Sunday, 24 April 2011

ひだまりスケッチ / Hidamari Sketch (season 1)

Lucky Star, Manabi Straight and Hidamari Sketch: those were the three shows that came out in the same season, trying to appeal to the same audience. All of them featured the day-to-day antics of a group of girls in their late teens, yet drawn to look more like 10-year-olds. All aimed to make the audience laugh with exaggerated characterisations and cuteness. Lucky Star was the huge smash hit that everyone saw, Manabi Straight was my personal favourite, leaving Hidamari Sketch to be, honestly, the loser in this easygoing race.

Hidamari Sketch focuses on four girls living in the same apartment complex, full of art students – although one of them is a young novelist. Episodes tend to be structured around their interaction, with their bizarre cucumber-headed principal, with their cosplay-fanatic teacher, with the cute little sister of the novelist girl who’s supposed to be five years younger than the others but is drawn very much the same as them.

The trouble is how difficult it is to get to know the main characters of the series. Not all of the characters in those other titles were memorable, but it was only one or two of the characters who seemed undeveloped, mostly because they didn’t interact enough with the others. But even having seen all the episodes of Hidamari Sketch, I couldn’t tell you any of the characters’ names…and if I were to describe them, I’d say the ditzy blonde one (stupid and brash enough to be the standout, but a comic sidekick and foil rather than the focus), the cute and childlike one (too bland as a main character), the…uptight book-writing one with a tsundere side and the other one with pink-red hair who was just…there. None of them were very endearing, nothing about their lives was very interesting and the most entertaining character was the self-absorbed teacher who loved to dress up.

What could’ve saved the series would have been jokes. If it were funny, it would have been saved, even if only as funny as Lucky Star. Sadly, despite sharing a director with Negima!? and Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei - namely Shinbou Akiyuki - and having some of that characteristic Shaft quirkiness and disregard for conventional storytelling flow (lots of random little disjointed scenes and random photo collages inserted into scenes), it just didn’t have enough humour or amusing character quirks, and felt like a very poor rehash of Azumanga Daioh.

Without likeable characters, nice art, good humour or sufficient cuteness, this one goes into the small but growing ‘watch but then delete’ pile.

(originally written 29.1.08. Hidamari Sketch has since had two more seasons and several one-off specials.

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