MID 2 to LIGHT 5. I found some aspects okay but dislike others.
Well, that was something. I've never watched feature-length propaganda, nor have I watched much pre-60s animation. This was a new experience for me, and, in both the propaganda and animation aspects, the movie was morbidly interesting.
As a Pinoy, well... I think it should be obvious how I feel about the propaganda. Although, I want to note a caveat in my take.
The way they depict themselves liberating the natives from those nasty whites sounds similar to nationalist propaganda in my home country. The somewhat messy relationship between the natives and the white men
is a relationship heavily played upon in politics and rhetoric here, and I believe most Filipinos agree that being free from the Americans was approximately a good thing. *cue that famous Manuel Quezon quote*
Of course, Japan being the one to bring that liberation? Not at all true or justified. In many ways, the Japanese were worse occupiers than the Americans. (Not that America did nothing wrong, but Japan was brutal, to put it mildly). And we WERE getting independence soon anyway, so Japan's "well-intentioned intervention" was not needed at all. (I am being a bit overly specific here because the rhetoric also includes other Southeast Asian colonies that weren't due for independence).
Also, uh... "Devil's Island"? Really?
That said, watching propaganda is a very intriguing experience. The way they glorified industrialization and deforestation... The way they censor the violence in trying to make war appealing to children... The way the English/American officers spoke during the surrender negotiations about how "the war is on their side already" as if Japan was self-aware that she was losing... I feel like I have a more nuanced view on WWII Japanese ideology after watching this movie.
Not that I'll raise the score for this. None of this historical and academic value arises from the film's quality itself.
The production itself is amateurish but interestingly so. It looks like they were still trying to figure out how this "animation" thing is supposed to be done. Most of the movement is slow and takes far too many frames. Its sound design is messy. (I'm not talking about the static caused by old microphones. I'm talking about how the sounds don't consistently change with the cut, how the camera should've changed position but the ambiance sounds unchanged). The child actors suck (but in a kinda adorable way). Animation errors and missing frames aplenty. The facial animation is... morbidly fascinating (a.k.a. creepy AF).
However, I did unironically enjoy a few things about the flick. Here and there, there were a few hints of that early cartoon charm with all the singing and dancing. I liked how the film's overall premise is just a bunch of animals dancing and having fun with their *wartime* routines (until they go and stab some white men). It reminds of animation shorts I used to watch when I was younger which were pretty much just a bunch of fun kids and animals dancing and playing. The film accomplishes this appeal somewhat well, and while it's not the best at it, it achieves a state of fun bliss in a few scenes. Enough to make me rate some moments a light 5.
Animation-wise, the background art looks fine, some of the larger crowd shots have some dynamic compositions and animation, and the music shared the orchestral energy of all those old cartoons. Despite most of the movie feeling like the animators were still learning how to do everything, they got some things right.
The movie surprised me when they managed to get actual English voice actors to star. I don't know why they'd agree to such a role depicting them as horribly cowardly. Either that or they got REALLY talented Japanese voice actors, but I find that hard to imagine. Maybe I just don't watch that much propaganda. This might be a common occurrence if the pay was hefty enough to justify this humiliation.
To conclude, it's still propaganda, as you'd expect. However, you might learn some things on how the WWII Japanese viewed themselves, others, and their place in the world. As an animation though, it does have some charm to its aesthetic, despite the animators obviously still learning the craft.
Jul 3, 2018
Asagao to Kase-san. (Anime) add
A six out of ten. I liked it, however I have one minor complaint near the end of the review.
The amount of fluff in this thing is real high. I wouldn’t call it the fluffiest romance ever, and definitely not the fluffiest show ever, however it’s up there.
The character acting is top-notch. As in, QUALITY. The lead character’s emotes are ridiculously cute and the little leaves that sprout out of her hair were honestly genius. Character sakuga in this OVA is off-the-charts. One could definitely go about analyzing the animation much further.
The rest of the art is also fairly beautiful, but it has nothing striking ... style-wise. It’s pretty, but it’s “generic high school late 2010s anime” pretty. It rides the trend of “heavily lighted, plant-abundant background art with almost-fragile outlining” that has been running strong recently. It’s nice to look at but it doesn’t stand out, and standing out is ultimately more important.
The art, however, does contribute to the overall tone which I can only describe as “these are the good days of life” or “lightly sunny” or, simply, “a quiet niceness”. The long takes, the long establishing shots that come in succession, the sound design, and the amount of light that comes in every room add to that. The mostly objective and relatively distant camera also makes sure that that tone is never disturbed and maintained throughout the OVA. It adds much to the fluffiness.
An exception to the objective camera occurs when the main girl is confronted by her best friend about a problem she’s been having. Suddenly, the main girl appears to be floating in a cloudy space and the best friend is with her in person saying the problem matter-of-factly.
It’s the only real visually metaphorical or heavily stylised moment in the OVA (other than the character animation) so I believe I should talk about this. I tried to imagine the scene done completely objectively, but it just came off as cliche, making an already unoriginal trope worse (we’ll get to that in a bit). So, I believe stylizing the moment was the better choice.
Visual metaphors work well in anime and animation because transitioning from realism to stylization is much less jarring than it is in live-action. While I can’t deny that the whole thing felt a bit sudden, the act of putting the two characters right next to each other, the best friend staring straight at the camera, makes the whole dialogue feel more direct and, in turn, more effective. Doing so also adds a sense of power to the best friend’s words.
I also kinda liked the ED but I didn't notice the rest of the music.
Now, the OVA’s scenarios and characters have to be its weakest points.
The OVA, as I alluded to earlier, uses common and unoriginal tropes and presents them perfectly straight.
Story examples include the “obliviousness to sexual advances” trope where one partner is oblivious to the other partner’s sexual advances, the age-old “sexual advances get interrupted” trope, the “kiss at a bus stop” trope, the “this rooftop is our private meetup” trope, and, the ever-classic [spoiler] “I’m applying to a different college” [/spoiler] trope that is pretty much universal.
[While the “I’m too shy and embarrassed to see you in the bath” trope and the “People have distanced themselves from me because they saw me naked in the bath” trope are new to me, but I can interpret them as a yuri translation of the “We’re seeing each other naked and the difference in our bodily attractiveness is making me uncomfortable” which, while not exactly “common”, is a trope I’ve seen before a few times.]
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these. Every trope, no matter how used, can further character development, move the plot forward, deepen characterization, and spark interesting character drama.
The problem is they are not memorable.
Repeated exposure to a trope takes away from its ability to stick to your mind. You don’t remember common and used ideas far less than new and original ones. They’re easy to forget because they blend in with all the other stories you’ve experienced and don’t stand out in your mind.
Actually, after listing down all the story tropes above, I’ve softened my stance. Those tropes, although not exactly new, weren’t exactly cliche. They list also failed to cover everything the OVA had in its scenarios. You could definitely use the tropes listed to create something memorable and even iconic.
I’m not going to say the same thing about the characters.
The memorability problem extends to and is more prominent with the characters who are as straightforward as straightforward gets.
The main girl is shy, easily flustered, and easily doubts herself but easily excitable and particularly expressive. Kase is cool and emotionally honest about herself with others but rarely fully grasps other people’s emotions. The dynamic the two have can be summarized as Kase being first to open up which prompts the main girl to open up in turn, but Kase doesn’t always fully detect or understand the main girl’s emotions so it’s the main girl’s job to make her emotions clear which sometimes needs some prodding. That’s them summarized.
Although I wouldn’t call this two-dimensional and some people will find this satisfying, I don’t find it complexly-written enough or detailed enough in its presentation to be memorable. Again, the characters are somewhat cliche and you’re bound to bump into at least some of these tropes explored in more depth and nuance if you spent enough time watching or reading other yuri or even straight romance in general. I’ll probably forget what happens in the OVA in a span of a few days. I don’t even remember the main girl’s goddamn name (although it’s probably just because they don’t say her name much while Kase’s name is in the goddamn title of the OVA and the main girl mentions her name over and over and over).
To clarify, I AM NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT THE PRESENCE OF CLICHES. I am complaining about THEIR USE which is simplistic and ultimately lacking in depth and nuance. The OVA didn’t play with tropes so much as place them in its story as is and leave it at that. It doesn’t take the time to explore each trope’s full potential, making these tropes lead to something interesting or create nuanced character development or, hell, do something actually rememberable.
Don’t get me wrong. I did end up liking the two leads and finding them cute both on their own and together. Their motivations were clearly defined, so it was easy to get motivated with them. The whole thing, as I said, was very fluffy. Fluff is always a good thing. I just didn’t feel like they presented anything memorable to them.
Man, did I say a "minor complaint"? That actually was far from "minor".
Ultimately, the OVA’s main problem is its memorability. None of it stuck with me and I’m sure I’ll forget all about it by tomorrow. As a fairly big fan of yuri myself, going through Dynasty Scans will probably get you something more interesting than this OVA.
Anyway, watch if you like gay fluff, character acting sakuga, and nice art but it ain’t the masterpiece everyone says it is. Forgettable.
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May 25, 2017
Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World (Anime) add
“Well… That happened.”
That sentence was always the one thing that endured in my mind as soon as the screen had faded away. As the ED played on in the background, this was all that dared be present in my head. It’s a powerful feeling, a morbid mix of shock, awe, and melancholy that leaves behind a particularly special kind of impression. I felt like I just reached the end of an entire show after finishing a single episode. Kino’s Journey leaves behind great impact.
It’s something only a show like The Twilight Zone can ever really match. When you compare them, there’s nothing but striking similarity. ... There’s always something off. Sometimes, it’s clear as day. Things are moving when they’re not supposed to. Places are deserted. The sky isn’t blue. Other times, you just can’t put your finger on it. That hasty man you just passed by seemed to be hiding something, but maybe he’s just late for work. People look at you with dirty suspicion even if nothing you’re doing is wrong. You feel as if your shadow had got up and left, but when you look down, it’s still right there underneath your feet. Maybe everything starts completely normal, a completely average day, but something happens along the way that violently puts everything into the realm of abnormality. Whatever it is, it is clear that you are not in Kansas anymore. You’ve just entered the Twilight Zone. *Twilight Zone music plays*
Within this realm of ambient menace, things start to build up. The air starts to move. Feelings turn into choices. Actions beget reactions. Things escalate. Then… climax. The climax is central to everything in the two shows. Ranging from simplistically brilliant as that of Time Enough to Last (S1E08 of Twilight Zone) to brutally tragic as that of A Kind Land (E13 of Kino’s Journey), climaxes are these two shows’ forté. Whether it is a plot twist that so perfectly brings a new light to all pre-established context or a five-second tragedy that burns its message into memory, these two shows have shattering climactic impact and indulge in it.
There is, however, another work out there that is also worth comparison. Ever read The Little Prince?
Life is a journey, and the wisest men are those who have traveled it the most. Some travel it with a destination, and others without. Some who travel it have a home to come back to like the little prince’s small comet and his perfect but ephemeral rose. Others do not, finding solace in the journey, like Kino the traveler who refuses to be anything but a traveler. Some are hesitant because of what they had to leave behind, those unmaintained volcanoes and that neglected lamb, while others feel nothing but desire to journey, looking up at the birds and desiring to follow them. These two works are about travelers.
As they journey, they meet new people, people whose eyes see different sights and whose minds think different thoughts. And from them, they learn. Whether or not those people they meet are wise beyond their years such as the fox that must be tamed or foolish in their ways such as the lands wrought by misinterpretation, good travelers learn from them nonetheless because, no matter what, the views of the people they meet will expand their own. And that is the essence of these two shows. These two works are centered around showcasing concepts and ideas you would have never even considered if you were holed up at home. These two works are philosophical, asking questions you wouldn’t have pondered on if you never went out to look for them. These works’ impact now extends beyond emotional as with the Twilight Zone. They leave philosophical impact, the type that changes how you think of and see the world.
Now that I’ve touched upon the subject of philosophy, I must give you a warning regarding this and how Kino’s Journey has handled it that may dissatisfy viewers. You may see this as a criticism of the show, but you may also see this as a defense of this show from others’ criticism.
Kino’s Journey doesn’t go in-depth with the themes it presents. The show doesn’t dig further to all but a few of the logical conclusions the subject matter implies. It leaves these subjects open-ended, with few comments, both stated and implied, being all there is to further deepen them. Unlike the Little Prince whose protagonist has much to say on its ideas and whose narration has much to say on its protagonist, Kino’s Journey saves on its commentary, just like its protagonist.
Because of this presentation choice, the viewer is free to wonder about the philosophical concepts as deep as he chooses. Kino’s Journey doesn’t explain its ideas so much as invite the viewer into thinking about them, a process the show has mastered with its impeccable tone-crafting. This means that the viewer wouldn’t be forced into complicated reasoning when he doesn’t want to and that the viewer wouldn’t find himself disagreeing with what the show is trying to say.
However, this also means a bounty of discussion-worthy material is neglected. Some questions stem from previous answers, and neglecting to provide these answers, however subjective, also means neglecting to ask these following questions. There’s a whole threshold of enlightening topics that could’ve been reached if the show took more advantage out of the biased viewpoint of its protagonist like The Little Prince. This would disappoint and lessen the show’s impact on some.
Yet, when Kino’s Journey does attempt a deeper commentary on its ideas, its results polarize.
Kino’s Journey is at its worse when it is directed in a way that dictates to you what you should think. You’re obligated to agree. If you disagree, that’s it. Your willing suspension of disbelief is destroyed, and the impact this show is so good at crafting is ruined. You are now limited in the ways you can think about the subject matter. If you agree with what the show is saying at these moments, then great. No problem. However, if you don’t, you won’t like some episodes. The episodes that are like I described (from the top of my head so be wary of what I say) are episodes one, three (kinda), the latter half of five, and nine. That’s already more than a fifth of the entire series, but I assure you that all the rest is worth it.
