Hyouka – 16

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Would it kill KyoAni to have just one of these bit parts filled by a no-name seiyuu?

I have to give full credit to Hyouka, a series that’s really raised its game in this culture festival arc.  There was always an insidious quality to the way the show wormed its way into the consciousness, not with conventional plot so much as mood, but this arc has seen the show really firing on all cylinders.  I would never imagine a school festival arc could stretch out this long and still be compelling, but then I’ve never seen a school festival arc quite like this one.

It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but for me there’s something almost genius about the way this arc has built on itself, laying out a succession of seemingly unrelated (and immensely entertaining) time wasting events and slowly but surely tying them all together.  The first couple of episodes were dedicated almost entirely to building the atmosphere at the festival, and did so brilliantly – and the clues were so subtle and the time-wasting so joyful that you hardly noticed they were even there.  Then a couple of plots began to slowly reveal themselves like dim shapes forming in a mist, just at the corner of your vision and barely recognizable as more than just random vapors.  And now as those shapes solidify, we’re seeing that those two plots are not only real, but connected to each other.  It’s really been the best slice-of-life and the best mystery scene-setting we’ve seen thus far.

Along the way we’re also seeing some of the best character development we’ve had in the entire series as well.  Again, I have to give it up for Hyouka, because it’s that rare school life show with a mixed cast that treats both genders as equally important – and truth be told, the guys are really the more interesting and complicated characters here.  But what we’ve seen in this arc is Houtarou subtly slip into the background, leaving a void that Satoshi and Mayaka have moved in to fill.  Houtarou remains the central figure, the pivot point, and it’s still his POV that the series always returns to.  Chitanda provides the kawaii overload and the broad comedy with her ADD personality and complete lack of irony (and boundaries).  But Satoshi (who’s always been the most subtle and deceptive cast member) and Mayaka have seized the day from a character standpoint, each taking a pivotal role in the current mystery.

Either Houtarou’s sister is actually involved in the ABC thefts, or he’s just gotten an incredibly lucky break by having “A Corpse by Evening” dumped into his lap.  The work by the in-school circle “Ajimu Takuha” isn’t just the manga that changed Mayaka’s life –it’s also apparently the key to the current thefts being perpetrated around the festival.  The artist is the Seito-Kaicho Kugayama Muneyoshi (who we’ve briefly met) and the writer someone named Anjou Haruna (who we haven’t, that I know of) but it’s the unnamed backgrounds assistant who provided the liner notes to “corpse” in which a new manga is promised for next year’s (the current) Kanya Festa, entitled “Kudryavka’s Order” (after an astronaut dog that died in space) and based on a famous Christie novel.  No such manga exists as far as we know, but a couple of interesting possibilities present themselves.  I wonder if this might be a manga presented as a kind of performance art – as if the thefts and notes are the text, and life itself provides the art.  In any case, I’d be very curious to know the identity of this mysterious backgrounds artist.

Even as what’s potentially the most interesting mystery of the series sprouts from the most entertaining non-plot episodes, the most interesting part for me is seeing Satoshi and Mayaka react to all this.  She continues to be subject to cruel treatment by her sempai at the Manga Club, building up to having her costume ruined by having ink-stained water dumped on it (accidentally, but in the act of minor bullying), and she’s visibly straining under the pressure.  This is a side of her we haven’t seen much of – righteous and idealistic, but also vulnerable.  The difficulty she has fitting in is painful to watch, even as much of it is clearly a self-inflicted result of the eminence front she always projects.  High school is always a search for identity, and we see this playing out before our eyes with Mayaka.

