Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hidamari Sketch Sae and Hiro Graduation 01

Hidamari Sketch Sae and Hiro Graduation 01 includes the six Hidamari residents and Chika, as well as one of Hiro’s friends. The episode centers on Sae and Hiro’s college entrance exams and subsequent wait for their results.


Scene 01: 00:10 - 00:44
C: Yu
Yuno wakes up on the first day of Sae and Hiro’s university exams. She gets out of bed early in the morning to make Sae a lunch, which from the emphasis she has put on the day on her calendar and from her determination in getting out of bed despite being cold is conveyed to be a task Yuno believes is very important for Sae’s success. This is reinforced by her light-hearted movements as she cooks the meal, which show her willingness to inconvenience herself for Sae’s benefit. Yuno’s desire for Sae to do well does not have significant tones of romantic yuri, but as a gesture of friendship it earns Yuno a 2.


Scene 02: 00:47 - 01:31
C: Yu, Mi, Sa, Hi, No, Na
Sae and Hiro say goodbye to the other Hidamaris before leaving to take university entrance tests. In addition to Yuno’s lunch for Sae, which doesn’t affect her readings here since she was already earned yurilevels for it in the previous scene, Nori is shown to have made a lunch for Hiro. Nori has never been portrayed as a particularly strong cook (she relies on a printed-out recipe to make a dessert in xHoshimittsu 12, fails to help Nazuna [who herself is a canonically poor chef] cook a meal in xHoneycomb 01, and admits to having no experience with making fried foods in xHoneycomb 05), so it is unusual that Nori would prepare a meal. The most likely explanation for Nori’s behavior is that, like Yuno, she is emotionally invested in helping Hiro succeed and was thus motivated enough to cook for her, earning Nori a similar increase to Yuno in the previous scene. Hiro accepts the lunch with some warmth, but her overall reaction seems too polite to affect her readings. Miyako tells Hiro not to eat the lunch before lunchtime, and looks proud of her advice after saying it, showing that she also wants to help but in a way that is not significant enough to earn her as strong an increase as Yuno and Nori had. After the other Hidamaris have said their goodbyes, Sae tells Hiro that they have to leave, reinforcing their dominant-submissive dynamic by having Sae leading Hiro and Hiro happily following, which raises both of their readings. Before they go, Miyako leads the others in the “Hidamari Cheer Squad” chant from xHoneycomb 10, another display of support that earns them each slight friendly increases. Nori ends with 3, Miyako, Sae, and Hiro with 2, and Yuno and Nazuna with 1.


Scene 03: 03:06 - 04:58
C: Yu, Mi, Hi, No, Na
Hiro returns from an exam. Despite meeting the others in Nazuna’s room, Hiro still enters by saying “I’m home” (ただいま, “tadaima”) and is greeted with a unanimous “welcome home” (おかえりなさい, “okaeri nasai”), conveying that all of them feel equally at home in any part of Hidamari Apartments, a comfort around each other that elevates all of them significantly. Yuno and Miyako both worry that Hiro is becoming sick from stress, giving them slight increases. Yuno is also helped by her offer to make lunch for Hiro again, which Hiro receives comparable side-readings from for her gratitude and for saying how much she appreciates that the others are showing her so much care. Yuno ends with 3 and everyone else earns 2.


Scene 04: 05:00 - 06:00
C: Yu, Mi, Sa, Hi, No, Na
Sae returns from her exam. Her cheerful demeanor worries the others, particularly Yuno and Nori, who evidently have a desire to keep her from being happy that will detract from their overall readings. Sae reveals a bag of sweets she brought for everybody, a friendly gesture that helps her slightly, and the other Hidamaris subsequently stop worrying about her, though this is more a selfish desire for desserts than any reconciliation toward Sae. Yuno shows friendly sympathy for Sae and Hiro as they take their exams, and Sae quickly focuses Yuno’s sympathy away from herself and toward Hiro, likely since as the previous scene showed she is having a more difficult exam period. Hiro accepts this redirection, so both she and Sae receive increases from Sae’s selflessness. Overall, Sae receives 2, Yuno and Hiro get 1, and the rest stay at 0.


Scene 05: 06:05 - 06:53
C: Yu, Mi
Yuno expresses concern about the future while Miyako clips her toenails. Miyako responds to Yuno’s misgivings about university exams by asking if she doesn’t want to take any, a simplistic but well-meaning effort on her part to understand Yuno’s feelings that she expounds into a philosophical musing about the purpose of exams, which cheers Yuno up with partial success. Throughout the discussion, Miyako is clipping her toenails, showing an extremely high level of comfort both in Yuno’s room and around Yuno herself. Yuno’s annoyed reactions suggest that she doesn’t believe Miyako’s comfort is warranted, lowering her reading for the scene to a 1 while Miyako receives a 3.


