Hidamari Sketch is the 2007 anime adaptation of the currently ongoing manga Sunshine Sketch. The manga itself is a Yonkoma manga, or 4-Koma as it is commonly referred to, which means it is laid out over four panels. 4-Koma manga is generally used with comedy and gag stories, with each page playing out one story or sketch. The anime certainly captures the uniqueness of this style of manga and Shaft has done a great job bringing it to life. Hidamari Sketch has currently received four anime adaptations and the first of these is brought to the UK via MVM Entertainment.
“Art was her life… Now her life is art! For years, Yuno’s dreamed of attending Yamabuki Arts High School, but now that she’s been accepted, it means the scary prospect of moving away from her home and family for the first time! Fortunately, Yuno quickly learns that if her new neighbours at the eclectic Hidamari (Sunshine) Apartments aren’t technically family, at least the majority share the bond of being fellow art students. From second year students like Hiro and Sae, who try to behave like helpful older sisters (mostly successfully) to her hyperactive new neighbour, classmate, and best friend Miyako (who has the scariest apartment ever), Yuno begins to build the support network she’ll need for dealing with strange characters like her oddly masculine landlady, her cosplay-obsessed homeroom teacher, her teeth-chattering principal and all of the other odd denizens who inhabit her chosen world of art. It won’t be easy, and it won’t always be pretty, but with her friends at her back Yuno’s going to reach for the stars!” – MVM Entertainment
In 4-Koma manga, stories are short, generally lasting only one page; that formula has been replicated successfully in anime form. Each episode contains around two to four sketches that are not always linked in any meaningful way. It’s also worth noting that the series is not presented in chronological order, but given the nature of the series you’d fail to notice and it doesn’t impact negatively on the haphazard story. I personally had to watch this series over three or four sittings due to its episodic format making it hard to keep my attention for long periods of time. It works much better spread out watching an episode here and there.
The series showcases some early visual stylings that studio Shaft will eventually become famed for but with a very simple art style that is very much standard with 4-Koma manga. The use of real world objects can be a little jarring at first, but it’s actually quite a common sight among anime of its time. By today’s standards though, it feels rather out of place but fits well with the style of the series once the initial surprise has subsided. Due to the very simple art and minimal action sequences, the DVD version fares rather well thankfully not being hampered by blur or compression issues.
This title is a subtitle-only release, something that has become more frequent as of late and I praise distributors for doing so. Extras on disc one for the release feature a collection of trailers from Sentai Filmworks including Little Snow Fairy Sugar, Clannad After Story, Glass Mask, You’re Under Arrest: Fast & Furious, Yozakura Quartet, and Special A. Disc one also features one of my growing pet hates, the highly sought-after bonus feature of DVD Credits! Disc two includes two specials that were aired shortly after the first season’s end alongside clean opening and closing animations.
Hidamari Sketch is a fun and enjoyable series that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Given the nature of the series and how episodic it is, watching the series in one go may feel like a chore so it's best spread out over a few viewings. While I feel more recent series with a similar format have done it a lot better, Hidamari Sketch is still a strong series and it’s great to see it get some love in the west.