With the always fascinating Satoshi what we’re seeing is quite different.  There’s always been an undertone with him – a hint of anger underneath his smiling demeanor and genki personality.  Satoshi is determinedly individualistic, but he’s always had some resentment that despite being the passionate and energetic one, he can’t do what Houtarou does effortlessly.  More so than at any time we’re now seeing the façade start to show some real cracks, and the frustration beginning to edge to the surface.  For the first time he’s trying to step beyond his “database” role and be the star, to trump Oreki and solve the case – and it isn’t working.  So far Satoshi has been foiled at every turn, and now he sees his best friend again edging closer to solving the mystery.  While Satoshi is putting in the miles looking for answers, Houtarou as always sits on his throne (in this case folding chair) and the clues are drawn to him as if magnetically.  I’m most interested in seeing what happened with Satoshi here, especially if he’s again left out of the heroism.  I don’t think Satoshi’s nice guy persona is an act – he really is a nice guy – but he’s got anger in him just like all of us, and a sense of justice that doesn’t like what it’s seeing.  This is an element that bears close watching.

Lest I imply that Chitanda is idle while all this is happening, she certainly isn’t (is she ever?) – the dreaded curiosity (which seems to be the key word of the day) continues to drive her forward, and it’s she who makes the connection between A Corpse by Evening and the festival poster drawn by Kugayama-san.  She also manages to get herself booked on the Broadcasting Club’s Noon broadcast, hosted by its flamboyant President Yoshino Yasukuni (Yoshino Hiroyuki – check) and is off to a flying start is making a complete mess of that.  She never offers much in terms of actual character growth, but there’s never a dull moment when she’s around.

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  1. F

    Nippon Ichi!

    I can't believe Kouchi-senpai actually dressed as Shiranui Mai. This is high-level cosplay here.

    Anyway, its obvious that Aneki is involved somehow, she didn't just happen to have A Corpse by Evening on her, after all. That would be bad writing.

  2. d

    Shiranui Mai cosplay total fail!! This girl was lacking the most crucial element of them all: the rack, the massive cleavage. ahem! Without it, she ain't no Shiranui Mai. She's just an ordinary flat-as-a-board-chested girl in a red ninja outfit, nothing more.

  3. l

    LOL, you can't grow boobs just for a cosplay. There are people who are cosplaying just for fun… of course it's much better when it's authentic, but that doesn't mean everything should be perfect.

  4. l

    Fencedude, it's likely she bought that doujin manga from the previous Kanya Fest and is interested in buying the "Kudryavka's Order" doujin manga that was mentioned within. She probably brought that along as a reminder. Take note of that part where she looked at the notice board before Chitanda bumped into her. Her amusement was probably due to reading the news bulletin and quickly figured out what was likely to be happening. She may not have known about it earlier. Mayaka's mirror gave her the opening to pass the manga over to Houtarou.

  5. l

    It's interesting to point out that Satoshi noticed the change on Mayaka when she went to the club with different clothes. He frowns a little when she mentions it.

  6. K

    That made my day. You sir, win the internet for the day.

  7. K

    Well, Chitanda certainly did make quite an impact at her broadcasting show debut.
    I was almost expecting a "Ciao desu~"

  8. K

    Must be really galling for Satoshi to find out that all this time he's been out and about seeking the culprit, Houtarou has already deduced the identity of the culprit simply by sitting in his chair and letting the clues come to him as though he were a magnet attracting them.

    It would be like Sherlock Holmes comfortably figuring out the solution to a seemingly mysterious but actually quite elementary problem from the comforts of his living room in 221B Baker Street.

  9. g

    Before this episode, I was quite convinced that Oreki Tomoe was Juumoji, orchestrating this little act of thievery to get Houtarou off his butt by piquing his interest with some mystery shenanigans. After this episode though, I find myself retreating from that train of thought.

    It was pretty obvious this was the first time she came to this years Kanya Fest. I'm guessing that one of her aims for coming to this years Kanya Fest was to get the new book by "Ajimu Takuha", evidenced by how she brought with her a copy of their previous work, "A Corpse by Evening". Then, after she read the noticeboard, she instantly saw through the Juumoji incident, hence why she passed on the book to Houtarou to help him figure out this little mystery.

    We've seen many times how Tomoe had a hand in all the previous mysteries; she forced him to join the Classics Club and into the Hyouka mystery, she pointed Irisu to the Classics Club to get them to help her in the mystery movie arc, and now she handed Houtarou the doujin to give him a leg up in solving the Kanya Fest mystery.

