I've been rewatching Hidamari Sketch, as well as its sequel Hidamari Sketch x365, the title of which brings up the obvious question of leap years, but I digress. Anyway, even now, I'm not entirely sure what to say about it.
It's a happy series, to be sure. It's the brighter, fluffier side of SHAFT and Shinbo, the part concerned with nothing more earth-shaking than the lives of an Azumanga-esque group of girls, each slightly odd, and the rather odder people around them. It's slice-of-life, a slice of a life none of us live, and yet a life all of us find familiar.
Art with a capital A is the primary impression one gets from the show. It makes use of plenty of clean, simple motifs, the sort which presents itself as being unpretentious: the pieces are there to create an overall feeling that is easily accessible to one and all, and yet each part may be examined in detail at leisure to glean further insights.
Character-wise, I'm not sure which of the four main girls (or the various side characters) to award Favourite Character to. Yuno is arguably the main main girl, the primary protagonist, and the anime is an exploration of how she matures as time goes on (anachronically, it should be said), but she doesn't set off my "main character not as interesting as side characters" biases. Maybe it's because she is one of the purer strains of moe, in the sense that she seems like she should be hugged and cuddled and protected from the big bad world out there.
Miyako is an odd case. In another anime, she would be the annoying, over-loud character whom I'd much prefer would settle down (like Azumanga Daioh's Tomo). But in Hidamari Sketch, she's not only tolerable, but she's close to becoming my favourite character. Part of this, I think, is because despite her actions, she's talented. I think she canonically has the most raw talent and ability of all the Hidamari girls, being able to instinctively work out the most creative way to interpret a subject. Add in a heart as big as a very big thing indeed (the episode with Yuno's fever dream is heartwarming), and Miyako is someone I'd be happy to call a friend, Hiro-annoying aside.
Speaking of whom, Hiro and Sae are kind of… there, I suppose. They're great characters, and I don't dislike them (apart from Sae's transparent claims to be Experienced In Love), but they rank below Yuno and Miyako in the character tiers. Possibly they just need more screentime before I can get used to them.
And yes, Yoshinoya-sensei is hot.
What pushes the series from "well done" to "one of my favourites", I think, is the music. This is a common requirement for series which I consider to be among my top anime: Card Captor Sakura, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Read or Die. In fact, good background music can make up for a lot of series sins; I'm not really impressed by the plot of Read or Die, but the soundtrack I listen to often.
Unfortunately, I'm not exactly trained to critique music, and so I can't say anything substantial apart from "it's good and I like it". How it is good, and why I like it, are mysteries answerable only with "because".
I've mentioned before my love for the opening themes of both seasons, which are cheery and bouncy and happy. The ending themes are more sedate, with a touch of melancholy, but the sort of melancholy that you smile with, as you might smile at a parting: it is a Goodbye, but with the hope of See You Again. The warm, comfortable evening glow, perhaps, compared to the bright promise of dawn of the opening themes, completing the motif of the sunlight of Hidamari Sketch.