My first versus blog featuring three animes based around art. They are Sketchbook ~Full Color’s~ (Sketchbook), Hidamari Sketch (Hidamari) and GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class (Geijutsuka). Art isn’t my favourite or strong subject but it doesn’t stop me from watching them because of the comedy factor (if not the slice of life genre too). Is it because of their quirky and wacky behaviour that contributes to their creativity in art or they’re just like that? Or are they really natural born talents? Since art is a relatively subjective subject, it all depends on the eye of the beholder. Make sure you have the same group of people that have the same taste as you do.

The school
Sketchbook: Fukuoka High School.
Hidamari: Yamabuki Art High School.
Geijutsuka: Ayanoi High School.

The main girls
Notice that all 3 series feature a group of girls in an art club? Is the fairer sex better in art? What a total u-turn than those days when they were dominated by men.
Sketchbook: Sora Kajiwara, Natsumi Asou and Hazuki Torikai.
Hidamari: Yuno, Miyako, Sae and Hiro.
Geijutsuka: Kisaragi Yamaguchi, Miyabi “Kyouju” Oomichi, Tomokane, Namiko Nozaki and Miki Noda.

Other classmates
Other supporting characters of the art club (may or may not be in same year).
Sketchbook: Kokage Kuga, Nagisa Kurihara, Asaka Kamiya, Juju Sasaki, Daichi Negishi, Ujou Sugyou, Ryou Tanabe, Fuu Himuro, Kate and Tsukiyo Ooba.
Hidamari: Nazuna, Nori and Natsume.
Geijutsuka: Chikako Awara, Mizubuchi, Uozomi, Homura and Tomokane’s brother.

The naive one
Which group will be complete without them?
Sketchbook: Sora.
Hidamari: Yuno.
Geijutsuka: Kisaragi.

Always seen with
Refers to the object that is always seen possessed by the naive one. Some sort of a trademark.
Sketchbook: Her sketchbook. And when outside for a walk, her straw hat.
Hidamari: Her ‘X’ hair clip accessory.
Geijutsuka: Her spectacles (always seem like wanting to fall off her face).

Her dreams
No, not referring to the naive one’s goal in life, but the sleeping one. And it’s a little weird too.
Sketchbook: In episode 11, Sora wakes up from a dream that she fed the cats expired food.
Hidamari: The first season has several episodes Yuno having weird dreams. In episode 5, sick Yuno dreams of arriving at school late to see Principal in singlet and shorts. And it’s snowing, you know. In episode 6, Yuno gets chased by a red cloak and misinterprets the red curtain as failing grades. Then in episode 11, she dreams of being abducted by aliens who then performed experiments on her!
Geijutsuka: In episode 8, Kisaragi dreams of being in a dream and in a dream. Among the weird surrealism happening are the locker room getting flooded, an eternal staircase and Namiko hanging from the sky.

The energetic one
The one responsible for many of the jokes and troublemaking incidents. Call them the joker of the pack.
Sketchbook: Natsumi and Asaka.
Hidamari: Miyako.
Geijutsuka: Tomokane and Noda.

Morbid-looking one
The one that have an aura of mystery around them. A little taciturn too. Sometimes creepy…
Sketchbook: Kuga.
Hidamari: Nil.
Geijutsuka: Kyouju.

The annoyed one
Seems they need a little anger management themselves after sometimes needing to put their feet down on the pranks caused by the mischievous ones.
Sketchbook: Negishi.
Hidamari: Sae.
Geijutsuka: Namiko and Awara.

The masculine one
Some girls display more masculine traits than their feminine side.
Sketchbook: Juju.
Hidamari: Sae.
Geijutsuka: Tomokane.

Hairstyles
Not your usual straight hair or pony-tails.
Sketchbook: Ooba has unkempt hair and long bangs that cover her eyes.
Hidamari: Hiro’s hair ‘spreads out’ like Medusa on wet rainy days.
Geijutsuka: Noda, also a fashion lover is seen with a different hairstyle in many episodes.

Siblings
Some of the characters in the series have little siblings.
Sketchbook: Ao is Sora’s little brother.
Hidamari: Chika is Sae’s little sister.
Geijutsuka: Tomokane’s brother (that’s what he is known in the anime as) is Tomokane’s well, older brother.

Teacher
The teacher of the art club.
Sketchbook: Hiyori Kasugano.
Hidamari: Yoshinoya.
Geijutsuka: Takuma Sotoma.

Other teaching staff
Sketchbook: Soyogi Asakura.
Hidamari: The Principal, Kawahara and Mashiko.
Geijutsuka: Mayumi Usami and Sasamoto.

Adult child
The teacher that acts like a kid rather than her age.
Sketchbook: Kasugano.
Hidamari: Yoshinoya.
Geijutsuka: Usami.

Animal mascot
Notice the animals featured in the series?
Sketchbook: Cats.
Hidamari: I don’t know if that bug on Hidamari Apartments could be considered as an animal. If not, then the bunch of doves.
Geijutsuka: Chickens.

The cat factor
Somehow these characters seem to be close to the little feline friend.
Sketchbook: Sora.
Hidamari: Miyako (at least for 1 episode).
Geijutsuka: Kisaragi (at least the cat sketches seen in her sketchbook).

Phobia
Sketchbook: Natsumi fears thunder.
Hidamari: Hiro is afraid of ghosts.
Geijutsuka: Usami is scared of blood donations.

Sleeper
Zzzz… Not to mean that they love sleeping.
Sketchbook: Kasugano (because she’s lazy).
Hidamari: Hiro (not a morning person to be exact).
Geijutsuka: Awara (she loves sleeping in her art club room?).

Outdoor art assignment
You can’t be cooped up in the classroom all year long if you want to hone your art skills further, right?
Sketchbook: In episode 4, Sora and Nagisa had an art field trip at an isolated park with lush greenery.
Hidamari: In episode 11 of the first season, the gang leaves for a sketching field trip to the zoo. Then in episode 9 of the third season, the gang did outdoor sketch at a park.
Geijutsuka: In episode 7 whereby the gang visits the art gallery whereby one of their classmates won an award and had her works exhibit there.

The camera factor
It’s not about brushes and palettes too, you know.
Sketchbook: Minamo (Negishi’s sister) has a habit of carrying a camera wherever she goes and snapping pictures that interests her. In episode 10, Minamo lends Sora her camera so that she could take some pictures.
Hidamari: In an OVA episode of the second season, Sae bought a second-hand Polaroid camera as she and her friends take pictures of each other in different poses and costumes.
Geijutsuka: In episode 4, viewers get to learn tips on how to use photos effectively for art. Also, the gang experiments with this by using their handphones to snap photos as part of their assignment.

The food factor
Yummy…
Sketchbook: Sora feeding the cats expired food. And P-chan experiencing a cold shiver whenever its owner Kasugano expresses her desire to eat chicken meat!
Hidamari: Feast your eyes on the various delicious dishes that Yuno has to offer! And Miyako is a glutton herself…
Geijutsuka: After talking about apples and gravity, the girls decide to go try out a new apple menu at a cafe. Then a time when the girls gather at Namiko’s place for an assignment and ends up making Yami Nabe. Then it turned into Chaos Nabe. Scary!

Skits
Sketchbook: The pair of Drama Queens (that’s what I called them), Ryou and Fuu doing weird comedy gags and jokes directly addressed to the audience.
Hidamari: The yonkoma at the next episode preview.
Geijutsuka: There is a short play before the start of each episode.

The Yuko Goto factor
The characters she voiced in the series.
Sketchbook: Kate.
Hidamari: Hiro.
Geijutsuka: Nil.

