Hidamari Sketch: Turning Point for Shinbo?

Okay, this one might take some explaining.

First, I think we all know by now that Shinbo Akiyuki is nuts. He did SoulTaker, which I’ve heard is a very bad show, but it certainly bears his directorial imprint. He did Tsukuyomi ~Moon Phase~, which I kind of like, and kind of don’t (haven’t finished it yet, though). He did Pani Poni Dash, which I’m equally ambivalent about–I find the episodes pleasant to watch, yet I didn’t find it uproariously hilarious like many other people seemed to. Negima!? was basically Pani Poni Dash Part the Second.

And then Hidamari Sketch aired.

It was like he’d finally found his footing. Hidamari Sketch had a tiny budget, but you don’t give a shit because Shinbo is just having a grand ol’ time cutting corners and turning it into art. From the “stair-climbing animation” to the “door opening animation” to the cuts to “X” when Yuno is talking to the almost total lack of backgrounds, it’s very delightfully abstract. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that while watching episode 5, when Yuno is down with fever and sleeping all day in her room (having crazy fever dreams, of course) I actually sat there and thought about how nice it would be to be sick.

I’m not kidding.

The whole show is a pure pleasure to watch, a drastic upset from the tedium experienced in Pani Poni Dash. Rather than trying to force comedy, as Pani Poni Dash seemed to do for me, Hidamari Sketch is less trying to be a wacky comedy and more trying to be a cute, fun slice-of-life series with some light humor thrown in, which it succeeds at adeptly.

And hot on the heels of Hidamari Sketch we have Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, a quality manga (it won a Kodansha manga award for shounen) turned into a quality Shinbo anime. Here, Shinbo’s visual antics can only enhance the experience, including what is probably the best Shinbo OP sequence ever (lesbians, anyone?). I said it in an earlier post, but Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is one of the most consistently hilarious anime I’ve seen (“I am a MASTER at avoiding eye contact!”)

And, finally, there’s ef – a tale of memories. I’m not very far into the series yet, and Shinbo isn’t directing so much as supervising (I prefer to think of it as “instructing fresh blood in the fine art of being totally insane”), but, again, he’s bringing his distinctive visual flair into the mix, a fitting way to approach an anime based on a visual novel that used the talents of Shinkai Makoto to animate the OP sequence.

In short, I feel Hidamari Sketch was a true turning point for Shinbo, at least in my eyes. I think it just goes to show you shouldn’t write off any one director on a permanent basis.

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