Scene 06: 07:02 - 07:35
C: Hi, Hiro’s friend
Hiro finishes her exam. Her friend asks if Hiro will be eating another lunch made for her, demonstrating a pattern of observing Hiro that raises her readings slightly, and Hiro’s smile and laugh as she responds shows her enjoyment at having the lunches prepared for her. Hiro’s comment that the lunch is cute reinforce her yurilevels from appreciating the help she is receiving from the other Hidamaris, raising her to 2 overall. Her friend ends at 1.


Scene 07: 07:37 - 08:12
C: Yu, Mi
Yuno discusses the artistic intent of her lunch for Hiro. Her chosen dish of wieners is homonymous with the English word “winner”, which is both esoteric given neither Yuno nor Hiro speaks English as their first language and also assumes Hiro enjoys eating wieners, so Yuno doesn’t receive an increase for her choice of food. Her eagerness to help Hiro by making her lunch does show care for her, however, so she earns a slight increase overall. Miyako, meanwhile, is content to help Hiro by eating on her behalf, which is simply an attempt to justify her eating rather than any selfless action. She stays at 0 and Yuno ends at 1.


Scene 08: 08:17 - 10:33
C: Yu, Mi, Sa, Hi, No, Na
Sae receives her exam results. She initially opens the wrong envelope, frustrating the other Hidamaris who crowd their heads around each other as they complain about Sae’s carelessness; they receive a slight net increase, mostly since the positioning of their heads would suggest at least some of them are rubbing against each other. As Sae opens the correct envelope, Hiro has her hands clasped and her eyes closed to resemble prayer, showing an intense desire for Sae’s success relative to the others who sit normally and receiving a moderate raise. Hiro is also the first Hidamari to help Sae look for her ID number on the list of accepted students and congratulates her most loudly, actions which both reinforce her previous increase. Miyako then leads a general cheer and congratulation, increasing her readings moderately and the others’ slightly, but Sae is too uncomfortable with being admitted to the university that she does not readily accept their praise, keeping her from earning side readings. Toward the end of the scene, Hiro notes with what seems to be some measure of worry that she will be receiving her first results soon; Sae attempts to soothe her by resting a hand on her shoulder and reassuring her that she will be accepted to her first pick, earning both of them strong readings for showing that the two conflate comfort with physically connecting with each other. Hiro is visibly cheered up by Sae’s efforts and shows her gratitude by hugging Sae’s waist. This time Sae gets embarrassed by Hiro’s gesture, for which there are two likely explanations: either Sae is uncomfortable with Hiro’s sudden intimacy, which is somewhat plausible given Sae’s general reluctance to open up to others, or that Sae is embarrassed with expressing said intimacy in front of the other Hidamaris. The second is slightly more plausible since as of xHoneycomb 06 Sae has no problem hugging Hiro, and even with a degree of uncertainty included it still helps Sae significantly for suggesting that she considers aspects of her relationship to Hiro private. She ends with 3 while Hiro receives 4; Miyako earns 2 and the others end at 1.


Scene 09: 10:37 - 12:51
C: Yu, Mi, Sa, Hi, No, Na
Hiro receives exam results from her third and first pick universities. While waiting for Hiro to open the results for her third pick, Sae is noticeably leaning toward Hiro, showing strong emotional investment and receiving a moderate increase for it. Hiro is accepted and the others congratulate with Yuno and Sae being the first; they receive slightly stronger increases than the rest for this. Nazuna responds to Hiro’s comment that her fourth pick university rejected her by suggesting the grader was bad at art, suggesting Nazuna believes Hiro’s art is sufficiently complex or advanced enough to go over the heads of professional artists, a faith in Hiro’s skill that elevates Nazuna significantly. When Hiro opens the results from her first pick, Sae is again leaning in intensely which again aids her readings considerably. Hiro learns she has been waitlisted, a term which Yuno and Miyako are unfamiliar with. Miyako suggests to Yuno that waitlisting is like being a benchwarmer (a second- or third-tier baseball player used as a substitute), conveying that, unlike Nazuna, Miyako doesn’t believe Hiro is good enough to be accepted immediately into the university, which will hurt her readings. Hiro says that she will receive a notice of acceptance or rejection in a week, prompting Sae to grab hold of Hiro’s waist and call for a miracle to happen, similarly to how Hiro did in Scene 08. Like in Scene 08, the combination of her close physical contact and demand of divine intervention on Hiro’s behalf gives Sae a very strong yurilevel increase, while Yuno, Miyako, Nori, and Nazuna all receive slight side-increases for subsequently praying for Hiro. Since this moment is a repetition of the end of the previous scene, Sae and Hiro receive similar increase to then with Sae in Hiro's role and vice versa. Sae earns 4, Hiro and Nazuna 3 each, Yuno and Nori 1 each, and Miyako 0.


