Sunshine Sketch Manga, Volume 1 (English)

August 5th, 2008

I want to start today’s review off by thanking Yen Press for the copy of Hidamari Sketch that they sent me. Before I had a chance to write a review, our guest reviewer for today, Jen, wrote one that is in every way but one in complete alignment with anything I might have said. So, with Jen’s permission, I am posting her review. I’ll drop back in at the end with a few more notes. Take it away Jen!

I picked up this 4-koma book mainly because it was the last one on the shelf, while every other New Arrival title was bountiful in supply. Seemed to have that going for it. Plus I was in a High School Girls kinda impulse mood (the series, not the genre). Didn’t regret the purchase, despite nothing really happening in it. But then, it was Book #1, and nothing really happened at the beginning of Azumanga, either. I’ll give it time. Plus I thoroughly enjoy the character Miyako.

Set in an Arts school dorm, Miyako (Miya-san) is the neighbour of the title’s lead character Yuno, who is thoroughly bland and uninteresting. Not as cute as Chiyo-san but not as thoroughly annoying as Ichigo Mashimaro‘s Matsuri-chan, Yuno is utterly boring. Teeny frail little freshman who’s heart goes pitter-patter at the slightest twinge of nervousness of life, she’s a walking cliche of moe. Dump her in the bin and move on to her best buddy Miyako.

Miyako is the cliche gaijin American character (despite not actually being American). She’s tall with long blonde hair, boisterous and buxom; Miya-san is the larger-than-life character. Always coming into unsolicited physical contact with the always-flustered dainty nihonjin girlies, Miyako is often seen barging into the room asking for/taking any food in sight… which she consumes voraciously. Leaping,bounding, always sporting an open-mouth grin coupled with eyes big n’bright or otherwise closed in that zen bliss state, Miyako is rough n’rowdy. She’s a stunner, and should therefore be gay. Sound logic to me. Her art style is more ‘Picasso/WTF?’, which doesn’t get nearly enough of a mention (ie. more than once), which is an utter shame.

Still, it’s a character-driven manga, but I still yearn for more. Naturally, not a hint of naughty stuff (unlike HSG‘s smoking, carnal craving or copious amounts of bleeding), Sunshine Sketch is all puren’sweet and otherwise predictable (ie. dull). Still, Miyako steals every scene she’s in. Miya (how the character’s gone this long without being abreviated to “Mya” with accompanying visual gags, I don’t know) kept me reading. Paired with Yuno by default, there’s no other yuri leaning other than her offhand “You’re pretty, too” sly remark to a rain-drenched Yuno who was herself commenting on the wet greenery… eliciting the requisite blush/steam cloud. Also has an eye for Yuno’s panties. You know, I still contend that I’ve never heard another woman use theword “panties”… not even as a schoolgirl; only men. Maybe it’s just an Australian thing.

The only other main characters featured is the other cliche: The Ambiguously Gay Duo. Think a younger Chie & Aoi from the MaiUniverse, only here it’s Sae & Hiro. Sae (Mai’s Chie) plays the role of starving artist, that is a tormented novelist who’s only in the Arts academy because she wants to do her own illustrations.

Forever breaking deadline, she’s cared for by Hiro, who cooks and cleans and provides the warm lap for a broken Sae to sleep on. We don’t really see much of Hiro’s own art career, which is again a shame. It seems playing wife is her role thus far. Oh well, only book #1. Throw in a juvenile yet buxom Arts teacher and you’ve got the ingrediants for an all-round girls school anime, which Google tells me does actually exist. I just hope they keep the ‘Get Yuno drunk’ scene. It’s one of the few scenes that give her (any) character. x__x

Erica here again: So the one thing I diagree with is that Miyako is the best character. Yes, I like Miu from IM, but in *every* other 4-koma style comic, I find that character kind of annoying. They are all the same – in Rakka Ryuusui, this book, Tori Koro – always blonde, always misinterpreting the same things to mean dumb things, etc. etc. I prefer Sae, myself, but entirely because she reminds me of another character in a set of doujinshi stories by Sakuraike.

Let me also add that, as with the few Yen Press books I’ve seen, the quality of reproduction is high. Translating 4-koma puns and gags is always difficult, so if there’s one or two moments where things fall flat, it’s probably not the translator’s fault.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 1.5
Service – 1

Overall – 7

I do agree that Yuno getting drunk was the funniest bit. ;-)

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9 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just like the review said, you can’t expect much from the first book of a character-driven 4koma manga. Especially the third volume has significantly more ambiguous Yuri-ish stuff going on between Hiro and Sae. Looks like the mangaka as well as the anime staff are having a lot of fun about this. Also, the anime is about the same, but better. Sure, the moe factor went up a notch, but the characters are given a lot more depth and the simplistic art style is just perfect for a manga about young artists. I don’t even think it’s supposed to be funny; it does well its job as a heartwarming story.
    Oh yeah, and it’s a shame the landlady doesn’t appear more often in the manga. She’s awesome.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The anime is a lot more Yuriffic, mostly for Hiro x Sae, than the first two volumes of the manga. I guess I’ll be ordering vol 3 soonish, but I’ve liked the anime better so far (and not only for more Yuri content).

    The anime had a fun poke at Yuri fans in the second season: Yuno surprises Hiro and Sae in a compromising position (there is a perfectly good explanation for it, of course). During the next scene Sae digs up her old school festival project, a painting of lilies to which Yuno comments something like “Yuri ha ii desu ne”.

  3. Anonymous says:

    From the previews of Hidamari Sketch x365’s epi 6, seems like the next episode will be about “drunk Yuno”

  4. Jarlath says:

    Sae’s probably the one who gives off the ‘Yuri’ vibes most – Hiro doesn’t quite respond the same way when things happen while Sae’s busy blushing and stammering excuses about how she dated a bunch of boyfriends, ‘one for every day of the week’. That, and her ‘cool, strong girl’ archestype is usually the one that draws as much female attention as male.

    It’s a cute series, and very ‘moe moe’ with everyone fulfilling a certain ‘type’. But Hiro and Sae’s friendship is close enough that… well, there are suggestions that Sae sees Hiro in more than just a ‘friend’-ly way.

  5. Jarlath says:

    Oh, and Episode 7 of x365 looks like they’re going to hit up the ‘Yuno getting plastered’ chapter. Gotta love how, under that sunny exterior, hides a pessimist. ;)

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