So, this summer marks the three-year anniversary of myself throwing myself fully into anime as a medium and becoming, more or less, a huge weeb. I realize, in the grand scheme of my life, three years isn’t really that long, but there’s been a lot of series to come and go since I first started watching. While a lot of shows from my early days all have different qualities about them that I appreciated, I don’t get the chance to talk about several of them as much as some of my favorite shows. With that in mind, I figured it might be nice and fun to take a trip back to when I first started watching anime. This series will likely come off as more unscripted and loose than my usual pieces, so think of this as just a fun trip down memory lane as I reminisce about some old favorites and everything in between in…
Today on Taku’s Throwbacks: Hidamari Sketch
So, when I first started getting back into anime in the summer of 2014, the major catalyst show that brought me fully into the medium was Studio SHAFT’s 2011 smash hit, Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I fell in love with Madoka and ended up watching it several more times that summer with the show becoming a very influential part of my life to this day. After my trend of re-watching the show right after I would finish a previous re-watch of it, I decided to look up Studio SHAFT and see what else I could find from the studio. As I looked through their shows, I saw someone, maybe on /r/anime, talking about Hidamari Sketch. Looking to branch out and slowly find other shows while also craving something easier to watch and more light-hearted than Madoka, I decided to give Hidamari a try. I didn’t watch through it nearly as quickly as Madoka, but what I found was a mellow, light-hearted slice-of-life that served as perfect healing from my repeated Madoka-induced suffering.
Story and Characters
Hidamari Sketch has a concept that is about as simple as they come. The show follows the day-to-day lives of four students attending the Yamabuki Arts High School. From the outset, we’re introduced to Yuno, a newly-accepted student at Yamabuki, moving into the Hidamari Apartments complex near the school and meeting her eccentric neighbors. The show’s plot is very simple as it follows the daily lives of the four main girls, with a small but memorable cast of supporting characters coming to play at different points of each episode. However, in a show like Hidamari Sketch, the story and plot isn’t really what drives the show forward in each episode, it’s the characters that make or break your experience with the show.
When I first watched Hidamari Sketch almost three years ago now, I fell in love with the show’s cast of characters almost immediately. Yuno comes off pretty quickly to me as the “ordinary” member of the cast. She is playful and cheerful but is lacking in her self-confidence and often doubts in her own ability and character. She is the character who the show is largely framed around and the viewer gets the most look into her private life, with each episode ending with her in the bath recounting the events of the day to herself. Yuno’s best friend and neighbor is Miyako, a spunky and eccentric girl who acts as the show’s primary “genki” character. She is excited and has a childlike innocence to her personality, while at the same time living affordably due to her large family not having the money to support her as much as the other girls. Hiro, one of the two upperclassman in the apartments, acts as the “motherly” character to the rest of the cast, supporting the other girls and helping them with whatever problems they may have. Hiro is shown to have a particular fondness for sweets which often works against her, leading Hiro to several times go on a “diet” only to binge and quickly end her “diet” shortly after. The last of the main cast, Sae, is Hiro’s neighbor and closest friend. Sae is very reserved with her feelings, often not expressing her emotions outright, and is a professional published author. Sae plays the role closest to a tomboy among the cast, with her short hair and often being referred to as having masculine qualities, much to her disdain.
An interesting note on the cast of Hidamari Sketch also, the show acted as my first introduction to several voice actors who would become among my favorite in the industry. The role of Yuno is played by Kana Asumi, who also came to capture my heart through roles such as Nisekoi‘s Marika Tachibana, Non Non Biyori’s Komari Koshigaya, and Working!!‘s Popura Taneshima. The landlady for Hidamari Apartments, as well, is played by Miyuki Sawashiro, who would become my second favorite voice actress through her work as Strike Witches‘ Perrine H. Clostermann, Kimi ni Todoke’s Ayane Yano, Modern Lupin III‘s Fujiko Mine, and Tantei Opera Milky Holmes‘ Tsugiko Zenigata among many others. Several others have played characters I would come to adore throughout my time watching anime and Hidamari Sketch came to serve as my first introduction to many of them.
So, the first thing that everyone will say about Hidamari Sketch comes from the show’s artstyle. In particular, most of those will reference the show’s art style in terms of character design and the iconic “wide face”. While that screenshot is obviously a bit of an exaggeration, the wide facial expressions has become one of the big memorable points and jokes for fans of the show’s style. In terms of its direction and animation as a whole, the show actually features two of the “big four” behind the creation of Madoka Magica, featuring Ume Aoki as the original creator of the Hidamari Sketch manga and Akiyuki Shinbo as one of the show’s lead directors. The show makes use of very soft designs that work to put the viewer at ease and make for a relaxing watching experience.
The audio is another area where I really feel Hidamari Sketch knocks one out of the park with a wonderfully soothing soundtrack that also has some bounce to its step in its upbeat pieces. It would take far too long for me to talk about each track in this show’s soundtrack and why I loved them, so I’ll narrow it down to a couple favorites. Among the show’s upbeat “daytime” tracks, my favorite would easily have to be “a sunny place 1”. It has that perfect bounciness and cheer to it that makes any scene it accompanies fun. Uttori serves as an excellent wind-down track as the girls retreat to their apartments in the evening, the energy and movement of the day’s events past them. However, by far, my favorite track within the show’s OST unquestionably has to be Shinmiri. There would be nights where I would fall asleep to this track, the vocals mixed with the gentle, almost lullaby-like instrumental gives it the perfect soothing, relaxing element to draw an eventful day to a close. I absolutely adore Shinmiri and would likely rank it among my very favorite anime OST tracks. The show’s OP and ED play to the show’s strengths, with Sketch Switch capturing the happy-go-lucky nature and Mebae Drive serving as a mellow outro to sync up with the show’s relaxing, easygoing tone.
Hidamari Sketch was my first real entry into the medium as a whole, outside of whatever was shown on TV in the U.S., after Madoka and it certainly did a good job at showing me the other side of the spectrum. While my previous experiences had mostly been action-heavy and story-driven shows, Hidamari Sketch is a nice, relaxing show, perfect to chill out and relax after a long day. I would often watch an episode or two of Hidamari Sketch before I would go to sleep at night. The show serves as that perfect “chill” factor to wind down and it was really a big factor that tuned me into the idea of slice-of-life shows. With some of my favorite shows today being slice-of-life, a large number of them can thank Hidamari Sketch for introducing me to the genre with a greatly enjoyable experience.
Let me know what you guys think of today’s piece, how I can improve it or change the format going forward. I wasn’t really intending to go for a full review format, but I found myself having more and more about the show I wanted to talk about as I continued. Hidamari Sketch was a big formative show for me as an anime watcher and it influenced a lot of how my taste would develop in slice-of-life shows and anime as a whole. There are a lot of different anime from shortly after that would continue to mold how I watch and enjoy anime today, so I’m excited to get into more shows from my early days as an anime fan.
After-note: This series likely won’t be as frequent as some of my other styles of write-ups, but I’ll bring it back as I feel the urge.