I want to protect and care for them but rather I want to see them grow and change to become who they'll be when they get older.
One of the things that makes this show work as well as it does, with its short form storytelling and all, is the manner in which it's animated. With the show being done by Shaft, they use what really is their trademark style to give this life. We've seen their style before in other shows brought over, such as Pani Poni Dash and Negima?!, but here it's a bit less frenetic than the first and a lot less stylish than the second. It's kept fairly real world but it's the manner in which they design their scenes, moving from piece to piece and providing the flow that keeps you enticed. There are cute quirky bits scattered throughout – the rabbit from Pani Poni Dash shows up walking by a window at one point for example – but it really does take the style they built up and applies it to a far more laid back setting. And I think it works wonderfully since it takes a lot of little style nods from four panel comics.
In Summary:
In some ways, Hidamari Sketch doesn't really manage to separate itself strongly from the pack when it comes to slice of life shows about a group of high school girls. It doesn't do outlandish things, it doesn't geek it up and it avoids all manner of romance for the most part. But what it does do is take the art element of the show and make it feel like a living component of it, it brings out some small subtle and cute humor on a regular basis and it gives us four girls that, while not exactly realistic in some ways, feels more true to life than a lot of what we do get at times. They're not coping with major issues or harboring dark secrets. They're going to school, doing their work, enjoying their time off and learning how to live on their own. And Shaft manages to make it worth watching, where you want to see what comes next because of their stylistic approach to it. The end of the first season, with its two OVAs included as well which is really just more of the same, left me very pleased and looking forward to more in the future.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: 39.98
Running time: 350
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Hidamari Sketch