If there's one anime series that I'd really, really, really like to see hit Western shores, it's Hidamari Sketch, a series that I count as up there with the best of them when it comes to slice of life comedy shows. While my nightly prayers to the Gods of Western anime have, thus far, gone unanswered, it isn't all bad news, as the manga from which the anime is derived is now steadily making its way to our shores, albeit under the altered title of Sunshine Sketch.
While I'm not sure quite where the "sunshine" part came from, it is quite a fitting title for this particular series, for the characters involved are uniformly of a rose-tinted, glass half full and sunny disposition. The focus of the story is Yunocchi, a girl who applies for and is then accepted to Yamabuki High School, a school specialising in the arts. To attend this place of learning, Yuno moves into Hidamari Apartments, a cheap apartment block literally across the road which had traditionally served as a home to students of Yamabuki.
It's here that she meets first Miyako, another new girl at the school, and then both Sae and Hiro, a pair of girls who are already into their second year at Yamabuki. Once this scenario is introduced, both volumes of the manga take us through the tried and trusted staple diet of slice of life comedy - Food, culture festivals, sports days, and everyday life both at school and home. Normally I'd balk at the use of such old and well-worn topics, but the thing is... Sunshine Sketch is frequently very funny. While some of the jokes may be lost on a Western audience, or not picked up on until you read the reasonably thorough translation notes at the end of each volume, there's still plenty on offer here to make you laugh out loud.
Another beauty of Sunshine Sketch in its original manga form is that it's incredibly easy to dip in and out of, consisting as it does of simple four panel sub-stories that build into slightly larger "arcs" that normally cover a handful of pages. This makes it a perfect read during a quick break at work, a brief journey or for five minutes at the end of the day - It's light hearted, it's fun, and it's often a really quite heart-warming depiction of four friends and the oddities of their otherwise mundane lives. That aside, the overall art quality is clean and clear without ever being stunning, although both volumes are also sprinkled with far better drawn images of the girls if such things are of importance to you.
Overall then, I can understand that Sunshine Sketch and its ilk isn't for everyone, so if you're put off by my descriptions here it's best avoided, but if you're after something light-hearted, funny, and incredibly easy to read, then you really can't go wrong with giving the opening volumes of this manga a look.