Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hidamari Sketch xHoneycomb 04

Hidamari Sketch xHoneycomb 04 includes the six Hidamari residents, Yoshinoya, Natsume, and Kuwahara, as well as Nakayama and a pair of female teachers at Yamabuki. The episode centers on the characters’ participation in Yamabuki High School’s annual swimming competition.

Scene 01: 00:08 - 00:22, 01:57 - 02:17
C: Yu
Yuno prepares for the swimming competition. No yuri to note.

Scene 02: 02:17 - 02:55
C: Yu, Mi
Yuno visits Miyako early in the morning. Miyako’s insistence to Yuno that she will only take ten seconds to get ready for school seems more like a self-imposed challenge for fun than representative of a desire to see Yuno, and as such isn’t yuri enough to earn her any readings. Both end with 0.

Scene 03: 02:57 - 03:03
C: Yu, Mi, Nakayama
Yuno greets Nakayama outside the school. Yuno gets a 1 for sounding excited to see Nakayama, but Nakayama’s confused expression in response earns her no similar readings. She and Miyako each stay at 0.

Scene 04: 03:03 - 03:46
C: Yu, Mi, Nakayama
Yuno, Miyako, and Nakayama talk together at their shoe lockers. Nakayama’s enthusiasm in talking to Yuno and Miyako conveys a desire to be friendly with them, raising her to 1. Yuno and Miyako get weak readings for responding pleasantly to her prompts, which aren’t enough for either to earn above a 0.

Scene 05: 03:47 - 04:17
C: Ku, Female teachers
The principal addresses a handful of the staff prior to the swimming competition. None of the female teachers express any sentiments toward each other, and only Kuwahara speaks at all, so both she and the other teachers stay at 0.

Scene 06: 04:17 - 04:52
C: Yo, Ku, Female teachers
Yoshinoya is interrogated about her swimsuit. The majority of the scene only shows the principal speaking to Yoshinoya, and there is no yuri at all to speak of. All 0s again.

Scene 07: 04:54 - 05:22
C: Yu, Mi, No
Yuno, Miyako, and Nori arrive at the pool. The vast majority of this episode (838 seconds of scene time out of 1202 total) is an extended sequence that never leaves the Yamabuki pool and which never shows a character directly entering or exiting said area. As such, there is little if any means to determine what characters are present at any given time during the sequence, which makes marking the beginning or end of scenes difficult. The method used to resolve this concern was to use the first appearance of a character during the sequence as the start of a new scene; for instance, Scene 11 is the first to show Sae, so it is assumed that she entered at the beginning of that scene; additionally, characters are assumed not to leave once they have been introduced, so their reappearance is not the beginning of a new scene. This breaks the sequence into a more precise, and thus more statistically useful, seven scenes, which will allow the episode to be analyzed more accurately.
For this scene in particular, there is no openly-expressed lesbianism, but Miyako exercises next to Yuno in a very erotic manner (bending over to emphasize her hips, then spreading her legs and flexing her arms), earning a 3 for her advances. Yuno does not respond and stays at 0, while Nori’s role as exposition-prompter denies her any significant chance for yuri and keeps her at 0 as well.

Scene 08: 05:27 - 06:45
C: Yu, Mi, No, Nakayama
Yuno and Nakayama receive their record-keeping camera while Nori asks Miyako about the previous year’s swimming competition. As Mashiko gives Yuno and Nakayama instructions regarding usage of the camera, the two respond in unison, but their responses are very brief and simple and thus don’t convey the sense of like-mindedness that talking in unison generally conveys, keeping both at 0. Miyako and Nori’s conversation is only further yuri-less exposition, preventing either from receiving readings.

Scene 09: 06:45 - 07:44
C: Yu, Hi, Na, Yo, Nakayama
Final preparations are made for the competition. Yuno tries to take a picture of Nakayama, but only to test the camera’s shake compensation and not as any sort of yuri gesture toward her. Nakayama becomes upset with Yuno regardless, and as a result neither ends with any yurilevels. Hiro and Nazuna’s conversation conveys no yuri, giving them 0s as well, and Yoshinoya’s presence consists entirely of speaking to the principal and then adjusting her swimsuit, so she also gets 0.

