Kids, kids – there really wasn’t any need to get all that upset, was there?
Hyouka is a funny series. It can do stuff that would normally irritate me to no end, and I still don’t get angry with it. In fact, I sort of shake my head and smile – but it’s still a smile. I guess it’s the atmosphere the series is able to create that does it. With that said, though, as far as I’m concerned this episode indicates that the show doesn’t really do serious very well, at least for my tastes. And my goodness, does it ever take elevate the trivial to the status of epic importance. But I guess we all do that in high school…
My take on the tone of this episode was basically this: why in the world is everyone getting so worked up? I can certainly understand Houtarou’s irritation. He’s just been played pretty hard by The Empress, and he’s in the unfamiliar (and uncomfortable) position of being wrong in his deduction for the first time since we’ve been following him, anyway (and Satoshi has indirectly told him he’s being “controlled by a kindly woman”) . But when his club-mates tracked her down and shared their concerns about his ending for the Class 2-F movie, it seemed as if this were reality being debated. Not only wasn’t it reality, it wasn’t a even a real movie – just an 11th-grade culture festival project. I know those kinds of things are important to us at the time we’re wrapped up in them, but the somber tone of the episode seemed a bit out of place to me. Even the arc surrounding Chitanda’s Uncle – which actually did contain something serious – was much less leaden with gloom.
I was glad someone (Chitanda, surprisingly) finally asked the titular question “Why didn’t they ask Eba?” Or rather, why didn’t they ask Hongou-san, or ask Eba to ask her. Hongou’s role in all this is interesting – again tying into the disproportionality of action/reaction here, would a student really feign an illness and miss school so as not to lose face over a culture fair project? It seems rather extreme to me, but be that as it may, I guess we’re to believe it did happen – at least I have less trouble believing that Hongou’s initial ending for the story was a sort of sanitized version where no one gets killed. Of course a gang of high-schoolers isn’t going to embrace that, and Irisu’s plan to get around the problem, at least, made perfect sense. Try and get a better ending out of the rest of the crew and, failing that, go outside.
Apparently, based on the chatroom sequence at the end, it was Houtarou’s older sister who pointed Irisu in his direction in the first place, and it was she that The Empress was chatting with at the end (how do they know each other, anyway?). Interestingly Nee-san seemed quite confident that Houtarou the “idiot” wouldn’t have figured out the truth, which of course he did – though with some prodding by the others. I think Houtarou would have gotten there on his own anyway, but it was Satoshi’s rather grave and indignant protestation that really sealed the deal (pretty good deduction from a “database”, I’d say).
In the end this obviously serves the larger theme, which is Houtarou breaking out of his shell of apathy. It’s nice movement for his character to see him so irritated at being wrong that he can’t sleep, and so angry at being used – even negative emotions are a healthy sign for him. I just question whether it really merited four episodes to get there. When you consider how little of substance really happened in “Why Didn’t They Ask EBA?” I think four eps is really stretching it, even by Hyouka’s languid pacing standards. I think that amounts to a bit of a misstep. I’m hoping that with this arc behind it, the series returns to a more whimsical and humorous vein, as that’s a style that seems to suit it much better.