It seems that the early morning exercise bug which has been present throughout Hidamari Sketch Hoshimittsu has even managed to catch Yoshinoya and the Yamabuki High principle in its grasp, as we see them both having a bit of a work-out while the girls of Hidamari Apartments have even more exciting things to look forward to over the next couple of days.
The source of all that excitement is a visit from Sae's sister Chika, who gets to meet the newcomers Nori and Nazuna for the first time and (perhaps inevitably considering they're the same) hits it off with them pretty much instantly. That aside, this episode has all of the usual facets of a visit from Chika, which means Hiro dishing out even fancier meals thatn usual, a bit of sibling rivalry between Sae and her younger sister, and a visit somewhere a little different to make Chika's visit worthwhile.
A little oddly, we don't actually get to follow the girls on their day in the park complete with picnic, and even more oddly not tagging along actually works pretty well, as instead we simply get to soak up the conversations between the girls after the event as they recount what they talked about, including such important topics as "if the residents of Hidamari Apartments were animals, what would they be?". Someone needs to get these girls on Question Time....
As per last week's episode, this particular instalment of Hidamari Sketch x☆☆☆ wasn't particularly high in terms of laughs and great jokes (although it still had a few), instead taking us down a route of abject relaxation - The anime equivalent of a soak in hot, soothing bath to take away the aches and pains of a week just gone by. That said, this episode was also the first occasion where Nori and Nazuna really seemed to fit seamlessly into the Hidamari Apartments dynamic, with the former reminding me of myself with her habit of looking up useful snippets of information on her smartphone to pass on to the group, while the latter's shyness is at least starting to seem offset by her otherwise friendly demeanour.
The other thing I noticed here is that, with these new younger characters on the scene, it really feels as though the original four Hidamari girls have genuinely grown up a little... well, apart from Miyako maybe). From the way they all dressed up to the discussions they had during their day out compared to the younger girls, there was a definite stamp of maturity there, which I admire simply because it's actually quite rare to see characters age in any discernible sense in animation of any form. It's these little touches that make Hidamari Sketch stand out, even when it isn't on top comic form.