Scene 10: 13:03 - 13:17
C: Yu, Mi
Yuno and Miyako wait for Hiro’s test results to be delivered. At the beginning of the scene, Yuno appears to be leaning toward Miyako, but Miyako later sits up, showing that Yuno was just leaning toward Miyako (which is still a bit gay, but not as strongly as actually resting on Miyako’s shoulder would have been). Yuno and Miyako are both stressed in sympathy for Hiro, an emotional resonance that earns them each moderate readings which are strengthened by their hastiness to rush outside for the mail in the hopes that it is Hiro’s admission decision. Both end with 2.


Scene 11: 13:18 - 13:45
C: Yu, Mi, Sa, Hi
Sae and Hiro join Yuno and Miyako in waiting for Hiro’s test results to be delivered. Hiro apologizes for making Yuno and Miyako worry about her, a considerate remark that helps her slightly, but Yuno insists it doesn’t trouble her to be concerned about Hiro, helping her similarly. The four grow anticipatory at seeing another courier approach Hidamari Apartments, strengthening Yuno, Miyako, and Sae’s yurilevels for their sympathetic anxiety that are reinforced by their frustration at learning it’s a pizza deliverer. Everybody ends with 1.


Scene 12: 13:47 - 14:51
C: Yu, Mi, Sa, Hi, No, Na
Hiro’s test results are delivered. Nori and Nazuna apologize to Hiro for getting her hopes up by ordering pizza, though because only Nazuna’s apology seems regretful while Nori tries to laugh the incident off, only Nazuna is helped by apologizing. When the actual test results arrive for Hiro, the other Hidamaris all bow and thank the deliveryman, receiving slight increases for again showing emotional investment in Hiro’s exams. Hiro is too nervous to open her results around the others and moves away before doing so, suggesting the Hidamaris are not a source of comfort to Hiro and holding down her yurilevels for the scene. The process of her opening the envelope focuses on Sae just as much as it does on Hiro, with the scene placing her in the center of the others as they watch from afar, zooming in on her eye while Hiro reads her results, and showing only her reaction after Hiro reveals she was accepted. By giving such strong emphasis to Sae during an event that is happening to Hiro, Sae is being presented as an equally important player in Hiro’s affairs as Hiro herself is, continuing a motif throughout the series of portraying Sae and Hiro as two halves of a whole. It raises them each to 4, while Nazuna earns 2 and the rest receive 1.


Scene 13: 14:55 - 17:17
C: Yu, Mi, Sa, Hi, No, Na
The Hidamaris celebrate Sae and Hiro’s admissions. Like in Scene 08, Miyako is the main instigator in getting everyone to applaud Sae and Hiro for their success, earning her a moderate increase and giving Yuno, Nori, and Nazuna slight side increases for participating. Yuno asks Nori if she ordered pizza to celebrate, helping her for assuming Nori would be selfless enough to reward Hiro for her admission, but Nori admits she ordered it for dinner and the delivery was only coincidence which prevents her from being benefitted by her action. Hiro expresses excitement about no longer having to study, but as she does so she looks at Sae and asks “right?” (ね, “ne” [a tag question particle]) twice as if she is asking for Sae’s permission to relax. She only does so when Sae confirms her statement, another show of submission from her that raises both Sae and Hiro’s yurilevels significantly. Miyako pretends to interview Sae and Hiro about what they want to do with their exams finished, an interest in them that aids her readings slightly; Hiro is the only one to answer the question directly while Sae completely defers to Hiro’s wishes by agreeing to everything Hiro suggests, helping Sae significantly for her desire to make Hiro happy. Later, Nori and Nazuna suggest that Hiro could work at a restaurant because it would provide her with free food, which both suggests they think of her as little more than a glutton but is also a sincere recommendation intended to help her, so it has no net effect on their readings. Overall, Hiro ends with 4, Sae ends with 3, Yuno and Miyako with 2, and Nori and Nazuna with 1.