The Miyuki Sawashiro factor
The characters she voiced in the series.
Sketchbook: Nil.
Hidamari: The Landlady.
Geijutsuka: Tomokane and her brother.

Art and visuals
Other than the ordinary 2D drawing.
Sketchbook: The beautiful sceneries.
Hidamari: Usually done as shift changer, some of the visual styles include real photo cut-outs, labelling of objects and marker pen-like drawings.
Geijutsuka: In each episode, there will be simple and basic lessons on art techniques.

Episode order
Sketchbook: In chronological order.
Hidamari: In mixed up and anachronic order.
Geijutsuka: In chronological order.

Episode title
Refers to the naming of the title of each episode.
Sketchbook: Normal. Nothing extraordinary.
Hidamari: Have dates in which the event occurs.
Geijutsuka: Mainly named after types of art that is featured in that episode.

Background music
This is what I noticed the big chunk of the background music to be.
Sketchbook: Slow and casual, feels like lounge music.
Hidamari: Fun and simple tunes.
Geijutsuka: Jazzy and easy pieces.

Opening and ending themes
Sketchbook: Opening theme is Kaze Sagashi by Natsumi Kiyoura and ending theme is Sketchbook Wo Motta Mama by Yui Makino.
Hidamari: All opening themes from 3 seasons are sung by Kana Asumi, Kaori Mizuhashi, Ryoko Shintani and Yuko Goto. They are Sketch Switch (opening 1), Hatena De Wasshoi (opening 2) and Dekiru Kanatte Hoshimittsu (opening 3). All ending themes from 3 seasons are sung by Marble. They are Mebae Drive (ending 1), Ryuusei Record (ending 2) and Sakura Sakura Saku: Ano Hi Kimi Wo Matsu, Sora To Onaji De (ending 3).
Geijutsuka: The opening theme is Osaki Ni Sil Vous Plait by Haruka Tomatsu, Miyuki Sawashiro, Yui Horie, Ai Tokunaga and Kaori Nazuka. The ending theme is Coloring Palettes and each have their own version depending on which of the girls is singing it.

Number of episodes
Sketchbook: The TV series has 13 episodes.
Hidamari: Spanning over 3 seasons, the first season had 12 episodes, the second season had 13 episodes and the third season had 12 episodes.
Geijutsuka: There are 12 episodes in the TV series.

Specials
Other non-TV episodes. Means if you but the DVD you get to watch these extras…
Sketchbook: 6 episodes of Picture Dramas.
Hidamari: The first season had 2 special episodes while the second season had a “fourteenth” OVA episode plus additional 2 special episodes.
Geijutsuka: A single OVA episode was released back in April 2010.

Conclusion
Each of the series has their own unique points so it is hard for me to say which one is better. I like Sketchbook because of the numerous background music which truly provides ear candy to me (not forgetting the Drama Queens). I like Hidamari because of the various art visuals on display as well as the amusing weirdo Yoshinoya (she’s got to be the weirdest of the weirdest) and I prefer Geijutsuka in terms of the insights and enlightenment of several art techniques and methods. Ultimately in all series, it is the behaviour of the characters that drives the story and how they interact with each other. My drawing still sucks big time so it’s no surprise that I don’t even draw my own doujin work (if I ever had one in the first place). So being an artist may not make you a millionaire in your lifetime but it is the passion for it that makes many enthusiasts continue with their love. Unless you’re already dead, that should rake in millions at Sotheby’s or Christie’s =p.

Sketchbook ~Full Color's~
Hidamari Sketch
GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class

As usual one of my mindless surfing on the internet has me to chance something which will never cross my mind in a million years. That’s right. I have never given much thought that Sketchbook ~Full Color’s~ had extra specials in the form of Picture Dramas. As extra ‘motivation’ for fans and viewers to buy the DVD, you need something extra to make their dollars worth, right? Those who aren’t familiar with what Picture Dramas are, they are actually still pictures (unlike animated ones you see in the TV series) with dialogues and music background. About what? Whatever. Depends on the series. And since Sketchbook is one of those art class, slice of life comedy theme, I guess I know what to expect a little as each Picture Drama lasts around 7-8 minutes. Plus, this is my first time that my blog is dedicated to Picture Dramas.
 
Picture Drama 1
Sora, Natsumi, Hazuki, Nagisa and Kuga are taking a train trip to Kanegawa for their beach trip. Seems they are running late because Kuga spent too much time buying souvenirs. It doesn’t help when Sora’s shoelaces are weirdly tied. I don’t want to know how they ended up that way but thankfully they made it. In the train, Sora tries to sketch in her sketchbook a large castle but it has long pass (I remember she has a penchant for wanting to sketch moving objects). The girls talk about the inn that they’re going to live in and their plan to play on the sunny beach. Then the train passes the ocean so Sora decides to sketch it but it is soon blocked by the mountain. I don’t know how ‘thin’ the mountain is that’s because the ocean full is visible again. The gang are overwhelmed and in awe of the magnificent sight of the vast ocean filled with glittering light reflected on its surface beneath the clear blue sky. So much so Sora forgot to sketch once more and by the time she realizes it, the mountain hides it again. As the announcer announces their arrival at Kanegawa, the girls start panicking as they haven’t pack up yet. In yet another haste to get off but Sora’s shoelaces are untied… "Fix it once we leave the train!".
 
Picture Drama 2
Unfortunately this time, the girls missed the bus. All because Natsumi was in the toilet too long and Kuga taking her time sampling steamed buns. Now they’ll have to wait 2 hours for the next one. Sora notices the ocean nearby so the girls decide to kill some time enjoying themselves there. However to their disappointment it is barren. No stalls, no nothing. Just an old guy picking up probably garbage. Since they’re here, might as well change into their swimsuits and have fun. While changing, Natsumi notices she forgot to bring her swimsuit. Luckily Kuga had brought a spare. A school swimsuit. Well, better than nothing. Why did she bring a spare? Something about she wasn’t sure on which one to wear since one was from her first year and the other the current year and also in a dilemma about the style of her name written on the swimsuits. Remember, Kuga herself is weird. As they play in the water, Sora decides to go fetch her sketchbook but they see a couple of crabs resting on it. Thinking how cute they are and not wanting to bother them, she just watches them. The sun is setting and the girls return to catch the bus, only to miss it again. That’s another 2 hours to wait… Sora decides to sketch their depression in replacement so the rest decide to do the crab walk for her. Well, Sora also got into it and couldn’t do her sketch.
 
Picture Drama 3
Natsumi has bad news for everyone. Since they’re late, DINNER IS ALREADY OVER!!! The next bus is in 2 hours time and the inn’s cook has gone home. Well, partly it’s her fault for leading everyone to a so called short cut but got lost and also trying to hitch-hike when there are no cars passing by. What to do? Luckily they are allowed to use the kitchen and ingredients to make their own dinner. First up, they need to cut the fish. Erm… do they have to kill that live fish? Somebody’s got to do it. Hazuki has been given that ‘honour’ but she and the rest starts panicking. Animal lover Nagisa says that they’ve got to think about the fish’s feelings. She suddenly strikes the fish and explains since they’re going to eat the fish anyway, might as well get over it fast and make it less painful. Uhn… If you put it that way… Natsumi watches the rest cook but gets dejected when she realizes she is the only one who can’t cook. Even Sora can make soup stock. So she decides to put all her effort in making rice and with all her passion and effort poured into washing, mixing and cooking the perfect rice, in the end Hazuki pointed out she forgot to plug it in and switch the rice cooker on. Duh… Everyone finishes cooking and seems it can be considered 5-star hotel level. As everyone starts digging in, Sora decides to sketch the sumptuous meal but to her dismay the food is gobbled down so fast since everyone was hungry. When they realized Sora’s intentions, they apologize and recreate the dishes in their artistic way. Fish bones looking artistic?
 
