Anime Review | Hidamari Sketch (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 02.05.2016

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Hidamari Sketch Season 1 (UK Rating: 12)

Following in the footsteps of the super popular Azumanga Daioh comes SHAFT's adaptation of another four girl, 4 Koma comedy slice of life series. Hidamari Sketch covers the daily lives of four girls attending an art school in Japan and all living in the Hidamari Complex. Light-hearted and fun, this one is filled with simple moments that can bring a smile to everyone. This complete first season from MVM contains all twelve episodes, plus two bonus episodes… and is available now!

Hidamari Sketch is a considerably old series. The original manga was released back in 2004 and was by Ume Aoki, likely most well known for her work as the character designer for the legendary series Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The anime adaptation was then released in 2007, but has only now reached British shores in an official release thanks to MVM. There's certainly an audience for this type of slice of life show, as there is a ton of slice of life comedy anime out there. With so many other teenage girl style series available, each has to have something special to make it stand out from the others, and here it relies on the strength of its characters.

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There are four girls in the main cast and although they exhibit many of the usual anime archetypes, their charm and relationships really shine through. The protagonist is Yuno, and each of the episodes mostly focuses on moments where she's reminiscing while lazing in the bath with her rubber duck. Yuno is something of a shy and nervous girl, a new first year at the school. Her fellow first year and best friend, Miyako, is quite the opposite - brash, loud, and hyperactive. The third in the quartet, Sae, is the token tomboy and sort of fujoshi, writing romance and getting flustered as the others find themselves in compromising positions. Then, finally, there is Hiro, another second year and one who is older physically and mentally than the rest. Hiro finds herself acting as the den mother to the group, often having to cook enough to feed a small army to satisfy Miyako's ravenous appetite. She keeps her own food intake low, however, as she constantly watches her weight, especially because of Miyako's teasing.

The characters all play fantastically off each other, with the conversations and interactions having a natural and genuine feel, like they are the real conversation of people, stolen away for these stories. The secondary cast is just as enjoyable, especially the faculty double act at their school. The girls' "forever 17-year-old" teacher Yoshinoya who loves to show off her risqué cosplay and acts more like a schoolgirl than most of her students and the nameless doddering old principal, who is constantly berating her for her inappropriate behaviour, makes for some truly funny moments.

It's so hard to actually explain the attraction of a series like this. There are no real big plots, no compelling developments… it's basically just watching snippets of the four girls' daily lives - just random windows into their days, their simple conversations, thoughts and challenges of each day in school. In much the same way things like soap operas are compelling viewing, slice of life shows are compelling. It's just filled with warm moments.

Image for Anime Review | Hidamari Sketch (Lights, Camera, Action!)

The storytelling style itself is quite unique. There's some playing with the narrative chronologically and moments referenced in earlier episodes that pay off in later episodes. There are tons of classic Japanese jokes, too, which use plays on words and, thankfully, the localisation team and translators here haven't tried to replace the jokes with an English equivalent, instead, they add translator notes to explain the joke. This works well and actually delivers a real comedic punch.

Considering the age of the series, it's unsurprising that the art and animation look dated, but it at least plays with different ideas and styles. Here and there the style completely changes, mixing in stylish animation at points, adding gags that use live action shots and generally experiment - fittingly so for an anime that is based on an art school.

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
Hidamari Sketch is one of those series that just makes for oddly compelling viewing. It proves to be a genuinely warm, charming, and happy series that may only actually have few really laugh out loud moments, but definitely makes up for it with plenty of smiles.

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