Friday, June 24, 2011

Sunshine Sketch Volume 5

By Ume Aoki. Released in Japan as "Hidamari Sketch" by Houbunsha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Manga Time Kirara Carat. Released in North America by Yen Press.

Wow, has it really been 18 months since the last Sunshine Sketch? This is what happens when you catch up with Japan, kids. Especially for a series like this, where there's only 8 pages a month anyway. Thankfully, the volume proves to be worth the wait, provided you like the sort of thing it delivers.

It bears repeating: if you don't like 4-koma strips starring cute girls who don't really do anything, this isn't the series for you. There is some plot and character advancement here if you're looking deeply for it, but otherwise you'd barely notice it. It's situation normal otherwise, as we get the wacky adventures of students at a high school with a track devoted to art. Unlike GA: Art Design Class, this series is not all that interested in teaching readers anything about art itself, so we mostly just see it in the context of Yuno sketching, or Miyako making giant clay hands. The comedic situations come mostly from the cast and their apartment life.

Vague things happen here: Yuno visits her parents in her hometown; Sae and Hiro go on a class trip (and talk about getting ready for entrance exams); we meet Yoshinoya's brother and nephew, and learn that she's just as flaky outside of classes (not that this comes as a surprise). And the new cast members from last volume are integrated slowly into the main cast, so we find out about Nori's kansai dialect (that she conceals most of the time) and Nazuna's ability to be homesick even when this is her actual hometown.

It's hard to write a Sunshine Sketch review without mentioning the yuri tease, which is still present and correct here. The new girls are fascinated with the size of Miyako's breasts (and Yuno tries to join in, but holds back at the last minute). Meanwhile, Sae and Hiro are still the perfect couple who aren't, with Sae saying things like "We'll always be together" and saying that she'll get a license so that she can drive Hiro everywhere. It's fairly clear from these episodes that Hiro seems to be more aware of her feelings than clueless Sae, and is just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sadly, it's not happening anytime soon. In the meantime, we must content ourselves with Miyako imagining Sae (in a suit!) and Hiro as a couple, crying at Yuno's future wedding.

Sunshine Sketch continues to be a very niche series, mostly for people who like seeing cute girls do cute things and don't mind the fact that it has no plot and little forward movement at all. This particular series also has the hurdle of the art, as Ume Aoki's super-deformed style takes some getting used to, to say the least. Of course, given the massive success of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which she did character designs for, perhaps it will get more popular!

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