    Tomoe has always been portrayed as a smart and sly person, using her knowledge and connections to nudge Houtarou out of his comfort zone of energy conservation and open his eyes to the world around him. Shes definitely got the brains, and as she's his sister, it wouldn't be too much to construe her being so much smarter than him too. That's why I think she's already solved the case, and now she's nudging Houtarou in the right direction.

    Although this might be just a coincidence, I'm seeing some parallels between the Holmes and Oreki siblings. Mycroft was the elder brother with the greater intelligence, yet was too lazy to put much effort in solving mysteries, while Sherlock was the younger brother who was slightly less gifted than the elder, yet was more driven in the pursuit of solving them. Compare them to the Oreki siblings; the older sister who is intelligent and actively pursuing her ambition, traveling all over the world, to the little brother, Houtarou, who is slightly less endowed in the brain department than his sister but is much too lazy to pursue any interest. Looking at all the Sherlock Holmes references in the mystery movie arc, it wouldn't be such a stretch to think the author paying a homage to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous literary creation.

    On the background artist who wrote that epilogue in the manga, I have a very strong hunch that it is none other than Kouchi Ayako-senpai, Mayaka's senior in the Manga Society and this week's Shiranui Mai cosplayer. I'm guessing that's the reason why she seemed to have mellowed a bit after Mayaka stated her love for "A Corpse by Evening".

    On the mystery, I have a few speculations to make. Its quite clear now that Juumoji is strongly connected with the "Ajimu Takuha" circle members. My theory is that due to Anjou Haruna, the writer for "A Corpse by Evening" having moved away, the plan to make "Kudryavka's Order" mentioned in the epilogue was scuppered with one member of the team gone. So now one of the remaining members (either Ayako or the student council prez) is arranging this little mystery, as a substitute for not being able to write their planned second doujin. And I strongly suspect that the reason for this set-up little mystery act has to do with why Anjou Haruna transferred schools. Yuasa-senpai, the Manga Societies current president, had hinted at some dark secrets in Ayaka's past, and its easy to make a few educated guesses as to what they might be.

    On a side note, I wonder what it means when Chitanda seems to recognize Tomoe? Might Chitanda have met Tomoe before this, say through her uncle, and it wasn't such a coincidence that Tomoe sent Houtarou to the Classics Club?

  10. B

    Or maybe she just noticed the family resemblance but was too dense to put 2 and 2 together?

  11. S

    I was so hopped up on adrenaline from the Mars landing I ended up awake all night catching up of the weekend's list of new show episodes. I now have half of the current Hyouka mystery solved: I can name the perpetrator, but I need one more piece of chaos to ascertain why. I think I know what the ultimate goal is, though.
    More blather about it at http://www.oldcrows.net/blog/?p=144

  12. A

    I like how KyoAni depicts the scene between Houtarou and Satoshi, where Satoshi was showing envy towards Houtarou and silently gives his support towards Houtarou in the shade of the building, whereas Houtarou was standing in the sunlight and edging ever closer to the truth. We see Satoshi trying hard to be in the spotlight this time round but ultimately falls short and the spotlight is still on Houtarou when it comes to detective works and Satoshi was shadowed, literally.

  13. Good observation. This is a really interesting dynamic between these two.

  14. H

    Hmm, I'm thinking that Oreki Tomoe is far more involved in what's going on than the rest of you guys. Sure she may not be the one taking items, but I will not be surprised if she's either the person who wrote the page in A Corpse by Evening or the creative force behind the Kudryavka's Order event. I think the wry grin at the poster was recognizing her friend's art, maybe even seeing a clue in it.

    I agree that Satoshi's jealousy of Houtarou is rooted in the results he gets with very little apparent effort. Yet we've seen Houtarou expend a lot of skull sweat to connect things together, and spin his wheels quite a bit.

  15. I've felt that way about Tomoe for this entire arc, though I'm not quite as convinced as I was before this last episode.

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