Scene 14: 17:17 - 18:31
C: Yu, Mi, Sa, Hi, No, Na, Ch
Chika sends Hiro her congratulations. Nearly every line Chika has in this scene is spoken with an extremely excited tone that conveys her overwhelming joy for Hiro, moderately raising her readings since nothing in her delivery suggests anything stronger than close friendship. Sae, in contrast, is annoyed with her sister throughout, becoming openly hostile when Chika asks for chirashizushi the next time she visits Hidamari Apartments and when Chika tells Sae she needs to learn to cook before living on her own at college*, and her readings are consequently held down considerably. Yuno earns a slight increase for figuring out from Sae’s reactions that she was speaking to Chika, displaying an ability to read and understand Sae’s emotions, while Hiro gets a moderate increase for showing genuine rather than polite happiness at hearing Chika congratulate her and ask to visit as a celebration. Hiro and Chika each end at 2, Yuno at 1, and everyone else at 0.


Scene 15: 18:31 - 20:27
C: Yu, Mi, Sa, Hi, No, Na
The Hidamaris continue to celebrate. Yuno asks Sae and Hiro if they are full, a concern for them that helps her readings slightly. Nori and Nazuna are made happy by hearing Hiro say it was a satisfying meal, helping them because it reflects their desire to help Hiro. Sae credits the others with getting her into university by giving her their support, giving her a moderate increase for her gratitude and Hiro a similar increase for agreeing. After their sentiments are shared, Nori tries to involve Nazuna in the conversation asking if she’s happy to hear their thankfulness, helping her for wanting to incorporate Nazuna into the group; meanwhile, Yuno and Miyako smile happily at each other, conveying their pride in each other’s work toward Sae and Hiro’s success and giving them both slight raises. Miyako’s increase is offset by making fun of Hiro’s weight, and Hiro’s angry and violent response hurts her as well. Yuno responds to Sae and Hiro by saying that she felt compelled to help out of concern for them, showing either a sense of obligation or sympathy toward Hiro, which either way is enough of a closeness toward her that she receives a moderate increase. Miyako’s repeated references to the Hidamari Cheer Squad come across as an intention to focus the conversation on herself and her actions, a selfishness that detracts from her readings. Hiro says she literally slept better at night knowing the other Hidamaris were there for her, a strong friendly appreciation which aids her moderately; Yuno receives a slight side increase for being pleased by Hiro’s remark. Yuno ends with 3, Sae and Hiro with 2, Nori and Nazuna with 1, and Miyako with 0.


Scene 16: 20:33 - 21:29
C: Sa, Hi
Sae and Hiro relax together on Hiro’s bed. An establishing shot of a tea kettle on a stove burner suggests that the tea that Sae and Hiro are drinking was prepared and served in Hiro’s room. It doesn’t receive any comments or attention from them, but Sae and Hiro are very clearly drinking from matching mugs with two stripes, with Sae’s colored blue and Hiro’s colored pink to match their respective hair colors. Matching colorless mugs would have been easily explainable as generic cups with no special meaning, but with the color coordination it’s evident Hiro owns them solely for the two of them to drink from together. In all honesty, any examination of the rest of the scene is merely a formality, because having matching personalized mugs is an embarrassingly cutesy romantic gesture on Hiro’s part that Sae appears to embrace happily, and will be certain to overshadow anything else that happens. Sae tells Hiro her nervousness about exams only ended when Hiro received her acceptance letter, bolstering her yurilevels for treating their exams as one connected event and being just as invested in Hiro’s success as in her own. The rest of the scene is mostly easygoing small talk which conveys a sense of peace around each other that further strengthens their readings. Both end at 4.


Scene 17: 21:35 - 22:00
C: Yu
Yuno bathes in green water. In a drastic change from most bath scenes, Yuno is noticeably melancholy as she ruminates about Sae and Hiro’s fast-approaching departure from Hidamari Apartments. Her observation that nobody has mentioned they will leave suggests that for the Hidamaris in general and Yuno in particular, the thought of the two leaving is too upsetting to talk about even among her closest friends, and at the end she expresses a fear that she will emote as she says goodbye to them, belying that Yuno worries she does not have the emotional strength to cope with their loss. Both of these convey Yuno’s extremely close attachment to Sae and Hiro, and her desire for them to stay with her indefinitely easily earns her a 4.