Picture Drama 4
Did the TV series have any fanservice? Well this hotspring episode may just what we’re waiting for. Just kidding. Nothing scandalous or eye-popping. As the girls soak in the hotspring, the chat about its benefits and Nagisa swimming in it since it’s so wide. I suppose Natsumi has got some superiority complex in the boobs department as she decides to discreetly and indirectly check out the size of her pals’ boobs. Seems she’s on a winning streak and all that’s left is Kuga’s. However Kuga is pretty ‘defensive’ as attempts like offering to wash her back didn’t allow Natsumi a single chance. That’s when she decided to go back into the hotspring and wait for the perfect chance as she stares at Kuga. Stare and stare and stare and stare and splash! She collapsed due to too much heat. When she comes to, she’s in the dressing room with her pals around her. She notices herself being wrapped in Kuga’s towel since as she mentioned it was cooler for her body. When everyone leaves, Natsumi asks Sora if she had seen Kuga take off her towel. Natsumi tries to subtly hint if she has seen Kuga’s boobs but Sora is too dense to understand what she’s saying. What are the things that girls are interested the most? Cat paws! No lah! So Natsumi tells it straight to her the ‘B’ word so after thinking real hard, finally Sora replies "Kuga-senpai’s breasts… She got 2 of them". HAHAHA!!! How disappointing. But that’s Sora for you as she wonders if she should’ve sketched them since Natsumi wanted to know so much about her breasts.
 
Picture Drama 5
The girls are tugging in for the night but Natsumi isn’t happy since the night is still young. Well, the rest think pillow fights are childish and that they’re not into ghost stories. So Natsumi suggests a love confession stories and has Nagisa start off with her ideal guy. After all that exciting description of someone like summer and the likes, it dawned to them it’s some bug. Hehe. She’s a bug lover, remember. Next, Natsumi wants Hazuki to confess and after mentioning she doesn’t want those in dramas, prefers him calm, planning, warm and fuzzy, the rest start guessing she may be referring to Mike (the cat in the series) and if not the arts club. Natsumi is getting frustrated that this isn’t a love confession story so they ask about her love story instead. Natsumi starts getting fidgety, uneasy and loss for words. In a desperate move, she did a futon dive and suggests everyone going back to sleep since they’re righteous high school girls and love stories are still too early for them. Plus, they need their beauty sleep to wake up early tomorrow. Wow. She sure came up with lots of excuses.
 
Picture Drama 6
Sora couldn’t sleep or rather she woke up too early than the rest so she decides to take a walk at the shore. This is where Sora’s observation power comes ins like noticing the dark blue sky becoming one with the sea, the distant factory and the lined up tetrapods that somehow gave her a nostalgic feeling. She spots a cat that closely resembles Mika and decides to call it Umike, a word combination of Mike and Umi (sea). The cat leaves as Sora notices the sky now turning orange and that’s when Nagisa and Kuga turn up to watch the sunrise with her. This is followed by Hazuki and noisy Natsumi (disrupting the peace and quiet of the beach. Can’t she read the ‘please be quiet’ sign?). By that time the sun has stick its head over the horizon as Sora takes out her sketchbook to sketch the scene. Nagisa wishes the rest of their art club members could be here to watch the sunrise so Kuga says not to worry because Sora is sketching it for them. Sora remembers this nostalgic feeling. It was different feeling when they first departed because she’s not alone and together with everyone else. And this unknown seashore from this moment onwards, it becomes a seashore that they’re acquainted with. Sora’s sketchbook finally has the sunrise scene as she also sketches Umike into it. And Natsumi continues to be noisy…
 
Moving sketches…
Well, the entire Picture Drama series isn’t just still pictures as I expected as there are some animation but in the form of cardboard cut-outs on a stick like those you see in small puppet theatres. Of course personally I feel the Picture Dramas aren’t anything much but at least they bring back nostalgic feeling when I was watching the series several years ago. Yeah, the wacky characters of the art club and those soothing background music. Oh yeah. Such nostalgia.
 
I remember Natsumi being the lively and boisterous one of the pack but I don’t remember her being a little idiotic. I mean it’s like in this whole Picture Drama series, her energetic-ness serves more like comic relief. But I shouldn’t be complaining because without her, the whole series would have been boring and plain. Sora is still the same plain weird girl but that is to be expected and thus was more amusing than funny. Kuga too is another weirdo and is just like Sora herself. Hey, what happened to the pair of Drama Queens from the TV series? I really love and miss their nonsensical dramatic ranting. Too bad I don’t see them making a single appearance here. It could’ve been funnier. Maybe this is for Natsumi to hog a little limelight. After all, the Picture Dramas do lack a lot of many other characters from the TV series like the other art club members, their teacher and those cats.
 
Though the artwork of the Picture Dramas remains consistent with the TV series, it’s not anything special or to shout about either because as far as I know, Picture Dramas usually have higher quality and detail put into the art. And being an art themed anime, I thought it was a little ironic. But even so if they really do touch up the artwork, it may look a lot different than its usual and fans would have a hard time to identify with it and most probably wouldn’t like it either. As I’ve said the Picture Dramas serves as good nostalgia and fun with the few main characters. Too bad ever since watching this series and a few other art themed ones, I still haven’t got any artistic urge to pick up the brush and draw. Maybe I’d prefer to just watch other people’s work. That’s easier :).
 

Sketchbook ~Full Color's~
Perhaps the storyline in this slice of life anime series Sketchbook ~Full Color’s~ isn’t the most exciting or unique in the world. Because of its slow pace manner, I guess the thing which attracts me is background music. This isn’t really a popular or mainstream series so for those who have watched it would at least agree to a certain degree that some of its background music are calming and soothing to listen to. Well, that is if you like this kind of music anyway.
 
The series original soundtrack album has a total of 25 songs only and I know it isn’t much compared to other series which have packed nearly 50 tracks into a single album nor have multiple soundtracks released. Hey, this is a short series so I guess it is cost wise to just compose enough for the show. Besides, the album includes the TV versions of the opening and ending theme of the series and the background music are all composed and credited to Ken Muramatsu. Listed below are my all time favourites in alphabetical order:
 
1) Balloon Mode ~Piano Solo
2) Chiisana Shiawase
3) Hitomishiri Na Mama De
4) Toomawari Shite Kaero
5) Watashi No Jikan
6) Watashi No Jikan ~Mata Ashita
7) Yuuyake Wo Aruite Ne
 
Most of the songs in the album as mentioned are calming and soothing as they are fit for easy listening like those lounge music. Other than that, they sound jazzy but not so heavy. Among the septuplets, my favourite one is Hitomishiri Na Mama De, which I feel is the theme of the series. A 3 piece music combining piano as the lead with the bass and light drum beats in the background. The average-slow pace of this simple tune gives an impression of a trouble-free day as everything is easy going. No worries, no stress. Should hear this song more often.
 
Watashi No Jikan is my next favourite song and the pace and feel is equal of that to Hitomishiri Na Mama De. Helps very much in relaxing to me. Need I explain more? Watashi No Jikan ~Mata Ashita is of course a variation of Watashi No Jikan and is a piano solo in a much slower pace. Toomawari Shite Kaero seems to play a little with the timing and pause/rest intervals. A piano and bass arrangement, at first I thought the song ended earlier than expected because both instruments stopped playing. Until I realized that there is a little more towards the end and that second time ended for real thereafter. Yeah, you could say it initially ‘caught me off guard’.
 
