Hidamari Sketch × Honeycomb
Time passes, and the girls all move up a year as they continue their lives as students in Yamabuki High School. But for some of them, graduation time approaches, and they all have to deal with the changes that will bring, not only to the school itself, but also the population in Hidamari Apartments.
And so, Hidamari Sketch's continuation finally made its appearance for me. It's been available on Crunchyroll for quite some time, but... naturally not internationally -- wow, that was an awkward sentence piece -- and so I had to wait for the DVD release that I wasn't even sure would come for the longest time. Given that this is a 2012 show, that wait time was three years. Three! Years!
One of the first things I noticed right off the bat is that the animation budget seems to have taken a hit. The first episode was a bit underwhelming compared to the downright energetic gag fests that were the opening episodes of X365 and Hoshimittsu. Still, there's no reason to worry, as the animation itself is still quite decent, still a step up from the downright spartan animation we got in the first season. And, as always, Honeycomb is still very inventive about how it presents itself, through a cacophony of different background styles and visual gags that are quite unique to the Hidamari Sketch series in full. As it is, the animation is more than adequate for the job, to the point where I remember one single scene as standing out because the characters were weirdly off-model in that "we outsourced some of our animation to a cheap animation house" way. To this day, I'm not sure whether that was an intentional gag for off-model characters or not.
Once I got past that surprisingly quiet and unassuming first episode, the show thankfully got back on track in what it does best; be funny and endearing. Seeing as this is a fourth season, that kind of makes it hard to talk about it, though, because I've already talked about it in three reviews before this. Miyako is still my favorite character because I can still figure out if she's sharply intelligent or just weird about the things she picks up on. She's definitely an eccentric in a weirdly down-to-earth kind of a way, and showcases an ability to take various expressions of art -- however traditional, national or surrealistic -- and use that in presentations of mundane activities or happenings. In other words, she's being herself. As usual. And you can leave it up to Hidamari Sketch to make "as usual" be a good thing. That's one of the reasons why I love this show so -- it finds ways to make the mundane seem fun and interesting.
Nori and Nazuna also seems to be finding their groove in this show. Nazuna still tends to play the helplessness fiddle, though her insecurities is played up a lot more, and the way the other girls help her get through them. The bond she shares with Nori in particular grows increasingly endearing too, as time passes. Speaking of which, the fact that graduation looms over all of them is lost on nobody, and the show makes a particularly strong showing about it in one episode, where Hiro nurtures some sad feelings about what to do with her life when she realizes that she won't be seeing much of Sae once they graduate, as they'll be going to different colleges. It was a surprisingly strong showing for a character that had to me been the least interesting addition to the show, and furthermore, it also made another surprisingly strong case for the appeal of Yoshinoya-sensei as a dependable person instead of the beacon of irresponsibility that she usually plays up.
On that note, I rewatch this show with a certain amount of melancholy seeing as her voice actor, the ever talented Miyu Matsuki, recently passed away at a depressingly young age. The Hidamari Sketch series has always had strong voice acting in it, and ms. Matsuki's role as Yoshinoya-sensei is definitely one of the better parts in the show as the irresponsible lady it's hard to dislike.
Speaking of characters being themselves, that also means we'll get to see more of Natsume. As you'd expect, she's still all tsundere over Sae, but the show still unleashed a huge surprise on me by having her being invited by the Hidamari Apartment residents for a night of socializing and good food, and I couldn't have been any less ready for how it influenced her if I had tried. It easily became my favorite episode by sheer warmth of heart alone, so if that's your main reason for watching this show, you're in for a treat.
If there is one thing I find weird in this season, that I feel stands out a bit as Hidamari Sketch generally goes, is that it's weirdly show-y about nudity. Even in earlier seasons, each episode would normally end with one of the girls, mostly Yuno, in the bath, but for some reason, Honeycomb chose to have an episode where Nori and Nazuna wanted to grab Miyako's breasts because they were impressed with its size. That happened in the same episode where Hiro and Sae visited Hokkaido and spent some time in a hotspring, where we got a rather indepth look at Hiro's curves. Granted, this isn't even close to the kind of sexuality I'd see in shows like My Wife is the Student Council President or Heaven's Lost Property, but it's still rather... let's call it "free spirited"... compared to the earlier seasons, and enough that it feels a little out of place. That said, I don't think it's anything to worry about, even if it's kind of noticeable.
One of my biggest fears about this season is the constant worry that the show would grow old, that its jokes would grow stale. (And the three years I had to wait for the chance to watch it certainly didn't help.) Now that I've watched it, though, I can safely put those worries to rest. Hidamari Sketch has always been a strong contender when it comes to funny and endearing material, and in Honeycomb, it's stronger than its ever been. So much so, in fact, that I'm actually getting kind of worried about the episodes centered around Hiro and Sae's graduation. I'm also still not a huge fan of this show's intro themes, which follows its own trend of almost obnoxiously peppy intro themes sung by the main cast, but on the other hand, that also means Marble returns with another pop/light rock theme to round off each episode, which is just the way I like it. Bottom line is; Hidamari Sketch started off as a really pleasant surprise, and remained strong throughout its own run. In fact, I'd dare say that Hidamari Sketch is steadily growing stronger throughout each season. But then, the show has already been available for you people for about three years already, so I'm sure you all know that already. Not that I'm bitter or anything.
Hidamari Sketch goes from strength to strength, this being the best season yet. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Yoshinoya-sensei is still being her mildly sexual-harass-y self, and much to my continued relief, all the students -- including the boys -- are still wondering whether she's right in the head. On a slightly more worried note, this season is also a bit more lenient on its nudity than before too, including a boob-touchy moment in the second episode. Still, on the grand scales of things, Hidamari Sketch is still fairly innocent, and should thus be appropriate for most people.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, sub only.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Hidamari Sketch × Honeycomb © 2012 SHAFT, Aniplex, Hidamari Apartments Administration.
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