The show is at its best when Kino herself does the commentary. When she comments on each presented idea, it doesn’t feel like the show is forcing any specific viewpoint on you. Instead, it feels like you’re talking to someone who sees the world in a specific light. You’re not obligated to agree with Kino. Instead, Kino presents an alternate perspective which builds upon the ideas yet allows the viewer to break away from. This has the added effect of adding nuance to Kino’s character, allowing us to form a personal connection with her. There is a lot that constitutes character nuance, but worldview is a large part of it, and slowly etching out what exactly this worldview is also means slowly etching out her character. Now, once we accept Kino as an actually interesting and nuanced character, we’re willing to accept what Kino says, even if we don’t necessarily agree.
I want to point out that Kino also manages to do implicit commentary. She says many things on the matter at hand indirectly through her humanly emotional reactions to them, such as through her expressions or actions. Sometimes, even without making any clear body or facial expression, we still are able to at least get the gist of her emotional reaction through the way the scene is directed. It is through these emotional reactions that we can understand the ideas in a way other than logic and reasoning. We are able to understand them in a personal way through Kino.
Now that I’m talking about her, I want to talk a bit more about Kino. She is a protagonist who is fleshed out and interesting to watch… but only sometimes. Sometimes, she is a well-characterized character whose worldview, motivations, and emotions are subtly apparent to the viewer through her choices, has a wide range of expressions, and who’s not some wise know-it-all which most protagonists from this genre often end up being. Yet other times, she’s utterly lifeless, merely a distant passive watcher. This happens when the narrative situation and its themes don’t directly involve her. One could argue that at these points, there is no need for Kino to be more than a caricature. She’s not important at these times. I challenge this notion.
But, at some of the best points of the show such as episodes one and ten, a fleshed-out and expressive Kino brings a whole new level of quality and enjoyment despite the themes of the episodes not being necessarily associated with her own worldview. In episode one, Kino’s kind action at the end of the episode showed us that the themes presented, although seemingly distant from normal life, do indeed apply to all of us, including Kino. And the show does so with Kino doing something that is SO her which ends the episode with impactful closure. In episode ten, Kino is far more expressive than usual, smiling more and participating in more banter with Hermes. Nothing drastic was done to her. They just added a small touch to her personality. Because of this, the downtime before the climax, during the exposition and rising action, is far more enjoyable to watch. It’s not as if the climax or its impact was changed in any way, but the overall enjoyment of the episode was improved. Because of these two examples, I am inclined to believe that Kino’s Journey would improve significantly if Kino was consistently expressive, fully characterized, and present in the narrative situation of each episode despite not being a direct actor within it at all times instead of being used as a mere far away observer.
Another thing of note is Kino’s backstory in episode four and the first “movie”. It’s nothing too significant, but I’m glad that despite Kino’s worldview clearly being shaped by her past, she is not defined by it. It just adds to Kino’s overall maturity. Nonetheless, I didn’t like Kino’s sudden change in the “movie”. It was grating and seemed completely unrealistic to me. I’d expect at least some gradualness but the show goes straight from old Kino to new Kino.
Ending my discussion on the protagonist, I also want to point out Kino’s character debut. The first we see of her is a desperate side of her, stripped of the basic human need of water. This immediately adds depth to the usual quiet traveler we see by showing another more human and primitive aspect of her right from the start. We are also introduced to the way Kino and Hermes banter which is half-comedic, half-intellectual. No jokes are cracked, but the feeling of their repartee and the relationship between them is solidly established. I also want to make not of the oversaturated black-and-white they used to represent the scorching heat of the desert they were in. I feel like it hammers the feeling of hot desert far better than other methods of cinematography in hot environments.
At this point, I feel like I’ve said the crux of what I wanted to say about this show, but, before I conclude, let me just discuss some aesthetic and miscellaneous points.
I understand most people would mostly be neutral towards the show’s overall artstyle. It’s fairly storybook which helps with the already storybook premise of going on a journey to strange lands, but it’s obvious this show is from the early-2000s, containing almost all of the facets of that time period’s art.
The animation is unmemorable as well, nothing standing out. It’s clear that a lot of frame-saving methods were used.
Sometimes, it can even be grating, with the bad 2D-3D composition in the second “movie” created by SHAFT where they used some ugly CGI. I usually love SHAFT, but man. That “movie” needed to calm down with the CGI backgrounds.
I feel like the OP had enough character that those who watched the show would be able to immediately associate the OP with the show just by listening to the first few seconds.
Other than the ethnic woodwind that plays during contemplative moments, the rest of the soundtrack and sound design is mostly unmemorable.
One last unmemorable aspect of the show is the cinematography and directing. Other than the oversaturated black-and-white directing choice in the show’s opening scene, I hold to memory no other moment from the show with noteworthy cinematography.
The background art should be significant because this contributes a lot to the feeling of going to new places, but the color palette completely destroys any positive effect the backgrounds may have. Each new country has a different background art which supposedly should give each country its own personality, adding a lot to the feeling of traveling, but the constant color palette of browns and dirty greens makes all these places feel the same. It’s a big shame.
Hermes feels a bit too much like one of those “quirky” sidekicks, those ones that make sarcastic quips whenever something happens that may or may not be funny. He eventually grew on me though. The banter between him and Kino brightens up the mood sometimes, and he is a good companion which is always good to have on a journey. I don’t think he’s symbolic of anything like everyone says he is though.
Lastly, Kino is canonically around fifteen to sixteen years old. HOW THE HELL IS SHE FIFTEEN-SIXTEEN YEARS OLD!? This does not make any sense. I know many fifteen and sixteen-year-olds. Those people do not at all have the emotional maturity as she does, but I guess that’s what traveling for a living does to you.
In conclusion, Kino’s Journey manages to be impactful in the same way The Twilight Zone and The Little Prince are. It stands out from its artistic medium in the same way those two other works do from their own. There are quite a lot of issues with its philosophical content and the way it’s presented and with Kino herself and the way she’s characterized, however, the show is still very much worth watching for the impact it’s so good at crafting.
If anything else, it does make you feel like you’re traveling without making you suffer the horrible hell that is economy class airplane seating.
Overall, I rate this show an 8.5/10.
+ great impact
+ great tone-crafting
+ replicates in the viewer's mind the philosophical thought processes one has when travelling
+ fleshed-out protagonist (but not all the time)
+ a tonal and structural mix of The Twilight Zone and The Little Prince
+ interesting philosophical topics brought up
+ protagonist has nuanced commentary on these philosophical topics
+ protagonist's character debut is masterful
+ protagonist is not defined by her backstory
= inoffensive artstyle
= inoffensive animation
= inoffensive music and sound design
= inoffensive cinematography and directing
-- doesn't explore its topics to satisfactory depth
-- sometimes is structured to force you to agree with it or then your willing suspension of belief is broken
-- protagonist can be boring and one-dimensional at points
-- protagonist's backstory in the first "movie" is grating
-- composition of 2D objects over 3D backgrounds in the second "movie" is not that great
-- potential for the background art to add towards the feeling of journeying is ruined by repetitive color palette
*If you can, please try to read the review itself instead of these outline points. A lot of the points I make in the review are hard to simplify down to simple clauses.*
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Dec 27, 2016
Non Non Biyori (Anime) add
This show, all by itself, easily, definitively, and singlehandedly defines the entire purpose, appeal, and point of an entire genre of anime... or at least a good subset of it.
To me, there are four main subsets to slice-of-life (which I totally didn't steal from Subsonic Sparkle): gag-driven, character-driven, moe, and pure iyashikei. This show fits very well in the gag-driven category with its abundant (and incredible) use of humour. It does have aspects of the other three subsets, but don't expect the show to share the same mood or style as shows of the other categories tend to have. There are definitely moments when the ... characters absolutely shine, but, unlike many other great character-driven shows (such as Hidamari Sketch), those moments tend to be fewer and farther from each other and the characters lack that certain depth good character-driven shows have. There are cute girls however there's not really many other cute things in the show unlike other top-tier moe slice-of-lifes where every single aspect of the show is specifically designed to be cute (like GochiUsa). It's much closer to pure iyashikei, with a surprisingly larger focus on calmness and peace than most other gag-driven slice-of-lifes, than to the other two categories however, it's still not quite there. Many others would classify this as an iyashikei type of show, but, to me, pure iyashikei has this special relaxing, calm, and beautiful tone that can only be described as contemplative or meditative or even philosophical. The show could have that and many times it does (the first two and a half minutes of the show is literally just background art with the show's wonderfully great main theme being played), however, due to its more plentiful comedy and often immature characters which can not at all be considered or described reflective or pensive. This show is indeed a slice-of-life and it is one of THE slice-of-lifes out there, however I seriously hope to clearly establish that this show is not the same as many other slice-of-life shows from different subsets of the genre. Simply put, it is a gag-driven slice-of-life and it holds this identity with all its heart and soul. It is not anything else. Don't expect anything GochiUsa-like, Hidamari Sketch-like, or Amanchu-like anywhere near this show.
Well, since I've already explicitly stated that this show doesn't have very deeply written characters, I might as well discuss that now.
This show does not have the most deeply written characters. They're all extremely likable and, at some points, surprisingly relatable, however, if you're looking for anyone who you can have the deepest of connections with or anyone who could interest you beyond a good injection of comedy or the occasional relatability or anyone whose character can be analyzed more than two or three layers deep or anyone with motivations any more complicated than the shallow desires of grade schoolers and lazy twenty-somethings (eat, sleep, sleep more) or anybody that has any qualities or facets other than the few they all center themselves upon (although they build upon those characteristics pretty well especially for the sake of comedy) or anyone who has thoughts, emotions, and feelings other than about anything that has just happened, is happening, or will happen within an immediate timeframe then you are out of luck with this show. The characters are all painted very well with an exorbitant amount of likability and a touch of relatability however, if you take a look at them with a fine-toothed comb, you'll discover that the characters this show has are all relatively cardboard when compared to other slice-of-lifes. (Although the fact that you still have to look at them closer to notice this is indeed a plus).
Also, if you expect any sort of development in this show of any sort revolving around the characters, any character development or relationship development or something, there is little. There is some character development within each episodic story arc, however these small character changes are designed to be so minimal that they won't be too noticed or are able to be easily forgotten without much sacrifice to the show's integrity because the show, I choose to believe, follows the old classic television rule of status quo continuity which was established so that anyone can just jump in into any episode in any order just by flipping through the channels without being alienated.
This show, as I said earlier, doesn't have the most deeply-written characters and I believe I've summed up why earlier (and all in a single sentence too). Nevertheless, I do indeed think it irresponsible of me to make these judgements without citing a good and proper supporting example.
Let me take our main(-est) protagonist here, Hotaru Ichijou, as our wonderful wonderful subject for today. She's a very kind girl who looks mature, already very much like a teenager, however as a matter of fact is only in fifth grade and thinks and acts like a fifth grader. She's very self-conscious, soft-spoken, shy (although all in a very lovable way), but excessively panicky, obsessive, and enthusiastic whenever she's doing something related to her crush on her senpai, Komari Koshigaya (who is also a girl making Hotaru a lesbian; this fact is never mentioned or commented on outright by the show which I'm sure will pleasantly surprise some people and annoy some others) which is her entire comedic point. She also really enjoys the countryside a fair bit more than the city even if she expected to feel alienated, and she wishes that she can spend the rest of her life there together with her friends. Aaaaaannd... that's it. That's her entire character and is the furthest a reasonable person (or at least I) can analyze about her. There are some other small details such as her skills with cooking and knitting, and these small details do add nuance and weight towards each character, however they're very minimal and trivial when it comes down to it, telling us nothing about Hotaru we don't already know about or expect from her. At this point, I'm inclined to admit that I am kind of underselling her character a bit. There are probably a few more characteristics, details, motivations, or character I missed or merely brushed upon and many of the traits and motivations I have stated are indeed built upon to an extent. However this should give you of the basic idea for what not to expect from this show's characters. This show does not have the complex thoughts and emotions Yuno from Hidamari Sketch has, nor are there any of the strong and powerfully-developed relationships such as Cocoa and Chino's in GochiUsa, nor does it have the great but subtle character development of the soldiers in Sora no Woto. To put it simply, don't watch this show for deeply-written characters.
So, now you may ask: What exactly makes this show so 'genre-defining' when it doesn't even have properly written characters?
To which I shall answer: I never said they weren't well-written. I said they weren't very deeply-written. You see, I defined the four main subsets of slice-of-life earlier because shows from each subset have very key differences in their requirements for their characters. Non Non Biyori is not a character-driven slice-of-life (in the context of the four subsets), but a gag-driven slice-of-life with a hint of iyashikei, and, in this context, this show knows exactly how to use the characters it has given life.
I have three conditions for a well-written character: likability, relatability, and nuance. If a character manages to achieve at least one of these conditions, then I would consider them well-written. (Although this also depends on the context of the character and what their role is in the story, e.g. if a character is ONLY likable in a show in the psychological genre). Let's get back to what I was talking about earlier. I said that Non Non Biyori's characters, the show's body and soul, lacked depth. They lacked layers. They were rather two-dimensional and uninteresting in terms of character analysis. They lacked nuance.
However, I also stated that these characters are all extremely likable. They manage to charm you very very well and very very quickly. Every character has this sort of aura written into them that is expressed wonderfully well through every action they take (props to the animators) to every interaction they make with others. They don't need depth when they have charisma. To me, a well-written character has to make viewers care about them. They hook you in and form emotional connections with you. When a nuanced character captures your interest while a relatable character reels up a viewer's old experiences, a likable character catches you with his charm and wit. And boy. These characters do have charm and wit. Believe me. They're the most charming little buggers I've seen in a long goddamn while.
Well, let's analyze why they're so likable.
Let's start with character design. They're your basic moe fanfare. Even if I don't think there's anything different about the way they're drawn (except Renge-chan) compared to other moe anime, it's hard to deny that they're all pretty cute and work well as cute characters in a slice-of-life comedy. Meaning: straight away from the looks, they've got charm. Renge-chan is a good example of this. We've got her entire personality onto those flat-topped eyes of hers, expressing a sort of sleepy curiosity which falsely creates an image of sarcastic boredom until you look closer and see that these static-looking eyes portray more naive enthusiasm than any other lesser moe five year old preschooler can dream to have. Immediately, you can tell all this. There's a lot to be gained from good character design that many people do not realize.
