One of the greatest sins of my blogging career has been that I’ve never properly posted about Hidamari Sketch (and similarly, one of the greatest sins of my anime-watching career has been that I never watched any of it past the first season/read more than 1 volume of the manga) – Both of those in spite of considering it one of my alltime favorite anime, it having formally introduced me to favorite director Akiyuki Shinbo, and it being a large part of re-introducing me to anime. Well, you know what they say, the early bird catches the worm – I kept my mouth closed so long that someone else spoke out before me, and now I’m actually glad that I never said anything, because 8c knocked it out of the fucking park!
This brilliant post on 8c’s new blog explores the use of disjointed storytelling in Hidamari Sketch. It’s a must-read post, but I want to respond to it’s conclusions:
The first two seasons of Hidamari Sketch are imbued with a fixation on the nostalgia of a small in-group, and the inaccessibility of a true appreciation of that unique nostalgia to those who were not part of that in-group while the memories were being made; the third, and one might fairly guess any potential future seasons, considers this fixation in closer detail, and provides a new vantage point for the viewer to observe from – two self-inserts in as-yet-undeveloped characters who are just as outside of the Hidamari in-group for the time being.
Yes! I’ve often noticed, especially in slice-of-life styled anime, that there are basically two kinds of ‘friend groups’. The ‘closed group’ and the ‘building group.’ The building group is made up of characters who are living individually, who eventually come together with a group of friends and form a ‘closed group’. The closed group is then a group of friends whom are so close that they may actually be inaccessible. What I find interesting is that many of these school-life anime seem to make a point to explore exactly these two kinds of groups, either choosing just one, or going through cycles of creating new ones.
A perfect example of a ‘building group’ is Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight – in the beginning, all of the girls are more or less loners, and it’s Manabi’s determination to push them forward in life that eventually pulls them all together to form strong bonds. Meanwhile, a ‘closed group’ is usually seen when the main character is an outsider trying to become a part of this group. For example, in Hitohira, a lot of the (melo)drama comes from the fact that much of the cast are friends with a long history of bullshit and stories behind them, and a new member to their group just doesn’t know them enough to connect yet – however, she will eventually build those connections and come to forge her own memories and place in the group.
And then we have, as I said, stories which feature the constant evolution of a closed group, for which I can think of no greater example than Genshiken. Centered on a college anime club, it takes place over the course of four years. Each year, seniors will leave the club, and freshmen will enter. Through this cycle, we have a closed group with an outsider trying to become a part of it, however, because we also loose club members, it can also be that the new and old members become a building group again. This is especially seen in the ‘bonus chapter’ released last year, which features the 4th year of the club under the leadership of Ogiue, one of only 3 members who did not graduate the year before, and thus none of the original ‘closed group’ that she forced her way into still exists, and the club must ‘build’ again.
The interesting point that 8c makes about Hidamari Sketch is that the story is about a closed group that, for 2 seasons, never has any newcomers or ‘building’. Interestingly, if you read the manga, it becomes a ‘group building’ story, because it is told chronologically. However, instead, in the anime, you are given the sense that this is a closed group and that when you see episodes from before they became that group, you are seeing ‘memories’. Everything in the show feels like the cohesive tales of your group history. Watching the show could almost be like reading a new blog. You probably won’t start from their first post (god, I hope not), but instead will read some posts that you find interesting (chronological episode 700 that you are reading like it’s episode 1, similar to the airing order of HidaSketch) and then as you read more of their stuff, you will get to know their history. That’s what HidaSketch is – a series about close friends who you learn about sporadically.
Really, that’s probably how you learn about your friends in real life. I know, because I’ve told a lot of stories to a lot of people. I don’t start these stories off with ‘well, I was born in 1991…’ I start them with ‘well, this one time when I was 14’ and then maybe later they’ll hear about when I was 8 or when I was 16 – it’s disjointed, but you will gradually get to know me.
That said, once you do get to know someone, you might end up telling the same stories more than once (rewatches) and you might tell them in a new order (reorganized rewatches). That’s why I still had fun when I organized a mass-rewatching of Hidamari Sketch (when it was just 1 season) on Megatokyo in 2008 (sadly too old to pull) wherein we would rewatch each episode on the actual day on which it took place (I don’t think anyone finished though XD) – it’s easy to have fun with the watching order of Hidamari Sketch, precisely because that order doesn’t matter as much as what it represents – friendship.
And… yeah, this was supposed to be a reply to both of 8c’s HidaSketch posts, but it’s gotten too long, and I’ll be splitting it into 2.