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Hidamari Sketch X Honeycomb Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

Hidamari Sketch Season 4 HoneycombIt’s the final year of school any anything goes!

What They Say:
Studying at the Yamabuki Arts High School has been a dream-come-true for Yuno, and she’s learned so much already! And not just from her instructors, but from her friends and neighbors who’ve become her second family and made the Hidamari Apartments such a safe and nurturing home. But as the day of her “big sisters” Sae and Hiro’s graduation draws slowly closer, it’s time for Yuno to start seriously taking on the same role for Nazuna, Nori, and the other budding young artists who’ve entered Hidamari’s protective cocoon.

And it’s also time to tackle some really challenging artistic assignments. That doesn’t mean there won’t still be time for fun with Miyako and all the others, but it’s definitely time to pencil in her plans for the future. And sometimes that means you have to put the art before the course!

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 2012, the transfer for this TV series 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 three on the second. 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.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 packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover gives us the main cast of schoolgirls walking along together with lots of smiles as they come from the apartment complex that looks really nice overall. The logo looks cute and fits well with it as does mentioning that this is season three 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 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.

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)
Coming just under two years from the DVD release and almost five years from when it was originally broadcast in Japan, the fall 2012 anime series Honeycomb in the Hidamari Sketch farnchise has finally arrive. The twelve episode run is one that has a lot of nice elements to it that carry over from past seasons while also giving us the main group of girls as they go through their final year of school, though it doesn’t bring us to the conclusion of it. The show works a fairly linear approach this time around without much in the way of bouncing back and forth like we’ve had from time to time before but it does feature some wide gaps. But, as we’ve seen, the girls don’t really change who they are but rather just continue on with super mild growth.

This season actually starts off with the new school year in May and has the kids getting back into the swing of things while setting the stage a bit. For the older kids in the mix we get them getting ready for a school trip to Hokkaido, which takes them out of the picture briefly. We do get some fun with them on the trip and it’s just nice to see them in a completely different environment even if it’s just a bit more than a montage sequence really. What this allows is for the younger group to get to do things. While we see the cuteness of the older kids going and seeing glassmaking, Yuno is left to struggle with her upcoming role as an upperclassman for the younger ones and that she has to start taking things more seriously. That’s a hard thing for her because she wants to do it and does actively try but she’s not able to really do it well, which makes for plenty of silliness.

Beyond that a lot of the season is just more of the usual kinds of light silliness and events. It gets things back underway in August as everyone is returning for the fall semester and bonding amid a typhoon, digging into summer homework material and all the usual. It’s not surprising or radical but it’s a welcome kind of return because it fits the realistic tone of the show, albeit one with far too adorable characters. The school semester is the same in that it doesn’t offer anything radically new, though Hiro now has to figure out more of what she really wants to do since senior year is different and they have to start thinking about preparing for college entrance exams. The teachers are fun to watch in all of this as well as they’re eager to see what the new round of students will be bringing to the table as you never know from year to year. Small humanizing elements like that from the teachers always wins me over, as does a brief bit toward the end where with our favorite teacher we discover she has a younger brother that already has a child.

One-off stories are definitely some of the better highlight moments here, though the ending as things work through the end of the year has its moments as well. This season has the arts side of the school getting the swim meet slot and that means nothing in the way of new characters but rather the existing ones having fun at school with it, and some adorable material with the principal swimming. The Yamabuki festival with its costuming, stalls, and overall theme is also one that while familiar plays well as it leans into the tropes but does it with the charm of the cast at hand. My favorite, however, is the ninth episode here that has the kids playing the Game of Life together. They rework a bit as a Hidamari Apartments version and just run with it and the silliness that it can create. Though the show has a great visual design to it in general this episode notches the vibrancy up a good bit, something that’s even more striking with the generally softer color palette that we get for the show.

In Summary:
Hidamari Sketch continues to be a nicely charming little show that doesn’t really deviate from what we first saw of it. While there are still the two OVAs involving the graduation piece, this season brings a lot of things to a close with some very minor discussion about what it’s like to go through this period of your life and how it looks to younger friends that are uncertain about all of the new changes as they all grow up a bit more. Sentai’s release is essentially on par with what we’ve had with the run so far on Blu-ray so there’s plenty to like with it. It’s hard to believe the first season of the show was broadcast back in the winter of 2007and a good bit frustrating that we’re just now getting this late 2012 series. The gap between it all certainly makes it hard to connect with it all as much as you should but if you’ve been invested in it since the beginning there’s plenty to like here.

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: August 8th, 2017
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 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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