25 Sep, 2008

Sunshine Sketch, Vol. 1

By: Erin Finnegan

By Ume Aoki
Published by Yen Press
Rating: Teen

Sunshine Sketch Vol. 1Sunshine Sketch is a shockingly un-funny 4-koma (4 panel) comic compilation with a recent anime adaptation in Japan. Yen Press’ timing of their release was clever: the book debuted Stateside on May 28th, 2008, just prior to the second season of anime, titled Hidamari Sketch, which debuted on Japanese television July 3rd, 2008. The series is popular enough to have warrented two light novels, a soundtrack, a few character song singles, and a TV special in addition to the two anime seasons.

Internet fans of the anime series will recognize the source manga for exactly what it is: “slice of life” stories about cute, young-looking high school girls attending art school, intended squarely for an older male audience. “Slice of life” on the internet can be a code for anything from the super-boring anime series Piano; Melody of a Young Girl’s Heart to the both super-boring and super-perverted title Kokoro Library.

Whenever a manga series is painstakingly boring as well as frighteningly cute, I become wary–is this for perverts? And by perverts, I mean fans of moe, which is a bit difficult to explain, so I’ll direct you to a good recent ANN discussion of the topic. Sunshine Sketch, like Azumanga Daioh ran in a seinan magazine (Manga Time Kirara Carat, Azumanga ran in Dengeki Daioh). I have a hard time explaining this to people, because Azumanga Daioh is legitimately funny, and the way people consume it in America is not the way people consumed it in Japan. The same goes for Yotsuba& and Strawberry Panic (the anime more so than the manga). These series are read as more or less “all ages” in America, but in Japan they are intended for and consumed by a pervy 25+ male audience.

As a reviewer, it is not really up to me to put a moral judgment on you the reader and decide whether or not you’re a pervert if you like this title. Kai-Ming Cha of Publisher’s Weekly is neither a pervert nor a male age 25-35, and she totally thought this book was hilarious. Personally, I think the punchline is moe, and I’m not laughing.

I maintain that there are only two funny jokes in this book–that is to say, I smiled but did not laugh out loud at the punchline. Of those two, one joke had to be explained via translation footnote (“Chikurin,” page 60). I really only enjoy puns that must be explained in translation notes (be they Japanese or Elizabethian), so I don’t really expect others to enjoy the chikurin gag.

For those of you still interested, here’s the plot: Yuno is accepted into a high school specializing in the arts. She moves into the dorms and makes friends with three other girls who fall along the lines of various moe stereotypes. I’m sorry, but I don’t think being ditzy (Miyako) or having glasses (Sae) really counts as characterization. Maybe I have been spoiled forever by Azumanga Daioh, which took the same archetypes and made them into real characters. I could slightly identify with some of Azumanga Daioh’s characters, but Sunshine Sketch is not only written about unrealistic girls living out the rather bland fantasies of otaku males. The wacky teacher Yoshinoya is not even as believeably wacky as Yukari-chan in Azumanga, and comes off as a pale imitation, as if an editor said “You have to have a wacky teacher! It’s a genre standard!”

Sometimes something sexy happens, like a character has to wear a too-short children’s yukata to the local festival, or Miyako wears underwear instead of a bathing suit. Sorry, but it’s just not sexy or funny enough. The same yukata plot is funnier and (creepily) sexier in Honey and Clover.

Between Sunshine Sketch, Sundome, and a few other questionable titles, I’m suspicious that someone at Yen Press is a giant pervert.

Volume one of Sunshine Sketch is available now. Volume two will be available in November, 2008.

5 Responses to "Sunshine Sketch, Vol. 1"

1 | Michelle Smith

September 25th, 2008 at 10:14 am

Avatar

Although I haven’t read Suzunari, from the preview at the back of S. S. Astro, I suspect it would qualify as well. At least with the latter, though clearly aimed for the same demographic, the characters were all adults.

2 | MangaBlog » Blog Archive » Staying home and catching up

September 26th, 2008 at 10:15 am

Avatar

[...] Sweetness or moe? Manga Recon’s Erin Finnegan smells more of the latter than the former in vol. 1 of Sunshine Sketch. Jason Thompson reads vol. 1 of Faust at comiXology. Ai Kano reviews the illustration book [...]

3 | BakaTanuki

September 26th, 2008 at 10:53 am

Avatar

I personally found it to be really quite funny. Sure, I am a fan of moe, but more for the cuteness than the perviness. It was definitely cute and rather charming. I’m looking forward to the second volume.

4 | Dave White

September 28th, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Avatar

I’ve got to agree with you – the series is low on humor and characterization, and while it’s not unreadable it’s not particularly enjoyable either. It doesn’t help that the timing for most of the jokes is just horrible, which renders most of them flat.

Interestingly, the only joke I laughed at desperately needed a footnote and didn’t have one (p. 36, the joke being that Yoshinoya-sensei shares the same name as a popular chain of beef bowl restaurants).

5 | Erin F.

October 1st, 2008 at 11:20 pm

Avatar

I agree with you about the Yoshinoya footnote, Dave. There were several places where I thought footnotes were needed and none were provided. I wonder if they got cut for space?

Tags