Hidamari Sketch

By bluemist on May 26th, 2007

Hidamari Sketch

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Slice-of-life, one of the more difficult genres of anime in my opinion. In this genre, it is important to have not only great characters, but great chemistries of characters. Because your story will remain in the sidelines for the most part, the characters must be interesting enough, and not only that, the characters must interact well with the other characters. Series like Azumanga Daioh and Ichigo Mashimaro fit this bill quite perfectly, and now I would like to add Hidamari Sketch on the list.

Four girls… four apartment rooms… four seasons… THE END. That’s the basic plot. Now we should go to the characters. The series centers around Yuno, a seemingly normal, but sometimes clumsy, girl. A very natural and happy character. Yuno is paired with Miyako, the clown of the series. If I may so compare, she is the more mature version of Ichigo Mashimaro’s Miu… same weirdness, but still sensible when situations demand her to be. The third character is Hiro, a very softspoken and kind girl. She is particularly obsessive-impulsive when it comes to her body weight, and yet she likes sweets so she is hard-pressed to cut down on her fat. Hiro is paired with Sae, the short-haired meganekko which could serve as the onee-san of the group. Very mature but slightly emo at times, she is also a writer. These four girls go to a sort of art-inclined high school, and go home in their own apartments at the complex called Hidamari-sou.

The tendency of slice-of-life shows is to capitalize on each characters quirks in personality. For example, Hiro’s food and weight problem is always a running joke. What’s hard in slice-of-life though is how to use these quirks without getting repetitive, and I think Hidamari Sketch succeeds in that department. For one, you can call this Apartment Living 101 anime series. As some of you know, there are more apartments than homes in Japan cities, and it is basically the way to live here. Hidamari Sketch reflects life in the apartment, and life in Japan in general. They talk about apartment maintenance, season changes, and tons of stuff about Japanese food. Also, (non)events like buying in nearby convenience stores, going to karaoke, visiting temples, public baths, etc. That is aside from the usual school themes we normally see in anime series. Like Ichigo Mashimaro, Hidamari Sketch is more focused on home.

Director Shinbo Akiyuki spearheads this production. Compared to his previous works of Tsukiyomi and Pani Poni Dash though, this is IMO the weakest in the technical quality department. Some episodes have radically different character designs, and others seem completely unfinished. Such a shame really, because the voice work and music is really well done. If anything, Hidamari Sketch can pass as a good audio drama during those low-budget episodes. Nevertheless, Hidamari Sketch puts the ‘cute’ in ‘very very cute’, and that’s not only because of the drawings and voice, but because of the well-established characters and the chemistry within them.

If you can stomach a few boring episodes you can find some real entertaining gems in this series. Here I am already ready for a second viewing immediately after (because there is a widescreen version available, but I was watching the 4:3 version all along). Hidamari Sketch can bring you a few laughs and moe~ feelings, something only few slice-of-life series can provide.

Information Overload

By bluemist on May 12th, 2007

image

I don’t know about you, maybe it’s just me, but are we having too much of a good thing these days?

I remember the days when life was simple. Toys were just Legos and Gameboys, news were just newspapers, pictures are on photo albums, and entertainment is based on radio and TV. Now we have computers and the internet, and then the world suddenly changed. We are at the point have more games and toys than we can shake our sticks at. At the point where news needs to be aggregated (RSS anyone?) just to be readable, pictures needed to be tagged just to be searched, and entertainment… we just discover new things every single second of it. I see this as information overload, folks, and we all know that too much of a good thing can turn dangerous.

In today’s age, there are literally an infinite number of ways to lose your time, mind, sanity, and maybe life, in the pursuit of what keeps you happy. At the time of this writing, I’m really having a hard time to put it into proper context without comparing my lifestyle with that of our older generations… our moms and dads. I would imagine that back in their days, life was simple. They don’t have to mind so many things except themselves, the people around them, and generally the important stuff that really matters in their life. In our days, we seem to mind so many things. For example, if you try to browse the internet, and discover news that this certain company is cutting hundreds of jobs in another country. Then you feel affected by it because you have some sort of product from that company. Maybe if you are a forumer or a blogger, you type in your insight and show the world how intelligent you are in analyzing these stuffs… But hell, think about it, isn’t it completely UNRELATED to you? Why should you care? If it were the 1960s, you won’t even know about the layoffs, even if you have their product. This may be a really small amount of information, but it ate a minute of your time, and a number of your brain cells, wasted on NOTHING.

My explanation still alien? Sure, let’s go anime. Before the torrents, before the fansubs, heck even before the internet even posted video, we have anime confined on TV, VHS and probably DVD. Simple, we watch and enjoy. We share with our friends the enjoyment by watching together, or talking about it sometimes. But we have the freaking tubes now, and we watch too much. We share with our, er, internet friends the enjoyment by not watching together, but now recommending stuffs. There’s just too much out there already. From a very obscure manga to a very very rare doujin picture of your favorite bishoujo to a very very very rare figurine that only a blogger from Japan has ever *apped on. What to do with your time? Do you want to blog today? Watch episode 224 of long running shounen anime? Read chapter 400? Play bishoujo game scenario #2? Wait, let’s not confine this to anime alone. How do I tag my mp3s? Wow, new 6-core processor, imagine my fps in that game. Oh no, that school shooting is so horrible. Wait, I need to wash the dishes… oh well, I can do it tomorrow.

A real major factor of this can be our globalization. As communication progresses between countries and continents, we exchange information so rapidly we tend to boggle our minds around it. At the forefront of how we communicate is information technology. 20 years ago it is unthinkable for someone to be able to chat with another person at the entirely opposite end of the globe without paying a hell of a phone bill. Now as long as you have a decent internet you can even “see” each other through webcams. With globalization, we seem to lead ourselves into a ‘generic culture’, where you tend to (want to) know whatever all others know. “Hey, the ice cream is great over here at XX store in XX country!” “There’s a cool bar at XX city, let’s try it out sometime.” “WOW, this bishoujo game is pretty great! Oh, and this manga too, the new one made by this author who also made XX…” The list of conversations can go on.

It’s already so bad, that the current trend nowadays is none other than… “search!” Search? Google, Live, and Yahoo is our prime friends. Think about it, why do we depend on search too much nowadays? Why do we feel the desperate need to look for every single tidbit, triva, or nitpick about a particular topic. We have been so nerdy on everything. And now, we amplify our already troubled minds in terms of the new Web 2.0 revolution, collaboration. Now we hear other people’s thoughts, we see other people’s entertainment, heck we already know what other people have been “searching” for.

Is information overload really dangerous? So what if we waste our time, money, patience, sanity, etc? Well, that previous sentence alone says it all. No matter how you put it into perspective, a WASTE is still a WASTE. You could have done a better project at school if only you didn’t pick up your portable game console. You could have been promoted at your job if only you don’t mind too much about what other options you have, researching for hours on end on the internet. You could have gotten a girlfriend if only you haven’t wasted so much time with useless 2D bishoujos (ouch that hurt). Don’t think of this as my excuse for not blogging lately, but really, sometimes I just wonder what kind of life I lead had I not done this thing, or that thing…

Sometimes it is better to turn off the plug. Wake up, smell the coffee, go outside. Breathe true air. We have too much info, it’s starting to bog us down. The madness will never end, and so I won’t conclude this article with something hopeful. As the internet grows bigger, our communication with others becomes stronger, as products and services continue to come to us from every part of the globe, and as we desperately strive to fill ourselves up being a part of this entire information ecosystem, by sharing, ranting, and basically enjoying it, the overload will continue. I just hope you aren’t too affected by this… I know I’m trying.