Now, the next logical step from here would be character acting, as in, how the character expresses their emotions through the animation. And I'd have to say, it's pretty top-notch. All the facial expressions are diverse enough for each of them to be able to stand out and, when combined with their character designs, portray just the right amount of emotion for the job, from the faces the characters make whenever a gag hits to the rich subtlety of their countenances during the show's rich character moments. They're all very expressive and, although most won't notice it, they actually contribute a large majority towards the likability and charisma of the characters. Compared to other shows, I don't think it's any more diverse than what other shows have in their facial department, but I noticed that this show manages to capture just as much emotion without reaching to the exaggerated heights other shows do. There is much exaggeration at times however it exaggerates in a scarcer and more tasteful way than most shows do. A great example again here would be Renge-chan. Those triangular mouth and flat-topped eyes may seem like an expression limiter, however they actually end up boosting the emotion she expresses. She's actually the single character in the show who can express not the most emotion but the most realistic amount of emotion in the show condensed in a single moment. There's this bit in episode four. I won't spoil it because it's absolutely beautiful. I'll just say that Renge-chan expresses an emotion that is so unbelievably realistically raw all through the power of facial expression (and top-notch voice acting). It's not at all exaggerated. It's just so real. It fits so perfectly with Renge-chan as a preschooler, too young to hold back tears well but already too old to cry excessively. It's beautiful. And there's none of that typical anime exaggeration involved. They just managed to make it so realistic. (Episode four was a great episode by the way.) And this is coming from someone who absolutely hates those short, emotional, appeal-to-pathos videos.
Now, those were just the visual aspects of a character, the components dominated by the animator instead of the writer. They're not the most important parts of a character and won't make or break a character in any way, however they contribute a surprising amount more in character building than most people realize. But enough of that. The animator may hold importance, but the writer still holds supreme. What, in the script, makes them so likable?
Let me just bring up an example here. There's this moment in episode seven when Hotaru and Renge are trapped in a rabbit pen. I won't tell you why they were stuck in there because I don't want to spoil too much, however they get stuck in there with nobody knowing their whereabouts to be able to check on them. There's this moment of silence, both in much shock, then Hotaru just freaks out. She starts crying about not being able to go home tonight and get to taste her mom's stew which she was promised they were going to eat tonight. She then starts screaming the word 'stew' repeatedly (in a Japanese accent too) as her face floods with tears. I love this moment. I've already repeatedly watched it several times just for the fun of the whole thing. I eventually did stop laughing, but I still have this wide permanent smile on my cheeks that seem to never come off. It really is amazing.
This makes me wonder here. Why do I love this moment so much? Well, as I've stated before, the character acting was pretty awesome. Hotaru's face the entire time was a masterpiece worthy of praise and, without it, the moment may have not worked at all. There was also great comedic timing. The entire gag wasn't structured according to the timing I expected, but it landed just as well.
However, I think the real reason I loved this moment so much was because it just fit so well with Hotaru's character. This moment was just so Hotaru. You'd expect this kind of panicky childish desperation from her at that given moment even when it catches you off-guard. It's just like one of those moments when you hear about what one of your friends did and you just think about how that's just SO him. Hotaru as a character had already been really well-characterized from the start as the kind of character who'd do such a thing like that. We got to know her. It's not just enough for a character to have no hateable characteristics (although that's still very key to having likeable characters). We need to get to know who these characters really are to the fullest. This show has some very strong character introduction. We get to know these characters the minute we get to see them. Of course, we don't literally get to know everything about these characters. There are still many things about the characters that are added on gradually throughout the series. However, we do get a very good idea about what these characters are straight away. I mean, look at how Renge-chan's introduced. The first character in the show, she's introduced walking on her own playing a recorder fairly badly (however somehow not missing any notes) and the first thing she says is "Are we really in the country?" very innocently as she looks at a cow. This practically tells us everything we need to know about the character and opens with a gag immediately. The fact that the characters are very simple actually helps out with this too. They're very easy to sum up in even a matter of seconds. Of course, this does not mean that complex multifaceted characters can't have strong character introductions too. Simplicity just helps a bit. Nevertheless, all of this is foreshadowed by the fact that they simply have very likable characteristics. All of them have positive and negative traits that allow us to love them so well. They all have some positive traits we can admire of them and negative traits that we can relate with. They just have lovable traits that are all both engaging and very good at sparking comedy. It's really that simple.
So that's my opinion on the characters, and now, I think the next logical step would be towards how this show uses these characters to create or convey a message or tone. Why exactly is it so genre-defining?
Now, first of all, I just want you all to know that I am not at all an expert at comedy. I can analyze (and overanalyze) any narrative work just fine, but if I were ever to dissect a joke into its constituents, it would just end up an off-putting mess. I'm sure if I think about it hard enough, maybe I'd get even a semblance of an idea of how this show's comedy works so well, but I don't want to spend years writing this article. Sure, this is most definitely intellectual laziness, this I will admit, but I do want to finish this review before dinner. For now, I can only tell you this.
It's funny. It's really funny. It takes the anime comedic style, refines it, and gives it the right characters for the job, all while sprinkling a bit of the precious iyashikei nostalgia that outright defines it. It's not too unique from other slice-of-life shows however it manages to stand on its own. There wasn't any time where I thought that one of the jokes didn't land. Maybe I'm just easy to please when it comes to comedy, but I found this show much more consistently funny than most other shows are. KonoSuba and Sakamoto desu ga? had moments that made me laugh really hard, much harder than with Non Non Biyori, however they had many misses too. Not all their jokes managed to land and they weren't that funny almost half the time. Non Non Biyori has a more stable sort of comedy. It doesn't reach the comedic heights other comedies do, but it is more consistent in their comedy than most other comedies do.
So after all this, why is the show so genre-defining? Simple. It's consistently funny with incredibly likable characters. It's a good benchmark for the kind of show it is. What this show is is the very definition of what the gag-driven slice-of-life is. There are many shows of the same kind that fail because of a lack of a lovable cast or simply not being funny. This show stands out not because of how different it is from other shows but how well it defines the genre it is in.
(I wonder why I had to spend three thousand words just to establish that.)
Well, now that I've established all that, let me get to some other miscellaneous points before I end here.
The background art is great. Props to whoever made them. The CGI vehicles though? Not so much. Luckily, all the CGI is placed out-of-view so they don't bother the viewer. All the other artwork? Eh. It's fine. Typical of Silver Link to be honest.
I'm a music expert as much as I am a comedy expert. I can't describe music at all. However, I do at least know what I feel about them. I do love the main theme of this show. Hidamari Michi is a wonder to behold. It actually got popular enough to be used by a Dark Souls video. The rest of the soundtrack not derivative of the main theme are pretty good too. They've all got this laidback fun vibe. One of them is just Row Row Row Your Boat but made incredibly more relaxing. It's almost at par with Hidamari Sketch's relaxed circus jazz (as I said, can't describe music at all). The opening theme though doesn't strike me as well though. Although it's not a typical anime opening theme, it's a typical J-Pop song that doesn't really have anything special to it. However, the ending theme was pretty goddamn amazing. I love it. It's so unique with all the bells and moe. I love it.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this show. Sure, its characters weren't that deeply-written, but what does that matter when all the show wants to do is make you feel good? Its characters are incredibly likable and the show is incredibly funny. While I do still think the show would've vastly improved if the characters had a touch more depth to them, I still believe this show's still a great gag-driven comedy and it really does make you feel good in the end. The music's also very memorable and so is the background art. Overall, I'd rate it eight over ten, just above K-On! but still quite a bit away from Hidamari Sketch's first season.
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Nov 27, 2016
Myself; Yourself (Anime) add
Eh... I expected worse.
This show is not generic. It may seem like one, but you can tell that when you watch it that they're really trying to do something else with the whole high school romance thing. It is however very forgettable.
Let me just address the art first. I see a lot of people in the reviews praising how well the backgrounds are and how well the characters are animated. In my personal opinion, the backgrounds were fairly good, but nothing special. I barely paid attention to it. The characters are not animated in any special way. It's just typical anime animation. I did not ... find anything special in the show's art. It was good I bet, but none of it had any lasting effect on me for me to be able to even remember an example right now (and I just finished the show a few minutes ago). And this is coming from someone who regulars Sakugabooru. I usually pay a lot of attention to these. (Or maybe it's because that I visit Sakugabooru often since I might've been overexposed to so much stellar animation).
I also saw some people praising the voice acting. I don't typically pay attention to voice acting and I don't really know what qualifies as good voice acting or not, so I won't say anything about it here. However, I just want to say that the senpai of the group whose name I forgot because she really was only a side character has the most annoying voice ever. It's like someone fused a frog and a cat and told the resulting monstrosity to sound cute. And being the first character to be introduced after the protagonist, Sana, I suddenly got massive premonitions of how bad this show might be when she first started speaking. (Fortunately, those premonitions weren't met in entirety.) I got used to her voice eventually, but I wouldn't call that good voice-acting in the slightest.
Now, let's discuss the story. It's a very simple storyline to be frank. Bad things happen after a period of good things and they keep happening until they stop happening and everyone's changed because of it. It's not a bad storyline. This actually applies to every story out there. It's probably not a story if this doesn't apply to it. However, what makes this show different from superior stories is that this show's story lacks both nuance and anything worth remembering. At this point of writing (which, as said earlier, is only a few minutes after finishing the show), I can't really remember anything more than what I just said earlier. Bad things just happened to the characters. Now there's nothing bad about having a simple story as long as it's memorable. However, this story is not memorable. None of anything that happens in the story has anything intelligent or meaningful to say. As examples, two of the characters which I will not name due to potential spoilers (even if I believe that you'll just forget them anyway as soon as you finish the show, I'll still abide by my code of honor) have terrible family lives. It does not discuss at all anything deep about this at all or attempt to examine closely why things happen this way. One could say that this show is trying to tell us that parents are people too, except the parents are never depicted as actual people. The parents are all very two-dimensional characters who only appear to give the main characters something to react to. They're all just mean because if they weren't, there would be no story for the characters to experience. What I'm trying to say is that the story is unmemorable. It exists only to serve the characters. This makes sense though. This is a character-driven show, not story-driven. It doesn't require an amazing plotline to justify itself. It just needs one that provides the most amount of rounding for its characters. What it wants to make memorable is its characters, not its narrative. So, how are the characters?
Well, they were likable but not really anything beyond that. They all follow a logical path of actions and thinking, but nothing else. They're characters can all be analyzable, but only down a level or too. None of them really fit right into stereotypes (except maybe Sana, our typical slightly dull-minded protagonist), but none of them were particularly realistic either. They all experience a good amount of character development, but it was a very step-by-step type of character development (this happens so she becomes this, then this happens so he becomes this). As an example, let's bring up Nanaka's character arc (no spoilers, I promise). Nanaka starts off as closed-off and distant. Angry, but a shy kind of angry. This is explained by her backstory that was pretty bad (as I said, no spoilers). She was angry at Sana for not being there for him even if she knows he couldn't. That's a pretty typical sentiment and not very illogical even if it seems so. Then, she starts opening up to Sana after several events where they got to talk alone. She however opens up in a very clear-cut way in, I'd say, a set of levels. Event 1, she gets closer to Sana but still somewhat distant. Event 2, she gets closer to Sana and now showing visible joy. Event 3, she's angry at Sana because of the classic anime misunderstanding. Event 4, she reveals feelings and is now really close to Sana. It's a very logically simple character development. It's character development, but not the most realistic. Nanaka is still a likable character, but not the most nuanced one. And this applies to all the main characters in the series. All of them are interesting to watch, but not interesting to analyze.
Now, I'll use this penultimate paragraph just to note some other gripes I had with the show I didn't get to say. The plot twist in Nanaka's backstory barely matters at all. It could've been taken out and the show would still be the same. (Doing so might actually improve the show because it would add a bit more conflict). Her entire backstory itself felt lacking in buildup. Sana's backstory was the opposite. Sana's had lots of buildup over the entire series, however it ended up being very underwhelming, told over a minute, had no importance, and did nothing to change our perception of his character. The eleven year-old kid who was important in the first half completely loses all relevance in the second half. This would be fine if she didn't lose relevance so abruptly (even if they ended her relevance with something that managed to surprise even me at the end of episode six, that doesn't stop how quickly she lost her relevance). In the end, she could've even have been taken out of the entire show. Her existence adds nothing to the other main characters, their developments, and the overall plot. She may have rounded out some of Sana's character but that's it. It's also said that Shu is in love with someone, but we never get to see this be important (of course, he may have just said that as an excuse to the eleven year-old). Asami's entire character arc is also completely out of the blue and very random. It just started as "I'm kind of important and may become very relevant soon", then to "I'm actually not what you think I am" with no buildup whatsoever, and then to "I'm not relevant anymore". The twins' arc were okay, but it ended up feeling like it abruptly ended. It feels like there were some loose ends they didn't tie up. I'd say their arc was the strongest part of this series, but it still felt kind of lacking.
Now that's all I have to say about this show. If I wrote this review any later, I probably would've forgotten many more things. If I forgot to mention any aspect of the show, it's because it's forgettable. The fact that all the characters were just forgotten after their arcs were done stuck with me though. I mean, it's just like this show.
My score is 5/10. Very forgettable.
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Oct 31, 2016
Dennou Coil (Anime) add
This is a kid's show.
Yes, it deals with themes about death and moving on. Yes, it involves complicated plots and settings that'll have you double-guessing whether something actually happened in the show or not. Yes, it treats characters and events in a much more mature light than other kid's shows.
But none of that's gonna change the fact that this show, in its best and most genuine moments, is a kid's show.
This is a very different kind of show.
It's a show that frames mature events or themes through the eyes of a handful of innocently young children, all still in middle school. It's not a show ... about teenagers struggling through depression. Nor is it about adults struggling through life. It's about a handful of kids.
