This is the one and only interview from the S1 BD Box booklet. x365’s box came with the second interview of this type, “Playback Talk 2” with TBS producers.

There are a few page number references to elsewhere in the booklet. I’ve highlighted the quotes emphasized outside the main text in color.


Playback Talk 1

Round Table Discussion #1

These three will review “Hidamari Sketch” to the present!

Participants:

Original Author – Ume Aoki

Director – Akiyuki Shinbo

Character Designer – Yoshiaki Ito

Until “Hidamari Sketch” Became an Anime

First question. What were your impressions when you first heard of “Hidamari Sketch” getting an anime?

Shinbo: I definitely wanted to make it because I was interested in working on something that was originally a 4koma. There was already a good balance between other works and scheduling issues, but I thought, “I really want to make it, whatever it takes!!”

Aoki: I felt that it was relatively early when I received the news. It was about the time volume 1 had just come out.

Ito: It had the leading PV screening at 2006’s Summer Comiket (C70), didn’t it? (See page 22) That was a problem when we didn’t have any extra time. (laugh)

Ume-sensei, what were your thoughts when you first saw that video?

Aoki: Uu, I don’t really remember… Summer Comiket, Anime Festa, Winter Comiket, I wonder which one was which…

Shinbo: Everything went by so fast, huh?

What was it like when you first met everyone?

Aoki: The first executive I met was from TBS, I was very impressed. But actually, before the meeting, the information I heard was, “He won’t talk if more than 5 people are there.” I wondered if there would be a lot of people and the executive wouldn’t talk today. I was relieved when he was speaking normally. “He’s talking normally! Wooow!!” I thought. (laugh)

Shinbo: It wasn’t actually 5 people, it was 8. (laugh)

Aoki: It was very reassuring to be put in a position where I could give suggestions and opinions proactively. I recall feeling at ease.

Ito-san, what were your impressions upon meeting Ume-sensei?

Ito: When I saw her I thought, “She’s small and sweet.” I was deeply moved because, “This person draws ‘Hidamari’!” Since Ume-sensei’s drawings are so lovely, I was really glad to participate in making its image.

Ume-sensei has been a regular cast member since she appeared in season 1. What’s the story behind that?

Aoki: Each time I’m asked that question, I feel like I’m giving the wrong answer… I’m not really confident in my memory. (laugh)

Shinbo: The most recent picture of her was very impressive. And the introductory paragraph below was funny.* It seems like it was a lie, but… (laugh)

*[Clarification for those who need it: They’re referring to Ume’s “autobiographies” on the inside of the Japanese volumes’ book jackets.]

Like how her “main ingredient is fried rice noodles”…?

Aoki: It’s true. When I lived with my parents, my mom would often cook it. But I can’t, so I have to rely on the convenience store. (laugh)

Ume-sensei, you took appearing in the anime as a self-challenge. Why did you want to try it out?

Aoki: When I was a child I recorded myself on a cassette tape and listened to it. Since then, I’ve had a “complex” for my own voice. But since it’s now a precious memory, I tried to muster all my courage to participate in the recording. When I watched episode 1’s TV broadcast, I felt like running away…

Shinbo: And after that, you sung on stage. At that time, there was no way of knowing, was there? (See column)

Column – “Ume-sensei” drawn by Yoshiaki Ito.
The illustration drawn immediately after Super Hidamatsuri.  Yeah, looks just like her!!
Ume: Don’t look!

I’ve heard you’ve become best friends with the cast, Ume-sensei.

Aoki: It’s true, and occasionally we go out to eat together.

Ito: The relationship between the original author and cast members is more than that of just co-stars, right?

Aoki: Hey, hey! (laugh) That reminds me, close to the time when season 3 began, I received a text from Nazuna’s voice actress, Chiaki Omigawa. It said, “About this line of Nazuna’s in the script, I think she might use this expression…” and we had a discussion about it through texts. Somehow that made me really delighted.

Ito: It’s rare for the original author and cast to go that far, being able to secretly keep in touch with each other.

In what way was the “Hidamari Sketch” anime promoted at its launch?

Aoki: In the initial meeting, it was commented that, “An anime only exactly the same as the manga would have a weak influence. There should be an anime-original character.”

At that time, the director said, “It should start off with the 4 characters. I want to make the atmosphere surrounding those 4 characters important.” Therefore, to make an impression, the story was shuffled and the original character, Chika, appeared in the final episode of season 1 while having her existence hinted at since the first episode. The stages of the “One story a day” foundation were also decided at the first meeting.

Shinbo: Yes, that’s right.

The story’s shuffling was original. In the first episode it’s a lot information suddenly coming out with no reason or rhyme.

Shinbo: I think that’s the #1 thing that makes the conversations closest to everyday life. At first you won’t understand conversations between strangers, but as you become acquainted with them, you’ll gradually be able to comprehend many different things.

It’s an incredible trick. It’s really like you become closer to the characters while watching.

Shinbo: I’m happy it gives off that feeling.