Another slow piano solo is Balloon Mode ~Piano Solo. Though the pace is slow, but there is a little happy and contented feel in the way the song is played. Yuuyake Wo Aruite Ne aptly fits its title because this piano solo piece played in an unhurried manner gives an impression of walking back during dusk hours while reminiscing about things. Chiisana Shiawase gives a feeling of a song befitting those Japanese night festivals most probably because of the way the high end notes of the piano and background flute is played.
 
Other tracks in the album include Hitomishiri Na Mama De -Deai Ga Shira- (a short tune lasting only 3 seconds and if my memory serves me well, is used for the eye-catch), Maigo No Koneko (a song which I remember usually played when the cats in the series make their appearance. The organ play of the song makes it sound ‘cute’), Balloon Mode ~Yume Kara Samete Mo (starts out with what sounds like a musical box tune – or is it an electric organ? – before it turns waltzy with the strings and violin coming in), Kusatsumi No Uta (a slow country-like blues banjo picking lasting less than a minute), Hohoemi No Moto (sounds like a 2 piece traditional Japanese string instrument, if not a banjo, for a calming effect. I remember this piece being played a lot in the series), Harukaze No Okurimono (a bit of a easy salsa/cha-cha feel the way the flute and organ is played), Kumo No Mio No Iku (a moderate piano piece with the strings as accompaniment later in the song) and Yuumagure No Kuni (another slow piano piece with strings and bass in the background which also plays with the pause/rest intervals. Hmm… Has a little feel of Chinese oriental tune in it and gives a feel of a soothing oriental evening. For the record, this is the longest track in the album, lasting just over 5 minutes).
 
The rest of the tracks have that jazzy or blues feel to it like Akichi No Sora ~Nekotachi No Jiyuu (a slow and easy jazzy blues melody and gives an impression that you’re in a cool relaxing nightclub), Speed 2 (a moderate but upbeat jazzy feel and another melody frequently played in the series), Bokura No Bouken (another jazz blues song using the electric organ to give it a groovy feel. Also commonly played in the show), Bokura No Bouken ~Kaerimichi (a slower version of Bokura No Bouken and is a piano solo), Ochoushimono No Uta (another moderate but soft and lively jazz piece), Kibou No E Saki (I find a lively mix somewhat between jazz and salsa), Kibou No E Saki ~Maihen (feels like a lively piano ragtime with bass and light drums but shorter variation of Kibou No E Saki) and Happy Hour (an easy going jazz number again using the electric organ as its lead).
 
Sometimes I feel that those jazzy and blues tunes don’t really fit the series because the show focuses on art club students rather than a blues band or something like that. But either way, all the tracks are definitely soothing and match the pace of the series perfectly. Of course there are the full opening and ending albums for those who are interested. Just like the original soundtrack, calm, soothing and easy going to listen to. Thank goodness that I was able to catch this series or else I wouldn’t have got to know the few relaxing soundtracks. Another one of those tunes whereby I can just close my eyes and just think of nothing while lying on my bed. Now that isn’t such a bad thing isn’t it?
 
Sketchbook ~Full Color's~

Sketchbook ~Full Color’s~

October 18, 2008

Here is another one of those slow easy-going animes. Sketchbook ~Full Color’s~ may not be one of those mainstream animes nor would it be one of the best animes of the season. But with a calming pace smattered with a little slice of life comedy, this anime series did leave a little impact of me. Yup, by the end of it I had that little warm and fuzzy feeling inside.
 
Due to the pace of this anime, it brings back nostalgic memories of animes like Someday’s Dreamers and Aria The Animation. Most viewers who aren’t so keen on such animes may find it boring and dropping it instantly after just one sitting. I know I have caught myself yawning several times but I feel that isn’t a good reason for me to pull the plug on this series yet. Why, it is just 13 episodes long. It’s not like it has 3 digits worth of episodes and it is still ongoing or whatsoever. So for those who really intend to watch this, make sure to have a cup of coffee standby if you tend to fall asleep while watching such shows.
 
Based on a Japanese yonkoma (four strip comic panel), the main setting of this anime is art. Uh huh. You might have guessed it from the title itself. I’m not really an expert in this area since I never did well on my art subjects during school. But don’t expect the series to delve quite deeply into the art world. So for those blur cases like me can just jump in and watch without having to worry the unique jargons of the art industry.
 
So let’s meet the main protagonist of the series, Sora Kajiwara. She is a freshmen and a member of the school’s art club. She does most of the series narration through her thoughts. Being an art student, I guess observation for details has got to be one’s forte. So you’ll get to hear Sora narrate things from her perspective in a different manner, which partially makes it interesting. However, Sora herself has peculiar habits. Firstly, she is very shy of people, especially those she doesn’t know at first. So much so, she needs the help of her friends to introduce her. Tongue tied? Secondly, though she is always carrying her sketchbbok anywhere she goes, she has a weird taste of sketching things which are on the move. Uh huh. If it’s stagnant and still, it doesn’t interest her. So the funny thing is that, as she tries her best to sketch it, she will never manage to finish it because her target has already ‘moved’. Like how she tried to sketch a local stray cat whom she named Mike (pronounced, mee-keh). A girl with a camera named Minamo happens to notice Sora’s peculiar interests and goes to talk with her but you know, Sora is so shy that it makes conversation seem impossible.
 
The rest of the episode introduces the other members of the school’s art club. I know being an art club member is equivalent to being creative. But I think the right word to describe them in general is ‘weird’. Yeah, nearly the whole bunch of them are weird. So can we still call them creative? But that is what makes them unique and the series funny in the first place. So let me briefly introduce them first. One of Sora’s two closest buddies is Natsumi Aso. At first glance, this girl reminds me of Natsumi of Keroro Gunsou! Note the very uncanny resemblance. Heck, even their first name is the same. Only difference is this Natsumi lacks violence from the other Natsumi. My suspicions are even raised and got me thinking if she’s a rip-off from that series when this Natsumi too has something to do with frogs. Yup, this Natsumi has several frog hand puppets (ugly looking if you ask me), in which she does some puppet show enactments. Okay, so no "boke kaeru" (stupid frog) lines here. In contrast, Natsumi has quite a good relationship with her puppet frogs. Why not, since it’s hers and it’s only right to treat them nice.
 
Sora’s second closest friend is Hazuki Torikai. This gentle girl has a penchant for going for the best bargains and has a fetish for anything that is cute and adorable. Besides, she’s quite a big fan of some sausage-like cat (I think that is what it looks like). Other members of the art club include nature and insect maniac Nagisa Kurihara, a tall lady Juju Sasaki who loves playing her guitar or tell her tales with it, an enigmatic girl Kokage Kuga who has an infatuation with the darkness (yeah, her canvas painting was all just totally black), full-of-angst Daichi Negishi AKA Negi (don’t worry, though he gets mad with the slightest annoyance, he won’t get violent. He just needs to undergo anger management programmes, that’s all. Urm… Better get one fast because Sora is still afraid of meeting him), and an upbeat vice president of the club Asaka Kamiya (sometimes likes to play pranks. Especially on Negi). The most ‘normal’ one in the group is the president of the art club, Ujou Sugyou. I guess in every group, we have to have a normal person like him. Ujou acts like the big brother of the group and takes care of them and provides advice whenever possible.
 
But the most interesting group members and personally my favourite has got to be the inseparable duo whom I dubbed ‘Drama Queens’. They are Fuu Himuro and Ryou Tanabe. These 2 rarely show up for art class and in each episode you can see them randomly hanging around somewhere making nonsensical statements and side gags which have no relation whatsoever with the flow of the story. Though their appearance is short, whenever viewers catch a glimpse of these 2, they will never fail to break you into a smile. Makes you wonder why they don’t join a comedy or a drama club. Maybe they decide to show their ‘creativity’ here?
 
