Since the third season of Hidamari Sketch finished I’ve gone back and watched the first two. It’s become a sort of comfort food; I’ve probably seen each season in its entirety three times now. That’s a little too much even for me. I want new episodes. I am overjoyed that another season is on the way, but in the meantime what shall tide me over? Ah, that’s right! Hidamari loves to give us specials.
And this time I’m better prepared to write about the series. I finally know the running gags and can recognize at least some of the quick visual things that whooshed past me before; now I even know who Akiyuki Shinbo is! (THAT was a revelation. Early on watching Madoka I wondered who was directing and discovered just how many shows the man had directed before, and how many I had liked. I also remember comparing Hoshimittsu to Bakemonogatari as a joke–the joke was on me) So when I finally sat down to watch SP1 I was a little disappointed. Part of it was reality never living up to expectation, part of is is that a Hidamari episode never really jumps out and grabs you anyway. But part of it was simply that the timing and execution felt a little off. Also, they throw in some new visual tricks, not to mention at least one thing borrowed from another Shinbo show–kids doing sound effects–that I recall from Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (that one was especially creepy, as is the new “countdown” visual they have that looked like one of Madoka’s witch worlds, especially when it looked like Ume-Sensei got eaten). It’s like the creators are tinkering a little, seeing what cool new effects work before plunging into the new season. I can live with that. The essential things haven’t changed.
After a quick view of Yoshinoya being Yoshinoya, we get the new OP sequence. I dunno. Why a cake theme and not art? Because Nazuna’s not in the art department? Because Hiro won the drawing? Anyway, it’s July 9th. The girls have a few days off from school and visit the “Hatone” Open Air Museum, which a quick google search reveals itself to be “Hakone.” Unfortunately, apart from the main pavillion, that’s the only connection I can see. A quick Google search didn’t reveal any of sculptures the girls horse around with, but they probably rotate exhibits in and out. There is, however a steel ball that might have been the inspiration for the cylinder. Considering the care the show takes to give each sculpture a full 360 degree view, it’s shame they don’t seem to be showing us actual works. Perhaps that requires permission. Not that it matters to the girls, who have fun riffing off of each one they encounter, grounded in reality or not. Miyako, not surprisingly, is the most fun. Even when it’s someone else making the comment about the piece, she’s off to one side trying to mimic the pose, getting Yuno to dance with her, or convincing Sae to hold up Hiro (nice squished view effect there).
Speaking of Hiro and Sae, the specials again play that little game of “are they or aren’t they?” which ought to be “will they or won’t they?” The most blatant moment may have been the futon-sharing later, but the sweetest little moment came in the scene above, as the two just talk about the world of art, asking trivial questions about their futures, really just talking, and everyone else in the gallery edges away from the intimate glow they give off.
The second half (Aug 28, if you’re keeping score) is a trip to the local pool, and if it doesn’t work as well as the first half it at least carries out a promise made earlier in the series. The characters are always asking for or promising something, usually having to do with Hiro teaching someone how to cook something, but rarely do we get to see a promise kept. Now they’re (minus Hiro and Sae, who–sigh–are seniors now and busy studying) taking Yuno to teach her how to float, and also for Nori and Miyako (strangely serious it) to train for a school swim meet. Which means a lot of closeups of the girls in school swimsuits, however, looking somewhat alien in their swim caps and goggles. First-year Nori, surprisingly, gets a lot of attention, and in fact acts as the group’s leader. Not surprising, I guess, under the circumstances. Besides, she’s always been a practical type, often asking the questions we might ask, such as why hold a slumber party when they see each other all the time, anyway? Yuno, however, is the main focus, as we get a reprise of the hammer/saw jokes and actually learns to float! While not unconscious! After that it’s the slumber party, where once again some sweet moments occur, and, before they can become cloying, run headlong into sight gags. Nothing’s changed.
SP2 brings us May 9th, meaning it comes earlier than anything in Sp1, followed by July 15, which is in-between somewhere. (Nothing’s changed) More summer episodes. I wonder why? Anyway, they clean curtains in Miyako’s inflatable pool, splashing about, making soap bubbles and generally having a good time, as they always do. Would you watch it otherwise? On July 15, the landlady invites them out to an all-you-can-eat meat buffet, which means she’s up to something (Nothing’s changed). They’ve already built a new apartment sign for her (which would be a fun chore a pack of art students could enjoy), and clean out the empty rooms (not so fun). So apart from jokes about meat and Hiro’s cake project, we’re simply waiting for the inevitable. I’m glad to say it, for once, turns out well. And at the end, Yuno winds up in her bathtub. So if these two episodes are any indication, you might see some different weird visuals or 360 degree turns around things, but as I have said too many times now, nothing important has changed. I’m glad. When does the new season begin?