This week I’ll be reviewing the slice of life anime, Sketchbook ~full color’s~. Of course, the name is a little dumb to type out repeatedly, so I’ll just say Sketchbook. It aired from October to December of 2007, for a run of 13 episodes. It’s by HAL Filmmaker, and directed by Hiraike Yoshimasa. Among their other notable works is Aria (which I did a review for here), which is one of my favorite series ever. It’s pretty clear that there are a lot of inspirations drawn from the Aria to here (though the source material of the respective shows have nothing to do with each other), so that was enjoyable for me. Of course, this is a slice of life show, so the usual disclaimer. Don’t expect anything crazy or exciting or whatnot. Honestly, I kind of treat this show like Aria, if it took place on earth and you replaced all the water and gondola stuff with an art club. And you keep the cats. So if you enjoy that kind of stuff, you’ll find Sketchbook to be pleasantly more of the same.
The plot is practically nonexistent. Hell, I feel kind of weird even calling it a plot. It’s more like… a setting. Some of the other slice of life shows I’ve covered, like Aria and Kamichu!, have relevant plots you can follow and there’s some finality in the endings. Sketchbook essentially throws you in a setting, and then lets you watch what happens. The setting in this case is an art club in a high school in the middle of every anime town, Japan. The kind of place that’s just rural enough to be rural, but is just city enough to have a bustling city and suburbs nearby. There’s always a river running through, and some forested areas… I can’t tell you how many anime have this exact setting. Nothing wrong with it, of course, just funny how prevalent it is. Anywho, that’s about it for plot. The show more or less deals with the life and times of this art club, specifically focusing on a certain few members. It’s about as slice of life as slice of life gets.
But with every slice of life, the plot isn’t important. It’s the characters, right? There are a lot of characters in Sketchbook, though only a few are all that important. Starting with the main character, Kajiwara Sora. She’s a quiet girl, who’s often off by herself. It’s not uncommon to find large stretches of the show just her silently appreciating the world around her. She has a fondness for cats, and she likes to go around town naming all the cats that she sees. In fact, some of these cats get some episodes to themselves, which is kind of neat. Anyway, Sora is a fairly introspective girl, and I enjoy watching the show from her perspective. It’s just easy to sit back and take it all in. Of course, even I’d fall asleep if the show was 13 thirty minute episodes of that, so there are some other characters.
Sora’s two best friends are Asou Natsumi and Torikai Hazuki. The two of them together definitely contrast Sora and bring a lot of life into some of the various scenes. They do that by… Well, talking. Moreover their personalities are kind of loud and talkative, so it helps keep the viewer’s attention. Individually, I suppose they’re not all that memorable as characters. Most of the time you see them it’s together, more than likely with Sora. While they’re not the best characters, they’re very important to the show as they instigate a lot of events, or extend a lot of scenes with dialogue and the like. Lastly is Kate, a transfer student from Canada. She’s hilarious and can speak Japanese passably well. Along with Sora, she’s definitely the most memorable personality of the show, and I think more than Natsumi and Hazuki, serves to drastically contrast with Sora’s quiet personality.
I’m not a huge fan of the art in Sketchbook. For the most part it’s cute and works for the show, but the character designs aren’t all that interesting. The backgrounds are fairly standard as well, so there’s nothing really popping about the show. Also I might be nitpicking just a tad, but for some reason all the heads in this show look large, round, and bulbous. I mean, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t think art has ever stopped me from watching or reading something I thought I’d enjoy. Though good art and animation can definitely enhance an experience. On that note, the animation. Like pretty much every slice of life anime I’ve ever seen, it’s nothing special. Looking at Hal Filmmaker’s past works, it doesn’t seem like they’ve worked on very many high-octane action-oriented series, so at the very least their past slice of life experience probably helped them here. In what ways I have no idea, but it’s not their first time at the rodeo.
I did enjoy the music for Sketchbook quite a bit. The background music… fits quite well. It’s the kind of slice of life music that provides pretty solid ambiance and supports the scene pretty well, but never really overtakes any part of the show. That’s generally how I prefer my BGM for most shows, except for a few special cases. The opening and ending themes are okay as well. There’s one opening and one ending theme, though episode 12 uses a different opening, and episode 13 uses a different ending. The opening theme for most of the episodes is “Kaze Sagashi” by Kiyoura Natsumi, which is very fitting song for the show, I thought. It reminds me of Sora, honestly, though I can’t quite say why. The song used in episode 12 is “Natsu no Kioku” also by Kiyoura Natsumi. This one is a bit more upbeat and I suppose for the episode they used it in it was okay, but it is a little odd to have a different opening for one random episode that is otherwise unremarkable. The ending theme for the majority of the episodes is “Sketchbook wo Motta mama” by Makino Yui, and the song for episode 13 is “Tanpopo Suisha” by Hanazawa Kana, Nakase Asuno, and Makino Yui. Both of these songs are the soft, slow kind of songs that I’ve come to expect from this show, and songs that work well with the type of show this is. All in all, while the music didn’t blow me away, it fit well and was fairly enjoyable.