Another interesting character is the art club’s teacher, Hiyori Kasugano. Though I find her acting a little childish, she has a huge fetish for chickens and anything associated with it. So much so she has a beloved rooster named P-chan as her pet, which she brings to class or sit on top of her head whenever it’s not wandering around on its own. The most amusing part is when Kasugano claims who she would like to eat chicken meat. Everytime this happens, P-chan will feel a sharp cold shiver down its spine and worry in fear. Hahaha. Better be on your toes, P-chan. Who knows when your time is up. Feeling more like emergency food supply rather than a pet?
 
Before I forget, I want to mention that there is another peculiar character of Sora. Though she is a simple-minded person (I know you’re thinking that she’s dumb but she’s not, okay) she seems to enjoy or take pleasure in simple things, even if it seems weird and out of place. Like in this episode, we see her really on cloud nine while enjoying a bowl of ramen with Natsumi and Hazuki at a shop. Too bad her pals can’t handle the spicy-ness of the ramen. Then when Kasugano gives them a drawing assignment, Sora, Natsumi and Hazuki follows Nagisa and Juju (with the former chasing insects) to a beautiful open are through a small forest. They began drawing and it seems Sora is drawing a bowling building’s statue which resembles like that Aria President from Aria The Animation. Hey, wait a minute. It is that weird looking cat! While everyone does simple drawings for their project, Sora once again tries to sketch Mike and after that seems to enjoy basking herself in the mirror’s reflection of the evening sunrays. Really a weird girl.
 
Episode 2 sees Sora starting off by exiting her home with a different foot. I wonder what is the significant of this. Perhaps a change in routine or luck? Not that I myself really notice either. On her way to school, she notices Mike isn’t at its usual spot and wonders if it is missing. In class, Sora, Natsumi and Hazuki finds Kamiya eating her lunch in front of some exquisite meal painting she has drawn. Does it give an impression that the food will taste better? Then the girls did an experiment by dropping edible stuff into the tank to see whether the pet lobster eats it. Surprisingly it does. Oh oh, but it looks like Mike is there and has its eyes on that lobster. Later, Kasugano prevents her students from leaving the room when she claims she has some secret super weapon to boost themselves for some upcoming competition. Then Negi spots Mike in the classroom and angrily chases it out. Sora notices Mike is here and goes searching for it with the other girls. We then see extreme Negi putting up card boxes as barriers to defend the lobster. I don’t know what he is angrily shouting out for. Extreme. Cool it, brother. The search seems futile (poor Ujou. He accidentally opened a room filled with girls changing and got water splashed on his face as retribution) Kuga then spots Mike and attempts to talk with it but Mike scampers away when the other girls arrive. When the gang regroups back at the art room, Kasugano then suddenly comes in with her secret super weapon. Looks like a head bust. However, P-chan was just crossing right in front of her and Kasugano steps and trips on it. Thus the she went tumbling down and the bust smashes into pieces. Aww, too bad. There goes her hopes. And Negi, oh Negi. How long is he still going to guard that lobster. Sora is on her way home when she spots Mike at its usual place and goes over to pat it. She notes that since Mike has experienced its day differently, it should return to its normal way and likewise herself too as she soon returns home.
 
By now, you have just got to love this Sora girl. Why? In episode 3, she is seen playing a video game with her little brother, Ao. Ao seems to be struggling against her. Is she that good. Sora looks so calm and cool. Thing is, Ao tells her that he is just playing a single player mode. Haha! So she was just holding that console all along. Then when Sora decides to fix a meal, she just made a cup of tea. Ah, how disappointing. Now we all know she doesn’t know how to cook. But Ao should’ve known and seen this coming. Thus Ao has to take over and do the cooking. I think Sora is making things worse by helping out. Yeah, she cuts too much of some of some fish paste ingredient because she’s amazed by its ‘ability’ to do anything. But this episode is about the fireworks festival and the girls in their cute yukatas. Natsumi and Hazuki arrived at Sora’s place to help her put on a yukata. Funny thing is, Sora vomited because the meal she had earlier on was upsetting her stomach. The girls soon leave for the festival and had their share of fun like catching goldfish. Soon they meet up with other members of the art club and they all gather at a place somewhere a little further from the festival place to watch the fireworks. When the fireworks start, it’s a magnificent sight to behold as the gang tries to squint their eyes to watch it. Can’t say the same for Ujou and Juju because their eyes are always squint. What’s this? Sora trying to sketch the fireworks? Ah well, do your best. As the rest tries to guess the next shape of the fireworks, Ao notes how her sister hasn’t changed at all no matter where she is.
 
Episode 4 sees Sora preparing for her art field trip. Since it’s going to rain, Sora prepares an umbrella for her trip. Her straw hat reminded me of Rushuna from Grenadier, though she doesn’t look like it. Due to the weather forecast of impending rain, not many members turn up and other than Sora, Nagisa is the only other person (OMG! She lets an insect crawl over her face?! I don’t think I can do that). It seems Kasugano is waiting to drive them for their field trip. Wow. Now those who didn’t believe she’s an obsessed chicken freak would do so now because inside her car is full of chicken cushions. They soon arrive at an isolated park with lush greenery. While Kasugano decides to wait in the car till the duo finish sketching. Nagisa seems to be having fun with her insects and when a bird swoops down and Nagisa says how the insects are laying low, this prompts Sora to think that Nagisa may have wrongly identified the bird as an insect. But Nagisa continues that since the insects are present at that low area, this prompts some feeding time for the bird. Sora then realizes that she and Nagisa looks at things at a different light and perspective. I see. I should learn to look at things this way too. Meanwhile we see some of the other club members, particularly Natsumi and Hazuki, hanging out together in some cafe and feeling guilty wondering if skipping that field trip due to the rain would be a good reason. As for the Drama Queens, needless to say. No comment. Soon it starts to drizzle and it’s getting heavier. Sora insists on following Nagisa more rather than going back to Kasugano. Don’t want to wait with a chicken freak, huh? This drawing field trip has turned out more of a nature walk in the park more than anything else as Nagisa and Sora examines a little butterfly under a leaf. The duo soon returns to Kasugano and notices a beautiful rainbow after the rain. As Kasugano slowly drives back home (she’s got the parking brakes on all the time), Sora sketches the rainbow from the car and notes that she wouldn’t have seen such a scene if it was on a different day. But the thing which bugs me is (no, not the insect crawling over Nagisa’s face), since the title of this episode is "A Sketch Competition Between Three People", I’m wondering who is the third person and is there a competition in the first place?
 