Because of this, the show is almost free from the limitations that an older cast would have. It is almost completely free from all cynicism. All the pessimism and negativity that more 'mature' shows tend to have. All that anger, depression, and hatred. Instead, it is replaced by this more genuine innocence. This heartfelt idealism. This hopeful outlook on life all true youths share. Sure, it wasn't totally free from all nihilism (those beardlings were the funniest little things ever), and I'm not saying that a show that's filled with skepticism and criticism can't be good. However, it was just a wonderful breath of fresh air to see these themes and problems dealt with not from a cynical adult's point-of-view but from an idealistic child's point-of-view.
I'll be honest. I felt a sudden pang of nostalgia while watching this show. I wasn't sure at first why, but I think it's because everything in this show is supposed to give this youthful and childish feel, from the characters down to the artstyle.
All the children feel like real children. They got the children to actually act like children. From the silly stupid and sarcastic banter, to the things they think about, to their motivations. I felt like I was in middle school again. These ARE middle school students. What else could they be? Too often in shows, kids like these are often depicted as either too young for their age, wherein they only serve as foils to older siblings or as comedic relief, or too old for their age, wherein they are shown as scarred emotionless beings or as overly wise which is symbolically (or comically) used to contrast their appearance. It has been a while since I've last seen middle school students act like middle school students. They act spoiled towards their family but genuine towards their friends. They think about what to do with their friends and how to spend their time together a lot more. They're easily motivated by relatively shallow things but act upon these motivations in a very genuine manner. The children were indeed spot-on, especially Yasako and Fumie. The only characters who didn't follow this were Haraken and Isako who both acted older. Haraken acted more like a depressed teenager whilst Isako was pretty much an adult. While this is not really a bad thing because of their scarred lives, I would've loved to see them act more like children especially during the ending when they have already gotten past their problems. (Isako did get her moment however that was only during her lowest moment and we never got to see her as an actual genuinely happy child).
The artstyle too gave everything a youthful feel. It's the pastels, I think. The pastel color palette gave everything a more foggy dreamlike mood (y'know, other than the abundance of actual fog). This color choice alone gave me a huge bout of nostalgia. It was exactly how I saw everything back when I was younger. Like a dream. Foggy. Muted. Or maybe that's just how I remember it. Maybe that's not how I saw things back then. That's just how I see my memories. Anyway, I'd certainly like to commend the artstyle. I wouldn't say it's pretty or anything, but it certainly set a good mood for the entire show.
Something I also want to mention which is something that I don't usually talk about is the setting and how 'enclosed' it is. What I mean is that everything that happens in the story, all the events that happened to the characters, happen just to these characters, just in this certain part of the city to a small handful of kids and adults. Yes, there are groups of people who sometimes butt into the affairs and there are also implications that the events of the story does have some effects on the outside world however everything that happens in this story happens only to a small bunch of otherwise insignificant people. There's this sense of 'enclosedness' such a setting gives. This is not the only show to do this though. Practically every show that has a cast of less than thirty characters have this kind of setting. It applies to every show that only seeks to focus on smaller things. Small events in one's life instead of actual wars or events that affect entire populations. The thing is though, the events that happen in this show are actually fairly big. They should affect at least an entire city, the denizens of Daikoku. It should also affect the entire reputation, scope, and development of cyberglasses which, if I'm not mistaken, is already adopted by a good majority of, at least, the Japanese population. And yet, it never does this. The show never acts like anything that happens in it affects anyone other than its main cast. However, as much as this is a detriment to the show, it also, to me, adds something to its very youthful feel. Back then, when I was a kid, I used to think that everything that happened to me was everything that happened. I knew there was an entire world out there with lots of other things happening that didn't involve me, but I didn't care about that. It didn't involve me. So, I guess the fact that the setting was so enclosed added to the enjoyment I was already getting from the nostalgia. Critically-speaking, this is probably a writing flaw, but to me, it enhanced my experience by, at least, a little.
EDIT: After looking at the other reviews, I realized that I barely placed focus upon the ACTUAL setting about the technology and virtual reality. Everyone seemed to be talking about it in their reviews. The thing is, the technological aspect concerning virtual reality and human consciousness never actually stood out to me. The reason being the show treated the technology instead as a superpower, depicting metatags as magical grenades and the Coil domain as just "The Other Side". It treats metabugs and kirabugs as magical gems and encodes as magical spells. It never fully explores any of this as technology, never pointing out the philosophical ramifications of having your consciousness ripped out from your body, and the show is more akin to a show about fantasy than towards a show about technology.
Plot-wise, it's fairly 'mature'. Several dark things happened in a complicated manner in a very complex setting. People died, characters were forced to move on from these deaths, and there were a handful of sad backstories to pick from. Not overwhelmingly dark as something like Evangelion, but is not scared to tackle such themes and events. And it tackles them in a very tasteful way, into terms even a child could understand. It doesn't sugarcoat any of its dark themes, but it doesn't force you to deal with it either. It just presents it to us enough for us to stop and think about them intellectually, slightly playing with our heartstrings here and there but it never really tugs on them. Enough for a young middle school student to deal with. It does so by mixing its dark themes of loss, moving on, and human distance with more common kid's show themes of friendship and emotions that middle school students often feel (with a hint of first love) and forms connections in between them. It teaches younglings about these themes in a way they would understand. A lot of this can be seen with the show's pets. SPOILER We've all had pets we've lost before, right? Those companions we really cared for that we were forced to part with? END OF SPOILER The happenings of the pets are then placed side-by-side to what happens to the other characters. By doing this, it creates a comparison that can help the many middle school students who've probably had pets to further understand the darker concepts the show tries to present.
However, people say this show's plot is complex. And, in reality, it is very complex, annoyingly so. It gives you so many plot points to remember that you end up forgetting a good majority of them. There are many moments when the show refers to something that has already happened and I go "Wait. When did that happen?" after which I head towards Wikipedia's episode list (ignoring all the episodes coming after) and rechecking the previous episodes summaries. There's just quite a number of things to keep track of and it becomes tiresome to remember them all. To me, it feels like there are plotholes, however, when I try to remember an example, I can't think of any. This is a bad thing. If you write a show that makes your viewers feel like there are plotholes even though you've completely ironed out your entire setting and plot of all inconsistencies, then congratulations. You've made your plot too complicated. I really feel like the show would've benefited greatly if it had a simpler plot and setting. I believe it would've added more to the youthful and childish feel this show gives. Instead of flooding us with a truckfull of plot points with characters running around, encountering all these plot twists and developments and all these revealed secrets about this forgotten company, maybe we could've just watched these same characters still running around but without all these complicated explanations and backstories. Keep all the important events, but tone down on the context.
This show also has some pacing issues. It takes a long while to start up and get on its legs. It spends its entire first cour setting up all the characters and setting very slowly (it was nice seeing all the friendships develop though which is almost entirely absent in the latter half), then there's this several-episode long gap filled with nothing but filler (although, it does include episode twelve which, although still filler, is the funniest episode of an anime I've seen in a while), and starts going faster and faster. It reaches a point where it's enough for me to handle around episode 18 to 19, but after that, the show just goes into MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE and barrels us with plot developments on top of plot developments. This has apparently also been in development for a decade, so maybe that's why? Typically, projects that take a while sometimes lose track towards where they're going. I don't know. Just a theory.
Of course, this show has other flaws too. Fumie, the best friend character who acts all best friend-like and Daichi, the jerk character who is actually kind of sweet are practically completely forgotten in the second cour of the show which is absolutely frustrating because the show shipteased them in an early episode but never did anything to add towards this relationship development. Also that Denpa kid, that soft-spoken kid who's pretty weird but really a good guy. I wish we got to see more of him. The plot twists at the end, although sometimes pretty awesome, can start to feel like the writers are just pulling everything "WOAH" they can think of. Yasako's backstory, although sounded pretty goddamn cool at first, just ended up kind of random. The character from her past just kind of comes in to criticize her then leaves. I felt that although it added a bit of character to our protagonist, it could be easily dropped from the show without changing anything. Or they could've gone full-on with that backstory. That would've been cool. I wanted to see a mean Yasako being mean. Also, even though I praised how the show takes dark themes and makes it understandable to young kids, I feel that a lot of the small nuances such themes have are lost in translation. Finally, the antagonist is a very one-dimensional character. There's barely anything to it, and his motivations are paper-thin.
Overall, it was a refreshing breath of nostalgic air. I don't see it as a masterpiece like everyone says it is, but it does things in a way few other anime does. It managed to present mature themes in a way children can understand, it managed to keep me on the edge of my seat even though it does so inconsistently, and it made me feel and think like a child again, giving me very relatable characters such as Yasako who really acted like middle school students.
I recommend this to those who'd like to see a show that deals with nihilistic themes in an optimistic way even if it may be in an oversimplified way, to those who like plot twists even if they don't come in in a very well-pace manner, and to those who just want to feel like a middle school student again.
Overall, I'd rate this show a 7.35/10.
+ very nostalgic
+ presents mature themes in a way children will understand
+ full of plot twists
+ very relatable characters; especially the protagonist
+ unique art style
+ very refreshing and different from the usual anime
- lots of plot points to keep track of
- overcomplicated setting and context
- not well-paced; slow at the first half, filler in the middle, extremely fast-paced ending
- somewhat simplifies its mature themes
- some characters are forgotten by the end
- the protagonist has a random backstory
- two characters act too old for their age
- one-dimensional antagonist
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Sep 25, 2016
Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb (Anime) add
EDIT: Changed the score to 8.80 because as much as I enjoyed it, I don't think it's worthy enough to get past that 9 barrier.
This show's done it. It's finally done it.
It has taken everything good about the previous seasons and improves on everything it failed at, finally getting its own appeal. From the greater focus on character dynamics the first season gave, to the intensely crazy directing x365 gave (although I find that they didn't really use this to its greatest extent), to the melancholy vibes the very first episode gave, to finally giving Nori and Nazuna screen time. This show finally got what ... was so great about itself. This season gave me everything I wanted from this show and more. It gave me more time to spend with all the other characters besides Yuno. It permitted me to enjoy the intense yuri shipping I had been doing ever since the first season. It allowed me to actually care about those two new first-years who were basically just glorified side characters in season three. It finally started exploring its themes which had really only just been touched on during the third season.
However, it did something I did not actually expect from this show or really any show of a similar type.
Throughout that entire season, I felt this sort of sense of urgency. It felt like the end was coming or, at least, some sort of large change was soon to happen. As the number of remaining episodes grew smaller and smaller, I started to find myself hesitating to go to the next episode. I honestly could not stand the thought of this story ending. It was scary really. I knew that I was gonna incredibly miss this show when I eventually reach its end.
Of course, I exaggerate slightly. I'm sure I'll probably forget this show in maybe a week or so, and the event horizon being talked and foreshadowed about is, of course, Sae and Hiro's graduation. Nonetheless, it was certainly a prominent feeling. For the entire season, there was underlying feeling of impending doom underneath all the short jokes and wide faces that grew as each episode passed by. It wasn't an incredible feeling. It never felt tense, nor did it really make you think about it all the time. Oftentimes, I'd be watching the episode and having fun with all the cute chibi faces, then someone, most usually Yuno, would either mention or think 'loudly' about leaving and growing up and Sae and Hiro, and I'd just kind of sit there silently. Again, it's not an intense feeling. It just kind of dampens your mood for a bit. Just enough for this type of show. I would say Hidamari Sketch balanced this mood fairly well. There were lots of adorable moments and fun times to be had with only occasional reminders about the graduation. It never felt like it had too much of either emotion.
Of course, this ties very well into the show's themes. As I said before, this season is now truly attempting to fully explore the themes it put on the table ever since season one (although it doesn't start becoming obvious until season three). We'll discuss these themes in further detail in both the story and the character section. I just wanted to point out that it was only now that they started exploring them and also that this show is not the only one to make use of this type of writing or mood to express the same themes. The second season of Love Live! has done this before. K-On!! has done this before. (I think. I never actually finished the second season). Assassination Classroom has done this before. However, I have never seen it done together with this kind of show. (K-On!, although also a slice-of-life, is on a completely different and distant part of the iyashikei spectrum Hidamari Sketch is in). It's strange. In these other three shows, this eminent deadline becomes practically the entire center of all the drama that happens. There is much crying, much reminiscing, intense speeches, and sad sadness. In contrast, the graduation only comes up every once in a while, and, while it is mildly depressing when it does get brought up, it never becomes the focus for long. It quickly becomes forgotten, and the topic hastily switches, never letting such a thing become prominent enough to affect the overall mood of the episode. The drama never overpowers the comedy.
(Of course, I am completely ignoring the second half of episode six and the graduation arc, but don't mind me.)
And I praise this. I enjoy indulging in the gang's normal but somehow ridiculous antics. I adore the cute happy fluff that could only transpire in an iyashikei show like this one. I relish that heartwarming feeling inside of me whenever I watch this show. And yet, there are times when I recall what is soon to come. Then, I just begin to lose that jolly mood I was feeling and begin to try to actually savor everything this show to offer. I start to become more appreciative of everything this show throws at me, laughing harder at the jokes, smiling more at the chibi faces. And I commend this. The dark underlying mood this show has never endeavors to lead Hidamari Sketch away from what it truly is, an iyashikei, yet, whenever it commences to interact with the slice-of-life nature of this show, it not only adds variety to the so often monotonous tone most slice-of-life shows have but also puts everything this show has into a completely different and unexpected perspective. Typically in this kind of show, I would just relax and let my train of thought chug away into faraway places. This time, I found myself slightly more invested into the show, appreciating every single detail. Sure, I exaggerate a bit. I still ride the train of thought to heaven, hell, and back again and only just entering "appreciate" mode once someone pulls out the graduation card, but when it does pull it out, it does it well. It tries to be subtle and sparse with its reminders. Some could say it tries to hard, maybe it does it one too many times, but I would say it does it perfectly or, at the very least, realistically.
The genuine reason I love so much it doing this is because of how close the feeling is to in reality, how lifelike this entire thing feels. I've felt this before. Many times have I caught myself mindlessly enjoying life in senseless merriment only to remember that that enjoyment was not going to last. At some moment in time, I'd be laughing the night away, and at the next, I'd still be laughing but now hoping to God the night doesn't go away. There'd be times when I'd just silently lie down and stare at the ceiling trying everything not to think about the future only for it to fill up my thoughts even more. It's certainly a compelling feeling. It's a feeling that really makes you think about life and all its little details. All so slowly. All so very very slowly. So excruciating slowly. The passage of time chisels into your mind, slowly forming and changing it. It's an addicting feeling. And it's a feeling this show knows how to emulate.
