Sunshine Sketch, Vol. 9

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. Translated by Sheldon Drzka.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been thirty-three months since my last Sunshine Sketch review. This is mostly as it’s been that long since the last volume – the series is coming out at a far slower pace now, so it’s taken a while to get the new volume to these shores. That said, it really doesn’t feel like we’ve been away. There’s not quite as much art class here, though we do see several of the student doubting their art progression. The majority of the volume is devoted either to the class trip that Yuno and Miyake and company take to Kansai, as well as visiting Hiro’s college and starting to think about where they want to go to school after graduation. Yuno shares the cover with Matsuri, the new girl introduced last time, and she seems to be nice, sort of like Miyako without the weirdness. It does beg the question, though: the series survived Sae and Hiro graduating, can it survive Yuno and Miyako too?

Of course, Sae and Hiro are at their nearby colleges, so they do manage to show up here as well, when Yun o and Miyako visit for an open campus tour. This allows us to get in several “lol, Hiro is pudgy” jokes, which aren’t very funny, as well as Hiro tossing Miyako like a caber in revenge, which is. As for the school trip, the characters of Nakayama and Mami, Yuno and Miyako’s classmates, are greatly expanded on here so that we can have the standard “we are in a group of four” field trip fun. Nakayama seems to be terrified of anything “naughty”, which leads to a few amusing gags, but Mami is more “generic friend”. The group visits temples, has pillow fights, etc., and we occasionally cut back to Nazuna and Nori, who are back at the apartments missing them.

Despite Sae and Hiro’s appearance, there’s little yuri tease there. Instead it comes from Natsume, who is also at college with Hiro and whose tsundere love for Sae does not really seem to have diminished, and Miyako, who does her best “Sae-san” impression a couple of times on Yuno, and we see that the subtext may not be quite as broad as it was before but it’s still there. At one point, it’s lampshaded that no one at the school is boy crazy at all. Funny, that. It’s almost like Ume Aoki knows what would make her lose a large portion of her audience. That said, for the most part this series is still meant for those who like 4-koma slice of life stuff, and runs on the charm of its main cast. Yuna and Miyako are still the best things in it. I’m hoping it won’t be another thirty-three months before the next volume.

Sunshine Sketch, Vol. 8

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.

Sunshine Sketch, Vol. 7

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.