I only recently started reading the 2ch threads on Hidamari, so this morning I noticed an old discussion where people were joking around and creating fake first/last names for characters who don’t have one or the other. But then I noticed something odd about how a certain character’s name was written. I decided to do a little research.

I present to you this entry on Yahoo Answers Japan:

Question: About Hidamari Sketch’s Natsume. Is “Natsume” (夏目) her surname or given name? It’s likely to be her given name, right?

Answer: I think it’s her surname. Though there are exceptions, it appears that the residents of Hidamari Apartments and those associated with them are referred to by given name, and everyone else only goes by their surname.

Voted Best Answer: It seems like her surname. It would be different if it were written as 棗. So that means she doesn’t have a given name…

–> Asker Response: Thanks for answering! Now that I think of it… I often thought it was her given name, but it’s strange to use the 目 kanji for that, huh~ I’d like to see Natsume’s face flush like it’s on fire from Sae calling her by her first name.

This completely blew my mind. I never put the pieces together before. It makes so much sense! Here’s the biggest piece of visual evidence:

She finds her shoe locker number by searching for “Natsume”. This isn’t for Ume’s convenience; there really is no reason to use given names in place of surnames in a situation like this. The anime shows the board she’s looking at and it makes perfect sense at this angle because of Japanese name order. Her first name is presumably off-screen to the right.

But let’s investigate this board even further. They’re cut off, but the name above hers might be 戸由 (Toyoshi) and the name below hers is very likely to be 新見 (Niimi). Those are without a doubt Japanese surnames. Now, know that the Japanese equivalent of alphabetical order is gojuuon order. In gojuuon order, the syllable “Na” is right between “To” and “Ni”. If I could make an an English analogy, this board is like looking at an attendance sheet listing “Anderson, Brown, Clark” which are all last names obviously in alphabetical order. So what I mean is, the way “Natsume” is presented on this board among other last names is confirmation it is a last name. (Japanese fans also use this board as their evidence.)

Obviously Natsume introduced herself to Sae as, well, Natsume. But remember that Arisawa did the same thing to Yuno. Natsume’s friends simply call her Natsume with no honorific, not with -chan that’s more often used with first names alone. Not to mention Natsume’s mother does not call her by any name when they are talking about the entrance ceremony at dinnertime.

The asker makes the best point of all: the way Sae refers to her. It’s always hard to tell with Sae because she uses the fewest honorifics out of everyone, but it’s extremely true that Natsume would have a completely different reaction if she were being called by her first name. I can’t believe this flew over my head.

So yeah, color me surprised, I had not the slightest idea this entire time. Needless to say, my article on character names has been amended.

Edit 2/23/13: I was invited to a Skype group of about 30 Japanese Hidamari fans and decided to ask them too. Here’s the conversation we had, translated:

Me: Is “Natsume” a family name? Or is it her first name?
Fan #1: It’s her family name.
Fan #2: Yeah, last name.
Fan #3: Definitely a surname.
Fan #4: There’s never been an official announcement so it’s not completely settled, but…
Fan #2: If it were a first name it wouldn’t be written in kanji, it would just be なつめ.
Fan #5: Natsume is a family name like it is for Soseki Natsume.