If you’re a cat lover then this anime should suit you too. Episode 5 focuses more on the adventures of Mike and the other stray cats. For easy listening pleasure, cats here can talk albeit only to their own kind. Is this what cats are thinking? Maybe. Mike comes across a large yellow cat named Kuma. I don’t know but it seems the higher the cat’s position, the higher its ranking is. Poor Mike tries to get to a higher position but each time, Kuma always beat her. Looks like Mike has to resign to the fact that she is inferior than him. It seems Kuma is looking for food as he explains it to an amazed Mike. Later, Mike bumps into another stray cat he knows, Ha-san. A little chat about cat pride makes Mike remember Kuma’s case. And then a conversation about human feeding cats prompted Sora to sneeze. Looks like the cats are talking about her. Of all the random side gags, this has got to be the best one from the Drama Queens. That’s because they’re trying to extort some money from a cat! WTF?! Like that cat could be bothered. Meanwhile as Kamiya begs her sister to buy her a cat, Mike and Ha-san comes across another stray cat they know, Grey. This Grey kitty has now proper dialogue and only goes meow throughout the entire series. However, they noticed that he has a collar and now thinks he is no longer a stray cat so they ask him what it’s like being owned. Kuma then appears and inspects Grey’s collars and even tries it for size. Yeah, he looks funny alright. That collar is too tight for his broad neck. Like as though he’s been squeezed. After Kuma decides that a collar has to be of right size, the quartet goes around town looking until they stumble upon an empty card box. Since Kuma wants to be owned, the gang comes up with various ideas to write several notes on the box for adoption. Yeah, something like "Fated meeting". That sort of stuff. As Kuma sits in the box, Kamiya passes by and spots it. In short, Kamiya takes Kuma in and manages to get her sister’s approval. Meanwhile Mike and Ha-san notices Grey no longer has his collar and thinks he is back to being a stray cat. Once Grey leaves, Sora comes by to give them food. Expired food, that is. Haih… I know it’s good not to waste food but this? I wonder why they still go and eat it. That hungry, huh? Or rather they don’t want to waste her generosity.
 
The summer holidays are approaching in episode 6 but Kasugano is acting her childish ways again after unable to enjoy it. But I guess there’s no harm in fantasizing about it. Kasugano also announces a day trip for the art club members during the holidays. On that day, the gang gathers at the bus stop for the trip. Surprisingly the Drama Queens came. But upon riding the bus, the students are shocked to find that their school trip is… at their own school! What in the world?! Well, Kasugano did mentioned that she had some budget constraints so this is the best (not to mention cheapest) method she could afford. I think she’ll save more if she doesn’t organize it. Since it’s a hot summer day and not wanting for the students to do the same thing like they’ve always done (I mean, they’re back at the art club room and drawing. What else), Kasugano suggests for them to go explore the school grounds. Sora is alone in the classroom and notices how different the atmosphere is during the holidays. Sora also remembers the time when she first joined the art club. Yeah, at that time, she’s even wondering what kind of fierce teacher the other clubs has. So probably she decided to settle in this one. Likewise, Natsumi and Hazuki are also reminiscing the time when they first met Sora. Still as shy as ever. At that time, there weren’t anybody in Kasugano’s class yet so that teacher was real happy to have her first 2 students, Sora and Natsumi. Did I mention that Sora was real nervous too. Soon Hazuki came in as number 3. Back in present time and later that night, everyone cooks and enjoy a curry meal while watching the stars. Later, they played some sparklers and fireworks. Sora feels glad that she has joined this club. As the girls prepare to sleep, they find that their room is filled with cockroaches! Wargh! Now we know the school isn’t as clean as we see it. Because of that, the girls are having lack of sleep and are dead tired when the morning comes. Well, are those cockroaches perverts? That’s because the guy’s room don’t seem to be affected. As they prepare for some morning activity, a blonde girl in a hat approaches the school.
 
That girl is Kate, a foreigner from Canada and a transfer student to the school. This would-be art club member is another favourite character of mine because of her thick and heavy western accent when she speaks Japanese. Very obvious. Very thick. Even though she is quite lively and bubbly, I’m sure everytime she speaks, it’ll make viewers laugh because of the way she speaks, even if her lines weren’t meant to be funny (heck, she’s always trying to be funny most of the time). But before that, in episode 7, Sora happen to notice a new cat from the block. A grey and weird looking cat she has never seen around the area before. Funny thing is, Sora wants to touch it but is too shy. So she asks its permission in English! "One touch, okay", "Two touch, okay". Back in class, the gang are introduced to Kate and Kasugano assigns Natsumi the task of helping Kate familiarize with the Japanese customs. Why? Kasugano has that impression that Natsumi is Ms International due to her hand puppets, which has English names. Huh? Luckily Kate knows some Japanese and proceeds to cheekily write her name in kanji which sounded like ‘keito’ (yarn). Easy to remember, this way? Meanwhile, Mike spots that new grey cat but is having trouble communicating. Yeah, that grey cat speaks English! Looks like it is lost. Then Ha-san comes by and to Mike’s surprise, Ha-san can speak in English! That grey cat’s name is Bushi and the cats rant about travelling the world but obviously Mike realizes that it’s impossible for her to do so. Back at the classroom, everyone prepares a welcoming party for Kate as Natsumi becomes determined to guide her. However, the Drama Queens seem to want to have some fun on their own and gives Kate several wrong depictions of Japanese culture. Kate blindly agrees with them. This made Natsumi mad because she has to do extra work to correct her. Yeah, Natsumi falls into depression. Later Sora hands Kate a sketchbook from Natsumi of the correct Japanese culture. So when the party starts, Kate reintroduces herself and does some magic show. She pops out a flower and gives it to Natsumi as thanks for her guidance. This lifts her spirits and confidence once more. After the party, the gang heads home and Sora spots Bushi. They find out that Bushi is Kate’s pet cat. Sora wants to touch it again and of course the rest wonders her strange English lines.
 
Episode 8 has the Drama Queens more than their usual screen time. It all started when Hazuki’s audio player has problems. Of all the people in the art club, it is a wonder why she has to choose the Drama Queens. She should’ve known better. Uh huh. She even has her reservations about them and yet… Anyway, the following Sunday, Natsumi is at Hazuki’s place and everyone hail the arrival of the Drama Queens. As expected, they pull off some obvious odd comments like saying it’s broken without even plugging it in to test. I think they are the cause of problems more than anything else. After several failed attempts (I think they were just playing around with it), they decide to exorcise the player by dressing up as miko priestess and do some weird ritual. After they have done and left, to Natsumi and Hazuki’s surprise, the player is working once again! Is it them? Nah. The second half of this episode sees Sora going around town doing her usual sketch. Sora bumps into Minamo once again. Though Sora tries to escape due to her shyness, Minamo manages to stop her and gets her permission to look inside her sketchbook. Though amazed, Minamo decides to follow Sora around. Minamo notices how Sora is trying to sketch moving things but each time she fails to finish it. Minamo offers Sora to look at her camera of the pictures she snapped. With that, Sora’s disappointment is gone as she decides to borrow and draw from it. It is evening and it seems while Sora is sitting on a bench sketching, Minamo has fallen asleep next to her. Sora then decides to sketch her. Minamo soon awakens to see Sora offer her some tea. When Minamo browse through Sora’s sketches, she finds one which is herself sleeping. Sora says how she looked comfortable in that position and decided to draw her. Minamo then reminded Sora that they’ve met before (yeah, that Sora girl didn’t remember who she is) and is glad she was able to look at her sketches. Sora decides to give her that sketch of her sleeping self as a parting gift. Soon Sora meets Natsumi and Hazuki on the way home and joins them for dinner.
 
The exams are near in episode 9. Ao asks some help from Sora for his studies but it seems Sora herself isn’t good at them as Ao knows more stuff than her. With that, Sora goes and enjoy her tea. Ah, better not strain herself. In class, Natsumi notes how Kate has an advantage in English but Kate says she has problems with Japanese kanji. So the gang decides to ask their other members for advice for effective studying. Some of them are really odd (like Juju’s guitar singing method) while some have merits (like Negi’s use of tiny memory cards). Finally when they have done asking almost everyone, Kasugano appears and wonders why they haven’t come to her and that she was waiting the whole time. But soon we know her true colours because Kasugano couldn’t answer a simple basic question when the girls asked her. Since the classroom are filled with studious people (I guess it’s the only time everyone starts reading up. Brings back memories, huh?), they decide to go study at the library and sees Ujou there. They ask him for advice and his answers are frightening for those who don’t do their homework. It’s like they couldn’t believe he’s being studying all this while and behind their backs or something. Kiasu or what? I think everybody should emulate Ujou. Because Kate is having a hard time digesting her studies, her loudness is causing some easiness for the other library-goers. Meanwhile we see Kamiya trying to piss off Negi who is trying to study by putting a pencil lid in his rubber. I guess it’s her way of letting of some steam from studying. Or is she trying to study in the first place? Sora remembers she has left her container in the classroom and goes back to retrieve it only to see Nagisa there alone studying. Anyway, Nagisa’s words of what she wants to do by being a environmentalist and insect expert seems to baffle Sora so much, so much so Nagisa doesn’t mind explaining all over again. Me too, I don’t get it. Back home, everyone resumes their studying and something about Hazuki and her mechanical pencil lid… Sora asks Ao why he studies and the latter replies of now wanting to lose to somebody. Sora then notes how she isn’t see her aspirations yet, the reason why she is currently studying.
 
