Enjoyable fluff, but lacking substance
Sketchbook was like walking onto a hill overlooking a valley. It's lush and green, filled with sights and sounds that fill you with wonder. And then, you notice something's missing. There are no people or animals to be found. Everything is pretty pictures, but lacking in anything remotely substantial. And then they bulldoze over everything to make Lucky Star. That tortured metaphor aside, Sketchbook (the anime, at least) is a series I enjoyed for what it is. The character models are basic (if at times barely more than slightly fattened stick figures), but the backgrounds and music are tear-jerkingly beautiful at times. I also enjoyed the series' slower pace; after marathoning both Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star, having a Slice Of Life show that didn't interject random gags every five seconds was a relief. It also has Kate, quite possibly my favorite Eagle Land character in the history of anime. Just having someone capable of speaking decent (if stilted) English is awesome. The show's problem, though, is that there really isn't anything else to it. This is more a weakness of the genre than anything else, but because of the slow pace, the inherent flaws become more and more apparent as the show goes on. It also doesn't help that the humor is very rooted in puns and jokes on Japanese culture. It's not anything you can't look up, but if a joke flies over your head, the opportunity for humor has already passed. And then there's the manga. You know those puns I mentioned? The manga elevates that to A Perfect Storm Of Puns. I swear to God, 90% of the jokes are based around double meanings, misspellings, and... well, some crap I can't even figure out. It's certainly not a Widget Series (it's not really all that strange to begin with), but it's so rooted in another culture that it can, at times, become virtually unreadable. Puns are pretty much impossible to translate (both culturally and linguistically), and this is no exception. Oh, and there are a lot of cats. But cats are awesome, so that makes it better.