Sometimes, I wish for a world where every week brought me a new episode of Hidamari Sketch. Sometimes, between all of those special episodes, DVD releases and so on it feels as though I'm a little closer to that world than is actually true. Regardless, more of this wonderful franchise is always a good thing, and thus the appearance of the first Hidamari Sketch x☆☆☆ Special is quite the birthday treat for me.
In keeping with the kind of intense drama always provided by the series, much of this episode focuses on a huge piece of plot development for the show - the opening of a new family restaurant nearby, complete with flyers that include coupons! Of course, the girls decide to check it out after school, a decision made even easier by the fact that they only have a half day; in keeping with that "dropping by after school" element, they don't even bother changing out of their uniforms to pay it a visit - that's just how rebellious the Hidamari Apartment girls are.
We probably shouldn't be surprised to find that the girl's landlady is working as a waitress at this apartment, nor should we be surprised to see Natsume putting in an appearance and eventually irritating Sae as always, but all of this weaves into a gentle, cheerful and mildly amusing narrative, all beautifully animated via SHAFT's inimitably unique style. As a showcase of why most people watch Hidamari Sketch, this isn't the funniest episode segments ever, but it's still very much entertaining.
Speaking of Natsume, any fans of hers are given a real treat as the final segment of this special episode takes us right back to her first day at Yamabuki High - a potentially disastrous day as her mother can't make it to the opening ceremony, delays on the trains make her late, and she very nearly can't find her locker until a certain girl named Sae saves her bacon by pointing her in the right direction. Of course, Natsume is immediately taken by this tall, smart girl, but the next time they meet properly Natsume walks right into the midst of a conversation between Sae and Hiro which leaves her feeling confused and jealous, and thus the Natsume we know all too well throughout this series is born - this girl really needs a hug.
I'm not really sure that I need to conclude this post - you probably all know how much I love Hidamari Sketch so it goes without saying that I also loved this episode. The Natsume section of the episode was carried off excellently (arguably better than even the original manga managed), and the family restaurant scenario which preceded it was fun enough to watch to. Now, I guess I just have to be patient and wait for the next special episode, which will hopefully be followed by Sentai Filworks announcing that they've licensed the series on Blu-Ray... pretty please?