Responding to Some Amazing Hidamari Sketch Posts by Cuchlann (Part 2)

(Part 1) On the title: long and silly story short, this is a response to a post by Cuchlann, not a post by 8c. Anyway, everything I said last time about taking too long to post on Hidamari, other people got there first, blah blah, only this post is about a year old and only surfaced to me now. Well, let’s open it up!

The Architecture of Signifiers

This is a brilliant post by Cuchlann of Super Fanicom in which he gets into the bones of Hidamari Sketch’s use of symbols to represent characters. If you’ve seen HidaSketch, you’ve surely noticed the way that characters will at times entirely disappear from a scene, and be represented only by a symbol, usually on a single-color background, backed by the character’s voice. If we take a look at these symbols (as Cuchlann does) we can find all sorts of meaning to their connections with the characters. However, to that end, I have nothing to add. Cuchlann does a wonderful job of exploring those meanings, and I largely agree with what he had to say, and the comments on the post I think round out the discussion quite nicely. So, instead of also talking about what the symbols might mean, I’m going to talk about why the symbols exist, from the standpoint of an Akiyuki Shinbo connoisseur (lol).

Now, the most down-to-Earth (and, I guess, depressing) reason for them to exist is budget. We all know how Shinbo and SHAFT work – they make something ultra-stylish, but born from necessity, as they never have any damn money or time. Shinbo has been making single-color shots and action-less scenes his whole career, and it’s quite clear that this is a method of covering up for lack of budget, but doing it in a way that actually enhances the experience. HidaSketch features pretty much every budget-cutting trick in the Shinbo book from ultra-simple backgrounds to superimposed live action shots and images, to finding any excuse to animate as little as possible.

But that’s not a bad thing, and it’s not like it’s being done in a haphazard way. I don’t think Shinbo sits around going ‘how can we make this cheap as hell? Oh, I know! Let’s just draw the X in her hair!’ – nay, I think that Shinbo puts serious consideration into the visual style and representative symbolism at use in the show. Otherwise, I doubt they could be so consistent, lol. That’s why, even if the reason for the simplicity, when you get down to it, is a tiny budget, it doesn’t mean that we can’t look at these things with intent and try to decode and decipher and interpret the meanings – because they are still there. Which brings me again to Cuchlann’s post which, once again, I totally agree with, but I’ll be looking at one more angle of the symbolism.

At least they always make up for the budget stuff on the DVDs.

I like to think of Shinbo as a very ‘brutal’ director, in regards to his characters. I don’t mean to say that he doesn’t like his characters or treats them poorly, but I think that what he likes to do is really strip them down for the audience and show you their ugly and embarrassing parts along with everything else. He dissects (at times literally, see GSZS op) his characters and leaves nothing unsaid about them – and I think that has a lot to do with why the characters from his shows tend to be so endearing.

Whereas he might be particularly brutal towards the characters in his darker shows, like Bakemonogatari or Sayonara Zetubou Sensei, though, he is less outright ‘brutal’ to the HidaSketch girls, and more just likes to poke fun at them, almost like a big brother teasing his little sister by exploiting his knowledge of her weaknesses. Because he is less harsh, the show can be so unilaterally lighthearted, but it also gets you intimate with the characters in seeing their faults laid before you. One thing I would notice a lot of the time about moments where Yuno is reduced to just an X is that they are moments wherein Yuno is being particularly ‘Yuno’. In other words, the X is kind of making fun of her for being herself.

It’s sort of like when you tease your friend by saying ‘you WOULD say that!’ or anything of the like (I get this a LOT) – it’s not like you are really criticizing them for it or thinking less of them, but you are teasing the fact, I suppose, that they are so predictably ‘themselves.’ The symbols in HidaSketch are the very base of the personalities of the characters, as Cuchlann explored. Therefor, when a symbol appears on screen, it’s like Shinbo is poking the character in the side, and waiting for you to think ‘yep, that’s Yuno alright!’

…I hope that made sense >_< Anyway, these 2 posts by Cuchlann and 8c were awesome, and I was very happy to get to read real analysis on Hidamari Sketch. They have definitely inspired me to do more posts on the franchise in the future!

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