First year high school student Yuno has begun classes in Yamabuki High School, a school she always wanted to get into. She lives in the apartment complex Hidamari Complex, where she meets an energetic girl named Miyako as well as two senior students: Sae and Hiro. The series mainly deals with these girls hanging out together as friends.
Tim: Sometimes the best things are the simplest. In the case of shaft's Hidamari Sketch, the charming stories of four high schoolers, their eccentric teacher, and their principal, landlord, and various other characters has so far had three television seasons, 7 OAV episodes, and even has a fourth season in the works as of this review's writing. However, when I watched the first five episodes almost two years ago, I brushed it off as a average, albeit cute, series. It took over a year later when my friend Stig picked up the season box sets and gave the series almost Aria-esque praise that my interest was finally renewed in the series. Once I saw Anime Network had the series up for watch on their website last month, I grabbed myself a three-month subscription and started watching it from scratch with him. I was not disappointed.
And since Stig got me to re-watch the series after I got him to watching it in the first place, I decided to let him talk about the series himself:
Stig: And hey, I wrote in my own review of x365 that it was on Tim's recommendation (and comparison to Sketchbook) that got me watching this, right? I guess this review means we have come full circle.
The characters in Hidamari Sketch are a simple but fun bunch of characters. Our four leads are as follows: the shy, sweet Yuno, her energetic though poor friend Miyako, and the their two upperclassmen friends - the kind, pretty, but weight-obsessed Hiro, and the dependable, boyish-looking Sae. Rounding out the cast is the always quivering (but not questionable) Principal, immature woman-child art teacher Yoshinoya, and the unnamed landlord of the Hidamari apartment. They are, for the most part, a colorful, fun bunch of people. Yuno and Miyako's friendship in-particular, despite being polar opposites in personality (Yuno is shy and polite, Miyako is loud and energetic), bring about the best moments in the series, showing that the two are true blue best friends more often than not.
Unlike other slice-of-life anime about art students like Sketchbook ~full color'S~ and GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class, Hidamari Sketch isn't so much about art as it is about art students. While the opening theme does make references to colors, as well as show a lot of art utensils in the background, most of the show is about Yuno and her friends hanging out and having fun. Those who remember our K-On! review might be asking, "Wait a minute! That was your biggest criticism about that show! Since it's a show about art students, and they aren't doing much in the ways of art, that must mean the show sucks." And believe me, I could see your point. The difference in Hidamari Sketch is that the characters are a lot more fun and likeable than any of the K-On! girls ever were. Not to say the show isn't about art as all - one episode revolves around Miyako handing in for a sleepy Yuno her unfinished sketch in an art presentation, and another has them sketching outside - but it's used to add to the characters' personalities as well as the episode plots, not eat up the majority of the air time. (As what happens often in GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class.)
Hidamari Sketch is also a lot quieter than most series of its kind. Part of one episode, for example, has Yuno, Miyako, Hiro, and Sae just hanging out in an inflated pool talking to each other, and another has them talking while also looking at the dripping water of Miyako's low-rent apartment during a storm. Still, Miyako brings plenty of energy and fun to the series whenever it gets too laid back - wearing weird wigs, jumping from the second floor of the apartment building, or sleeping in a hammock instead of a bed due to her poor she is. Yoshinoya also adds her own zaniness to the series with her costly antics, though it's very hit-or-miss. Not all the fun zaniness works, sadly. For example, the series features in our opinion a few too many jokes about Hiro's weight, or Sae lying about having a bunch of boyfriends and her worrying over Hiro as if she was her girlfriend. Fortunately, the series is for the most part cute, clever, and funny.
One thing we dig about Hidamari Sketch is the art. While the animation isn't anything special, the way the series presents itself is nothing short of eye-catching and memorable. As I talked about in my original review, in episode 5 Yuno is sick in bed, her body literally glowing red all over. Scenes with Yuno often close up to the X clips in her hair, sometimes the screen showing nothing but them with colored backdrops. a few other cute visuals include: Japanese letters will sometimes take the place of objects like cars, footsteps in the snow or scenery in lieu of a character walking up to someone, and background colors and scenery changing depending on the mood the series is trying to convey. It does look a little lazy at times - there's plenty of cost-effective cutouts of actual clocks and food - but never does it look GAINAX-level cheap. (That said, the budget increase for the following two seasons was nice, all things considered - Stig.)
The acting is also quite good. With the exception of Sae's little sister, the voice actresses fit their characters to a tee. (Even the usually shrill Ryoko Shintani - Tim.) The background music is simple but works well, and while the opening theme is your typical perky pop song, the ending theme Mebae Drive is fantastic - one of the best ending themes to an anime we've heard in a long, long time.
Tim: Despite some tired character jokes (especially from Hiro), I highly enjoyed Hidamari Sketch and am glad to have finally finished watching the first season at last. I look forward to watching the rest of the misadventures involving Yuno and her friends at the Hidamari apartment/their school over the coming months with Stig.
Stig: Then, my work here is done.
Bumped up to another star. A charming series with lovable characters and interesting visuals. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: Most of the series is appropriate for children, but the girls' teacher, Yoshinoya, occasionally brings about some bits of fan service and suggestive content. Not much else objectionable beyond that, though.
Version(s) Viewed: Anime Network streams (Tim), R1 DVD release, sub only (Stig)
Review Status: Full (14/14)
Hidamari Sketch © 2007 Ume Aoki / Houbunsha / HidamariHeights
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