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Hidamari Sketch Season Two Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Hidamari Sketch x 365 Blu-rayThe seasons change but the girls continue to be who they are at the Hidamari Apartments.

What They Say:
You didn’t think Yuno’s story was over, did you? Of course it isn’t, but if you’ve seen the first series of Hidamari Sketch, you should know not to expect the “A happens after B after C” pattern of the rest of the world. In fact, instead of just taking place after Yuno’s first year at Yamabuki High, X365 continues the saga on both sides, around, and in-between, filling in the details in an ever-expanding collage that’s both avant-garde and slice of life! And if the format’s not completely unexpected, we guarantee that some of the things that you never knew about before will be!

Contains episodes 1-14 and bonus episodes 1-2

The Review:
Audio:
Similar to the DVD release, Hidamari Sketch has only the original Japanese language in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. A series like this isn’t one that will give your speakers any kind of workout as it’s about ninety-nine percent dialogue outside of the opening and closing sequences but there is a greater sense of warmth and closeness that you get from it that it is noticeable enough. There are a few music cues that work out well in terms of providing a full feeling but they’re few and far between overall. Dialogue placement is solid when required and there are times with some noticeable depth to it. Everything comes across well and dialogue is strong as we had no problems with dropouts or distortions while listening to it.

Video:
Originally airing in 2008 and 2009, this TV and OVA combo release is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across two discs with nine episodes of the TV series on the first and five on the second while the two OVAs are here as well. The high definition presentation here definitely steps things up a lot – and with a variable bit rate that goes very high regularly because of the ziptone usage – and the colors are very solid compared to what we had on the DVD format. There’s a greater solidity to things here and the colors, while generally working a lighter and softer color palette, has a lot of pop to it that definitely breathes new life into it. I wasn’t sure how much of an upgrade this show could have considering what we had seen before, but there’s a whole lot to like here.

Packaging:
The release uses the same kind of artwork as the DVD releases and while the colors still don’t sell me completely, it does fit well with the general theme that it’s trying to get across here as a sketchbook. The characters have a bit of that cutout feel to them that does work as well as the doodles that are behind them on the notebook itself. The logo looks cute and fits well with it as does mentioning that this is season one with the full episode count for it. The back cover does something I don’t like and that’s to put all the text inside a circle with it being so uneven as it gets wider and then smaller. Surrounding the lengthy summary piece is a bunch of other circles with shots from the show along with a few doodles as the back cover fleshes out more of what the front cover did with the notebook angle. Add in the production credits with a few little cute character pieces along the bottom and a smooth clean technical grid and it’s a decent piece overall but misses the mark in one or two areas. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is simple but decent with what it does as we get a static menu design where it uses the theme from the cover and a good upbeat feeling to the whole thing. The right side has the navigation menu which is done up as a notebook with the episodes broken down by number and name with a lot of color that also looks great as the pop-up menu. The rest of it uses the kind of bright, mishmash of colors that fits the art school design while bringing on different character artwork that has the four main girls walking along outside in their fall clothes that has a pleasant feeling about it. It’s clean in its own way and certainly sets the mood well by showing off the style of the show. Submenus are quick and easy to load, which is essentially just the extras on the second disc, since there’s no language selection here.

Extras:
The only extras available for this release are fairly typical ones with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences on the second disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After revisiting the first season of Hidamari Sketch, I found myself once again in the same position of enjoying the show but not finding anything really unique about it. I liked the setting, I liked the characters and the laid back comedy works well when it comes into play, but there wasn’t a strong hook that would make the show hugely memorable for me in the years to come. What really does define it is its art style, which certainly does allow it to stand out in that area and is wholly appropriate for a bunch of art students. This second season of the show, which has another fourteen episodes and two more OVAs that came out afterward, we essentially do get more of the same. The big draw for the series is the work by SHAFT in the way they design their shows with the quirky visuals. While it’s not as really quirky as some of their other shows, such as Pani Poni Dash, there’s a lot to like with how they animate it, though I think they get a little too self referential with the series logo and variations on it throughout.

