I just finished watching Sketchbook ~full color’s~ (henceforth “Sketchbook“, as that stylization is annoying to type) and I find myself with surprisingly little to say about it, at least in terms of specifics. “Pleasant” is probably the best descriptor, and even in a meta sense it works; such an adjective ends up saying very little about the object it’s describing, but in this case that’s appropriate as Sketchbook says very little about anything, at all.
In most other contexts this would be a criticism, but my personal life has been somewhat shaky lately. There’s nothing huge going on that’s causing this, just a bunch of little anxieties and worries and a blurry, ever-present tension that I can’t identify. It’s weird, but more importantly it’s causing me to feel vaguely stressed practically 24/7, despite not having anything that most people would consider stressful happening to me. I could try to attribute this to a bunch of different possible causes, maybe, but that’s for a different post in a different forum.
All this is to say that because of what I’ve been feeling lately, my purpose for watching anime has shifted somewhat. Where I usually watch anime to enjoy a good story and collect inspiration for my next video, or just inspiration in a general sense for whatever creative outlet my brain might happen to latch onto, recently I’ve been wanting to watch it so that I can simply turn my brain off for a while. I want to relax, veg out, and enjoy a story that has no real story. Real slice-of-life, you might say.
This is important, because I tend to get really lost in the stuff I really like. When I watched Toradora! last year, I found it really hard to come back to reality for several days after it ended. When I watched Kimagure Orange Road: I Want to Return to That Day, it was more like a week that I couldn’t focus. Every so often, I’ll get completely absorbed in the stories and characters that it affects me in a very tangible way. I don’t think this is a bad thing necessarily, but in most cases this adds quite a bit of stress to my life. Being affected by the lives of fictional characters to a point where I can’t focus compounds with the real-life consequences of being unable to focus…it can spiral quickly if I’m not careful.
I wasn’t really thinking about that when I started watching Kamichu! at the beginning of this year (this will all connect back to Sketchbook, I swear). That ended up being an anime that I had been wanting to watch ever since I saw Megamom’s sublime, awe-inspiring video Sharing Light years and years ago, but kept putting off for no reason that I can really recall. I decided to stop telling myself “Next time” and just start watching it.
Now, it was a really, really good anime in pretty much every conceivable way, but the one thing that really stuck with me was just how relaxing it was. Watching Kamichu! was never a stress-inducing experience; it always left me with a slight smile on my face and a clear mind. To give some perspective on this, a whole episode was just about the main character, Yurie, going through her day without getting out from under the table where she had been sleeping. There was almost no tension at all, and I loved it.
So, upon completing that, I decided to look up some similar series. This led me to Sketchbook, and where I thought Kamichu! was laid-back, Sketchbook took that atmosphere to an extreme I wasn’t expecting.
Have you ever experienced a form of entertainment where there was absolutely zero conflict? And I don’t mean that in a figurative sense, I mean it quite literally. Maybe you have, maybe anime like this are more common than I thought they were, but it was quite odd for me to find something so utterly devoid of anything even approaching conflict that it took me a few episodes to really wrap my head around the idea. Even Kamichu! had a minor romance subplot that provided some very minimal tension…in Sketchbook there was nothing. Not even a hint of romance. No antagonists. It was just day-to-day life.
And it was perfect.
I watched this series with a knowledge that it was something in which I could find respite. I could immerse myself in these characters and their quirky personalities and situations without fear of losing anything. It was an entirely risk-less endeavor, and I loved it. It was exactly what I needed to balance out all the uneasiness I’ve been feeling lately.
The set-up is simple and even boring — a shy girl, Kajiwara Sora, joins the school’s art club. There’s nothing else to it. You see her grow, but only very slightly. It’s a slow, 13-episode series that recognizes that for most people, change doesn’t come easily; even less so when there’s an absence of trauma to speed it along. The Sora at the end of the show is only marginally different from the Sora at the beginning…and yet, all things considered, it’s exactly what I’d expect.
The rest of the characters, and there are surprisingly many, are all unique and interesting and funny in their own way, but shallowly developed. It’s fine though, because the show isn’t really about them at its heart, it’s about Sora and her interactions with them. In fact, none of the characters, not even Sora, make too lasting an impression, but I get the feeling that was kind of the whole point. Sketchbook isn’t aiming to be the best at anything, and categorizing it or ranking it or comparing it to other anime seems to be a pointless exercise. In the end it’s supposed to feel light and airy and aimless. It’s supposed to leave you with an impression rather than a definition, and I suspect that this is why I don’t have much more to say.
…That said, I still feel the need to score it:
Personal value: 8/10