Final Yurilevel Readings: (both Aokis and Umes are out of 4)
Episode: 1.8836A
Characters:
  1. Hiro: 2.811U
  2. Sae: 2.716U
  3. Chika: 2.000U
  4. Nazuna: 1.811U
  5. Yuno: 1.676U
  6. Nori: 1.440U
  7. Miyako: 1.124U
  8. Hiro’s friend: 1.000U

Readings were high but not exceptional, reflecting the overall mood of close friendship. Sae and Hiro, as the focus of the episode, naturally received the highest yurilevels, displaying both warmth toward the Hidamaris and a strong level of intimacy toward each other. Yuno performed exceptionally well in this episode by her standards, earning yurilevels in every single scene she appeared in and ending with a relatively high Ume reading, but was still overshadowed in the final rankings by Nazuna’s strong marks in Scenes 9 and 12. Conversely, Miyako did poorly throughout, mostly because she acted as a sidekick to Yuno without having a significant role in the episode otherwise.



Further analysis will continue with Hidamari Sketch Sae and Hiro Graduation 02.

*: [NOTE: SPOILERS FOR HIDAMARI SKETCH MANGA] Chika’s comment here suggests that Sae and Hiro decided on what universities they wanted to attend independent of where they would live. In the manga, however, their first picks of universities were chosen at least in part because they were close enough to allow the two to live together in one apartment (although the investigation tends to refrain from referring to the manga, the implications such a development implies could not be overlooked). This plot point therefore appears to have been dropped from the anime adaptation, though it is possible that either it will be addressed in a future continuation of the Hidamari Sketch anime or that they will still be living together and Chika simply hasn’t been told yet.

Corrections:
12/31/13: A note in the original version of this post insinuated that "Sae and Hiro Graduation" was a mistranslation of the Japanese title 沙英・ヒロ 卒業編 (“Sae ・Hiro Sotsugyou-hen”) by Nutbladder; it is actually Studio Shaft's official translation. The original version of this post also erroneously said that Sae and Hiro's university choices were specifically chosen to be close enough to let them live together; the revelation that the universities were close together and their choice to live together were actually in two separate chapters.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Conclusions

Hidamari Sketch as a Yuri Series
Although the investigation has operated under the assumption that all possible female characters are closeted lesbians, the existence of yuri in Hidamari Sketch is ambiguous. Creator Ume Aoki and producer Studio Shaft have both made conscious decisions to leave all lesbian subtext in the series implicit, leading to some debate over whether Hidamari Sketch can be perceived as a yuri series or not (a meme in Hidamari threads on /a/ has been to insist the characters are “just good friends”). It is true that referring to Hidamari Sketch as yuri has been speculation; however, it is not an entirely unfounded speculation, and it is one which strengthens the show as a whole.


The definition of yuri that has been used through the investigation is simply “lesbian content.” For the purpose of defining Hidamari Sketch as a yuri series, we will specify yuri to refer to media that portrays “intense emotional connection, romantic love or physical desire between women.”*


Intense Emotional Connections
The form of emotional connection described in the working definition of yuri is likely close to the Japanese concept of “shinyuu” (親友), referring to a very intimate friendly relationship a person will typically only experience a handful of times in their life. There are many connections of friendship in Hidamari Sketch, but examples of shinyuu are more infrequent. The best example of bonds of shinyuu is the Hidamari family unit, referenced multiple times from x365 onward to refer to how the Hidamaris interact with each other and view each other as a surrogate family, with the intimacy and closeness such a relationship implies. By considering the Hidamaris a family, they are implicitly acknowledging that their relationships with each other exceed that of normal friendship: compare how Yuno acts toward other Hidamaris to how she acts toward, say, Mami or Nakayama. Emotional yuri is of the sort that the investigation has referred to as “friendly” yuri, and there were many instances of it in Hidamari Sketch.


