Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hall of Fame Induction: Hidamari Sketch

In my Anime Hall of Fame series, I highlight shows that I enjoyed a lot and think are worth trying out. Click the "stardf29's Anime Hall of Fame" tab at the top of the page to see a list of all the inducted anime series so far. More anime series will be inducted over time, and this post will be updated with any new information for this series.


Hidamari Sketch

Don't worry; these girls' souls are perfectly safe in this show. (Official art for season 4.)

Show Information

Japanese title: ひだまりスケッチ

Based on: Manga (available in English from Yen Press by the name Sunshine Sketch)

Length & air dates:
- Season 1: 12 eps. (Winter 2007) + 2 specials (10/2007)
- Season 2 (Hidamari Sketch x 365): 13 eps. (Summer 2008) + 3 specials (10/2009)
- Season 3 (Hidamari Sketch x Hoshimittsu): 12 eps. (Winter 2010) + 2 specials (10/2010)
- Hidamari Sketch x SP: 2 specials (10/2011)
- Season 4 (Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb): 12 eps. (Fall 2012) + 2 "Sae & Hiro Graduation" specials (11/2013)

Studio: SHAFT

Available for streaming: Hulu (all episodes except SP and Sae & Hiro Graduation specials)

Home video license: Sentai Filmworks
Release information (all releases are in Japanese with English subtitles only):
- Season 1: DVD (ARP: $40); Blu-ray (ARP: $60)
- Season 2: DVD (ARP: $40); Blu-ray (ARP: $60)
- Season 3: DVD (ARP: $50)
- Season 4 has yet to be released on video

Show synopsis: This slice-of-life show follows a girl named Yuno as she enrolls in Yamabuki High School's art department and decides to live in the nearby Hidamari Apartments, where she lives life alongside the other eccentric residents of that apartment: her classmate Miyako and the upperclassmen Sae and Hiro. Eventually, as they progress through school, the apartments welcome two new underclassmen, Nori and Nazuna. The show depicts the enjoyable times of these people as they develop their art skills.

Why it's worth watching

Hidamari Sketch is easily one of my all-time favorite anime series, currently standing as my 7th favorite series of all-time. With a total of sixty episodes across its four seasons and numerous specials, it’s currently the longest show in my top 10, and is overall a show that I have spent a lot of time with.

There are many reasons why this show is so great. It’s a slice-of-life show featuring cute girls, and the girls all have great personalities and are lots of fun. There’s plenty of good comedy in this series, too. Add in some fun side characters such as the eccentric teacher Ms. Yoshinoya and the… odd-looking principal that is always on her case, and this show definitely has all the basics needed for an enjoyable show of its genre.

One particularly unique aspect of this show is that it is produced by Studio SHAFT, well-known for producing such visually-eccentric shows as Bakemonogatari and Puella Magi Madoka Magica (in fact, the character designer for Madoka Magica, Ume Aoki, is also the original mangaka for Hidamari Sketch, so expect to see some very similar character designs between those two shows). As such, all of the slice-of-life events portrayed in Hidamari Sketch have an extra visual flair to them, which alone makes the series quite different from others of its sort.

And if that was not enough SHAFT insanity for you, the show’s first two seasons are shown largely in anachronistic order; each episode presents a random day or days of the year from Yuno’s first year at Yamabuki, with the day(s) covered presented as part of the episode title. Seeing how these different days piece together is definitely part of the fun of this show. That said, the third season, which starts off Yuno’s second year, follows a more chronological order for said second year (but with flashbacks to random days from the first year), while the fourth season is pretty much entirely chronological, only having some early episodes taking place before some of the specials aired after the third season.

All of this is nice and fun, but none of it accounts for the real reason this show is one of my favorites of all time. What makes Hidamari Sketch special is that the girls live together in the Hidamari Apartments, and while their apartments are physically separated by walls, they visit each other’s rooms so often that those walls might as well not exist. Because of this, a large part of this show takes place outside of school, showing what these girls do after class and during weekends. All of this makes the girls of Hidamari Apartments feel much more like a family than those of other shows like it, and I find that Hidamari Sketch is the slice-of-life show that really exemplifies the “going through life together” aspect of slice-of-life.

Objectionable Content

I’d give this a PG rating. By and large there is nothing objectionable, but some of what Yoshinoya-sensei does and says does get a bit risqué, and every episode ends with a scene of Yuno (and/or one of the other girls) taking a bath; nothing too fanservicey, as she is largely covered up by the water, but still not 100% pure. There’s also how many of the girls’ interactions approach yuri (lesbian) levels; not so much that you can’t interpret it as simply really close friendships if you want, but enough to be noticeable. (Of course, that is pretty standard fare for shows of this sort...)

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