Scene 10: 07:46 - 10:59
C: Yu, Hi, No, Na, Yo, Nakayama
The swimming competition begins. Yoshinoya’s erotic reveal of her swimsuit is presented to a mixed-gender crowd, so it cannot be said that she is sexualizing herself in a specifically yuri fashion. Consequently, it does not affect her readings. Nori then participates in a 50-meter freestyle while Hiro and Nazuna watch. Both are hopeful for Nori to win, but while Hiro expresses a somewhat limited excitement at seeing Nori swim, Nazuna is shown in a clasped-hands praying position during the event; Hiro’s support gives her slight readings while Nazuna’s desire for Nori’s victory could represent either a need to vindicate an idealized mental image of Nori or a desire to see her friend do well, the average of which still gives her moderate readings. After Nori leaves the pool, Yuno takes pictures of her with an increasingly sleazy manner which Nori compares to that of a “gravure cameraman” (グラブレ カメラマン, “gurabure kameraman”; “gravure” refers to sexualized and very exposing photography). In response, Yuno tells Nori to take off a piece of her clothing, a request that could possibly be a joke but which, judging from Yuno’s aroused wobbling, more than likely is serious. Nori’s shocked reaction prevents her from earning side readings from Yuno’s lurid acts. Nazuna then joins Nori to congratulate her on her performance, saying that seeing Nori do well at swimming was the only reason she came to the swimming event at all. Her devotion to Nori earns Nazuna further readings, but Nori repeatedly denies Nazuna’s praise, telling her that she should have stayed at home and then to stop talking altogether, so she earns no yurilevels from her interaction with Nazuna. Later, Nakayama feels lust toward men, and although she feels ashamed of it the fact that such heterosexuality is present at all holds her at 0. Nori’s incessant rejections also keep her at 0, while Yuno earns 4, Hiro gets 1, and Nazuna gets 3.

Scene 11: 11:00 - 13:42
C: Yu, Mi, Sa, Hi, No, Na
The Hidamaris have lunch together. Yuno takes a picture of the assembled group, defending her action as capturing a moment of the swimming competition. Her justification conveys that she values the others to an extent that they she considers their presence a significant part of the entire event, helping her readings. Hiro congratulates Nori on her victory in the previous scene and then encourages Sae to do well in her event, earning slight readings from both so that she ends at 1, with Yuno also getting a 1 and the rest staying at 0.

Scene 12: 13:42 - 17:02
C: Yu, Mi, Sa, Hi, No, Na, Yo, Nt, Nakayama
The swimming competition continues. On the way to her starting position for her event, Sae notices Natsume in the crowd and calls to her. Natsume acts surprised, though because she presumably would have known Sae would be swimming or at least in attendance as a fellow art student, her surprise is likely that Sae is talking to her at all, a perceived emotional distance that detriments Natsume’s readings. Unlike their usual encounters, Sae is the first to act aggressively to Natsume, chastising her for not participating. She becomes more amicable when Natsume says she can’t swim well by offering to teach Natsume to swim, recouping at least some of the detrimental effects from earlier. This, however, makes Natsume angry at Sae for making vague promises, an unclear declaration given context by the appearance of a cloud in the shape of a broken heart. The image of the cloud suggests that Natsume’s frustration about Sae’s promises is a larger frustration about some unrequited, highly yuri affection, and earns Natsume significant readings; Sae’s confusion prevents her from earning any side readings. Sae then leaves and Hiro joins Natsume to watch Sae swim. Soon after she begins swimming, Yuno takes a picture of Sae and expresses admiration of her, boosting her yurilevels somewhat. At the same time, Hiro and Natsume silently express their desire for Sae to win. Hiro’s is positively phrased (“keep it up” [しっくり, “shikkuri”]) while Natsume’s is negative (“don’t lose” [負けないで, “makenai de”]), but Natsume still earns comparative readings to Hiro for rooting against her own class. Sae’s victory elates both of them, and in their excitement Hiro and Natsume spontaneously hold hands; both become confused about what it means, which detracts slightly from the significant increase both receive from this lewdness. Miyako then prepares for her swimming event, receiving light encouragement from both Yuno and Nakayama that helps both of their readings. Miyako forgoes breathing as she swims, leading Yuno to unconsciously hold her breath as well, earning Yuno further readings for her high level of emotional involvement in Miyako’s performance. After the event, Yuno, Nori, and Nakayama all congratulate Miyako on winning, raising each of their yurilevels slightly. Overall, Hiro and Natsume get 3 each, Yuno, Nori, and Nakayama each get 1, and the rest stay at 0.

