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Hidamari Sketch X SP Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read

Hidamari Sketch SP Blu-rayLet there be swimsuits!

What They Say:
Even though studying at a prestigious art school like Yamabuki is hard work, the girls who live at the Hidamari Apartments always manage to squeeze in time for a little fun and exploration. And when they actually get a day off? Watch out world!

Yuno, Sae, Hiro, Miyako and new students Nori and Nazuna return to create another masterpiece of life as art, with all-new adventures that include swimming, pajama parties, trips to the art museum, and even an all-you-can-eat diner courtesy of the landlady! Of course, there’s always a little housework that has to be squeezed in, but with a pinch of resourcefulness and a dash of creativity, even the most onerous of chores can be turned into something magical.

Contains 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 2011, this OVA \release is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Since this release has just the two OVAs on it, it obviously doesn’t use a whole lot of space and we get a single disc. 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 with its soft tones, it does fit well with the general theme that it’s trying to get across here as a sketchbook. While previous releases went for that cutout kind of approach to things, this one is a better illustration piece that works a whole and connects with the background filled with bubbles. The logo looks cute and fits well with it as does mentioning that this is the special with two OVAs on 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. Unlike the TV series discs, this one uses a great shot of the girls all together in full with their swimsuits on, which means a lot of variety and color that’s vibrant and appealing. 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)
Hidamari Sketch is a series that I do enjoy quite a lot, but I also have faced the truth over the last couple of years of watching it that it is largely empty. At least in terms of actual story. What it does provide me is with a certain warmth and happiness that is endearing and engaging in its own way. With it being a slice of life show based on a four panel comic, it could go a lot of different ways, but it has a neat little quirky factor to it with Akiyuki Shinbo behind the helm in how it does scene transitions and other little nuances that gives it a different spark, a kind of light that’s not on in the windows of other series of this nature. It may be a show that is in some senses hard to describe because of the emptiness, but when fans talk about it, there’s always this honest happiness that comes from them over it.

The first special here is a whole lot of cute as the girls head to an outdoor museum during the summer and they get to see lots of different types of artwork, mostly in the form of statues and the like, which has them asking questions about how such poses would work in reality and so forth. With all of them taking different approaches to their artistic nature, it’s nice to see them taking in other kinds of things and analyzing them in their own cute, girlish way. Which is extended even further as the show shifts into a pajama party for the second half, which is what they’re all excited about though Yuno ends up crashing out early though, which isn’t a surprise since they were off swimming together a bit first and that just wore her out. Seeing how the others sketch her as she sleeps is utterly priceless though.

The second episode veers in a different direction as one would expect, starting with the kind of unthinking fun that can happen. When one of them decides it’s time to wash the curtains, she just gets the inflatable pool out, not realizing she could have used her bathtub. But with the way everyone comes together for things, it makes for some simple spring fun as they all get involved. But it also takes an alarming turn when the landlord shows up and she invites them out for an all you can eat (in a hundred minutes) buffet with some amusing but standard rules about it. Bringing an adult into the show (their teacher does make a small appearance in the set) helps shift the dynamic a bit, especially since the landlady isn’t like the teachers and is a bit more rough around the edges, especially when she drinks.

In Summary:
While I have a lot of affection for Hidamari Sketch, the specials like these are essentially just a little bit more love from the show and nothing else. Sentai Filmworks – or any company really – has to face the difficult problem of trying to market just a couple of episodes that they usually can’t bundle with other works. What we get here is a nicely priced release that brings out what you want from the show in a good, if simple, way. These two episodes are spot on good fun that fits in with what the previous season gave us easily and it’s what you’d expect as the girls go through their scholastic lives and living on their own in the apartments. Once again, I do wish that a chance was taken in dubbing this just to give fans a taste of “what if” and nothing more. Redubbing the series is beyond ridiculous to be sure as it’s not a show that sells to a huge audience, but if treated like an extra bonus, it would have been a wonderful addition to a short form piece. What we get here is more of the same, but the same is good and the sequences here show off the girls and their silliness and seriousness very well.

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: December 16th, 2014
MSRP: $24.98
Running Time: 50 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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