The exams are over in episode 10 and it’s time for another autumn field trip for the art club members. Don’t worry, the destination won’t be their school grounds again, although it’s just a nearby forest vicinity. Feeling ripped off once again? Of course, Negi isn’t too fond of Kasugano lazing around and just letting the students do what they want to do as she continues her outdoor nap. Sora notes the change in scenery and while the gang are taking a break having lunch, a stray puppy approaches them (I know, it looks weird. And I thought it was a cat). Kuga decides to play a prank on a sleeping Negi by putting food on him. So when the puppy jumps on him, he’s in for a rude awakening. Everybody loves to pick on this guy. Soon Kasugano calls for the gang for a drawing assignment and everyone who seems to take a liking for the puppy’s cuteness, decides to draw it. However, the puppy has grown fond and quite attached to Negi, much to his dismay. Not only that, the puppy is even following Negi home. The girls try to make him take some responsibility (hey, it could be worse like making your girlfriend pregnant. Just kidding). Just then, Minamo passes by and snaps a picture of them. The next day, the puppy seems to be the star attraction in the art club room when Minamo comes in calling the puppy Inuo. We find out Minamo is Negi’s little sister. What a small world after all. After a little chat, Minamo is happy that Sora called her her friend and borrows Sora her camera to take some pictures. I think Kasugano too takes a liking for Minamo because as the former was looking for P-chan, she comes across Minamo and her knowledge of potato chips astounded the teacher. While Minamo experiences some painting with the art club members, Sora is testing some shots with the camera when she spots P-chan. When Sora comes back, she finds that Minamo and the rest are having fun with painting with their palms. At the end of the day, Sora hands back Minamo’s camera but the latter requests a group photo. As everyone gathers to pose, Minamo takes a close-up picture of a leaf falling on Sora’s head.
 
It’s the cats turn to steal the limelight again in episode 11. After Sora had fun watching her breath on a cold morning, she catches a cold. Mike and Ha-san notices Sora being sick but it was still enough to send shivers down their spine when Sora spots them through her window room. Even though she is sick, Sora still goes to put some food for the stray cats. Expired food, that is. Mike and Ha-san are still in a dilemma whether to eat it or not. In order not to waste her efforts, they sum up their courage to eat it. But before they could do so, Grey appears and seems to be enjoying it. Meanwhile a bored Sora lying in bed seems to be giving names of things on her room ceiling. At school, everyone knows about Sora’s illness and I don’t know why Kuga is covering herself behind the dark curtains. Everytime Natsumi sucks from her drink, Kuga goes up, then down. Back to the cats. We see Ha-san giving voice over dubs to human conversations. Something like getting back for humans who give voice over dubs to animals. This prompts Kuma to come up with a plan because he thinks there is a communication problem between humans and cats. Kuma is trying to lecture on the topic of body language communication and did some weird stance and asks the rest to guess. But they end up guessing it wrongly and earning the wrath of Kuma. Who would have guessed that stance is supposed to compare weights of something? Bushi comes by to see the cats in some weird antics of theirs. Meanwhile as Sora is still stuck in her room, her other pals came by to pay her a visit. Ao made a funny comment of how he feels like the leader of an RPG group as he leads Natsumi, Hazuki and Kate to Sora’s room. Well, the gifts are really weird. From Kate’s drawing of a happy moustache man (which looks so much like the kanji writing of ‘valley’) to the Drama Queens’ Chinese cabbage. Sora feels happy and Ao notes how they are good people even though they are strange. So that night, the cats did some ritual according to Bushi’s instructions, hoping that Sora would stop feeding them expired food. Sora wakes up from a dream and heads to the kitchen to find the food she feed the cats have expired. The next morning, Sora brings out some food for the stray cats. Though Mike and Ha-san are reluctant at first, but after tasting it, they are in ecstasy after tasting such good food. Did that ritual work? Let’s hope Sora will keep this up and not just this once.
 
Episode 12 has Sora, Natsumi, Hazuki and Kate shopping together on their day off. Before that, Sora had a dream in a train ride when she and Ao was younger and were together at a park. The gang arrives at an art store and it seems Kate is trying to help a man buying a present for his sister. It feels like as though Kate is the salesperson of this store. Of course with her silly suggestions and thick accent, her conversation sounds hilarious as usual. Sora then suggests a sketchbook for him, which he agrees. Later as the girls are taking a break at a restaurant, they find that they themselves too had bought a sketchbook each. Natsumi and Hazuki wonders what to draw on the first page of their sketchbook when Kate suggests to always write her name like she usually does. Nearby, the Drama Queens as usual… Good thing the waitress is patient or rather blur on what antics they’re pulling off. The quartet soon leaves but spots Minamo taking pics of Negi and Inuo to send to their dad at a nearby park. Negi is embarrassed that the girls saw him and does some physical move to make Natsumi forget the whole incident. Why only her? But all that shaking definitely shook her up. Sora spots Ao and his friends in a distance and notes how different he has become. Also, Hazuki seems depressed after failing to get that sausage-like cat she wanted so much. On her way home, she see several kids playing in a park, which reminded her of her early days with Ao. Something about how Ao asked her to draw a monster and after she did, he violently ripped it as though he’s the defender of the universe. Woah. Must be shocking for a shy girl like her. Back at Kamiya’s place, it seems her small family is celebrating her birthday with her sister giving a collar for Kuma and her brother a sketchbook. So that guy is Kamiya’s brother. Really a small world after all. At Negi’s home, he reluctantly helps Minamo pick out a picture to send to their dad. And at Sora’s, she decided the first thing she should draw is that monster because thoughts of her family comes to mind. Next day in school, the rest shows Sora what they have drawn first. Can you guess? Natsumi drew her hand puppets while Hazuki an elaborated scheme to get that sausage-like cat she loves so much. So typical. Also, Negi notices Kamiya’s new sketchbook which she brought to class.
 
