It's been well over a year since the fourth volume of Sunshine Sketch reached the western world, and boy how we've missed it - where else is a guy supposed to relax and grab a few laughs from the everyday shenanigans of a bunch of high school students? While K-ON in its manga form has tried its darndest to pick up this particular mantle in previous months, it simply can't compare to Ume Aoki's efforts.
As you might expect, little has changed for this fifth volume of the series, as Hidamari Apartments' recently bolstered roster of six high school students go about their normal lives whether it's a visit to the shops, a school field trip or an unfortunate incident involving some house keys and a toilet. All of this is brought to us in typical four-panel manga form (with the odd deviation to spice things up a little bit), with an equally typical blend of more detailed character illustrations interspersed with plenty of superdeformed shenanigans as its comedy requires.
After introducing a couple of newcomers in the form of Nori and Nazuna in the last volume, it isn't until the chapters held within this volume that these individuals start to come to the fore a little more often, although even here it's still the well-established duos of Yuno and Miyako or Sae and Hiro that get the most time in the spotlight, leaving us with the feeling that the two new faces are just making up the numbers or acting as props for the others. Not that this is particularly a bad thing, as the dynamics of the major characters work perfectly well throughout to produce plenty of genuinely funny moments, particularly in the second half of this volume where the humour generally seems to sharpen up a touch after a less comically focused beginning.
Beyond that, it's tough to know what else to say about this volume that we haven't already discussed in previous reviews of Sunshine Sketch - its artwork moves from the functional to the outright gorgeous in places, and Yen Press' treatment of the series is clean, tidy and well-presented all-round with translation notes at the end of the volume where required. All in all this volume is, as its title suggests, a little ray of undemanding sunshine - perfect for a relaxing evening or weekend curled up with some manga or as a way to chill out after a tough day at the office. The only thing that might break the sense of inner calm which Sunshine Sketch will bring you is considering the possibility of an equally long wait for volume six.