Review for Hidamari Sketch x Hoshimittsu
I’m on something of a slice of life kick right now, the inconsequentiality of girls hanging out together, doing cute and silly things. It’s mental chewing gum, something to relax to, a way to kick off the New Year without getting too narrative heavy, without having to overanalyse labyrinthine plots, and determine veiled character motivations. I gave up waiting for UK Region B Blu-rays to be announced, and have been alternating Non Non Biyori with the Hidamari Sketch franchise, and I’m seriously considering throwing in some Lucky Star and Yuru Yuri as well. And after all that saccharine sweetness, I’ll have to book a dentist appointment no doubt. This time I’m having a go with the third series of Hidamari Sketch, subtitled Hoshimittsu.
Hidamari Sketch is a slice of life show, random vignettes in the lives of six girls who together attend the Yamabuki art school. A year has now passed, and Yuno and Miyako are starting their second year, while Sai and Hiro are on their final year. As this third season begins, two new first years arrive, Nazuna and Nori. They move into Hidamari apartments as well, and now all six live directly opposite their school. One of their teachers is the flamboyant Miss Yoshinoya, who loves to cosplay for her class, something the elderly principal of the school frowns on. The show follows the group of friends as they move towards their dreams of becoming artists.
Sentai Filmworks present 12 episodes, plus 2 OVA Specials across three DVD discs thus.
1. February 27th ~ March 14th: Drenched in Red/April 3rd: Welcome to Hidamari Apartments
2. April 6th ~ 7th: Yes, No!/July 19th: Olive
3. April 8th ~ 9th: Decisions/December 10th: It’s a Small Cup
4. April 15th: The Sunshine’s Great
5. April 20th: A Girl’s Feelings/ January 31st: Heartfelt Words
6. October 15th: The Lofty Sky and the Shady Trees/April 26th~27th: Our Senior in Love
7. May 3rd~4th: A Day Cut in Seven Parts
8. May 13th~14th: Yuno’s Crab/September 26th~27th: I Really Love Eggplant
9. November 22nd: Third Year and First Year Students/May 21st: The Weeping Woman
10. May 28th~June 2nd: Hidamari Palette
11. June 5th: The Matchstick Mystery/February 16th: 48.5cm
12. July 12th: Three Stars x Lycopene
OVA 13. June 11th: Family Restaurant Wasshoi!/April 7th~April 17th: Natsume...
OVA 14. June 23rd~June 25th: I’m Back/July 30th: BBQ
Hidamari Sketch is presented on these DVD discs in 1.78:1 anamorphic NTSC format. The image is clear and sharp throughout, with strong and consistent colour reproduction, and given SHAFT’s particular style of animation, a minimum of digital banding, even on DVD. This is a SHAFT animation, and it bridges the gap between the all out visual gag-fests of Pani Poni Dash and Negima, with the more restrained storytelling of Bakemonogatari and Madoka Magica. With Hidamari Sketch, the animators stick to a set style, a restrained and pastel palette, and avoid trying anything and everything to make a visual impact. But the use of gags, short-cuts and visual tricks is still more prevalent. One example is Yuno’s hairclips. She wears her hair tied back with cross shaped hairclips, and it isn’t long before the animators simply put a cross on screen when she’s speaking, the same with Hiro’s wavy hair, and Sae’s glasses. It’s generally an enjoyable viewing experience the further you go into it, but it takes a while to get used to the show’s animation style.
Hidamari Sketch gets a DD 2.0 Japanese audio track with optional English subtitles. Well, I say optional, but as this is a subtitle only release, only the most fluent of Japanese speakers will turn them off. There’s no problem with the audio, the characters are ideally cast, the dialogue is clear, the music suits the show, and the stereo gives the show a decent amount of presence. The subtitles are accurately timed, and this time I had no issues with the translation, or typos.
The discs boot to static menus, with jacket pictures and translated English credit reels after each episode.
Disc 1 autoplays a trailer for The Anime Network, and on the disc you’ll find further trailers for Allison & Lillia, Hidamari Sketch x 365, Angel Beats, Maid Sama!, Special A, and Nyan Koi.
Disc 2 has the textless credit sequences.
The third season of Hidamari Sketch actually changes things up when it comes to its storytelling format. This season, the episodes are in chronological order... kind of. You see, events have moved on in the Hidamari Sketch universe, and while the first series and 365 were random snapshots of the lives of the four Hidamari girls during a year at Yamabuki high school, Hoshimittsu takes things forward a year, with Sae and Hiro, Yuno and Miya moving ahead a year in their respective grades, and two new first year students introduced into the show, moving into the two vacant rooms in Hidamari Apartments. It’s hard to get to know Nori and Nazuna if the episodes follow the previous random format, so this season has things flow forward, from day to day, from the first day of the school year to summer holidays.
It’s not all straightforward and logical though, as while each episode has at least one chronological segment, where there is a second part to the episode, things get random once more, as we take a trip back to the previous year, and enjoy some more Sae, Hiro. Yuno and Miya antics, before Nori and Nazuna joined the school. And on a couple of occasions, we go back even further, discover what Sae and Hiro were like as first years, and the quirky upperclassmen they shared the apartments with back then.
Nori is probably the most level-headed of the group, outgoing and bubbly, and alone among the girls tech savvy, and she fits right in, but Nazuna on the other hand is more Yuno than Yuno, shy, and lacking in confidence, soft-spoken and burdened by the knowledge that she alone isn’t on the art course. She initially feels out of place in Hidamari Apartments, but of course the other girls welcome her with their usual group hug. Yuno’s gained the confidence of being an upperclassman, but she is still self-effacing. Miya’s still brash and a little weird, Sae’s workaholism and Hiro’s nurturing nature still makes them look like a married couple, but having the first years thrown into the mix livens things up and gives the show a freshness that might have been fading at the end of the previous season.
Once again, Hidamari Sketch is the celebration of minutiae, the joy of friendship, and the appreciation of the trivial things that make life interesting. And there is plenty to enjoy in this collection of episodes, not least of which is the ongoing ‘battle’ between squeaky shoed teacher Miss Yoshinoya, and the ever-trembling school Principal. The laid back landlady makes more than one laconic appearance, Sae’s sister Chika pays a visit and makes two new friends her own age in Nori and Nazuna.
Hidamari Sketch isn’t a laugh out loud comedy, even though the odd bit might elicit a guffaw. This is a feel-good show, a chance to spend twenty odd minutes a time in the company of friends, reliving vicariously the kind of high school life that we all wish that we actually had, instead of the hormone fuelled torment that we did in reality.