Honeycomb, unlike its predecessors, embraces this. It uses this emotion to carefully carve out each character's personality and the relationships they share, slowly strengthening them and maturing them and fulfilling its genre role as the coming-of-age tale it secretly is. Empowered with this formidable tool, it takes care of its characters right down to the details, allowing characterization and character growth that this show before this point has never done to this extent. Before this season, I never actually frankly cared about Chika until we found her arguing about the future with Sae. Never at any singular point have I ever considered Yoshinoya-sensei as more than a gag character until I saw her discussing with Hiro about her future. I had never seen Sae and Hiro's relationship this focused on and fleshed out until this season. Arisawa and her relationship with Yuno has been made incredibly solid through the way she makes Yuno think about what's to come. Hell, I enjoy Miyako MUCH MUCH more now just because of that sole subtle moment she had when the mood started getting depressing because of this. We'll discuss this in more detail in further depth in the Characters section. I just wanted to show that this mood or feeling is not only very authentic and true to real life, but also that it deepens and strengthens the characters in ways that could not have been done without this strong of an emotional backbone.
Now that was just one thousand four hundred forty-nine words worth of introduction. What am I doing with my life?
If all you value in a show is a stellar plot line, you're probably not going to be duly impressed by this one.
Each episode's narrative/s is one that is very simple, almost always very self-contained, and, practically-speaking, pointless.
It would be very hard to comprehensively analyse just the narratives (and I emphasize 'just') for all its clever and subtle details.
Reason being it doesn't actually have any clever and subtle details. What you see is what you get. Everything happens perfectly in the way you expect them to (except for some times when the show wants to make some sort of cunning punchline) and there is nothing in the plot that will make you think twice about it. It's a frickin' slice-of-life. Despite me saying how this show is fairly different from other slice-of-life shows, it still has the simplistic plot lines all slice-of-lifes share. They're supposed to represent those calm nostalgic memories which you just happen to remember.
They're also very self-contained. None of the episodes lead directly into one another. Everything that happens in an episode stays in an episode. Anything that happens in a certain plotline has very little effect on any following plotlines. Despite there being some sort of linearity with the episodes all arranged in the chronological order (note that his episode arrangement was absent in the first two seasons), there is still a distinct lack of continuity. It seems to follow the old rule of cartoons wherein a show must have a status quo that never changes so that any new viewer just tuning up won't be confused or miss out on anything.
Lastly, there's little to no point to any of the narratives that this show presents. None of the episodes have any clear aesops or themes. No episode so far serves to drive home any sort of message. And no plot line has yet to actually have any explicit morals. (Again, excluding that latter half of episode six). One could conclude that the overall series has its own themes that it yearns to present and discuss about (which we will get into in a bit), but you would be hard-pressed to find one singular episode that actually has a point (except, again, episode six).
In this sense, one could say that the plot only really plays as an extended part of the setting, a mere backdrop, just like the time and place, which only serves to enhance what this show really is about: its mood and its characters.
These simplistic and pointless storylines are the way they are because they serve a specific purpose that is shared with all slice-of-life shows everywhere, to replicate everyday life. More specifically, it seeks to replicate the least stressful moments of everyday life, when everything follows the slow mellow rhythm of routine. These moments, if you examine them closely, all share two very prominent characteristics that I believe are what iyashikei shows attempt to emulate.
The first is that all of these moments carry with them a very specific mood, a mood that can only be best described with the word 'routine'. Everyday, I do the same things. I follow the same path around my house I set for myself long ago. Whenever I wake up, I always pee, then wash my hands, then wash my face, then eat, then shower, then clothe, then leave on the bus. It's always the same thing over and over again everyday. It's a very slow mood. It feels like some sort of eternity. A very calming eternity. It's during this time where I end up thinking the most. It was in mornings like these when I stumbled onto certain revelations about life and solidified my current values and perspectives. Sometimes, things happen during these times which aren't expected and without any previous warning, however they are always of little consequence and have little to no effect on the future.
The second is the seemingly distinct lack of change that happens. Everything seems to stay the same. Everything that happens today will probably seem to be the same tomorrow. Everything seems to stay in some form of permanence. Everything seems to be frozen. Everything seems to be trapped in eternity. Seems. However, everything IS changing. Time is moving forward. We just don't notice because it moves so slowly, and we realize this only once we look back. Everything seems to stay, but everything is actually changing. I may not notice it, but I am actually changing every single day, and all the people around me are changing alongside me too. And because time is moving, even if it does so so slowly, we do eventually reach the end. This end is probably some sort of big change or a new beginning, however once we go past this, there is no turning back.
It is my personal belief that these two characteristics of everyday life are the two main approaches slice-of-life shows take in imitating it. There are shows like Flying Witch which like to focus on the mood. Everything in these shows must contribute to the mood. All these shows really want to do is to get you to relax and breathe. In these shows, everything DOES actually stay the same. Barely anything changes at all. Sure, some of these have some sort of character development, but they treat character as less important than the mood. Touching back on my point, these shows require a story that is incredibly simplistic and unremarkable. Anything too complicated and it'll break the mood.
The other approach is a bit more nuanced. Unlike the former approach wherein everything must serve to improve the overall tone, here, the detail and effort is more evenly allocated. There is a larger focus on the characters and the entire thing is more theme-oriented. Somewhat contradictory to what I just stated, it does not necessarily have to have any character development. Although character development is very prominent in much of the examples which take this approach, what is really most necessary is that something is actively (or passively if you think about it) changing slowly that is slightly hard to notice. Subtle character growth is a great example of this, however features such as quietly adjusting routines, gradually changing settings, or, in this case, slowly approaching endings work as well. It just has to have a certain underlying mood that things are gradually changing. Again, to allow such a mood to work, shows like these also require stories that are simple. Anything too complicated would get in the way of all the fine nuances. Complex plot lines would just distract from all the subtle and gradual changing that happens in the background.
Hidamari Sketch, if you couldn't tell already, takes the second approach. The show, with its underlying sense of urgency, has a story that requires the second approach of storytelling. It's themes demand it. I have read somewhere that the themes involve the passing of time and how it affects each of the characters. So of course it takes the second approach. That's what the second approach is.
An interesting thought. The reason I emphasized the lack of necessity for character development for these shows is that this show doesn't really have any character development. Sure, maybe if you count episode six, you could say Hiro received some character growth (that episode six was different episode from normal), however broadly-speaking, there is seldom to rarely any character development to speak of. Where there is character development would be the character development that happens across seasons. The Yuno from seasons one and two is a different girl from season three Yuno and season four Yuno is different from both of them. Nonetheless, if I said that what Hidamari Sketch excels in is character development, I'd be lying. I'll discuss this more in the character section. I just wanted to point out how strange this aspect is when given episode narratives like this. I already stated that the narratives are incredibly built for subtle character development. Maybe the character development is just too subtle for me to notice. Who knows?
Lastly, I just want to tackle this season's ending. At the time of writing, I still have not watched Sae and Hiro's Graduation Arc. I plan to watch it after writing this review to simulate the same mindset those who watched this season back when it aired and had to wait a year before the Graduation Arc came. This season, like all the other previous seasons, ends during the holiday season (except xHoshimittsu which ends in July). What's funny about this season's ending is how I would gladly accept it as this show's finale. Once I finished this season, I found myself completely satisfied. If that really was the ending, I would've just accepted it.
Of course, this didn't make any sense to me. The show had been slowly and secretly building up towards this grand finale of some sort yet the season ends months before that that finale even comes. However, even if I felt that I sense of urgency where I didn't want anything to ever end, I don't think this is why I felt so simply satisfied with the ending. Sure, I've been gradually dreading the school year end as episode by episode passed by, but it's not as if I didn't actually want to see that graduation play out.
I think it was because it was presented so well. The entire thing felt as if it brought closure to the entire series even if, technically speaking, it didn't actually tie up any loose ends. The way Natsume finally at least got close to Sae felt very fulfilling, but Natsume never really confessed her feelings. I love the way every character grouped up to watch the year's first sunset, but it's not as if that moment had anything to do with anything. I loved the way the show ended with Yuno thinking about her thoughts and feelings about everything even if every other episode ends that way. Everything just felt different. I don't know. I think it's because the episode is presented in such a way that it gives off some sort of closure-bringing aura or something. It's dressed to give this incredible sense of 'endingness' even if the episode isn't really that different from any other episode. I guess presentation can go a long way.
One thousand seven hundred thirty-one words this time. Oh boy.
It's SHAFT. If wide faces, minimalistic backgrounds, pastels, intense chibi, character signifiers, white dots, and wide faces aren't your thing, this show'd probably turn you off.
I find it adorably cute, but, based on what I've seen, not everyone shares this view. There is however a noticeable downplay with this style when compared to earlier seasons. While seasons one and two relished in weird negative colors and oceans of white dots, seasons three and four took a less stylistic and generic approach. It's much less chibi than the first season and much HDer colors too. (The first season had that kind of 2000s anime filter over it or something. Everything was less saturated.)
Still doesn't have that crazy-ass directing I absolutely adored from x365. There are now only faint remnants of that incredibly insane directing style this season. Oh well.
I have practically the entire soundtrack downloaded in my laptop.
It's a VERY calming and relaxing soundtrack. Lots of jazz. Simple and fun to try and play on your own. Sometimes, there's this lady who sings 'da da da' into your ear like some ASMR video. I'm pretty sure the soundtrack itself is a fine alternative to ASMR. There's also some fun circus marching band type songs in there along with some other miscellaneous specialty tracks which are meant for other moods the show requires if need be.
Other than that, there's not really much to say. The OP is still INCREDIBLY catchy ("PASUTERU, VIVIDDO, METORO!!!"). Can't really say the same with the ED which sounds pretty generic. Voice acting, I didn't really notice.
Eh. Okay sound.
Now for the good stuff.
This is where the show shines.
This season has decided to go full on with characterization. While last season just focused on Yuno and the first two seasons focused more on the relationships more on the characters themselves, this season makes sure not to overfocus on just one character or aspect, giving screentime and strong character moments to everyone.
Let's start with Nori and Nazuna, the first-year duo from season three. These two have barely received any screen time at all in season three. They were just kind of there. Their only purpose was to give Yuno some kohais to play around with. This is not necessarily a bad thing. These kohais gave Yuno lots of characterization and character growth, making her act and become a proper senpai and causing her to become a more dependable person overall instead of someone who merely depends. It gave Yuno lots of motivation for self-improvement so as to be the best senpai ever. This is great. It's not a bad thing. The thing is the third season, I'd say, focused too much on Yuno. We never really got to see what what was going on inside the first years' heads. Just Yuno's.
This season, it's a different story. Now that there are episodes actually devoted to them, we get to have more in-depth looks into their characters. We now see that Nazuna really tries to impress her parents when we watched her try to learn cooking. We learn that Nori is as much a stubborn person as Sae when we saw her stay over at Sae's room for the night. (She showed a lot of signs of the 'I-am-always-right' syndrome in that particular episode which I relate with a lot because I am also a particularly prideful person. The interactions between her and Sae that episode reminded me a lot of the bickerings my dad and I often have during dinner.). There were even some small subtle moments of characterization that I thought were cute. During the school play, Nori is seen to actually be rather flustered and nervous in direct contrast to her usual confident self. They still serve as characterization-suppliers for Yuno, but I think they can now finally be said to be fully round characters in their own right.
Miyako also got her fair share of showtime too because this season, SHE FINALLY GOT SOME CHARACTER DEPTH. I have been waiting for this since the first episode. As soon as she debuted, I immediately thought that she would be an incredibly interesting characters. I have always found best friend characters to be rather compelling to say the least. However, for the entirety of the show before Honeycomb, not once have we ever taken a good hard look at her character. Sure, she's incredibly hilarious with her Patrick Star-style gags and, similarly to Nori and Nazuna, gives Yuno and also Sae and Hiro many many opportunities for characterization and development. Nonetheless, I couldn't really say that Miyako was a fully-fleshed out character on her own. She has always been more of a plot device who puts the other character in various situations due to her own antics and filter-less dialogue (which often causes many a character to react violently). She was mostly a gag character who also specialized in creating situations for the writers to play around with.
Not anymore. This time, we have character-deepened Miyako. ("Character-deepened". What am I doing with my life?). Yes, there were only a few moments of characterization, but I've been waiting for so goddamn long that this amount is just fine. At least we know that she actually has feelings other than stupid. The obvious particular character moment would be that incredibly yuri moment in episode six. No spoilers. That moment was incredibly goddamn amazing when it happened. It completely frames Miyako in a completely different way. It showed a side of her that actually enjoys getting complimented a bit.
The other main character moment Miyako had was much subtler. During episode ten, while things get awkward due to talk of the graduation. This is when Miyako frowns. Yes. She frowns. I know. She frowns for about a split second. The shot focuses on her frown, then quickly changes to Miyako doing something stupid to break the ice. SHE FROWNED. She actually has emotions other than idiot. This small short singular moment shows that Miyako is actually fairly perceptive and knows the effect her own actions can have on others. She is aware of the role she plays in the clique. She actually understands at least slightly the dynamics that go on amongst the Hidamarians and actively participates in these dynamics for the betterment of the group. This solitary moment establishes both that she grasps the basic characters and dynamics of the group and that she actually feels things! SHE'S NOT JUST A GAG CHARACTER ANYMORE!!!
You won't believe how satisfied I was when this happened.
Now let's go on to some weightier stuff: Sae and Hiro and their relationship. I'm sure you've gotten the trend by now, but the two have gotten a whole lot of focus this season, especially since that slowly approaching graduation is their graduation. Honestly, I always thought they were both given a substantial amount of characterization throughout the show.
