Yuno, Miyako, Hiro and Sae are students at Yamabuki Art College, flatmates at the Hidamari Apartments across the road, and all round good friends. Join them in their everyday lives as they cook, paint, go out and generally enjoy their high school days.
Slice-of-life and crazy SHAFT comedy have often been enjoyable on their own, but when it came to Hidamari Sketch, the two were to be brought together in one package- a fusion that could prove either worthy or disastrous. Fortunately, the former was to be the case, resulting in a series that was to be enjoyable from start to finish.
Instead of following any kind of chronological order, Hidamari Sketch picks out days seemingly at random from a year in the life of its protagonists, jumping back and forth at will. Luckily, this isn’t as confusing as it sounds; in fact, aside from an episode in which Yuno gets a text message from a character who has yet to be introduced, the swift introduction of protagonists at the start and lack of overall plot makes the series easy to follow.
What we have then, is what I wanted Lucky Star to be, an enjoyable mix of comedy, random conversations and everyday life that, in the vein of the oft-mentioned Minami-ke and Ichigo Mashimaro, is entertaining rather than dull, memorable rather than forgettable. Moments such as the girls discovering that Miyako’s room is cheaper because it is in an unfinished state and has drying agents under the floor that might ignite when wet reflect the sort of quirky and offbeat ways in which my own trains of thought tend to run. Again, it’s a case of the jokes going somewhere and not being five minute throwaways that tie the series together- plus the usual dose of SHAFT visual madness ensures that you have to be paying attention to catch everything.
As with most comedy series, Hidamari Sketch is more about well-defined rather than well developed characters, with four distinctive leads in the form of quiet and self-effacing Yuno, forward and outspoken Miyako, sardonic novelist Sae and nice but easily teased Hiro. Fortunately, this turns out to be the perfect combination for highly entertaining viewing, with supporting personalities such as the girls’ cosplay-obsessed teacher and the stern yet shaky principal of the school adding extra flavour to the mix.
Visually, Hidamari Sketch doesn’t quite look up to par for a 2007 series, for although the character designs are attractive and the usual SHAFT visual quirks and patterned backgrounds are in place, they seem to have saved the bulk of their animation budget for other series. Nonetheless, the low key look suits the series well enough, as does the light-hearted musical score.
A thoroughly entertaining dose of slice-of-life and comedy, Hidamari Sketch is probably the best thing the Winter 2007 season had to offer. And with season two currently airing, there was never a better excuse to add it to your viewing list.