Art comes in many forms. It can be conveyed through text, through audio, through visuals, and through many other forms as well. Art is extremely important to people, even if that importance is expressed in many different ways. I find joy in the consumption of all kinds of art, though when expressing my artistic ideas I prefer to do so through writing. The girls of Hidamari Apartments mostly focus on drawing and painting in order to communicate their art, but the show celebrates many types of interests and mediums through its calm slice-of-life setting at an art-focused high school, and I relate to it heavily.
Hidamari primarily explores art through its main character: Yuno. Yuno loves art and wanted to attend Yamabuki Art High School for a long time, and she was fortunately able to get in. She has the good luck of ending up in Hidamari Apartments, a place known for its eccentric inhabitants, though it’s also known for having a large number of artistically talented alumni as well.
Early on, Yuno doesn’t know much of what she wants to do. She knows she loves art, but what she actually wants to do with it alludes her, which is understandably vexing when many of her friends know what they want to do, or at least don’t worry about it nearly as much as she does. Her already somewhat timid personality mixes with this, causing her to begin the show as someone who’s quite nervous all the time, and frequently confused about what direction she wants to go in life.
In many ways, I am Yuno. When I started high school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I liked writing a lot, but I didn’t put any thought into trying to do it as a job, and I just didn’t really know which direction I wanted to go with it. Even back then many of my friends knew what they wanted to do, and at times it was hard to see a bunch of people who had clear ideas and goals while I had no clue what to do with my future.
As time went on I got a better picture of what I wanted to do, and the same applies to Yuno. As she spend more time with her original friends in Hiro, Miyako, and Sae she gets a better picture of everyone else’s art, and that helps her.
Hiro probably gets the least focus as far as her art is concerned, but her influence is still felt. She serves as the “group mom” and in doing so she holds everyone together. She puts a lot of focus into supporting the people she cares about, and plays a major role in Yuno opening up to others, an important step for her. Many of my friends have done the same for me, making it easier for me to actually enjoy myself in social situations, rather than just tolerating it.
Sae is a writer, but unlike me she has a clear idea of what she wants. She’s already being published in serials, and she mainly came to Yamabuki so she could draw her own art and capture the ideas she imagines more accurately. The entire series she has a clear idea of what she wants to do. Sae serves an important role by validating non-visual art, making it clear that everyone has their own art somewhere.
Miyako is an enigma. She has no clear goal, but she doesn’t need one. Miyako is willing to do anything really, and it totally works for her. She has no specific goals in mind other than enjoying her art, but that’s valuable as well. She motivates Yuno to be more willing to experiment while also just staying next to her as a solid base of support. Miyako spends a lot of time as a shoulder for Yuno to lean on, but that can be more important than anything else. If my friends thought my desire to be a writer was silly, I would be a lot less confident than I am.
As she spends her first year with these three, Yuno makes a big change. She becomes more confident, both in regards to her art as well as her social life, and in doing so she gains a bit of knowledge as to where she wants to go. She still doesn’t have a totally solid idea, but she’s made progress.
As she meets more people, particularly the two new first years who come to live at Hidamari Apartments, Yuno gets even more adjusted to her life and the path she wants to take it in. Along the way the show validates other interests as well; Nori has a computer and appears to do some of her art digitally, while Nazuna isn’t an artist at all but merely someone who appreciates it, yet she isn’t degraded for this.
As Yuno’s second year comes to a close, Hiro and Sae march towards graduation. I’ve written a fair amount about how much I love graduations and moments of separation in slice of life anime, and Hidamari does so just as well as any other series, but what stands out is how it furthers Yuno’s development. Faced with the reality of having to make a decision, the choice of college, Yuno begins once again to question what it is exactly that she wants to do.
The show still doesn’t have her definitively decide, but that’s presented as totally okay. Even Sae and Hiro were somewhat indecisive before they made their decisions. As someone who’s still indecisive about my future while I’m about to graduate from high school, this was very validating for me. Hidamari doesn’t shame any options nor does it privilege any of them. They’re all presented as both viable and acceptable directions for the characters to move in. No form of art they could pursue is bad, by virtue of them enjoying the art they’re making.
Other aspects of the show reflect its appreciation of art. The music in the show is mostly calmer, folksy music, particularly the ending themes. They don’t come across as the most technically complex music, but those making it clearly enjoyed it, and that’s enough. The same is true for the character designs which are odd but show the manga creator’s own tastes quite well, and because of that they’re very charming. Even the directing demonstrates this, using many SHAFTisms in order to effectively turn a 4-koma into actual episodes of an anime.
I can’t say Hidamari Sketch is perfect, but it touched me deeply with its thoughts on art. It’s a show which is mostly just about relaxing and enjoying yourself, but art without enjoyment isn’t the kind of art I’m really interested in, and the same goes for the show. I like a lot of things about Hidamari Sketch, but its relatability and shared appreciation for art is why I love it.