Hidamari Sketch x365 is definitely a difficult show to really review and talk about though. It is essentially without any real plot or even overreaching ideas. At its core, it’s just about watching these girls at different times throughout the year as it bounces around and we see how they’re slowly growing and interacting with each other. There aren’t any big events and most of the time not even small events. It’s about going to class, having meals, walking to the convenience store and talking about sometimes inane little things. The art side makes some decent appearances here and there but even then it’s often not a central focus.

One nice piece to this set is that it does spend some time with the start of the school year when Yuno made it through her exams and started there. The exam side is cute to watch as she stresses mildly over it and gets the support of her parents. We also get to see her first visit to the Hidamari Apartments and meeting with Hiro and Sae. The two of them are trying to take a new view on being the older students and their memories of their sempai who has now moved on has them wanting to be the best seniors to them that they can be. It’s all very laid back and cute as they start having meals together, getting introduced to the area around the apartments and getting into the groove of being on their own and showing their own particular quirks.

Like the first season, it does jump around a lot here to different dates to tell the tales. The sports day event is fun as we see them all showing their skills in different ways as they try to win out over the other classes. Yuno takes the focus here as she’s the most unskilled athletically yet she ends up as the anchor in the relay race. The competitions are things we usually see and there are definitely cute bits to it as they either struggle to do things well or they have to cope with Yoshinoya getting involved. She has a great scene as she tries to take down the principal in the three man match where the teachers ride around on the kids shoulders while trying to get the flags off others. Yoshinoya in general is her usual outlandish and quirky self when she does things but she continues to be really nicely balanced by the nervous principal who does admit that she is a good teacher, just one that he’s trying to make sure becomes a great teacher.

One thing that’s becoming a little more common is the use of Sae’s younger sister, Chika. Chika’s more like Sae than she cares to admit so the two rub up against each other a lot, especially since Chika resents that her sister got to leave while Sae dislikes the way Chika seems to fit in so easily in some ways. Chika definitely does that though as the other three girls get along with her and encourage her a lot as she does her own entrance exams and is getting ready for that next stage of life. There’s some good camaraderie that comes of it, especially from Yuno and Miya as they just did the whole big change themselves recently and it has them reflecting on their own experiences and the positive that came from it, especially in living at Hidamari and the friends they made.

While watching the show, it’s hard to really pin down my feelings about it. I consciously watch it and think that this really is a show about nothing in a way, but it’s one that makes me smile often as they go through their days. But at the same time I’m very aware that it’s all light, it’s the kind of things that makes up a lot of most peoples days where it’s simple events that often have little real impact. But they’re good events because it’s with friends, smiling, talking and enjoying life. The bonds of friendship and a few people that enter their lives is what it sticks to. The school side is still somewhat minimal though it does focus on there a bit, especially when it plays up the fun angle of the seven mysteries of the school and we see how the girls get caught up in it. But even though it’s a big part of the show, the school itself never feels like a dominating part.

In Summary:
Hidamari Sketch x365 is the kind of show that you can easily be really critical about but it’s not the kind that really deserves it. It’s intent isn’t something that will appeal to a lot of fans but it has a certain charm and calm to it that’s quite appealing, even if it is in the end very much empty. The characters are cute and they have numerous fun moments, especially when Yoshinoya does anything cosplay related, but it’s also the kind of show where if you watch it all at once very little of it will be memorable. It’s a great way to pass the time, and one that I think would be more enjoyable in spacing out to savor it. I like it, but it’s a show that I am full aware of its weaknesses. Where this set really does make out is with the high definition transfer as the colors just have so much more pop to them and the quality of the source material really does make it shine. Story wise, it’s hit or miss depending on your tastes, but it’s the kind of show that pretty much begs to be viewed in high definition to see what went into it.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 22nd, 2014
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 400 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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