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.