Scene 13: 17:02 - 19:00
C: Yu, Mi, Sa, Hi, No, Na, Yo, Ku, Nakayama
The swimming competition concludes and Class A is declared the winner. On hearing the results, Sae and Hiro spontaneously hold hands, earning 4 for showing that they both associate happiness (in this case, the thrill of victory) with performing lewd acts together, while Yuno throws herself into a hug with Miyako and knocks her over, earning Yuno a 3 since her enthusiasm could simply be from having won the competition with Miyako receiving a 2 for neither accepting nor rejecting Yuno’s embrace. The rest stay at 0.

Scene 14: 19:00 - 19:41
C: Yu, Yo, Nakayama
Yoshinoya examines Yuno and Nakayama’s work. Yoshinoya says she was right to assign 2-D students* to be photographers, a praise of their artistic skills that raises her to 1. Yuno and Nakayama get little opportunity to respond in a yuri manner, staying at 0 each.

Scene 15: 19:45 - 20:50
C: Yu, Mi, Sa, Hi, No, Na
The Hidamaris look at Yuno’s pictures on the Yamabuki website. Nori clicks on a picture of Yoshinoya, accidentally enlarging it so that her screen is almost entirely occupied by a segment of the image focusing on Yoshinoya’s breasts. Most of the Hidamaris are horrified to be exposed to this image, with the only exception being Miyako, who appears delighted to see the close-up of Yoshinoya’s chest. Her excitement at being exposed to an erotic sight of Yoshinoya easily earns her a 4; later, an awestruck Nazuna calls the view “amazing” (すごい, “sugoi”), expressing a similar pleasure to Miyako’s that overcomes most of the initial negative impact of being afraid to see Yoshinoya’s figure and leaves her with 3. The rest are held at 0.

Scene 16: 20:56 - 22:08
C: Yu
Yuno bathes in pink water. As she remembers the pictures she took over the course of the episode, the three that she focuses on are a group shot of the Hidamaris, an image of the empty pool featured in Scene 13, and a photo of Sae after winning her swimming event. The memories represented by each of these pictures have a special, yuri-laden significance to Yuno: the first shows a fondness for the other Hidamari residents, the second carries praise from Yoshinoya, and the third conveys an admiration of Sae. Yuno’s selection of these pictures over the others she made shows that she values memories with a stronger yuri element higher than memories without one, significantly raising her yurilevels for the scene. Her desires to take pictures of the other residents and to give Sae Yuno’s image of her reinforce the connection between memory and yuri, helping Yuno’s readings to earn her a 3 overall.

Final Yurilevel Readings: (both Aokis and Umes are out of 4)
Episode: 0.8582A
  1. Natsume: 3.000U
  2. Hiro: 1.790U
  3. Yuno: 1.503U
  4. Nazuna: 0.971U
  5. Sae: 0.866U
  6. Miyako: 0.785U
  7. Nakayama: 0.329U
  8. Nori: 0.236U
  9. Yoshinoya: 0.090U
  10. Kuwahara: 0.000U
    Female teachers: 0.000U

Low readings throughout, primarily caused by the lengthy pool sequence shifting focus away from the characters and onto the external and low-yuri swimming competition. The swimming event meant that there were few opportunities for expressing affection or romantic intent, with the most yuri action possible generally being an encouragement or congratulation; additionally, the issue of characters entering but not leaving led to very high N values that weighed down Aoki readings for individual scenes, particularly some of the longer ones such as Scenes 12 and 13. Yuno and Hiro both had relatively high readings for earning a 4 in one of their scenes (Yuno in Scene 10 and Hiro in Scene 13) and picking up at least some yurilevels in the other lengthy pool scenes, while Nori’s exceptionally low score comes as a result of noticeably non-yuri interactions with the other Hidamaris in some of her scenes and having a low profile in the others. While this episode had very low yurilevels throughout, I feel that the unusual structure of the episode makes it an anomaly rather than indicative of some wider trend in xHoneycomb away from homosexuality. Indeed, this episode still had several significantly high-yuri moments, such as Yuno’s lecherous objectification of Nori and a number of instances of hand-holding, so if anything this episode reinforces some of the trends seen in the last three episodes, including a greater balance of focus across all six of the Hidamari residents and a shift away from subtextual, romantic yuri toward physical and lewd yuri.

Further analysis will continue with Hidamari Sketch xHoneycomb 05.

*: Though technically speaking, every student in Hidamari Sketch is 2-D.

8/24/13: Yamabuki High School was initially mislabed as "Yamabuki Academy." The name has been corrected.

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