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.
It becomes clear a little ways into this eighth volume of Sunshine Sketch that we really aren’t going to be able to drag out Sae and Hiro’s graduation any longer than half the volume, and therefore the series is not going to be wrapping up after all, but continue with Yuno and Miyako as third-years. As it turns out this is fine. We get a new first-year who is sufficiently different from the rest of the cast to add some fresh new gags to this somewhat mild gag comedy, and we also get to see Yuno deal with being a sempai at her height, and Miyako being forced to think about her future beyond what’s for lunch that day. Before we get that, though, we *do* have half a volume of Sae and Hiro graduation comics.
I’ve said before that Sunshine Sketch is not really a title you read if you enjoy surprises in your plotting and characterization. It’s a ‘comfort’ manga, where you want to see people react as they always have. So we see one last round of Sae stressing out, and Hiro worrying about her weight, and of course the inevitable suggestions of yuri without any actual yuri. Yuno and Miyako describe their apartment hunting as sounding like they’re planning a wedding, and indeed they’re sharing an apartment for college that’s close to both their respective schools. Oh yes, and Sae continues to panic about Hiro having a life revolving outside of her, which is somewhat immature but cute. She even returns at the end of the book just to fret about that, showing that the couple won’t be permanently disappearing.
As for the new character, Matsuri is upbeat and outgoing, similar to Miyako but without the inherent strangeness, although she does seem to think that the art department is a lot less normal than she anticipated. (Perhaps she’s been reading a lot of art school 4-komas, I hear they’re all the rage.) Like Nori and Nazuna, she’s eased in gradually, and the departure of Sae and Hiro also allows for more of Nori and Nazuna as they have to pick up the slack, showing off Nazuna’s somewhat airheaded ‘normal’ side and Nori occasionally breaking out of her ‘straight man’ tendencies. They still don’t feel quite as strong as Yuno and Miyako, but they’ve had less time.
I really liked the subplot with Miyako bringing up a relevant point for those who’ve followed her story from the start – she’s always incredibly poor, how is she going to be able to afford to go to college? Luckily her parents and brother seem to have anticipated this, and though they say she may need a scholarship (given she’s a natural genius, I can’t imagine this will be hard to get), it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine her and Yuno also moving into an apartment to go to art college once the series comes to a close. However, that day is not today. Today, we welcome a new character, some old gags given fresh paint, say goodbye to some friends, and await the next volume, which hopefully will not take another two years to come out.