Sunshine Sketch, Volume 3 (English)

June 22nd, 2009

4-koma comics, the Japanese analogy to the western comic strip, tend to follow a pattern. Like comic strips, they focus on talking heads, doing rather formulaic things. Think of any mainstream comic strip or even popular webcomics, and you can see the pattern pretty quickly. The most common formula is two to four people, conversations about topical or typical situations, with a punchline that relies on irony, wordplay or a twist of meaning. 4-koma are similar, although they rely a little bit more on the vaudevillian formulas of Manzai comedy. This makes them a little repetitive over time. Crazy cosplay-obsessed teacher will always be crazy and cosplay-obsessed. Wacky offbeat girl who is always hungry will be wackily offbeat – and hungry. The ambiguously gay couple will always be ambiguously gay and average girl will always “try her best.”

Which brings us to Sunshine Sketch, Volume 3 in which all of the above is what it is. No new ground is covered. Instead of plot complications, we get characters added to the cast. In this book, Yuno’s parents arrive. They seem pretty normalish, which makes sense because Yuno is pretty normalish. Everyone else remains the same, the gags become well-worn, comfortable in-jokes that we can all smile and share in, because we are all in the in-crowd here. When new characters move off, we introduce *props*. The highlights of the end of volume three is the addition of a cat, a bicycle and a Polaroid camera.

Sunshine Sketch isn’t a story, really. It’s a series of the same 12 or so gags, recycled over and over again. It would be well-suited to a webcomic, in fact. But new territory isn’t what we’re looking for with this manga. We’re just killing some time in the company of a few of the residents of the Hidamari Apartments. That’s all we want – and that’s all we get. But that’s just fine by us. ^_^

Sae and Hiro are ambiguously Yuri. I think Hiro would be fine with them as a couple. Sae is your basic clueless butchy character. Remember, in Yuri (as so often in real life) butch=uke, not seme. It’s up to Hiro to do something. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 3
Service – 2

Overall – 7

Another amusing 4-koma comic strip that makes pleasant reading, but leaves no lingering flavor. Which is exactly what I said about it last time, but I might as well have a formulaic review template for formulaic books. :-)

Thanks to Okazu Hero Amanda M for sponsoring today’s review!

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4 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t quite agree about the Yuri rating for this one – I actually thought this was the Yuri-est volume yet. Having read ahead of the US releases, I can also say I don’t think it will ever get more Yuri than this. For Hiro and Sae, at least. Natsume’s crush on clueless Sae is obvious, but played for laughs. The ambiguously gay couple has yet to get more semi-serious chapters like the ones featured in this volume.

    If this wasn’t a 4koma manga, I’d think the first chapter – the one where Hiro got a love letter – would be an indication of Sae noticing her own feelings, but of course that didn’t happen. I’m beginning to wonder if there is some unspoken rule that 4koma authors can’t give their characters “real” personalities, with development and changes, or something. I’m fine with what I get, too, but my views are probably biased because of the anime, which gave all of the characters quite a bit of development and is probably one of the most relaxing shows you can find.

  2. @Anonymous – I agree with you. That was a typo. However, “the most Yuri of this series so far” and “Yuri” are worlds apart. :-) Nothing actually changes between Hiro and Sae.

  3. Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous – A lack of depth and development isn’t just an unspoken rule for three- or four- panel strips, it’s a general bias for and against that level of story-telling on both the creative and receptive sides. Erica, here, says time and again that the series is formulaic and shallow, but still there is comfort to be found in the familiarity with the characters and scenarios and routine.

    If you want to a 4-koma book that really manages some nice enough depth, check out Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro. Bringing it back to that Unspoken Rule though, there’s a lot of people who really hate this excellent series once they realize it’s ‘just another moe 4-koma’ book.

  4. ajshepherd says:

    I think if Hiro and Sae were ever confirmed as a couple it would completely destroy the character dynamic. It’s much more interesting when it’s a case of “Are they… Aren’t they…?” and it’s all left up to our own imaginations.

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