Sae has always been a large secondary focus for the show throughout seasons one through three. She was stock-full of motivation and insecurity since episode one. Her relationship with Chika was always a very compelling one to watch, and following Sae getting stressed and getting out of stress was always particularly fascinating.
Meanwhile, Hiro was also a very prominent character in the series. Not as notable as Sae, but still a significant character nonetheless. She takes the role of the mother-like senpai. Fits into that archetype real well but throughout the series, I'd say she was given enough depth. She's been portrayed as a very supporting character who also has her own insecurities. Sure, she may not share the spotlight as much as Yuno or Sae, but the writer/s did a decent job with her.
This season however, the show went full on with them. When before, the spotlight only occasionally shown on them, this time the stoplight was placed right up their goddamn faces. The first two episodes pretty much unresolved sexual tension all the way up to eleven. All the conflicts that ever occur which do not center around Yuno typically center around one or both of these two. Remember that episode six I was mysteriously talking about earlier in the introduction and story segments? It centers on Hiro. It was of a much darker tone than the others and it involves the graduation and their future. For minimum spoilers, Hiro makes a decision about her future however the motives behind this decision is brutally questioned (by goddamn Yoshinoya-sensei herself). Sae, however, helps her out by changing her outlook on the decision and restrengthening her motives. That episode was incredible, and it really solidified Hiro's character and the relationship she has with Sae. There were also numerous other moments in the season which also further established and deepened their characters and character bond. It was bound to happen anyway when the themes of the show pretty much revolve around them.
Now onto the side characters. I always had a problem in the previous seasons with the show not focusing on the side characters enough. This season, however, fulfills this need and puts a considerable amount of spotlight toward those who are not-so-important but still kinda are.
I think, this season, we can consider Yoshinoya-sensei as more than just a gag character. Maybe. Not really because of any particular moment. Actually, scratch that. It was because of this particular moment. As I said earlier, in episode six (seriously, it was a very out-of-place episode), Yoshinoya-sensei brutally questioned Hiro's motives. That was the one moment she acted like a mature, dependable, and reliable teacher who actually allows her students a chance to grow and develop by challenging their existing beliefs and forcing them to question their own motives. And after that, she is shown to be visibly worried (as in crying loudly in the school infirmary) about whether she was too harsh on Hiro or not, and even if this moment was just played-for-laughs, it still added a bunch more detail to her character. In this moment alone, she is presented as a teacher who, even if she acts like a goddamn egotistical idiot most of the time, genuinely cares about her students and can rise up to the occasion as a levelheaded adult for their sake. It was just one moment though. The rest of the season, she was just the usual cosplaying loudmouthed ignoramus. Although there was half an episode devoted to her, nothing in that plotline really added to her character in my personal opinion.
Next, we have Chika, Sae's younger sister. Slightly rowdy and fairly immature in direct contrast with Sae's levelheaded and mature persona, Chika had always had a fun-to-watch relationship with her onee-chan. Sure, it's not the most original piece of work, but I still find it rather enjoyable to experience and I find Chika a very likable person. She may be used by the show as a mere foil for Sae's mature character, but I'd say she's an interesting character in and of herself. She kinda reminds me of me back when I was slightly more rebellious. This season, it's not really much different. Her relationship with Sae is still depicted as genuine but slightly estranged. There's really not much to say. There was a bit more of the old sibling drama which is always fascinating to watch. I'd say Sae's character really benefits from having a sister like Chika. Other than that, nothing's really changed about her and her character arc from the previous seasons.
Equally of interest, we have Arisawa-senpai, the university girl. It seems in every show that involves graduation, there is always this character who has already graduated. I believe these types of characters are supposed to represent the future, having already experienced what the main characters will go through and sharing their experiences with them. These characters typically give the main protagonists either a sense of hope or a feeling of doubt or maybe a bit of both about the future. They represent the effects that such a large change can have on people. This brand of character seems to only serve one singular purpose: to get another character to think about his/her future. This character role could be filled in by fully-grown adults who give the character wise advice about life or by teenagers/young adults who just graduated who share with the character their own worries and insecurities about graduation. Arisawa is a fits very well in the latter, sharing with Yuno about how she barely talks with her old friends anymore and how out-of-place she sometimes feels in university. The latter type allows the character who fills this role an appreciable amount of characterization and likability instead of just a boring flat wise saying dispenser. The show did a good job with her. I always enjoy all the times she appears. Even if she fills such an archetypal role, she doesn't feel like a bland character. I'd say a job well done for a character who was originally only supposed to appear once.
Finally, we have Natsume, the lesbian tsundere. Every anime must have one. Maybe not always lesbian, but there must definitely be a tsundere. No questions asked. Natsume has always been one of the more well-written side characters similar to Chika. Whenever she appears, it's always during a moment which further establishes her character. Sure, there's not much to her other than her hopeless crush on Sae, but she was always a fun character to watch. One of the best moments in the show was about her. In episode eleven, the Christmas episode, Sae walks Natsume home while snow is falling and christmas lights bring atmosphere. This moment had one of the best established atmospheres I've seen since The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and 5 Centimeters per Second and I did not really expect it from a show like this. Of course, it would comes off as rather cliche if it was just some male (or tomboy) character being completely oblivious to the feelings of the girl beside her, however it still somewhat struck me. Maybe I'm just a sucker for Christmas romance, but you can't deny that Natsume got loads of character from just that episode alone. I've heard that one of the OVAs is devoted to her and it gets all melancholic or something and apparently its pretty good. Haven't watched all the OVAs though (after I finish the graduation arc, I'll go back to those OVAs). Overall though, I'd say Natsume was a well-established character throughout the whole show and especially this season.
Now that everyone else is now out of the way, let's talk about our good ol' protagonist.
Due to all the increased focus on all the other characters this season, Yuno had to step aside the limelight for a bit. This season, there are entire half-episodes where Yuno is absent or barely important. She hasn't become irrelevant yet, but compared to previous seasons, she got considerably less screentime than usual. It makes sense though that Yuno receives less focus this season because the previous season was ALL about her. Judging from that, it doesn't really matter too much if Yuno wasn't really focused on enough this season. She got all the characterization she needed from the previous three seasons. Her character is already very well-established. We've already seen her grow and develop in the past, so if she wasn't very notable this season, I'd be fine with that. Frankly, I'd appreciate if they didn't give her too much screen time. The last season, my biggest complaint was that Yuno was hogging all the characterization to herself and all the other characters were barely important (especially Nori and Nazuna who barely got any screentime once they were established).
However, she did indeed get a considerable amount of characterization this season. We saw her talk with Arisawa and contemplate her future soon afterwards. We see her actively trying to be a great senpai to the first-years. We even get to see an incredible yuri moment with Miyako which showed how much she's grown close to her. We see her become incredibly proud with both the pictures she took during the swimming intramurals and the pamphlet cover she made that was picked by the school. Yuno experienced a lot this season, and we got to experience it with her. At this point, you can't call Yuno a flat character. Yuno still had to give way to the other characters this season, but she still got an incredible amount of characterization this time and has become both a very relatable and memorable character who will forever be an incredible example of moe done right for years to come.
In the end, the show spent a great amount of time carving out the characters it neglected in previous season in favor of Yunocchi. Honeycomb shone light on sides of characters we never saw in the previous seasons. It still displayed a significant amount of attention towards Yuno, but it made sure not to forget about the others this time. I was very especially overjoyed by the focus on characters who I thought were barely given any character before. I mean, with its brand-spanking new plaything that is the impending threat of graduation, of course the other characters would be affected.
To conclude, I believe the show had finally overcome the weaknesses it had in the previous three seasons.
Honeycomb, now spectacularly improved with the underlying dark sense that big change was coming, made sure to check on the characters it neglected before, giving them the character they seemed to lack, further establishes and solidifies the relationships between said characters, and finally working on developing and centering itself on its own themes.
For this, I'd give Honeycomb a 8.80/10.
Good job, and I look forward to the what the graduation arc has in store for me.
What did you think of this review?
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Sep 12, 2016
Hidamari Sketch x ☆☆☆ (Anime) add
This show is cute.
I don't know why it took me three entire seasons to get this, but it's true. The reason why I enjoy this show so much is because it is cute. There is no other way to say this. The main appeal of this show and the reason why it is so dearly loved by the few who watch it is its cuteness. Cuteness is its heart, body, and soul; its very essence. Cuteness is the bone of its sword. Adorable is its body and kawaii is its blood. Every single aspect of this show contributes, has contributed, and shall continue to contribute ... to its cuteness. Everything that doesn't radiate with cuteness shall be considered a flaw. Everything from SHAFT's art to the endearing characters and relationships to the simplistically dear storylines to the much unnoticed jazzy accordion/violin/piano soundtrack secretes cute to a degree only shows like GochiUsa can achieve (GochiUsa is much better though). Everything this show has creates a certain tone or mood that can only be described as cute. Albeit, it is a more fun and goofy kind of cute with only a slight dash of quiet making it rather different from other more tranquil and peaceful slice-of-life shows which can also be described as cute that would prefer to emphasize the calm slow monotony of life rather than its levity and occasional ridiculousness. However it does share many aspects of these series, like its incredible amount of focus on many seemingly unrelated topics or its tendency to use trains-of-thought and inner monologues without any central ideas to convey character, making this show fairly well-rounded instead of a show with only one trick up its sleeve. Hidamari Sketch doesn't really use cuteness in its simplest sense really. Instead, it uses a certain mix of all the feelings one experiences throughout a normal average day, and this mix can only really be described as cute. It's not a cute in a Hello Kitty kind of way. Instead, it's a cute in a baby's first birthday party kind of way where people enjoy their time together and only want to make the baby smile as much as possible. Needless to say, this show wants to be cute. It is its only purpose in life. All this show really wants to do is make you take a step back and remove some of that pressure life tends to put on you. To allow someone to just relax and permit him to smile after a long day of work, maybe get a few chuckles out of him, perhaps add just a bit of nostalgia in the mix, probably even give you a few suggestions to any problems he might be having. This is pretty much the point of every slice-of-life show out there and Hidamari Sketch fulfills this pretty well. Not necessarily in the most unique way though(If you judge this show based on uniqueness, you're probably gonna find it pretty lacking). It does this through the incredible power of goofy fun, great protagonists, and cuteness.
Let me elaborate.
~~~ STORY ~~~
It is my belief that slice-of-life storylines are the only real way to truly express the feeling of cuteness.
There are many characteristics that all slice-of-life narratives share. They always tend to be very simplistic. They're never anything too complicated. You're not gonna get lost in between numerous interweaving plotlines or unorthodox narrative structures. They never intentionally invoke any intense or powerful emotions. Instead, they seek to replicate the tone and mood of day-to-day life. There is almost little to no plot development. Things never intensify or stack up. They're always slow-paced, and conflicts that could happen are either non-existent or not taken seriously.
These are why cuteness works so well with these shows.
Let me use an example. Let's say a baby's smile. Sometimes, either on your way to work or in a walk in the park, you may encounter a mother or a couple pushing around a baby carriage. As you continue walking past them, you take a fleeting glance at the inside of the stroller. In it, you see the baby, maybe either playing around aggressively with some toys or sleeping peacefully. You see it smile. Time slows down. Not too much. Just for a bit. Then, you turn around and continue walking.
It is that fleeting nature of cuteness and the feeling it gives you that makes it perfect for slice-of-lifes. These series are all about those short-lived emotions that you feel on a day-to-day basis that never really stick into your mind because of their briefness. It's all about making those short meaningless moments meaningful. Cuteness is just a prime example of these emotions. The feeling that you get whenever you something notice something cute and adorable is incredibly momentary. You're most likely not gonna think about that baby ever again. Life is made of these moments. Life is built upon all these temporary sentiments. And what better way to portray these significantly insignificant feelings than through significantly insignificant events?
The story is never really remarkable in these shows. That's okay. The focus is never actually on the story anyway. It's always on mood and tone or characterization. The atmosphere and characters aren't written to fit the plot in these shows. Instead, the narratives are specifically designed to complement the atmosphere and characters.
In the end, there's not much to comment on the story (which is somewhat ironic considering that I've actually written quite a bit). Hidamari Sketch is really a character-driven show instead of a plot-driven one. The plotlines are incredibly simple, and you're probably not gonna remember what actually happened in a specific episode. What you're gonna end up remembering are the characters which we will discuss in a later segment.
~~~ ART ~~~
It's SHAFT art. You either love it or hate it.
The artstyle is highly simplistic. The show seems to be rather addicted to flat-color backgrounds and pastels, and the abundance of white dots in this show is astronomical. There have been many a shot wherein the only things happening are a single-colored background, a character speaking, and that character's respective signifier. Each main character is assigned a certain symbol which is taken from their respective character designs. These shots come when a character says something that really represents her character (e.g. whenever Hiro says something maternal; Miyako says something stupid; etc.). I think these shots are very clever because of how effective they are at characterization and also because of how it save both money and time for the creators while still being very beneficial to the quality of the show.
You're either gonna absolutely love the impossibly wide chibi faces or get really fckin annoyed by them. I personally loved the chibi because I think it really multiplies the cuteness this show gives (which is why I prefer the first season where they really went all-out with chibi), however there have been many a caps-locked complaint angrily criticizing the weird faces so you really just have to try the show out a bit and see whether the art is really for you or not.
The directing is still fairly crazy, however it's a far cry from x365's WTF shots that moved around everywhere that I really enjoyed a lot. I'll discuss this more in the comparison section with the previous seasons.
Overall, the art's weird. It's very simplistic and pastel. You're either gonna love it or hate it.
~~~ SOUND ~~~
The soundtrack of this show is a very unnoticed gem.
I have almost the entire soundtrack downloaded in my computer (still downloading it) and it is surprisingly very good. I don't really know how to criticize music, but I can say that it is a very fitting soundtrack to this show. It is the most laidback relaxing thing I've heard that still manages to be upbeat and with a bit of jazz too. There's this woman just singing "da da da da da" in some of the REALLY relaxing songs and I'd say it really boosts the relaxingness exponentially. It's fairly nice to listen to while you're working. It doesn't distract and reduces stress well.
