Day 5 – Learning to Relax with Hidamari Sketch

I don’t think I need to explain why I was drawn to Hidamari Sketch; the reasons are the exact same as those that led me to watch K-On and Yuru Yuri. The principal difference between my consumption of those two series and this one was one of time: I watched the former shows during summer break, where I spent a full three months without interacting with a single physical person outside my family. By the time I sat down and bathed in the sunshine, I was already months into my freshman year of high school, with all the upsides and downsides that came with.

It didn’t take long upon returning to school to realize that, uh, you kinda gotta talk to people if you’re gonna function at all. Not only is it useful for such important tasks as sharing answers for homework, it also just keeps you from feeling like a complete social outcast. Compared to elementary and middle school, where all my classes were with the same people, the shift towards personally-decided courses was a large one, but I wasn’t actually so resilient that I could totally avoid talking to non-otaku. However, while I did make friends within a week or two of starting school, they weren’t all that close. As with middle school, I talked to most of them for the sake of it, not because I genuinely cared about them. I certainly wasn’t hanging out with anyone outside of school; I was, as it’s called in Japan, part of the “going home” club, and once I got there I’d watch anime while spending time in the Orange chat, which I saw as the place where my true friends resided.

However, this attitude could only last so long. I began Hidamari around winter break that year, and by then, some of my friends in school had genuinely begun to worm their way into my mind, becoming more than mere discussion companions. Which, honestly, made me feel a lot of emotions. I was happy about it — after all, my attitude towards non-otaku arose as a coping mechanism for my incredible loneliness — but the ideology which had kept me from the utter depths of depression wouldn’t go away just that easily. I was still something of an elitist; it’s somewhat ironic that as I’ve come to know far more about the hobbies I partake in, I’ve grown far less snobbish about those who don’t know as much as I.

This is where Hidamari all comes in. K-On arrived at a point where I couldn’t truly appreciate friendship for all it was, leading me to care less about parts of the show in spite of the fact that I deemed it my favorite. Hidamari, on the other hand, came at a time where I was warming up to others — in spite of the weather cooling down — and it helped to further that process. My hesitance towards truly embracing these friends I was coming to care about melted away in the sun’s light. Seeing the girls of Hidamari apartments enjoy their time together so much, I couldn’t help but come to love my friends just that little bit more myself. The desire to be like the anime girls I watched was far from disappearing at this point, so it was only natural that a show like this would legitimately push me to become a better friend and, in the process, person, short though the steps may have been. Hidamari couldn’t have done all the work in making me empathetic but it sure as hell assisted in kickstarting that process. Let’s just say that I was fully capable of connecting to the emotional graduation episodes this time and leave this topic there. Today, of course, it affects me even more strongly, owing to the long run-time over which we come to know the girls, but unlike with K-On it hardly fell on deaf ears on first watch.

Of course, Hidamari affected me in one other way as well. I have always loved to write. Throughout elementary school I dreamed of being a novelist and while I occasionally spent week-long periods of wanting to follow some other profession, writing was always what I came back to. However, as an artistic job, I simply wasn’t convinced that my own abilities were strong enough to make it viable. Enter Yunocchi. It would be an understatement to claim I related to her. She’s one of 5 or so anime characters who I like to describe as literally me. As she begins the show, unsure of her own talents and worried about her future, I felt a strong degree of kinship. I was encouraged to pursue my passions by her attempts at doing the same. And oh my god, her development. In spite of being a chill-as-hell slice-of-life, bordering between nichijou-kei and iyashi-kei, Yuno steadily grows throughout the run, eventually becoming one of the most talented artists at the school. This simply destroyed me. If I connected to her so hard, and she was able to do it, then of course I could as well. That logic may be a bit silly in retrospect but it motivated me at the time nonetheless. It’d take a while before I began to exercise my writing outside of school, even longer before I’d begin the blog that changed my life forever, but this was a vital start, definitively putting me down the path that I continue to walk today.

So, I can safely say that Hidamari Sketch truly taught me to relax. Not in the sense that I couldn’t calm down before watching it; I was, perhaps, too good at such a thing. No, I mean that it allowed me to fret less about the future. It helped me to realize that I was smart enough and determined enough to succeed at what I wanted if I put some effort into it, while also making it clear not to overwork myself. I haven’t always, uh, followed the latter advice, but all-in-all it’s been incredibly helpful. This focus on building up my skills so I could do what I want, at the same time, wouldn’t have been possible without my friends by my side, so it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that Hidamari single-handedly fulfilled these initial pre-conditions for my writing career. Thank you so much, Yunocchi.

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