In episode 13, the art club members gather to watch the sakura bloom at their school compound. But to my surprise, the producers introduced a new character in this last episode. She is Tsukiyo Ooba and she has a far worse attendance record compared to the Drama Queens! I can’t believe this character is voiced by Mamiko Noto! How dare they cast her in such a short role! Just kidding. Anyway, Ooba claims that she has made several short cameo appearances throughout the series. Not that I notice or care. Since Ooba’s quite upset that Ujou introduced her to the other members (who are wondering who this newbie is, of course), she thinks he sees no confidence in her and decides to leave. Yeah, at least don’t take the pizza away with you. Another funny part is where Hazuki is all over Inuo. Kasugano got a little jealous and says how her P-chan is cute enough to be eaten. Hahaha! P-chan feeling the shivers again. There is a sakura tree not blooming with the rest so Kasugano suggests some tree hug to hasten its blooming process. Since it didn’t work, she tells Negi to climb on it and cheer for it out loud. After doing that, Kasugano concludes that it didn’t work, pissing Negi off. Soon the gang disperses but Sora decides to stay back in class for a while. Minamo shortly drops by to give Sora the group photo she took earlier on. She smiles after looking at it. Next day it seems Sora is the only one attending class as Natsumi visits the dentist and Hazuki her own important business. There alone in the room, she gives her thoughts on what she thinks of her art club members. Don’t worry, they’re all good points. For the first time when the Drama Queens decide to attend class, they find only Sora and comes up with a conclusion that hell may be freezing over and decide to make an excuse to stock up their canned foods and left. Hahaha! Sora also notices how that slow blooming sakura tree has bloomed beautifully today. I’m not sure Kuga’s intention to come to class, hide behind the curtain and tell Sora not to mind her. Then when Negi comes in to see only Sora and leaves, Kuga mentions that he has been tricked into thinking that there is only 1 member here, before leaving.
 
As Sora continue to comment on her other members, she paints the group photo on the canvas. She even added the cats, Ao and Minamo into her drawing. Though she is the only one in the room, Sora thinks that she has never felt lonely while being in this club. She also realizes that everyone is full of different colours. Just then, Kasugano arrives and takes a look at Sora’s work. Kasugano compliments her good job before leaving, leaving Sora’s face a little red. Okay, very red then. As Sora walks home, she decides to live her life at her own pace as she spots Natsumi and Hazuki across the street and calls out to them. The duo then rush to her as they began walking together. As the end credits roll, we see the other members doing their usual stuff like Ujou and Kate studying together in the library. Hmm… Any chemistry between the 2. Don’t think so but I realize that Kate doesn’t appear much in this episode. The final scene shows Sora, Natsumi and Hazuki eating together in a restaurant. As the friendly waitress introduces herself, Natsumi and Hazuki did likewise. But before Natsumi could introduce Sora, Sora in her own voice introduces herself, surprising her buddies. Finally she has the courage to speak up. Now that’s a big step forward.
 
Even if the ending wasn’t much, but I still find this series quite pleasant to watch. I know it won’t be one of my favourites but at least I’m glad to have watched such a relaxing and calming series. It must have been a long time since I’ve watched one of these kind of genres. Though the theme here is art, I won’t really say that the drawing and art of the series is exceptional. I mean, it just feels okay. Not like there are any breathtaking scenes or whatsoever. I like it when Sora’s face goes simple and chibi when she’s enjoying things or in a little pinch. She looks quite cute. Hmm… I’m wondering that last still picture whereby it showed Sora and Mike shaking hands with their counterparts from Aria The Animation, Akari and President Aria. I wonder if there’s a relation between those 2 animes besides the calm and soothing pace.
 
But instead of visual candy, like other calm relaxing anime series, the plus point here is the audio candy. This series is filled with lots and lots of nice background music (BGM). Ranging from the typical soothing piano solo to the fast and catchy ones. Each of them perfectly tailor-suited for the atmosphere and scenes of the series. Other than that, I find that the other BGM have that jazzy feel. Now this is music to my ears. The main opening Kaze Sagashi by Natsumi Kiyoura is so relaxing and soothing accompanied with nice acoustic guitar playing style, it makes you want to close your eyes and lie down on the grassy plains on a sunny day and enjoy the rest of the day. Yeah, feel like letting your mind wander and never come back. The main ending theme Sketchbook Wo Motta Mama by Yui Makino is equally soothing and slow too. Of course there are other slow ballads for the series, which are only one time, in the sense that Natsu Kioku by Natsumi Kiyoura was the opening for episode 12 while Tanpopo Suisha was the special ending theme for episode 13 and is sung by Yui Makino, Kana Hanazawa and Asuka Nakase.
 
As for the voice acting, it’s really nothing to shout about. At first I thought Yui Makino was the voice behind Sora because of her sleepy, dreamy and lazy (oops) voice. But to my surprise, Yui Makino was the voice behind Hazuki! Perhaps because of my perception of her voicing previous roles like Sakura from Tsubasa Chronicle and Misaki from NHK Ni Youkoso which made me think so. Surprisingly, the one who voiced Sora is Kana Hanazawa, who in contrast was the voice of that shrieky little blob Potemayo in the series of the same name! Woah! Very contrasting. It goes to show that these voice actresses here are quite flexible. Other casts include Asuka Nanase as Natsumi (Itsuki of I”s Pure), Yuko Goto as Kate (Asahina in Suzumiya Haruhi No Yuutsu), Yukari Tamura as Nagisa (Tenten in Naruto), Ami Koshimizu as Kamiya (Tenma in School Rumble), Momoko Saito as Kuga and P-chan (Tsuyuri in Doujin Work), Hiro Shimono as Negi (Ikuto in Nagasarete Airantou), Ryou Hirohashi as Kasugano (Alice in Aria The Animation, Kyou in Clannad, Koyuki in Keroro Gunsou, Sakino in Kimikiss Pure Rouge), Natsuko Fuwatani as Fuu (Suisei Seki in Rozen Maiden), Masumi Asano as Ryou (Hakufu in Ikkitousen), Tomoko Kaneda as Mike (Chiyo of Azumanga Daioh), Shizuka Itou as Ha-san (Wilhelmina in Shakugan No Shana), and Jouji Nakata as Kuma (Giroro in Keroro Gunsou). Lastly, as mentioned previously Mamiko Noto voices Ooba but I recently found out that she voiced another character in this series. Why, it’s Inuo! I couldn’t have guessed it. She’s so multi-talented.
 
The characters here are wacky in their own way and lovable for a short series. My favourite is still the pair of Drama Queens. Life is funny wherever they go even if it doesn’t make sense. Perhaps a spin-off sequel for them? Sometimes we should all just take life and approach things as a joke. Okay, maybe not always. My second favourite character is Kate because of the way she speaks. I’m always smiling everytime she says something. Kate’s seiyuu did quite a good job portraying her thick western accent and at first I thought a Caucasian actually voiced her. Even the cats here had their moments but even if you’re not a cat lover, I’m sure you’ll come to like them as well. But the main character development is on Sora. No doubt in the end, she is still that blur simple-minded girl, but she did underwent some changes herself, especially in the last scene. I know that I’m not good at communicating with people myself too but one day I hope to emulate her good points and her observations of looking things at a simple and different light. And not her dreamy part, okay. Then I remember at the beginning of the series, Sora was quite afraid of Negi’s anger and Kuga told Sora how Negi was some animal by putting 2 paintbrushes as his ears, in which Sora blindly believed so and was calmed. In the end, Sora didn’t fear Negi’s presence anymore, though that guy still has to take anger management classes.
 
Another thing about this anime is the mid-intermission. The unique thing about it is that in each episode, viewers will get to see the bio-data of the art club members from their class year to their height and weight to their likes and dislikes. Not that I can really remember them, but it really gives the characters some personality and life rather than they are just being created for the sake of creating. Even Ooba too has one at the last episode. See girl, even though you make few appearances, you’re not totally forgotten.
 
So perhaps I should just take Sora’s advice and live my life and do things at my own pace. Urm… Isn’t that what I have been doing all the while? One day in a hectic life, we should all take a break and just look around us. I’m sure we’ll see a different side to it. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, if you’re like Picasso or Van Gough, it’ll be worth several million of dollars! Haha. Just kidding. Now if only I could just sketch a little like her. Heck, I can’t even draw a decent anime character and still can’t. And remember, art is all about creativity, even if it looks weird. And no, this doesn’t mean art club people are weird.
 
Sketchbook ~Full Color's~