Sunshine Sketch Volume 4

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.

Sunshine Sketch is very good at what it does. It wants to be a cute and funny slice-of-life 4-panel comic about high school students at an art school, and that’s exactly what it is.

It’s certainly cute. The characters are stereotypes, but that’s not necessarily a drawback as long as an artist uses them well. Miyako, for example, is the spunky, energetic girl of the group, but can also be obnoxious when the situation requires it, or the spacey one, and of course it’s pointed out by the author that she’s the smartest and most talented of the group, despite her personality.

We do get two new characters in this volume, as the year passes and our heroes move up a grade. The new first years are Nori, who’s a computer girl who seems to be another ‘straight man’ character, and Nazuna, who is in the ‘normal’ track (she went to the school as it’s close to home, as opposed to all the others in the manga who are art students) and seems to be low self-confidence girl. Hopefully she will get more than that, as Yuno’s low self-confidence is generally enough for me.

It’s also got some good humor. Nothing here will make you laugh out loud, or even snort, but most of the gags will make you smile, either at the characters or in recognition. One of my favorite gags involved Yuno, our protagonist, procrastinating about what art track she wants to choose for her second year. She puts off making a decision by rearranging her entire apartment. The final gag shows her waking blearily the following morning, moving to get out of bed – and slamming into a wall, as she’d moved her bed.

This isn’t an Okazu guest review, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the yuri tease that the artist is now putting in a bit more. The final part of this volume is a non-4-panel extra comic going into Sae’s ‘rival’ Natsume, and how she met Sae. It’s pretty clear she was crushing immediately, and a combination of that and jealousy of Hiro led to her becoming what she is today. Likewise, Sae and Hiro get the occasional suggestion, notably when Sae says meeting Hiro for the first time, she thought Hiro was like a sugar candy. She says this with a huge blush, and the landlady is in the foreground with a “just kiss already!” expression of annoyance on her face.

Of course, there is one big problem here, and it makes it hard for me to unreservedly recommend this series. The art. I am used to the typical younger than they look moe style by now, but Sunshine Sketch really pushes the envelope. Its characters already look superdeformed, and then they have a further SD form that simply looks as if they were squashed by an anvil. And they really do look quite young. When Miyako is sometimes drawn relatively normally, and we see her substantial chest, it jars with the typical ‘7-year-old squishy face’ we get the rest of the manga. It also means when the author does try to draw sex appeal, it becomes very creepy. See: the cover of this volume for an example.

But if you can get past the moe-overload art, Sunshine Sketch is a good example of what it’s trying to be. Cute, fluffy, funny, and with the occasional life lesson.

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  1. I definitely agree about the cover for this volume, it's really cringeworthy. A shame as I've actually found this series to get better with each volume. In terms of 4-panel translations it's no Azumanga Daioh but is certainly better than Lucky Star anyway.

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