Romantic Love
Romance of the sort yuri media is generally about is not explicitly present in Hidamari Sketch, which is the main reason some do not consider it yuri. However, implications of romantic love are very frequent, especially in later seasons. The most significant implications of romance are the relationship between Sae and Hiro and the attitude of Natsume toward Sae, which are also the most frequently cited examples of yuri in Hidamari Sketch.
The existence of some kind of love between Sae and Hiro is essentially canonical. Not only do the two engage in acts typical of lovers (sleeping together, frolicking in fields, quarreling about their boundaries, etc.), but other characters even make note of their intense closeness (Hiro is called a “housewife” or “wife” repeatedly, Sae and Hiro’s school trip is called a “honeymoon”, Yuno wonders in one episode if they are having a “lover’s dispute”, Natsume worries about Sae being taken by a “cute girl”, etc.). Taken as a whole, Hidamari Sketch is rather unsubtle about a romance between the two.
Likewise, Natsume has all the signs of an outright unrequited love for Sae, short of Hidamari Sketch making this explicit. The strongest indication of this is xHoshimittsu OVA 01, depicting Natsume seemingly becoming smitten with Sae, longing to be shinyuu with her (see above), and then being crestfallen by Sae’s closeness to Hiro (see not-quite-as-above). Many of the images in the segment carry heavy romantic implications, notably the omnipresent motif of cherry blossom petals and the final shot of Natsume’s room, entirely colored the same as Natsume’s hair with the exception of a blue curtain (the color of Sae’s hair) decorated with hearts. In other episodes, particularly x365 10, Natsume conveys traits of a typical tsundere, rapidly shifting between warmth and animosity toward Sae; tsundere characters in anime nearly always have a romantic or sexual affection toward the target of their mood shifts, so the deliberate invocation of tsundere conventions is likely an indication that Natsume similarly has an affection for Sae. In both Natsume’s case and Sae and Hiro’s, even if the show is not explicit about bonds of love between characters, to deny that these romantic loves exist requires outright denialism or hostility toward yuri.


Physical Desire
Implications of sexual or erotic relationships in Hidamari Sketch are more or less nonexistent. Of the tracked characters, every Hidamari and Yoshinoya are canonically virgins, while Natsume and Chika are presumably virgins as well given their ages; the only possible tracked characters to have had sex are the Landlady and Kuwahara, and even then only because little is known about their backgrounds (both appear to be single, however). Other than occasionally bathing together, the only notable moment of erotic interaction in Hidamari Sketch is when Nori and Nazuna fondle Miyako in xHoneycomb 02. However, it should be noted that sexual relationships in yuri media are not usually the genre’s focus; most yuri concerns non-sexual, emotional relationships between women, hence the notion that yuri is “the purest form of love.”


The Role of Yuri in Hidamari Sketch
Given the examples listed above, it is safe to assume that Hidamari Sketch can be considered an example of yuri. However, what good does it to attribute yuri to Hidamari Sketch? Would the show be just as complete without yuri? I contend that it would not, and that yuri is a vital component of the meaning of Hidamari Sketch as an artistic work.
Hidamari Sketch is fundamentally about the social relationships between its characters. The show’s slow pace means any changes in their relationships take place over many, many episodes, and there are also no dramatic shifts or sudden twists or confessions to radically alter how characters interact. Every instance of character or relationship development is the result of dozens of scenes of relatively insignificant daily activities, things such as doing radio exercises, following the lottery, going to the zoo, having dinner, drawing together, or adopting a cat. Through these small events, the Hidamaris steadily become part of each other’s lives. In x365 06, Yuno calls herself, Miyako, Sae, and Hiro a “family”: the four, later six, are as noted above under “Intense Emotional Connections” a family to each other. By the end of xHoneycomb, they are the closest and strongest of friends.
This is the point when yuri becomes significant to understanding Hidamari Sketch: once the characters have become extremely close to each other, some of their relationships naturally progress from a bond of close friendship to one of romance. Sae and Hiro are already beyond this point by the time the series begins, and Nori and Nazuna have not quite reached it, but Hidamari Sketch has already shown us an example of such a turning point: Part A of xHoneycomb 06, when Yuno and Miyako inadvertently reveal that they think the other is “beautiful” and “adorable” respectively, then sleep together. After three and a half seasons of watching their relationship develop, seeing the two enter a romantic partnership comes across as a natural progression from what has come before: from total strangers, the two become casual friends, then inseparable shinyuu, then lovers. It is the central message of Hidamari Sketch in a nutshell: with enough time and shared experience, any two people can become close. Interpreting Hidamari Sketch as a yuri series only reinforces this message, making it so that any two people who share an everyday life can find love together, making it a stronger and more fitting moral.

Final Notes
The data in the Hidamari Yurilevel Project is entirely subjective and not meant to be a definitive measure of each character’s homosexuality in a given scene. The structure of the project is designed to be flexible enough that other researchers can easily retest Hidamari Sketch and draw their own conclusions**, and I encourage this in the interest of peer review. There is a very large amount of data, however, so general trends such as in increase of yuri and placements in overall character rankings are probably roughly accurate.


Further Reading
About Hidamari Sketch:
About yuri:

*: Source: About.com interview with yuri advocate Erica Friedman, accessed August 14, 2013. As an amusing side note, the writer who compiled the interview is named Deb Aoki
**: Note that the methodology is not bound strictly to Hidamari Sketch, and investigations similar to the Hidamari Yurilevel Project could be conducted using other shows. I would be quite interested in an analysis of “Strike Witches.”

