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Hidamari Sketch Season Three Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

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Hidamari Sketch Season 3 Blu-ray
Hidamari Sketch Season 3 Blu-ray

Seasons change and new girls arrive but the heart of the series is beating in full.

What They Say:
Some say that life is like an unfolding tapestry, but living at the Hidamari Apartments is more like being part of a patchwork quilt; one that constantly changes as bits and pieces of the lives and dreams of the young artists who make this extraordinary residence their home are added to the ever-expanding pattern.

When we first met Yuno, she’d just been accepted to the prestigious Yamabuki Art School and it was up to her new neighbors at Hidamari to help her find her way in the big scary world. Now a seasoned vet of the Hidamari Apartments herself, Yuno’s newest challenge is to help the latest arrivals, Nazuna and Nori, acclimate to life on their own. Of course, since it is Hidamari, there are still lots of trials and tribulations ahead, and nothing will ever go quite as expected. But with friends like Miyako, Hiro and Sae ready to lend a hand, there will always be a ray of sunshine at the end of every storm.

Contains episodes 1-14.

The Review:
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.

Originally airing in 2010, 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. In fact, this season feels like there’s an even bigger bump than the first two seasons just in color quality. 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.

The release uses the same kind of artwork as the DVD releases and while the colors still don’t sell me completely with its soft pinks, 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 three with the full episode count for it, including OVAs. 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.

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 various main girls together in different configurations while wearing their normal clothes. 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.

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 two fun but largely forgettable seasons of the series, Hidamari Sketch returns for a third season that brings us twelve more TV episodes and two OVAs to follow it up. Structurally, the series is like what we saw in the previous seasons where it follows the lives of the kids living in the Hidamari Apartments who go across the street to school where they’re part of the art program that draws some very talented students. The first season had us following the arrival of the first year students with Yuno and Miyako as they befriended the talented but somewhat quiet Sae and the more outgoing Hiro who has been a good friend to Sae. The apartment complex retained two empty apartments for the first two seasons and the focus was on those four girls with some of the adults coming into the mix and occasionally another student get a mild not. It was a fairly close-knit show for the most part and it worked well in getting us familiar with them in light, simple and fun ways.

The third season doesn’t break what works, but it tries to enhance it by doing something naturally. With the new school year upon the kids, Yuno and Miyako are now second years and are excited by what promise it holds, though Yuno is concerned about finding what her real talent is and what she should focus on for the couple of paths she has. Miyako is carrying on as she usually does since she doesn’t let things get to her and pretty much is the type of person that lives to the beat of her own drum. Hiro and Sae are getting into their third year roles pretty well, though it’s largely focusing on Sae when it comes to the two as she wants to decide whether to focus on her art or her writing since she can’t do both.

What does change things up in this season is the arrival of two new first years who move into the apartment complex, signifying the first time all six have been rented at once in recent memory and within the show itself, which makes their landlord quite happy. So happy that she saves a few more bucks by having the existing residents help clean out the rooms and get them in ship shape form. The girls being who they are, they’re actually interested in helping out and doing something for the new incoming students so they can bond with them before they even arrive. There’s already some changes in store as one of them has had internet access setup, which is seemingly a first for the group. But when you factor in that most people of this age group do their internet time through their phones, it makes a certain amount of sense.

The two new students are pretty fun overall and add a little more flavor to the show. Nori is the one with the computer access and has fun showing everyone things like how to order pizza online and the like and is a solid art student while Nauna is a quieter girl, not exactly timid, but a bit unsure of herself. What she brings to the series is the first non-art student to be dealt with in a significant way and the first to live at Hidamari. She’s drawn to artists but is in the schools basic courses rather than the art program. She has a feeling similar to Yuno when she first arrived in a lot of ways while Nori feels like a variant of Sae but with a more outgoing approach to her. Each of the girls create new interactions because of their presence and it helps to add something to the series in a natural way without actually dominating the series. It doesn’t turn into a show about just them and neither does it let them became background characters. Instead, it allows the show to simply expand its focus while still keeping on pace with those we’ve spent two seasons with and their issues.

Beyond the introduction of new characters, the third season of Hidamari Sketch essentially does more of the same, both story wise and visually. It has a lot of light moments to it and lets the characters get a little frantic at times and spend plenty of time being friendly and good natured about what’s going on, whether it’s cooking together, ordering food online or visiting a new restaurant that’s opened. Some of the fun continues to come from the teacher side with Yoshinoya still causing problems with her flighty nature which in turn has the principal somewhat frustrated with her. But even there we have some good material, especially when she whips up a new suit for him for the warmer months that’s priceless, especially with how he shivers nervously all the time.

In Summary:
This is definitely one of those shows where you can say if you saw and liked the first two seasons, this is more of the same, albeit in high definition now to really make all the detail and design pop in a really great way. And I do like those seasons as they have a kind of simple, mellow and likable approach to them that makes me smile and just enjoy it. The series continues to avoid anything really sexual as even the bath scenes don’t really come across that way and there aren’t any panty shots, long lingering pans over their bodies or anything else. It’s a show that is for all intent and purpose, a nice show. And those can feel rare these days. This season works well in expanding the cast in a way that’s right and natural and the new additions fit in well while not creating any new artificial drama or problems. It all feels properly Japanese in its own way and that’s a big part of the shows appeal. While I would like to see them experience a little more of life other than just each other and school, what is presented here builds on what came before and advances it just a touch in order to keep it somewhat realistic while not breaking what works.

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: November 4th, 2014
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 350 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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