This week we have a series that at first might seem dull, but when you watch it you see that it has the odd surreal edge and comic touch, plus some unusual artistic touches.
Hidamari Sketch (Sunshine Sketch in English) began as a manga in 2004 by Ume Aoki, and has had four anime TV series since 2007. This is a comedy series focusing on the day-to-day lives of students living together. This is not at some implausible world, or school with some odd policy towards its students like so many anime, but a perfectly normal school which happens to specialise in the arts. At first it may seem boring, but things change when you watch it.
The central characters live at Hidamari Apartments, where four female students live together outside Yamabuki Art High School. The story is told from the viewpoint of Yuno, a kindly if rather weak-willed girl. We follow her at the apartment and at the school, as well as her three friends: Miyako, her lively classmate and next-door neighbour; older student Hiro, who is always worrying about her weight; and Hiro’s neighbour Sae, who also works as a novelist.
Each episode follows a day-in-the-life of the students, sometimes at school and sometimes on their days off. They have their own fun, and they have their own things to worry about as well. They also have to put up with the eccentric behaviour of their teacher Ms. Yoshinoya, who has a habit of dressing up and annoying the school’s principle. Each episode ends with Yuno musing in the bath about what has happened that day, which bizarrely makes think of Open All Hours. It reminds me of when Arkwright (or more recently Granville) mused as he closed up his corner shop.
Hidamari Sketch is a series which does surprise. There is the comedy in it, which come from the relationships between the main characters and Yoshinoya’s strange habits. However, the best thing about the series is the artwork, which is appropriate for a series following art students. It features things such as mixing the anime with photographic images. Sequences in which a character walks a short distance are shown simplistically by just having a blank screen, showing footprints walking from one side of the screen to the other. One of the best episodes is one in which Yuno has a fever and has delusions due to her illness.
The first series has just been released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK this week, but it has some problems. The biggest is that it only comes with a Japanese dub with English subtitles, and no English-language dub. This is not a major problem, but what makes it worse is that the subtitles are frequently misspelt. For example, one character says “of cause” rather than “of course”, whereas another time “can’t” is spelt without a “t”, and don’t think they were just trying to spelt “can”, because it still came with an apostrophe.
Hidamari Sketch is a gentle, warm series. If you are willing to put up with the typos, you can still enjoy the look and feel of the show.
Hidamari Sketch is released on DVD and Blu-Ray by MVM Films.