Cute girls doing cute things… It might be less exciting than you imagine.
Writer/Artist: Ume Aoki
Translated by: Satsuki Yamashita
Adapted by: Satsuki Yamashita
What They Say
Meet Yuno, a new student at the prestigious Yamabuki High, who has moved away from home to live closer to school. Living apart from her parents for the first time, she starts her new life making new friends, enjoying her days and gradually working toward her dream of becoming an artist.
Yen has really done an amazing job with this release. The trim size is much larger than usual, which gives the four-panel strips some welcome room to breathe. What’s even better is the four color pages, front and back, that serve as the book’s opening. The technical information, usually found on the back of the title page, has been moved to the very back of the volume so as not to interrupt the color pages. It’s definitely a great opening, and print quality is also solid throughout.
The covers are also very eye-catching, thanks in part to the larger trim size. Yuno is appropriately adorable on the front cover, which features a very close replication of the original logo. The illustration on the back cover depicts all four of the main girls and covers a good two-thirds of the page without any sort of interruption. Sure, the ISBN number and rating (Teen for language and violence? Really?) look a little strange shoved in the upper left-hand corner, but I’d rather it be there than obscuring some part of the adorable illustration.
Mileage will vary with this translation, but I doubt that anyone will be particularly thrilled with it. The lines read easily enough, but humor is so closely related to culture and language that some things were inevitably lost in translation. There are translator’s notes in the back of the book, but they are crammed onto one page. Also, there is never any sign to turn to this page; it’s up to the reader to decide to flip to the back and look. Given the large number of notes present, this is a very large burden to impose on something that should be light and easy to read.
The content has also been somewhat “Americanized.“ Yuno and Miya describe themselves as being sophomores rather than first-years, although there is a brief translator’s note explaining the difference between Japanese and American school years. Some food names have remained in their original Japanese form, while others have been translated. Honorifics have been retained throughout, and sound effects are given a subtitled translation.
Sunshine Sketch’s art is very appropriate for its subject matter: cute, pleasing to look at, and simple. The characters are all given distinctive physical characteristics, and are easy to tell apart even when their hairstyles are altered. Aoki also uses several different SDs to give her characters a wider range of expressions, but this also causes the art to be much simpler than it would be otherwise. Backgrounds tend to be very minimal, if they exist at all, but occasionally detailed settings given in the first part of a series give a decent sense of place.
Yuno has just been accepted to Yamabuki Private High School, a popular institution well-known for its arts program. To avoid a three-hour commute, she moves into the Hidamari Apartments, which are located directly across the street from the school. Her neighbor, fellow sophomore Miyako, is a little on the strange side. The junior who lives downstairs, Hiro, seems mature at first glance, but is surprisingly clueless. And Hiro’s best friend and neighbor, Sae, is a student and a novelist who can never seem to meet her deadlines. All four girls have their own quirks, but they get along easily and experience the everyday ups and downs of being high school students.
Sunshine Sketch is a hard title to critique, thanks to its four-panel style. The short scenarios all have a level of charm to them, even if some of the individual skits can be hit or miss. Yet at the same time, nothing ever happens--ever. There is no running plotline, besides the vague description of “Yuno goes to art school, makes friends, and various mild hijinks ensue.” The first volume is, on the whole, completely forgettable. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the read, but I remember very little about it. Various characters may have their own quirks and personalities, but none of them ever gets any real development. Heck, none of them ever even get a last name. Yet at the same time, I smiled through most of the volume. Sunshine Sketch doesn’t ever claim to be anything serious or weighty, and its format isn’t suited for such pursuits.
Clichéd as it may be to compare any form of entertainment to food, this series is shaping up to be cotton candy. It’s cute, fluffy, and hard to take in large doses. Yet read in moderation, it can be the perfect distraction from other, more serious pursuits. Slice-of-life fans who enjoy their manga to have as little activity as possible should find this to be the perfect way to pass their time. But even if you just often find yourself with a few spare minutes that need filling, Sunshine Sketch could be the perfect way to do exactly that.