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.
When I last reviewed this cute 4-koma series, I noted that this volume might be the last as clearly Sae and Hiro were close to graduating. Well, by the end of this volume, they’re definitely closer, but haven’t quite gotten there yet, and it seems that it will be Volume 8 where we find out how the series can keep going without two of its big players. That said, attention is paid to all six of the main cast here, along with a few of the bit players we’ve seen sprinkled throughout, so maybe it doesn’t need to end quite yet, despite the loss of its main not-yuri couple.
Sae and Hiro haven’t left yet, though this volume gives them a bit less attention on the grounds that they’re studying for finals and applying to art colleges. We see some nice interaction with the first-years, as Hiro tries to teach Nazuna to cook (which doesn’t go as well as she hoped) and Sae discusses the nature of nightmares and the value of a printed book vs. an online one with Nori. We also get the most character development we’re ever likely to see for Natsume, the tsundere who loves Sae but can only express her affection through harsh words. Luckily, things thaw a bit as Natsume is invited to be part of a Christmas Party thrown by the gang, and cuteness ensues rather than frustration. Still no confession, though.
There really aren’t very many jokes here that we haven’t really seen variations on before, just with fresh settings and slightly redone. Yuno is short, Miyako is eccentric, Hiro constantly binge eats and then binge diets, and Sae frets (this is especially clear when her sister comes for a visit, annoyed that Sae may make her college choice based on what others want rather than what she wants.) Aside from Sae and Hiro’s college stress, the one sense that time is actually passing comes when Yuno runs into Arisawa, the sempai she’d met a few books back who’s now in college.
If there’s a theme to this book, it’s “even though life moves on, you should always treasure your friends no matter what”. I suspect Sae and Hiro leaving hasn’t quite hit Yuno yet (that may be in Volume 8), but when it does, it’s going to be tough. It will be less tough for Sae and Hiro themselves, as they’ve managed to find colleges that not only have the program they need but are also right next to each other! Yuri continues to tease but be mostly absent – in fact, there’s not even a lot of teasing here, beyond their beaming faces when they note their colleges. They really need to find an apartment to share once they get to college. With a big pluffy bed.
The art school aspect, as always, isn’t pushed as much as it is in GA Art Design Class, the other 4-koma art student manga. But in the end, even if it doesn’t really knock it out of the park, Sunshine Sketch inspires smiles and “awww, cute” remarks, and the occasional giggle. It’s an excellent comfort manga – provided, as ever, you don’t mind the characters being squished like pancakes sometimes.