There are also tracks in this soundtrack meant for the more touching and heartwarming scenes in Hidamari Sketch, and, let me just say, they are the sweetest things I have ever heard since GochiUsa's diabetes ED. They give off a feeling of childlikeness and youthful wonder that really touches the heart overlayed against smooth calm relaxation. If this isn't cute, I don't know what is.
I'm not really a big fan of the OP this season. I loved the first two season's OPs and listen to them all the time, and I think that "SHUWA SHUWA" is the best way to start a show. The rest of this season's OP just didn't really stick with me as much as the previous seasons'. The ED is still rather generic and skippable.
Voice actors are also still doing their job well. Not really much to say.
~~~ CHARACTER ~~~
Now, we're getting to the meat of this entire thing because this new season introduces two new Hidamari Apartments residents: Nazuna and Nori!
With everyone a year older and Yuno now in her second year of high school, it only does seem natural to give her some kohais to play around with. Cue Nazuna and Nori. These are the two new additions to the apartments, both first-years of Yamabuki High School. It has been remarked that these two are pretty much carbon copies of the previous first-year duo, Yuno and Miyako, and I can't really deny that claim. There is much basis for that argument. Nazuna is pretty much a shier Yuno who pretty much has all the insecurites that Yuno has times two. Nazuna is depicted as someone with little self-esteem or self-advocacy just as Yuno was in the previous seasons except to a much greater extent. (She's also just as intensely cute as Yuno is). Nori is pretty much a down-to-earth Miyako. She's not as goofy or hungry as Miya-chan, sure. However, she definitely plays the same role and acts the same way to Nazuna as Miyako does to Yuno. She represents the confidence and optimism her batchmate lacks allowing her to be a strong supporting figure to her batchmate who she motivates and reassures whenever her insecurities get to her again. Can you guess correctly who I'm talking about? It applies to both Miyako and Nori. Not only were Yuno and Miyako's characters were copied, but also their character dynamic. Many times this season has Nori helping Nazuna out in the same way Miyako does to Yuno. Many times this season has highlighted the surprisingly soon closeness between Nori and Nazuna in the same way the previous seasons did with Miyako and Yuno.
It has also been remarked that these characters, as much as every other character in the show, can each fit into their own archetypes. I can't really deny this either. Yuno and Nazuna both fit into the 'shy girl' archetype really well. Miyako and Nori also fit very well into the 'supportive best friend' archetype. Hiro fits smackdab into the 'mother-like friend' archetype, and Sae fits perfectly into the 'smart senpai' archetype.
Now, my question is, are necessarily bad things?
Character archetype usage and character distinctiveness are somewhat overemphasized concepts. People have very pronounced rules and structures on what makes a good story, and oftentimes, these concepts are cited in these highly-defined laws saying, "If characters always act the same as other characters or fit these character archetypes, then this show fckin sucks". Well, I would respectfully like to disagree. I do not think there is any reason to automatically declare that a story is of poor quality just because some characters fit into honestly fairly arbitrarily set archetypes or because some characters act too similar to one another. I have met a myriad of people who one can say can perfectly fit into a certain character archetype. Many of my closer friends fit perfectly into either the 'nerd' archetype or the 'optimistic best friend' archetype. Many of my greatest enemies can easily be placed inside the 'jock' or 'egocentric cool kid' archetypes. I myself could probably fit into the 'prodigy with no friends' archetype, although I would say that's a bit of a stretch. I have also witnessed a ton of people who act exactly like one another. Many people who fit inside the same archetypes often end up forming their own cliques. I have also frequently seen best friends or pretty close friends who act exactly the same to each other, and I am willing to bet that it was because of their similarities that they ended up that close in the first place. None of these facts makes any of them anything less than people. They are all still people with their own personal flaws, strengths, goals, passions, and philosophies, and the fact that they fit ideally into archetypes doesn't diminish their being people. I believe this also applies to any written character wherein characters can act exactly like an archetype or one another can still end up as round characters as long as they are given enough depth.
Now, the next question is, are these characters given enough depth?
Probably, but not to the extent some of you may like.
First off, Miyako has been given practically little to no character depth and is mostly just a gag character. However, she does serve a good role of deepening Yuno's character with her closeness to her, causing Yuno to think and feel things she otherwise wouldn't without good ol' Miya-chan. Hiro, I would say, wasn't really given as much of the limelight as in x365. She got a fair bit of screen time together with Sae and I loved watching their relationship, but I don't think it was really enough. In the end, I wanted to see a bit more of HIro. Sae herself was given a lot of character this season just as every other season. She really reacts when things happen, has strong opinions on various things, and, again, her relationship with Hiro is very interesting to me. The show tends to highlight Sae a bit more than the others for some reason. Nori and Nazuna, despite being the newcomers, have a quite disappointing amount of screen time. The show, although it does focus on them, doesn't focus on them at the same level other shows have when they introduce new characters. Hidamari Sketch devotes about half an episode for their introduction then waits a couple of episodes before actually having a plot thread where the two are given significant roles. Again, just like Hiro, I wish the show would've focused a bit more on the two and I think their characters should've been more explored. Sure, they may both fit right into some character archetypes, but that doesn't mean their characters can't be built upon or can't have any depth. I honestly found Nazuna a very interesting and enjoyable character to watch, and their were many moments where I kind of related to her. Sure, I laughed like a madman when she talked about her struggles, but that was just because I related to her so much, I liked the timing of the jokes, and I thought her chibi form was astronomically cute. I also really wanna know where Nori gets her confidence from. At this point in time, we know next to nothing about Nori's character except that she's confident and that she knows a bunch of stuff about life and computers. This doesn't mean she's not an interesting character. I find Nori and Nazuna's relationship to be incredibly captivating and a gold mine for characterization, stories, and yuri. I just wish those two had more time in the spotlight. They were barely in it.
Now, let's talk about the person who has been hogging all the limelight.
Yunocchi here has been taking all the screentime. I mean, it makes sense. She's the fckin protagonist. She's supposed to get all the screentime. This show is written from her perspective. She's the only character in the show who's trains of thought and inner monologues we get to here. We see everything the way she sees it. Whenever anything happens, we only get to see her thoughts about it. Whenever she starts feeling her insecurities, we learn about it in full detail. Whenever the show quiets down and starts to slow pace, it's because we're listening to Yuno trying to make sense of herself. Hell, she even has her own segment at the end of every episode where she takes her bath and reflects on what happened that day. There's no doubt about it. This is her show. Of course everything's about her. Now, was her character given depth? Can we say that Yunocchi was a well-written character? OF COURSE SHE WAS! We know in intense detail about her desires and insecurities. We know how troubled she is about her own inability to visualize herself in the future. We know how much she tries to be a great senpai and role model to the new first-years. We know how much she gets insecure when she's dissatisfied with her own works. Everything in this show serves to deepen her character just as everything in this show serves to add cuteness. She IS the cuteness. She is what makes this show cute. Everything from her character design to the way she talks to her own personal thoughts and feelings can be described as cute. She is cute. This show would be devoid of anything worthwhile if she wasn't made as cute as possible. She is what makes this show good. And that is why every element in Hidamari Sketch must serve to build upon her character. And it does. The real reason the other characters have so little focus is because they merely serve as character deepeners (what is this word) to Yuno. Sae and Hiro serve as senpais and role models for Yuno to look up too which gives her much motivation and allows for character growth. Nori and Nazuna serve as kohais to Yuno so that she can learn to be a good senpai to them which allows some great characterization and development. Miyako serves as her best friend who supports her when she's down in the dumps allowing her to overcome some of her insecurities which, again, makes for some great character growth. She's also the only character who's parents actually have a considerable amount of screen time (They didn't show up THIS season, but it's still something worth considering when comparing this show to other anime set in high school). Each episode's plotlines seem to be designed around her character. As I said before, the narratives were built around the characters, and not the other way around. In actuality, it seems that the narratives were built around Yuno's character specifically. Every episode in this series are of dates when Yuno either learns something more about herself, realizes something about life, or becomes closer to another character. These dates and stories are all the times Yuno's character changed inside the quiet melancholic actionless vacuum of everyday life. This show isn't story-driven OR character driven. It's Yuno-driven. When I said that the characters are who you'd actually remember instead of the story, I specifically meant her. With everything in this goddamn show centered on Yunocchi, it's not surprising that her character has been given quite a bit of characterization.
So, now that we're done with that debacle, let's me ask another question.
Does this show actually have character development?
I wrote earlier that slice-of-life shows don't really need character development. Just like character archetypes and character distinctiveness, I believe character development is a very overemphasized element in narrative criticism. It's practically impossible anyway when a show is written in anachronistic order which is what a majority of slice-of-life shows use. All a slice-of-life really needs to be good is characterization. Character development is merely optional.
However, even if character development's importance isn't really as great as many think it is, it is still a really helpful boost when it comes to characterization. Watching a person's character grow and change is also a way to reveal more about that character. Character development is a really effective form of characterization, and the reason why it's so overplayed by many is because it is so incredibly interesting. And right now, this third season, the show now actually has the capability to employ character development on its characters because guess what? It's not in anachronistic order anymore! The episodes have an actual linearity to them. They actually happen after each other. They actually follow time! Sure, some episodes that half of themselves to other dates, but those are practically just extended flashbacks Yuno has to solidify her character even further. Sure, the episodes are still very much unrelated to one another and there are week-long timeskips in between them, however that still doesn't completely erase the possibility of character development.
So, let me ask again. Does this show have character development?
I would say so. Maybe not a lot of character development, but it's still present.
For example, Yunocchi, in the first and second seasons, can be seen being extremely bothered when she doesn't deem her works good enough. She'd often just lay there in bed for eternities just thinking about it. This season, she still gets rather bothered, but not as much as before. She now knows when to stop thinking about such things and let go and start on her next work. (In a particular comical incident in this season, she breaks out of one of these inner monologues once she realizes that she ended up repeating herself.) This is possible due to the fact that the entirety of season three, minus the flashbacks, is set completely after both seasons one and two. This allows some character development to form between the first-year Yuno and the second-year Yuno. One can also see Yuno develop as a person as she starts gaining the desire to become a great senpai to the two new first-years. Yuno often tries to help out Nazuna who, because she's very similar to Yuno, shares many of the same insecurities Yuno once had. There are moments in the series where Yuno kind of gets Nazuna at a certain level because, you know, she's been there before. Of course, she often fails at helping out Nazuna (Nori always beating her to it) for comical effect, but this does still reflect some of the growth Yuno had undergone at the Hidamari Apartments. Nori and Nazuna too can be seen too have some character development when it comes to their relationship. The two start out rather distant too each other, but, being batchmates on a multi-batch clique, quickly get close too one another. Nori is always a big help towards Nazuna, giving her self-esteem and confidence and correcting her whenever she starts speaking self-denying thoughts. Nazuna, in response, becomes incredibly devoted to Nori. A bit too quick for my tastes, but at least not immediate.
And that's about all the character development. Yuno, again, hogged all the limelight, stealing all the screentime and, in turn, the character development, leaving nothing for the other characters. Sae and Hiro's relationship is still pretty interesting, but you can't really say it had changed any more than since the start of the series (and even before the series according to a flashback). Miyako is still a gag character, and there's not really much to say about all the other characters. Again, they all just end up serving as tools to allow Yuno to develop instead of character's themselves. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Yuno is an incredibly interesting and relatable character with tons of development, however I do again wish that the others got some more character too.
While we're on that topic, let's just briefly touch on all the side characters. Yoshinoya is still pretty annoying, her jokes VERY hit-or-miss. The Principal, the nurse, and that new male teacher only really serve to try to make Yoshinoya's jokes funnier. Natsume didn't really get much screentime in this season, however I heard one of the OVAs is devoted to her, so I'm kinda excited. (Haven't watched the OVAs yet for seasons three and two and I'd honestly like to see more of Natsume even if she's just your typical lesbian tsundere.) That new Arisawa girl seemed interesting and honestly, I'd like to see more of her. She adds a lot of character depth to Yuno, making her think about her future and the path she wants to take. Pretty impressive for someone who was only meant to be a one-shot. Everyone else is too irrelevant to be commented upon, not appearing enough on screen for me to care about or remember.
In the end, all the focus and characterization is all on Yuno and every other character merely serves to deepen Yuno's character. The show takes much care to carve out Yuno's character, making her a very compelling character, but it often neglects to bring alive the other characters too. It's not necessarily a bad thing. This is Yuno's story, so she deserves to have all the character depth she wants. I just wish the other Hidamari residents had more time to shine because I am, at the very least, interested in who they are and what they could be.
Oh wow. I wrote quite a bit.
~~~ COMPARISON TO PREVIOUS SEASONS ~~~
Finally, after four thousand two hundred fifty three words, let's get to the end of this thing.
How good is this season compared to the other previous seasons?
Well, to be honest, I liked x365 more.
Reason being that I really intensely loved the crazy-ass directing that that season had had which was toned down to almost be non-existent this season. All the moving cameras, weird shots of unrelatedly related things, and all those weird sinister colors that came alongside the show's usual pastels are now almost gone. I enjoyed the shot where Yuno and her mother were running to school in the first episode which had an incredible amount of lines. I absolutely loved that shot where Hiro got all right up into your face as she was stress-eating because of her fight with Sae; the way Hiro zooms into your face was incredibly captivating to me. I even liked that completely random shot which zoomed in on Yuno as she entered the cafeteria for no reason at all. This incredible insanity that that kind of directing brought is barely present in this season. I cannot remember a single moment in this season that gave me the same vibes as the time everything turned black and red in Yuno's fever dream (which happened in the first season but still). I was just kind of disappointed with this season directing-wise.
Art design-wise, I preferred the first season more. I preferred the dirtier 4:3 look the first season had compared to the HD widescreen look the other seasons had. I don't know. I guess a more dirtier, less bright, muddier look older anime and TV shows just kinda resonate with me more. Or maybe it's just because the character's chibi faces look MUCH wider in 4:3. Who knows?
