Sunshine Sketch, Vol. 6

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.

As I have noted many times before, there are certain manga that I like *because* I can go into them and not be surprised. Most 4-koma style manga fall into that category, mostly as plot development, if any, is glacial. In the case of Ume Aoki’s Sunshine Sketch, I have a limited pallette I want to see. Will Sae and Hiro have not-quite-yuri moments? Will Miyako be extremely silly and weird? Will Yuno be adorable? And indeed I got all of these things while reading the 6th volume of this series. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that I did also get some character development, as well as a sense that Vol. 7 may be the final one (at least for our favorite third-years).

First off, it has to be said that Yoshinoya-sensei, the girls’ teacher, has never particularly been a favorite of mine. She’s there purely as comic relief, and the exhibitionist and boob jokes have always seemed vaguely out of place in a moe blob series like this. And indeed, we still get both of those here. But I was also pleased to see signs that she is a good teacher at heart, as well as a few strips showing her bonding with her own generation of friends. And her advice to Hiro at the end is spot on, seeing through all of Hiro’s stress right to what’s really going on, and soothing her while letting Hiro understand the solution has to come from her. It’s a nice thing to see.

Speaking of Hiro, I was rather surprised by the final collection of strips here, as I figured that if anyone was going to freak out about graduation and losing her best friend, it would be Sae. Hiro has always seemed to be the more mature and together one in our favorite pair. That said, the desire to have a beloved situation stay exactly the same is a well-known one. Hiro’s choice of career, as Sae notes, is an excellent one, and has been quietly signposted through the previous volumes. But most of all, there’s Sae’s reassurance that things will be OK, even if the two are separated that finally soothes Hiro and gives her resolve. They are a wonderful couple (except they aren’t a couple), and everyone around them knows it.

As for the rest, Nazuna has the cover with Yuno this time around, and I’m slowly getting used to her and Nori. She seems to be funniest when horrible things are happening to her, sad to say. As for the art style, well, it’s Volume 6. If readers disliked the art I’m sure they would have dropped it by now. I have noticed a lot less ‘squashed SD’ style in these latter panels, as the girls seem to be drawn more ‘normally’, presumably as Aoki has gained confidence in her work.

Sunshine Sketch 6 gives readers exactly what they want from this sort of series: more of what they like about it. And, as an added bonus, there’s some additional depth as well. An excellent quick read.

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