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Anime's slice of life

By Max Engel
On March 2, 2014

In the field of anime, there exists a genre of series where nothing of consequence truly occurs. There's no martial arts tournaments, nor giant monsters coming to destroy Tokyo every week. Indeed, the series that make up the so-called "slice of life" genre choose to do little more than chronicle the daily lives of various people, whether that be a father and his inquisitive daughter like in "Yotsubato," or Martian gondoliers as seen in Aria. Arguably, one of the more popular slice of life series was none other than "Hidamari Sketch," the 2007 animated adaptation of a graphic novel series by Ume Aoki. Even today, "Hidamari Sketch" continues to be serialized in graphic novel form.
"Hidamari Sketch" follows a quartet of teenage girls attending the Yamabuki Art School. This group consists of the innocuous Yuno, who is joined by her energetic friend Miyako, as well as the other tenants of the Hidamari Apartments: the gentle Hiro and bashful Sae. Additionally, Yuno and Miyako's 20-something teacher, Ms. Yoshinoya, has an unusual penchant for dressing up in various outfits and showing off. The quartet usually interacts with one another in cutesy snapshots of their lives as art students, such as when Miyako struggles to resist eating slices of bread that are meant for erasing. To many people unfamiliar with the slice of life genre, this premise would understandably appear as insipid and droll. But in a world that isn't perfect, "Hidamari Sketch" depicts a life as sunny and innocent as the characters it stars. It's a feel-good series without worries or drama, and everyone has a friendly, strong spirit.
Another sizable part of "Hidamari Sketch"'s success can be attributed to the stylistic choices of the famed animation studio, Shaft. Shaft utilizes a very unique selection of colors and patterns to give the backgrounds of the series an appearance not unlike 1960s pop art. In addition to using soft colors, Shaft occasionally uses photorealistic items in the series, such as Yuno's teddy bear, or the sculpted busts seen in a storage room. A personal favorite stylistic choice of mine is when Yuno is standing at a crosswalk and a car is represented simply as the word "car," rather than an actual sedan or coupe.
In addition, the soundtrack for "Hidamari Sketch" is quite soothing and very befitting of the show's atmosphere. With mellow basses and innocent recorders, the soundtrack is ideal lounge music. Fans of the soundtrack will be delighted to hear the composer for "Hidamari Sketch," Tomoki Kikuya, continued to work with the series in subsequent seasons, as he is responsible for the music of "Hidamari Sketch x 365," "Hidamari Sketch x Hoshimittsu," and "Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb." More recently, Kikuya worked on the soundtrack for both seasons of "Squid Girl" before his most recent work for the "Henneko" soundtrack.
True to its name, "Hidamari Sketch" sketches a bright, sunny story that doesn't have anything to hide. If you enjoy the slice of life genre, or you're a fan of Shaft's work in animation, "Hidamari Sketch" should leave you as happy as Miyako.

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