Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Sketchbook ~full color'S~ (won't be typing this title for a while...)

I recently realized that there was one series in my 2007 list that may or may not have been added in prematurely, since at the time I hadn't exactly finished watching it. The series is #9 on my list, Sketchbook (~full color'S~ but I won't be using it clunky full name in this post anymore), just behind the rather similar slice-of-life-of-a-group-of-art-students show Hidamari Sketch.

Truth be told, both series were almost equally enjoyable with Hidamari barely winning me over since I have the penchant for SHAFT's funky style. I was only one episode away from completing Sketchbook anyways, though I admit that final episode had been lying around for some time just waiting for me to come out of my reluctance to watch it... That may sound like a bad thing for the series, but it is very much otherwise. I just happen to have the rather unfortunate habit of watching series at my own leisurely pace (usually one episode of a show a day unless I've decided to marathon it, which is seldom), and when a series has been delivering a certain enjoyment to me over the course of time watching it, I tend to get a little stubborn in refusing to 'end' the experience by watching the final episode - sometimes leaving it for ages until I almost forget that it's there at all! Of course eventually I do give in and get it over with, though by then much time has probably passed and whatever joy I had watching the series would probably have faded away anyhow... But if I was really that reluctant to let a series 'go' in the first place, it's almost always the case that when I finally get to the last episode that I'm reminded once again why I liked that certain series so... And yes, after that lengthy rant I'm glad to say Skecthbook has been one of those series, and most certainly earned its rightful spot on my top 10 for 2007.

Sora should be a spokesmodel for green tea. And just chilling out =P

What really 'drew' me to Sketchbook so to speak, was the simplistic approach it took in entertaining the viewer. It's a slow paced episodic slice of life series with a healthy cast of characters that are instantly identifiable by their usually singular quirk. The message it seems to be sending seems to be hey, I don't need a deep plot or complex characters to make a show entertaining, just watch Sora walk around looking for things to sketch, taking tea breaks and making simple if not totally obvious observations about the things around her, and be satisfied with it! And you know what, it works. Half the time it's what we're shown, and though some may find it a tad bit dull, for me it really is a soothing experience that's pleasing to the senses, truly fitting to the 'healing' brand associated with 'iyashikei' series such as Sketchbook.

What really brings this series to life though is its 'colourful' cast of characters who are mostly the members of the school's art club and each have their own individual quirk. I may had trouble identifying all of them by name, but from curtain climbing to hand-puppets to entomology I knew precisely what talent or bizzare habit that made each character distinct. It's not too hard to keep track of them all despite there being new ones being introduced at Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei-like intervals (even in the last episode) since the characters themselves are clean cut and serve mostly to pepper the series with comedy. And they're such an amusing bunch and varied bunch that you can't help being drawn to at least one of them, if not all of them as a whole.

What I particular liked in the last episode was how Sora spent most of it in the art room mostly by herself, while recalling just about every single character that's appeared in the series and what she's thought of them onto her canvas. It was the perfect reminder of everything that made Sketchbook special - the characters, the observations of the things and people around us in life, and the cats. Ah yes, the cats were definitely a refreshing and entertaining addition to the cast and story (The one called Grey in particular, is just so darned adorable!)

Another thing I finally noticed in the last episode was that Negishi-senpai is voiced by Shimono Hiro, the voice of Tajima on OoFuri. Something I failed to note until Negishi was calling out to the rest of the club to see the sakura trees, since up till then we always heard him in his angry hyper-shout mode (No wonder Sora's afraid of him XD) Also notable in the seiyuu cast were Hanazawa Kana as Sora, Makino Yui as Hazuki and Goto Yuko as the hilarious Kate (Ke-ito). Also, could you pick out Tamura Yukari and Noto Mamiko from any of the characters? (what th- Mamiko Noto voiced Inuo?!)

As the final 'development' in the show, Sora suddenly musters up the courage to speak up to people in the end. It was certainly a wonderful moment in which she calls out to Hazuki and Natsumi from across the road, and so unlike the Sora we've seen in the past 12 episodes that it's quite surprising, but a pleasant surprise it is. All throughout the series we've learnt bits of Sora's character from her monologues and have been given the opportunity to appreciate her simplistic point of view in life, to see her receive that bit of growth is both a reward the viewer and Sora herself. Bravo!

A lovely end to a lovely show indeed... And with a reminder to continue Hal Film Maker's other more reknowned iyashikei work Aria. So while I bid farewell to Sora and her art club (and the cats!) it does seem to be the perfect time for me to catch up with those gondolas of Neo-Venezia which have left me far behind.


Danny Choo said...

Started to watch this and need to finish it. Tis a cute anime.

Fariz Asuka said...

This is a show I recommend everyone to watch.. It's a very nice series..