Aoki: We received a lot of messages like, “I want to try watching it in chronological order!” from the fans. I feel like that was the director’s plan. The atmosphere created by the original author, the “behind-head compositions”, and the like were all handled with great care.

“Behind-head compositions”?

Aoki: When the back of a character’s head is visible on screen and something is shown happening before their eyes. Because of the 4koma, I often employ that technique because it’s easy to use. I wanted them to stay the same.

“Hidamari” being loaded with small jokes is one of its most entertaining points, isn’t it?

Aoki: Shaft had a great time with them. They weren’t written in the script, but there were things like the drawing mannequin changing poses. You have to be entranced while looking to get that “Aha!” experience.  “Oh! There it is! Shaft played around again.” (laugh)

Shinbo: There were many instances of playing around like that in season 1. We changed the color of the mailboxes, bath water, and curtains each time, too.

Speaking of “Hidamari”, there’s appeal in each and every character’s great individuality as well as the cast. Looking back now, what were your impressions?

Shinbo: I wonder… Yeah, they were the best.

Aoki: Yes. Any others would be almost unimaginable.

Shinbo: Miyu Matsuki’s audition for the role of Yoshinoya-sensei was particularly wonderful. And Ume-sensei’s legendary comment was… (laugh)

Aoki: The very first time I listened to her performance, I said, “Yoshinoya-sensei is here.”

All: (laugh)

Ito: Everyone in the cast is truly a perfect fit for their character.

Aoki: In episode 12 of season 2, the Tanabata episode, everyone in the cast wrote their own wishes for their characters on strips of paper. Their handwritings were really so close to what I imagined the characters’ to be. Upon seeing them I thought, “How strange~” It felt like something fated to be.

Although the story is slightly different,  when it comes to the characters of “Hidamari”, there’s a little bit of Ume-sensei projected in each one. How do they resemble you?

Aoki: Some parts of their personalities are definitely like mine. Some  like Yuno, some like Sae, they’re all one piece of my own character. In the context of the story, Yuno is almost exactly like me. And then, Miyako is an ideal me. (laugh) Because I’m not really adept at cooking, I thought, “There should be a good cook here! ♪” so I gave that trait to Hiro…

All the characters enjoy making things, huh?

Aoki: That’s right. When I think about it, Sae being an original author somewhat matches me as a manga artist.

Shinbo: So naturally, there are Yoshinoya-sensei-like aspects of you as well…?

Aoki: Umm… a tiny bit. (laugh)

What Changed and What Won’t

So then, season 1’s airing gathered a large fanbase and season 2 aired in 2008, the very next year.

Shinbo: After the story shuffling in the first season, we struggled considerably trying to fill up the time we had in season 2. (See pages 4-5)

Ito: There was a lot of material that had to be recovered.

Shinbo: Everyone worked hard on the scenario.

Ito: In any case, although season 1 ended safely, there were a great number of difficult things. It would have been frustrating to end that way. I’m glad we took our “revenge” on that.

How were the changes to the character designs made?

Ito: Before season 2, the character designs were refreshed for the season 1 specials. At that point in time the drawings came quite close to the original work’s.

Aoki: After the specials they looked pretty different, huh?

Ito: And then, season 2’s new designs were drawn to bring them even closer to Ume-sensei’s drawings. But now when I look at them, they feel considerably far off. Season 2 revealed my true colors…

Aoki: Really?

As each chapter is added to the story, Ume-sensei’s drawings steadily become more polished. A lovely transformation, wouldn’t you agree?

Aoki: Nooo~, it’s not steady, not at all. The truth is, every time I read a volume of the manga, even I think, “That’s wrong… There’s something not right about that drawing.”

Ito-san, in what ways are changes reflected in Ume-sensei’s drawings when you look at them?

Ito: At those times they were definitely cutting-edge, always giving the impression of looking new.

So the designs changed between seasons 1 and 2, and more big changes between seasons 2 and 3.

Ito: For season 3 my aim was to match the absolute newest art by Ume-sensei. And so, I think season 3 looks closest to her drawings than ever.

Indeed.

Ito: It’s not just the character designer, the clean-up crew and photographers also experiment with something different for each new series.

Shinbo: Like processing the highlights and such.

Ito: While we look over the series as it goes on, it feels like the drawings steadily become “exquisite”. There truly is a lot of processing involved.

Shinbo: And for example, the characters’ colors changed between seasons 1 and 2. Starting from season 2, the color of Yuno and co.’s uniforms was changed. In season 1 the characters’ colors were subtly altered depending on the season. However, despite having such a small effect those scenes were a huge burden in proportion to manage, so we stopped doing that beginning with season 2.

The characters’ skin colors changing with every season… I didn’t notice that.

Aoki: Related to that, taking the photographs was also the same way. Those scenes were very difficult.

Ito: Tatsuya Oishi‘s stance was, “If it gets too tough to draw, a real picture is better.” Shaft’s staff did the cooking, in fact.

