SUNSHINE SKETCH • Ume Aoki • Yen Press • 13+
Four teenage girls, students at an arts-oriented high school, live in the rundown Hidamari (”Sunshine”) Apartments: earnest and hard-working Yuno, airheaded Miya, glasses-wearing and “mature” Sae, and Hiro, who doesn’t have much personality apart from her curly hair. When not taking tests or working on art projects, they hang out, splash in an inflatable kiddy pool, sunbathe and blunder through the never-too-difficult difficulties of living away from home for the first time. A cutesy moe manga about the (to male readers) exotic lives of adorable girls, Sunshine Sketch is populated entirely by stereotypes, from the irresponsible and narcissistic teacher (the “older woman”), to the girls with their various levels of ditziness (Miya: “I’m very energetic. But I don’t know how I caught a cold… ‘cos I’m stupid”). Thankfully, the simple art fits the writing well; behavior which would be unbearable from realistic- or sexy-looking characters seems funnier from dot-eyed, smiley-faced cartoon abstractions, which is how the characters spend most of their panels. Some of the jokes are pleasantly quirky (sample: the girls goes to the zoo, where one imagines how the elephant would look if it were covered with moisturizer, and another roleplays out the inner thoughts of monkeys), but others depend on diligently translated Japanese puns. Formulaic, but pleasant enough.
** (two stars)
Today’s winner is Valerie B. of Texas! Congratulations, Valerie!