Story and character-wise, I still liked x365 more. Even if xSTAR STAR STAR gave us two new characters and an actual linear order to the episodes, I still prefer x365. I feel like the relationships in that season were explored a lot more, with Yuno's parents and all and episodes almost entirely devoted to Sae and Hiro's almost-romantic relationship. The time Yuno met one of Yoshinoya's old students and the time everyone sang the original Hidamari Sketch theme at the finale and the time they all had that bamboo-wishing festival thing together just touched my heart more than anything this season had to offer. Honestly, at this point in time, I don't actually remember much of what happened in this season. All I remember is that Yuno dropped her keys in the toilet once causing her to sleep in her friend's bedrooms (which I thought was a great method of characterization) and the first episode (which I watched twice to try to remember what actually happened this season). I even find things in the first season more memorable. I loved the first episode because of its melancholic vibe and the finale where Chika got introduced. All I remember this season is the overall feeling it gave me. It did give me a really warm and nice feeling which, as I said at the beginning, can only be described as cute. This is the main reason I'm still giving this season an eight over ten even if I don't remember anything. The other reasons being that I appreciated Yuno's character a lot and that I enjoyed Nori and Nazuna's and Sae and Hiro's developing relationship.
~~~ CONCLUSION ~~~
However, overall, if MyAnimeList's rating system allowed decimal numbers, this would be a mere 7.95 (I like to round up when there's less than a 0.5 difference from the next whole number) whilst seasons one and two get an 8.83 and 8.90 respectively. This is my least favorite season so far, and I was somewhat disappointed. The narratives weren't as meaningful to me as the other seasons', and the side characters still weren't given enough time in the spotlight. Nonetheless, it still was Hidamari Sketch and it still shared Hidamari Sketch's overall strengths, such as Yuno's character, soundtrack, artstyle, and altogether cute relaxing vibes, and I look forward to whatever xHoneycomb has in store for me in the future.
"I wonder what tomorrow will bring." Me too, Yuno. Me too.
Edit: After some thought, I've changed my overall score for this season from an 8 to a 7 to reflect my opinion on this season better in comparison to the other seasons.
What did you think of this review?
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Aug 26, 2016
Hidamari Sketch x 365 (Anime) add
Alright. Time to watch this next season of Hidamari Ske-
OH MY GOD.
Did they improve the art!? It's actually HD! Oh my god! Who's that!? Who's that!? Woah, hey! This episode's actually set at the very start of the series! That's Yuno's mom! She looks like a fun character! It's Miya-chan! Yes! Fave character of all time! Oh hey! Landlady actually has screen time now! The gang's all here! Except Sae. But that's fine. I'm relaxed now. HA! That was hilarious. And really cute.
So, yeah. Those were basically my first impressions of this season. And I'd have to say that I really enjoyed my time ... with this show. I won't give it a 10 or 9 because I save my perfect tens for shows that affect me personally and my nines for shows that I REALLY enjoy. However, I'd have to say, this show's really close to giving it a nine.
My actual score for this show's an 8.9/10, however since MyAnimeList only deals with whole numbers and since I was unwilling to give it a full-on 9, I gave it a mere 8 instead.
( The woes of numerical ratings :( )
Anyway, I think this season really improved on its prequel. Better art, better characters, better stories, and, actually I dare say, better directing.
This season, I feel, really built on its characters a tad more than last season. Miya-chan is still Miya-chan. Overly cheerful, incredibly outspoken, and just plain out hilarious. However, I think that the other three characters were built upon fairly more than last season. For example, this season actually had its first actual central conflict between two of its main characters. Episode 12 had Sae and Hiro have a (lover's) quarrel. Hiro answered a call for Sae from her editor while she was sleeping causing Sae to get mad at Hiro when she woke up for invading her privacy. This episode, we saw Sae's insecurities regarding privacy and honesty with her feelings and we also got to see more of Hiro other than her running gag about her diet. And of course, the episode never did this in such a way that it became melodramatic or narmy. Actually, it kept the same tone it always had all throughout the episode. It was all just cute in a funny, lovable way. And when it came to the character, dramatic stuff, it was cute in a heartwarming, lovable way. This is actually the only real conflict in this season, but there are stiill many heartwarming, lovable moments. There are many times when we get to see Sae's and Yuno's own insecurities. Hiro is actually given some character too. Not as much as Yuno and Sae, but still much more than last season. Last season, she was really just a glorified side character who's just there to give her running gag about being fat (which I honestly still kinda enjoy).
Miyako, to me, is a very interesting character. The way she interacts with the other three, how she affects, motivates, and influences the other three piques my interest. At the very least, she's not really a character that has her own flaws, insecurities, goals, or ambitions, but instead, she's a character who gives other people character, causing others to be fleshed out instead of herself through her actions. Her bluntness in the way she speaks and her lack of a filter occasionally prompt some pretty sensitive comments to come out which cause the other three of the group to either contemplate something personal which allows the characters to learn more about themselves and their relationships or cause certain topics that aren't typically socially 'allowed' to come to light, which allows the group to think about or engage with these topics, making their relationships stronger. She seems to me like a clever narrative device than an actual character. And yet, she still feels like a real character who truly belongs in the Hidamari Apartments. Maybe I just like her because she makes me laugh a lot. Who knows?
What I find a flaw in this season is that some of the side characters (still) weren't really given much character to be honest. Natsume is given some character, involving her crush on Sae, but most of the time, she was just your typical anime tsundere to give your typical anime tsundere jokes. Yoshinoya-sensei is still pretty much a gag character, and the new white-haired school nurse (forgot her name because of how irrelevant she is) just merely serves as her Yoshinoya's foil, making her jokes land just an extra bit better. The principal's pretty much the same as the nurse. Yuno's parents I really did enjoy however. I feel like their relationship with Yuno is one that I fully enjoyed watching. Even if they were the kinda archetypal parents with them being always worried about their child, I still found them really fun characters. At least we actually HAVE parents in this anime. Honestly, I hope in the next seasons (which I'll watch after writing this), they get more screentime. In the end, I wish that when it introduced some more side characters in the first episode, the show would focus a bit more on them. But I guess not.
I will again praise the art for being pretty amazing, making everything look cute, colorful, and stylish. However, this time, I think I'd have to give more attention to the directing this time. In my last season's review, I only barely touched on the crazy directing because I felt that the art had more impact. With its cute faces, unique artstyle, and great visual comedy, it had a greater impact on me than the directing. Not this time, however. This time, the directing got even crazier. Its shots now go fully cinematic with this really wide zoom outs and those really cool zoom ins ( I'd word this better if I actually knew the names of the shots ). Last season, the camera felt very stationary, just cutting from shot-to-shot and not much else. This season, the camera's moving all over the place, flying through corridors and soaring bird's-eye views. The majority of the show still had very not-moving cameras, but there is still a significant increase in camera movement from the first season (which I'm sure had only one or two shots with actual fast movement). There are also shots where all the colors become crazy and some shots that really exaggerate their zooms ( One of my favorite shots is when Hiro is angrily stress-eating because of her fight with Sae and she just gets right into your face as she complains about her ). It takes some of the directing from Shaft's other series that's often used for drama and uses them instead for absolutely incredible visual comedy. Just like last season, there were many moments that I laughed out loud just because of the way the shot was done.
I also do have to praise the overall tone of this show. It combines cute heartwarming moments with lots of fairly good comedy. It's not incredibly funny where I stop being able to breath for half an hour straight and I have to be sent to the doctor. It just has its running gags that sometimes kinda get old but not all the time, the funny friendly cheery teasing between the main characters, and the visual derpiness of the characters when they enter chibi mode. It's not really one of those intense, loud, shout-y comedies where everything explodes exaggeratedly and the most random things happen every five seconds ( although it does have its moments and when they happen, they're amazing ). Instead, it's a much more mellow comedy which mostly rely on stuff like "ah yeah. i remember my days in high-school. i know that feeling." and "ah yeah. i remember doing stuff like that back when i was younger. those were the days." and " ah yeah. that reminds of that time that happened to me when i was a kid with my friends. that was fun.". Actually, its kinda like a mix of those two types. The directing which is incredibly crazy is applied onto, if you take your time to think about it, an otherwise pretty slow-paced slice-of-life. It's weird, but I'd say it mixes the two of them well. Of course, there are also those heartwarming, lovable moments which do a lot to add life to this show. This will most likely never gonna be known for its heartwarming moments, ( each of them, although great, but not particularly impressive ), however they do make you smile alongside the characters as often as you laugh at them.
I'm also gonna put a short note here about the sound and the OST. Miya-chan still sounds incredible and hilarious, and her voice actor's amazing. And the OST of this show is actually starting to grow on me. Normally, I'd only kinda pay attention during the OP and skip the ED. Now however, I'm constantly repeating the OP and I always listen through the entire ED and get disappointed when it's over. The background music has also started to get my attention too. I've noticed how calming some of the music is. I actually plan on downloading the entire soundtrack once I finish this review.
With all that said, I'd recommend this show to anyone looking to relax after a long day of stress. However, I am aware that people like to relax to different things. Some people want to watch something that will definitely make them laugh after a long day of frowning. Some people want to watch something that will let them drift off into some kind off pseudo-sleep after a long day of not sleeping. I am also aware that some people have problems with either of these two types of shows. Some don't really like the overly comedic ones because they often miss as many times as they hit, or because they just have too much energy. Some don't really like the calming shows because they can often be pretty boring and are often too slow-paced. This show manages to be in the middle of these types of shows, having characteristics of both without reaching their extremes. This show has loads of moments that'll make you laugh, however it doesn't do that through over-the-top and high-energy antics. It can also be very calming at times due to its nature of depicting the everyday life of a normal girl, however it never does become boring and is not overly slow-paced unlike other shows that depict everyday life. It manages to capture both the goofy antics of a group of young teenagers and the touching interactions that often happen between such people. It successfully undertakes the often herculean task of portraying the merriment of day-to-day life alongside its monotony.
It actually manages to paint everyday life on its canvas in a way most shows don't even attempt to do,
with more than one color.
"What color truly represents now? The white of a smile? The blue of tears? No. It's when you start mixing them together."
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Aug 15, 2016
Hidamari Sketch (Anime) add
There is a certain beauty to everyday life. The same old same old routine one has for every day. The time spent just enjoying the little things. The growth every person experiences which does not happen spontaneously but over long drawn-out periods of time. That beauty is what the entire slice-of-life genre strives to depict and portray. A good slice-of-life must fully illustrate the subtle happiness of everyday life, filling itself not with epic adventure or intense circumstances, but with the normal everyday problems and struggles we experience on a day-to-day basis. And I would like to say that Hidamari Sketch is a shining example ... of this genre.
Hidamari Sketch is a show about four high-school girls who all study at an art school and live together in the Hidamari Apartments. They spend lots of time together and are really good friends. (Some would say they're even more than friends). And the entire show is just them hanging out and having fun. I can't really judge its story because there really isn't one. It's just these four girls enjoying their normal everyday lives. The episodes aren't even set near each other. Each episode is set on some random date of the year. Not really on any significant dates either (except the last episode which is set on Christmas). This was most likely done so as to emphasize the every day instead of the best days, to showcase the normal instead of the significant. It really shows that Hidamari Sketch is not supposed to be a show about our high points in life, but a show about life itself in its own regular variety.
I really have to praise the Shaft team for this show. The animation and art for this show is absolutely stellar, which makes sense for a show about art students. The animation of the characters specifically is amazing and is my absolute favorite aspect of this show. I think by calling the art "absolutely stellar" probably made you think about stuff like Studio Ghibli or Mushishi or Aria or something, however the artstyle of this show is just really goofy and fun. What I think is so amazing about this art is because it of how it can improve jokes by like a hundred percent. There are so many jokes in this show that probably wouldn't have landed if it weren't for the art. Heck, it even made jokes that didn't actually exist land. Just show chibi Miya-chan's face as she says something only slightly stupid and I'll smile my heart out. Maybe the real reason why I thought the art was so amazing was because it's just so cute.
I think I also have to mention the directing in this show. It's just as crazy as Shaft's usual directing (*cough* Monogatari *cough*). This, I believe, puts this show at the goofier end of the slice-of-life where shows depict emphasize the silliness of everyday life in contrast with the other end of the slice-of-life spectrum which prefers to emphasize the monotony of life instead (iyashikei).
The music in this show is not really that memorable. Other than the OP (which is pretty catchy), there's not really anything about its music that I'd like to point out. However, I really have to give props to the voice acting, especially for Miya-chan's voice actor. The way her voice cracks (I think their voice cracks) makes some of her jokes incredibly hilarious, make her actually sound like an actual high schooler, and just overall an incredibly memorable character. She's actually my favorite character from this entire show.
On that note, let's talk about the characters. The protagonist, Yuno, is one of those shy quiet types who don't really have that much self-esteem but still love hanging out with friends. Sae is the senpai who's not very honest about her feelings and has a fair amount of insecurities. She gets really pressured with deadlines and doesn't have the best relationship with her family. Hiro is that girl who'll always ask if this dress makes her look fat, and is rather wary about her looks. She's that person who always says she'd go on a diet just before eating all your cake. Finally, Miya-chan is basically the comic relief character who's lazy, clumsy, spontaneous, hungry. I'm sure everyone has had someone like her as a friend, right? Compared to the rest of the Hidamari residents however, she's actually fairly confident in herself. Unlike the other three, she's never really been shown to have any real insecurities. She's never been depicted as worrisome or unconfident. And she always helps out her friends when they feel down. When one of her friends need a small injection of self-esteem, she'll be there. When one of her friends need someone to talk to, she'll be there. When one of her friends has any food, she'll be there. The way these four act and interact with each other, and the way they grow and learn are what make this show great. There are episodes that specifically revolve around one of these characters insecurities and they learn a life lesson at the end of these episodes, however it never feels hamfisted or cheesy. The way this show depicts growth as an important aspect of everyday life makes it really shine amongst other lesser slice-of-lifes.
Overall, I really enjoyed this show. It's cute, relaxing, nostalgic, and, most of all, fun. If you just wanna watch something to relax you after a long stressful day, give this show a shot. Its crazy, but in an "everyday life with your friends" kind of way. All the characters are relatable and really fun to watch. In the end though, this show's biggest strength is its ability to make you smile.
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