Being an art student takes a certain amount of natural talent, skill and
eccentricity passion. Have you ever wondered how a young, creative student views the world? Well allow me to introduce you to Hidamari Sketch, an anime that follows the ups and downs of four female students through rose-tinted glasses, stylised visuals and soft humour.
Hidamari Sketch is written by Ume Aoki and was originally a four-panel comic strip. In 2004 it evolved into a manga, a light novel and anime in 2007, and then even a Nintendo DS game in 2009! So popular is this title that MVM Entertainment has now decided to license the anime, much to the delight of UK fans. Series 1 will be available to purchase as of January 25th, 2016!
Hidamari Sketch follows the everyday lives of four young girls who all study at Yamabuki Art High School. The protagonist, Yuno, has just been accepted into the school and is feeling nervous about her artistic abilities. She moves into an apartment complex called Hidamari Apartments. There she meets three more students: Miyako, Hiro and Sae. A friendship quickly blooms between the girls, and we soon see them eating meals together each night and supporting each other through tight deadlines and stressful exams.
Hidamari Sketch is a slice-of-life anime, meaning the episodes play less like a traditional narrative and more like snapshots taken from a person’s life. They are events that are ‘cut-out’ from a longer storyline. They may or may not have a progressive plot, and they are unlikely to contain conflict or have a conclusive ending. Hidamari Sketch does not have a deep plot or even deep characterisation, but it does have plenty of charm. For example, we may not ever learn what any of the girls’ surnames are, but we do learn that Sae is easily flustered by the topic of romance, that Miyako loves to eat pretty much everything, that Hiro turns into an auburn Medusa whenever humidity reaches her hair, and that Yuno is a ‘rain-bringer’ who easily gets sick! It is a very mild storyline, with no shocking twists or build-ups. Instead, Hidamari Sketch is a feel-good anime that takes inspiration from moments in everyday life. Some people may see the anime as boring or shallow, others may see it as a form of relaxing entertainment. It all depends on whether or not you enjoy this kind of genre.
The anime does indeed view the world through rose-tinted glasses (after all, what life is not without conflict?), but I do admire Hidamari Sketch for those moments of realism that are not completely hazed pink or turned into something bigger than they would naturally be. An example of this comes from when Yuno finds a sketch book thrown in the garbage. The sketches are so beautiful and detailed, that Yuno cannot help but take it home with her. Hiro and Sae see the book in Yuno’s apartment and half-heartedly explain that it belongs to a talented student who had to drop out of school due to family circumstances. Rather than turn this situation into a plot device, an adventure where the group try to find the girl and make sure she is ok, Yuno and her friends simply accept it. They find it very sad, of course, but they understand that all they can do is hope that the girl can follow her passions elsewhere. We never know the girl’s name, or even see what she looks like. It is a realistic, relatable experience that reminds viewers what Hidamari Sketch is based on. Pink this anime may be, but a total fantasy it is not. The fact that this anime has tangible links to our own day-to-day world enhances its charm.
There are times when Hidamari Sketch will break down the forth wall completely, which I find quite amusing. The author’s animated alter ego appears in every episode, sometimes on the roof of the Hidamari apartments, sometimes inside the girls’ rooms (although none of them notice her). One episode in particular shows the apartment complex (filmed as a cardboard construction) exploding in a ball of fire. Ume Aoki then pops onto the screen to say ‘only kidding!’, and then the episode resumes. The joke comes out of nowhere, and once again reminds viewers of the anime’s off and on relationship with fact and fiction.
Yuno is a polite girl with a child-like view of the world. She lacks self-confidence, and regularly seeks advice from her peers. One of Yuno’s most notable features comes from her X-shaped hairclips. They change shape and colour depending on her mood or situation, and indeed Yuno is sometimes completely represented by her statement hair accessories. When she is flustered, the X’s turn red. When Yuno is pleased, the X’s turn into O’s and so on. She is an only child, although she has always wanted a sibling.
Miyako is a carefree girl with bright blonde hair. She is always full of energy, and has been described as ‘hyper’ by her friends. She loves all kinds of food, and will regularly mooch off of Hidamari Apartment’s other residents in order to get a free meal. Her family suffer from financial difficulties so she lives in the complex’s cheapest apartment, one that has a number of DIY dodge-jobs. She is a kind friend to Yuno especially, and always tries to cheer up her fellow classmate when she is feeling down.
Hiro, like Sae, is a year older than both Yuno and Miyako. She resembles a motherly figure, and is commonly seen cooking for her friends. Although she likes to cook, she claims to struggle with her weight and is always trying to stick to a diet. Her auburn hair becomes snake-like with humidity, much to her annoyance. She is mature for her age and is a source of support for Sae, who often becomes stressed over work deadlines.
Sae is described as ‘masculine’ by her friends due to her boyish figure. She is in the same class as Hiro, and is never far from her side. While studying, she also has a career as a novelist. She explains that the reason she is studying art is so that she can one day draw the illustrations for her stories. She has a younger sister who adores cute things and often seeks her older sibling’s attention.
Hidamari Sketch is a very textile anime. It is a mismatch of styles and animation techniques, resembling a collage, an art project in and of itself. It mirrors the anime’s first episode in which Yuno is completing her first homework assignment: a collage of memories from the holiday break. The animation incorporates everything from bold blocks of colour to black and white scenes, from silhouette and static backgrounds, to roughly drawn characters and polished action scenes. Hidamari Sketch is a particularly special anime in that it can be appreciated through its various visual qualities alones. The mind of an art student is certainly wondrous!
The opening song to Hidamari Sketch is called Sketch Switch by Kana Asumi, Kaori Mizuhashi, Ryoko Shintani, and Yuko Goto. It is extremely upbeat and cheerful, with sounds of joyful clapping and child-like singing being the primary themes of the song. The closing song is called Mebae Drive by Marble. The tune is more subdued than the opening, and primarily consists of softly spoken lyrics and the strumming of a guitar. No English voice acting is available for Hidamari Sketch, but English subtitles can be read throughout.
As someone who tends to stay away from slice-of-life anime, I must admit that I found Hidamari Sketch quite charming. It is a feel-good anime with pleasant characters, a tepid storyline and a magnitude of animation techniques. What I appreciated most was its use of colour and art styles, which perfectly suited an anime based around art students. I also enjoyed Hidamari Sketch’s tumble with the real world and fiction, which it attempted through both animation and plot devices. There is a small amount of fanservice, but it is mild and takes little away from the anime overall. If you want to relax and are a fan of slice-of-life anime, I would definitely suggest giving Hidamari Sketch a try.
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