This week on Hyouka: nothing much happened. And thank goodness for that.
OP: “Mikansei Stride (未完成ストライド)” by Saori Kodama
I’m more convinced of it than ever – when it comes to Hyouka, less is more. The series is far sillier and stranger than you might guess at first glance, but that only really gets a chance to shine through when things are really low key. Like underwater features only visible at low tide, when the plot washes in some of the weirdness disappears and you’re just looking at an expanse of water. There’s nothing wrong with an expanse of water, but tide pools crawling with strange stuff are a lot more interesting.
There are almost more cases in point this week than I can count, but my favorite was probably the one that started the episode. Pretty everything about that whole quiz show sequence was pure genius, and it was the little details that really sold it. First of all, the kid in front of the emcee gesturing wildly left and right for true or false, building up the suspense – and then during the finals, waving those “correct” and “incorrect” placards around – perfect. Then there was the dorky background music, and all the kids in the classrooms listening into what was happening, and the silly hats with the pop-up question marks all the contestants had to wear.
Best of all, though, was the act Satoshi put on during the whole affair. You’ve heard me say it before, but I find Satoshi easily the most entertaining character on Hyouka and he’s custom-built for this sort of activity. Just seeing him up on that stage with his galaxy on was enough, but then when he put the top hot on top of his Saturn… And for the cherry on top, he did those figure-skating spins and his Saturn over rotated by a half-turn every time, and the way he delicately took off the hat after he lost – pure comedy gold. And good advertising for the Classics Club, too – the best anyone’s been able to do so far, anyway.
The others were up to their own antics too, of course. Chitanda was a low-key presence this week, but we had some great stuff with Houtarou sneaking a peek at her cosplay pics and being walked in on first by a member of the Gardening Club – for some reason dressed in what looks like a civil war cap and carrying an AK-47 (and an open fly) and the Chitanda. That latter moment is one of the best comedically awkward meetings I’ve seen for a while. As for Mayaka, she continues to have problems at the manga club, which seems to be having as much trouble selling their “100 Manga Reviews” collection as the Classics Club is with their anthology. I gather that the reviews were her idea, which sets off her snarky Miko-sempai into mocking her for it. You know Mayaka was really pissed here, because to confront a sempai directly is a major breach of etiquette – but it does lead to more business for the manga club, as they quickly put up a poster for the “Priestess vs. Sexless Being” battle royale.
Rather insulting for Mayaka, that – but it was nice to see her cast in a somewhat different light than she’s been for most of the series. You wouldn’t think watching a girl search her bedroom for a lost manga (the one she wants to use to prove the Miko wrong – and she is wrong – about the timelessness of masterpieces) would be so entertaining, but that’s the genius of Hyouka. You can really see the genuine pleasure the staff takes in getting every little detail just right, and it’s hard to remember a series where the visuals were so actively integrated into our enjoyment of the show. That scene also showed us that manga is something Mayaka really is passionate about, and that makes her a lot more likeable for those of us who share that passion.
We even got a little mystery, by the way – very little – in the form of items gone missing from a couple of clubs. The
first second (after the Chorus Club apple juice) is the Go Club (last week Karuta, this week Go) – whose member Tani-kun (Okamoto Nobuhiko) is apparently an old rival of Satoshi – has had 10 Go stones taken. Then Chitanda’s friend who’s telling fortunes in a teepee (why a teepee?) tells her that the Wheel of Fortune card was taken. In each case a note was left saying they’d be returned after the festival – but why steal such odd things for a few days? Of more interest to me is the Cooking duel showdown between Tani and Satoshi (sewing and cooking? Mayaka, you really may be out of luck) – is it me, or did Mayaka make up that story about three-person teams? In any event it appears that Satoshi and the girls will be in the contest while dressed as hillbillies (again – why?) so it should be more visual gymnastics from the KyoAni gang. Can I please, please attend this Culture Festival for reals?
I’m sure you noticed the new OP. Song is fine, nothing special – but as usual, KyoAni have outdone themselves with a fantastically creative animation sequence. At this point, they’re really just showing off.