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Hidamari Sketch Picture Perfect Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

20 min read
Life for girls at an art-based high school is full of little ups and downs and a whole lot of friendship across the years.
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Life for girls at an art-based high school is full of little ups and downs and a whole lot of friendship across the years.

What They Say:
Yuno has dreamed of attending Yamabuki Arts High School for years, but while it’s an incredible opportunity, it also means moving away from her home and family. Fortunately, her new neighbors at the eclectic Hidamari (Sunshine) Apartments, most of whom are fellow students, will be there to help her through the transition!

Soon Yuno’s not only no longer feeling homesick, but she’s gained a second family in second-year students Hiro and Sae, who do their best to play the role of older sisters, and her hyperactive new best friend and classmate Miyako. Add in a cosplay-obsessed homeroom teacher, her rather masculine landlady and all of the other odd denizens who inhabit Yuno’s new world and there’s always something fun and interesting going when new friends get creative!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release 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 between 2007 and 2012, 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 uses the same discs as the original Blu-ray release with new silkscreening to present it in a cohesive way that works well to bind it together. 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 for the early seasons. 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. The earlier seasons are a little rougher in how they look transitioning to high definition as the animation and design work was a bit simpler but as the seasons go on it feels like it comes together stronger with color definition and how it holds up.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release does what it needs to in order to hold nine discs by giving us a thick case with hinges to hold seven of the nine. But what it does with the cover side of things is adhere to the style we had with past series while playing it just right with some small details. The cover artwork is set up as a notebook with the rings along the left but we also get tabs on the right side now with each of the season names across it. I absolutely love that detail. The main cover naturally goes with our core four in their early uniforms and it looks great with the expressions, colors, and the fine detail along parts of it. The back cover has a nice breakout along the top left to show what’s included – using the tabbed colors – with episodes and OVAs. A few simple shots from the show populates the area and we get a decent little summary of the premise so we know what’s involved. Add in the clean look at the extras, production credits, and a simple but solid technical grid that breaks down the set cleanly and you get a good looking package that will look nice on your shelf as it holds twenty-four hours of anime. No show related inserts are included with this release.

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 artwork relative to that release at the time which looks great. While each menu goes with a different color design for the navigation there’s a fun consistency to it at the same time. Alternating as needed, one 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 and colorful character artwork – even the SP release goes with the whole swimsuit thing – but the rest look great with the girls in all sorts of poses and outfits. 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 that are spread out and kept to their respective seasons.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the four panel comic by Ume Aoki, released as Sunshine Sketch by Yen Press in the US, the Hidamari Sketch anime started off in 2007 and had seasons out through 2012 before it just couldn’t generate enough interest for more, unfortunately. The original manga runs in the seinen magazine Manga Time Kirara Carat since 2004 and has nine volumes to its name with the most recent volume out back at the end of 2016. A lot of four panel comics have been adapted into anime over the years with different approaches. Some expand events out to entire episodes while others do a series of relatively short cut scenes that sometimes have threads that tie it all together. Hidamari Sketch reminded me of Lucky Star without the geekiness and a bit more relaxed.

The central focus of the show is on a group of high school students attending the Yamabuki Art high school. The main focus is on their various artistic sides but they attend general classes as well, though it’s very rare that we see anything related to that. By and large it’s about the kids as they deal with their classes and life in general. The stories are fairly mundane and without the geek aspect, it’s the kind of show where you feel you’re getting a bit of an honest glimpse at part of what a student in this life would actually be like. It’s fairly simple as we see them living on their own in an apartment complex across from the campus with two of them freshman and another two of them having been there for a year or more so they play the role of an upperclassman.

While this is a fairly small ensemble cast show, it does focus somewhat centrally on one student, freshman Yuno. Yuno’s a decent girl who isn’t too sure of where she wants to go artistically at the school, which is normal for a freshman. She’s not bad at what she does, she doesn’t struggle too much but she does put in effort and works on her projects. She’s a good kid with an honest heart who looks out for her friends and is finding that she does well living on her own. The other freshman is a girl named Miyako who is a touch ditzy but not in a way that makes you think she’s braindead. She has a different view of life as she tries to do things that attract her attention but she’s not a dangerous type who goes after things that will bring problems. She wants to enjoy life but not at the expense of others.

The upperclassmen are where the characters are a bit more interesting for me. Hiro isn’t quite the outgoing person that Miyako is but she’s similar in some ways. Hiro’s cute in that she’s easily susceptible to other opinions when it comes to certain subjects, particularly that of her weight. She certainly doesn’t have any true issues when it comes down to it, but she’s very sensitive to itt and it impacts the way she lives, though she does often give in to the hundred yen cake slice sales that are common in the area. Rounding out the group is Sae, the eldest of the group who does a lot of writing professionally already yet has come to the school because she wants to do her own artwork. Her personality is definitely standard for her look but it works very well within the group dynamic as she’s both the serious one and the one most easily flustered. She plays up the wise elder at times but also has a great childlike sense of wonder many times. She quickly became my favorite character in the show simply because she felt the most well rounded when it came to how she deals with life.

Though this is a co-ed high school, there’s only one male character with any amount of significant lines and that’s the principal. He’s quite an amusing character as he’s a whisper thin old man who is frustrated in dealing with a particular teacher. Like the students, he has his quirks and there’s numerous pieces of artwork sculpted around his design that gets used in a variety of ways throughout the classes. He has a good wise old sage feel to him that allows the character to work well without being too strange. What offsets him is the art teacher the kids have, one Yoshinoya. She’s a rather restrained cosplay enthusiast who brings it to school often as a model for the kids in their classes but she’s also somewhat lighthearted and all about connecting with the students. Like a lot of young teachers, she’s also the type who still lives at home with her parents who treat her more like a student than a teacher.

The stories within the show are fairly mundane as they play out but they do mix it up in an interesting way. The show changes when it takes place throughout the year with each episode, moving back and forward in time so it’s not sequential. One episode may be in April, then August and then back to May. This does pose a problem if you want to figure out the continuity of the show, but there really isn’t anything like that here as the kids all deal with basic slice of life material. Doing some shopping, talking about favorite foods, going through art classes, karaoke or coping with a cold. There’s very little stand out material in terms of story, but when you watch Hidamari Sketch you’re getting a good glimpse at these characters lives. For me, it’s not so much that I want to protect and care for them but rather I want to see them grow and change to become who they’ll be when they get older.

One of the things that makes this show work as well as it does, with its short-form storytelling and all, is the manner in which it’s animated. With the show being done by Shaft, they use what really is their trademark style to give this life. We’ve seen their style before in other shows brought over, such as Pani Poni Dash and Negima?!, but here it’s a bit less frenetic than the first and a lot less stylish than the second. It’s kept fairly real world but it’s the manner in which they design their scenes, moving from piece to piece and providing the flow that keeps you enticed. There are cute quirky bits scattered throughout – the rabbit from Pani Poni Dash shows up walking by a window at one point for example – but it really does take the style they built up and applies it to a far more laid back setting. And I think it works wonderfully since it takes a lot of little style nods from four-panel comics.

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