Corrections: 8/23/2013: The original version of this post made an erroneous presumption about the relationship between Sae and Hiro in Ume Aoki's initial concepts for Hidamari Sketch. The statement in question has been removed and replaced with a different conclusive sentence.
9/30/13: An erroneously repeated word under "Romantic Love" has been removed.

Data Analysis: Overall Character Readings

The structure of data collection for the Hidamari Yurilevel Project was intended to answer if and how yuri increases over time, but also lent itself optimally to a side investigation of which character was the gayest. This question will now be analyzed to come to a possible answer.


Overview of Data
The Hidamari Yurilevel Project recorded 69,479 seconds of scene time (approximately 19 hours, 18 minutes) split across 1,512 scenes which recorded 4,602 yurilevels. Of these, 4,467 yurilevels were recorded by the tracked characters (the six Hidamari residents, Yoshinoya, the Landlady, Natsume, Kuwahara, and Chika), with 135 registered by untracked side characters such as other classmates, Yamabuki staff, or miscellaneous female characters.


Overall Ume Readings
Hidamari residents will be listed first, followed by all tracked characters.
Residents:
  1. Nazuna: 1.715U
  2. Sae: 1.646U
  3. Hiro: 1.600U
  4. Nori: 1.486U
  5. Yuno: 1.264U
  6. Miyako: 1.221U
All Characters:
  1. Natsume: 2.677U
  2. Nazuna: 1.715U
  3. Sae: 1.646U
  4. Chika: 1.604U
  5. Hiro: 1.600U
  6. Landlady: 1.572U
  7. Nori: 1.486U
  8. Yuno: 1.264U
  9. Miyako: 1.221U
  10. Yoshinoya: 0.635U
  11. Kuwahara: 0.401U

Figure 01: Overall Ume Readings


Analysis of Character Readings
Nazuna (277Y, 15,737 seconds)
My informal prediction going into the project was that either Sae or Hiro would end up as the gayest Hidamari at the end of the investigation, so it’s somewhat surprising to see Nazuna end supreme. She and Nori are both helped significantly by being introduced late in the show as it was moving toward more explicit yuri, so a major reason (if not the single most important reason) she ranks first is that her readings aren’t weighed down by the relatively yuri-light first two seasons. Character-wise, Nazuna is something of a “hanger-on” to the other Hidamaris; she has few storylines focusing on her and rarely appears alone. This maximizes yuri potential from her scenes since she is always around at least one other character from which she can earn readings, and since every Hidamari is on friendly terms with her she can potentially receive readings from any combination of characters; she also has little self-advocacy or inner strength, so she almost never suffers detriments from challenging or defying the others (unlike, say, Nori). She appears most often with fellow first-year Nori, with whom her relationship is one of the most physical of any of the three pairs (see especially xSP 01 and xHoneycomb 06), an intimacy that repeatedly earns her very strong yurilevels. Romantic subtext in their relationship, however, is not as strong as in the other Hidamari pairs. Nazuna’s readings fell slightly from xHoshimittsu to xHoneycomb but were around 1.7U in both; she was the gayest Hidamari of xHoshimittsu.


Sae (755Y, 37,773 seconds)
Sae’s readings are tied closely to Hiro’s, with whom she shares arguably the closest, most romantic relationship of any Hidamari pair in the show. She ends slightly above Hiro as a result of being the dominant member of their relationship and thus taking the initiative more often. Sae also acts as the paterfamilias of Hidamari’s family unit, a leadership role that also elevated her readings for conveying friendliness and other emotional intimacy. Her readings were the most stable of any Hidamari, and she was the gayest Hidamari of both Season One and x365.


Hiro (713Y, 36,414 seconds)
Hiro again earns much of her readings from her relationship with Sae. As the submissive, wifely member of their pair, Hiro has a strong vein of maternalism in her character which manifests both in her care and affection for Sae and in her warmth and kindness toward the other Hidamaris (Miyako being a frequent exception). Hiro’s xHoneycomb reading of 1.98U is the strongest seasonal Ume reading of any Hidamari in the investigation.


Nori (277Y, 16,269 seconds)
Like Nazuna, Nori is buoyed by not having her readings affected by the low-yuri first two seasons. Nori, however, received the fewest yurilevels of any Hidamari and ends significantly behind Nazuna. As mentioned before, she has a much stronger independent streak than the other Hidamaris and is more likely to act as the straight man or tsukkomi in comic scenes, which usually hurts her readings. She ends above Yuno and Miyako for her highly-physical relationship with Nazuna, from which she earned a large majority of her yurilevels. Nori’s readings fell moderately between xHoshimittsu and xHoneycomb.