Aoki: There are a lot of eating scenes in “Hidamari”. You’d think it was a cooking manga. (laugh)

Shinbo: Of course. Speaking of which, before I knew it Hiro had become a chubby character, but somehow I wanted to dispel that.

Aoki: Hiro isn’t that chubby. She’s normal.

Her worrying too much about that was endearing, wasn’t it?

Aoki: I wonder if that was even depicted in the manga? Hiro worries about her own weight because Sae’s so thin. That was the idea behind it.

That’s the first time I’ve heard that!

Aoki: The Sae she’s always together with is so slender. Generally speaking, even though she’s not getting fat at all, she worries because she compares herself with Sae.

Shinbo: Sae undoubtedly forgets to eat and sleep while writing her stories.

Aoki: That’s why whenever I draw Sae and Hiro, I usually pay close attention to the thickness of their legs.

So on the contrary, what hasn’t changed throughout seasons 1 to 3?

Shinbo: When it comes to the episode direction, I haven’t changed the “standard layout.” As in, its tempo.

What do you mean by “standard layout”?

Shinbo: For example, the sides of each character’s room were determined like, “Draw only in this angle and composition”… That’s why it’d be a big problem if “Hidamari” got new episode directors. I think these “robotics” are difficult. “Robotics” being, the setting and structure that you must grasp completely or else you can’t direct it with continuity. And with those, it becomes closer to “Hidamari”. You just have to know everything about its flow so far.

“Hidamari” promises to be a polished product, right?

Shinbo: That’s right. The characters’ personalities, appearance, etc. are all included.

Now that I think of it, the soundtrack to Hidamari had a lot of impressive tunes. Were the same tracks used throughout seasons 1 to 3?

Shinbo: Naturally some new tracks were added, but on the other hand there are tracks we’ve always kept using. For example, the episode preview theme hasn’t changed at all.

Aoki: It’s “Shinmiri“! I love it too!!

Shinbo: That track’s definitely not going to change. We tried testing a different track for season 2, but as expected, it was no good. From seasons 1 to 3 the episode preview music hasn’t changed and will never change.

So that means, the music for season 4 and beyond will be…?

Shinbo: No different. (Said assertively)

The Anticipated 4th Season of “Hidamari Sketch”

And then in October 2012, the long-awaited broadcast of “Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb” will begin.

Aoki: Thanks to the support from everyone in the staff,  “Hidamari Sketch” started from nothing and yet is continuing on for a 4th season. I thank you all from the very bottom of my heart. Those who have helped since season 1 and those who have come to love the series, this work is the result of everybody working together. So all I have to say is, “You did a fantastic job!!!”

Ito: Each time I see everyone piling up at events, I think, “Wow, I’m so happy.”  So I have the honor of taking part in a work that entertains so many people. I still haven’t forgotten the moment of the “Super Hidamatsuri”* season 2 announcement.

*[That 2-minute short in which Miyako devours a watermelon and Yuno turns her head to the audience. Subbed download here.]

Aoki: Oh yes, I haven’t forgotten that. There aren’t many opportunities to meet with the series’ viewers, are there? And that’s not even all fans, since there are also ones who couldn’t get tickets or don’t have an interest in attending events. Nevertheless, those who support the work and share their thoughts here and there make me truly happy. The 4th season won’t be any different, I hope everybody enjoys it.

A Message to the Fans

And finally, please give a few words to the fans who picked up this booklet.

Shinbo: Are you enjoying the BD Box? I have not yet seen its completed version, but I’m happy to have made something that makes others happy!

Ito: To everyone who has supported the work so far, and those who pick up “Hidamari” from now on, I’m happy that we were able to release “Hidamari Sketch” with even more gorgeous pictures. I hope you enjoy it for many years to come.

Aoki: I hope both old and new viewers enjoy the “Hidamari” world through these images made even more pretty. And I hope you watch beyond season 1 as well. Thank you so much for purchasing!!!

We Asked the Hidamari Sketch Executives!!

Q1. Who’s your favorite character?

Aoki: I can’t choose! Because I’m like a parent of sorts to them, they’re all so cute to me.

Shinbo: I’m with Ume-sensei, I can’t pick one either!

Ito: In the anime, it’s probably Sae. I like Chika and Sae’s relationship.

Q2. What’s your favorite Hidamari tune?

Aoki: “Shinmiri” from the next episode previews! Tu~ruruttutututu~♪

Shinbo: “Shinmiri” for me, too.

Ito: Definitely “Sketch Switch”. That goes into my hall of fame.

Q3. Which episode left the best impression on you?

Aoki: Probably the first season’s final episode, when Sae’s sister Chika is introduced. I remember checking its script through Houbunsha…

Shinbo: When Hiro and Sae have a fight on Tanabata. Something like that is good once in a while.

Ito: All of the episodes where Chika appears. I love the scene where Sae pats Chika’s head while she’s sleeping.


I’m glad I managed to finish this before Honeycomb started! As for all the other booklet stuff, well…

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