Yuno (1143Y, 58,440 seconds)
Yuno had both the most yurilevels and the most scene time of any character in Hidamari Sketch, acting as the series’ protagonist through the first two seasons and retaining a significant focus on her in the latter two. This high level of attention meant she had both a very large number of high-yuri scenes (often with Miyako, though she had moments with every other Hidamari as well and many side characters) and low-yuri scenes like waking up and bathing. The two cancelled each other out, putting her readings closest to the season Aoki reading of any Hidamari. Her season readings more than doubled over the course of the show from 0.75U to 1.7U, partly from being affected the most by the show’s general increase in yuri and partly from becoming increasingly close to Miyako.


Miyako (888Y, 49,448 seconds)
Miyako, like Yuno, had very high yurilevel and scene time counts, weighting her readings considerably. Serving as the show’s primary comedy character, Miyako had fewer yuri opportunities than some of the characters, and those instances more often than not tended to only be friendly (until xHoneycomb, when her relationship with Yuno took on a more romantic angle). Her season readings and Yuno’s were the only ones to consistently increase every season.


Natsume (138Y, 2,773 seconds)
Natsume perhaps best represents the shift of Hidamari Sketch from yuri-light iyashikei to yuri-heavy comedy. Her first few appearances in the show were as an occasional foil to Sae, making her an extremely tangential character since Yuno very rarely saw her; she ended the first season with only 0.818U and 160 seconds of scene time. x365 then began to exploit Natsume’s established characterization to make her out as a comic relief tsundere who wanted to be Sae’s friend. This joke kept expanding and becoming more elaborate through the second half of x365 and into xHoshimittsu, culminating in xHoshimittsu OVA 01, by which point Natsume is an obsessive, mentally-ill jilted lover whose initial characterization has been entirely forgotten and is only included in the show to provide yuri humor. It's therefore obvious that she should end as the most yuri tracked character in the series: her character is made only of yuri. Natsume was the gayest character of Seasons 2-4 and is the only tracked character to have a season reading above 3.0U.


Chika (80Y, 4,137 seconds)
Chika appeared rarely in the show, but tended to be the center of the episode or segment she was in. As a result, episodes she appeared in earned her notably high readings; she had the highest season reading of Season One almost entirely from her starring role in Hidamari Sketch 12. Her readings were some of the most inconsistent in the show, earning higher than 2.0U in x365 and then less than 1.0 in xHoshimittsu.


Landlady (85Y, 3,825 seconds)
The Landlady generally had low-to-moderate readings throughout the show from her kind but generally distant approach toward her tenants. Her readings were very strongly boosted by her appearance in xHoneycomb 09, however, an over 3.0U performance which also contributed nearly a quarter of all her scene time in the entire series.


Yoshinoya (108Y, 9,217 seconds)
Yoshinoya has been repeatedly described in the investigation as “hyperthymic,” a mental illness which made much of her lewdness in the show impossible to attribute to yuri. As a lewd, fanservice-oriented character, she rarely displayed anything that could be considered genuinely yuri. She and Kuwahara ended every season below 1.0U, the only tracked characters to do so.


Kuwahara (13Y, 1,502 seconds)
With only 22 appearances in the show averaging just over a minute each and a scant 13 yurilevels, Kuwahara ends as the least gay character in Hidamari Sketch. “Character,” even, is a charitable description: Kuwahara acts more as a plot device, appearing only when one of the main characters gets sick or when Yoshinoya needs a foil. When she did appear, Kuwahara was professional and straightforward, rarely getting opportunities to exhibit genuine affection or kindness toward anybody. It also hurt her that many of her appearances showed her with Yoshinoya, with whom she had a strained friendship at best.


Untracked Characters
Untracked characters were generally one-offs with little impact on the show. The only significant exceptions were Kishi Maiko and Arisawa (neither of whom appeared in all four seasons) and Mami and Nakayama. In retrospect, Mami and Nakayama should have been included as tracked characters since they appeared frequently and consistently in the series. It is likely neither would have earned very high overall readings due to their role as throwaway classmates or Yuno’s acquaintances.

Corrections:
9/30/13: Corrected draft inconsistency in Hiro's analysis and slightly unclear wording in Natsume's analysis.
1/14/13: Incorporated data from Sae and Hiro Graduation OVAs.