Hyouka – 20

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Hyouka – love it or hate it (it’s mostly the former with me) there’s sure as hell nothing like it.

I’m really not able to measure this series using any of the guideposts I normally do, because not only doesn’t it measure up against them, but it doesn’t even try.  There’s something almost perverse about a show that can stage an episode like this one and have it be one of the more conventionally plot-driven narratives of the series.  Ultimately all Hyouka really tries to do is create a world that seems like it’d be interesting to inhabit for a while, and characters you wouldn’t mind sharing that world with.  And I don’t think there can be much of an argument against the idea that is succeeds on that front.

As is often the case, there’s not much in Hyouka that lends itself to writing about – apart from the Kanya Festa arc, this has been a very tough show to blog even as it’s been a blast to watch.  This episode could hardly have been simpler – New Year’s (the holiday most instrumental to the Japanese psyche, I’ve always thought), Houtarou and Chitanda trapped in a shed, and some subtle but significant forward movement in their relationship.  Oh, and Miko – never forget the Miko.  For Hyouka, that’s practically an explosion of plot.

Here’s what I’m seeing with Houtarou and Chitanda at this point.  When she calls, he goes.  She probably didn’t need to mention she’d be wearing a kimono (though it certainly didn’t hurt) to get him to join her in the New Year’s shrine visit.  The interesting element here is that Houtarou – who is a very smart lad, after all – gets a crash course in just what it means to be from an “old family” in a mountain town in Japan.  While he spends his day “pretending to be a hermit crab” she deals with visiting members of the extended family, and when they visit the shrine it isn’t just for Amazake and fortunes – she has to deliver a gift, pay respects to the Head Priest, and at all times be mindful of the fact that she’s representing her family.  This social gulf between them has never been lost on Houtarou, but I don’t think it was ever impressed on him in such a stark fashion as it was here.

There’s nothing overtly sexual between them, either before or after they get locked in a storage shed when on an errand to fetch sake lees.  But there’s an ease to their interaction – shy as they both are – and an implied flirtation in her words and movements that weren’t there several episodes ago.  It’s very subtle – few series can do subtle like this one – and hard to quantify, but there’s a pheromonal quality to their relationship that’s unmistakable now.  And her heavy burden as a representative of the Chitandas comes to bear as she doesn’t want Houtarou to call out for help, because of what it would look like to be caught inside a shed with a boy.

That’s a bit of a stretch for me, and there are elements of coincidence to the episode that seem a bit of a stretch too – like Mayaka conveniently working at the lost and found window at the Shrine (though she’s an adorable part-time Miko I admit) and Houtarou and Fukube having watched the same Sengoku action flick that very day, and that flick containing the trick that Houtarou eventually uses to tip off Satoshi as to their location.  Still, it works quite well as a dramatic device – and I think it’s fascinating that Houtarou can drop items on the ground and never doubt for a moment that they’d be found and turned in immediately.  Can you imagine trying that trick in New York or London?  Lest anyone think this is an exaggeration it’s not – stories of lost items (some of incredible value) being returned to their owner are legend among travelers to Japan, and this sort of thing is intrinsic to the Japanese social contract.

While I know it’s dangerously close to using a conventional yardstick, with two eps left I really am hoping we see some more development for Satoshi and Mayaka – I’d hate to see no follow-up on the very interesting conclusion of the Kanya Festa arc .  It was nice to see Satoshi be the one to solve the mini-mystery here for a change, certainly, but I’d like more – I’d like those feelings that the festival arc brought to the surface to be explored further, as proof that those two characters have truly advanced just as Houtarou and Chitanda have.  At the moment it feels as if the two of them have hit a sort of reset button and could be anywhere in the series timeline, and I’d hate to see it end up that way. 

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  1. S

    According to MAL we only have 1 episode to go which is a great pity. It's going to be sad to see this show go. I doubt very much that their relationship will progress very much. For instance I'm sure there will be no kiss, but I think it's almost at the stage now for both of them already where they are a couple by default.

  2. A

    As Enzo had mentioned in his post, it's actually 2 more episodes. The question is whether the final episode will be airing as usual or not.

    And yeah, I'm going to miss this show greatly. I kind wish we might get the series translated since the author had been getting back to publishing it, but even then it wouldn't be the same …

  3. I could imagine this series getting a second season. It's certainly selling well enough. There'd have to be some anime original material, but they've made some considerable changes with the material this season anyway, so I think they could do a good job.

  4. k

    Personally, I have mixed feelings about Hyouka. The whole anime is pretty much very low key and its very subtle about the relationships about the characters and the mysteries are either it attracts you or you fast-forward through each episode plus the fanservice is very very subtle. Hyouka asa whole is very meta, something I'd never recommend as a gateway anime but I could recommend to veteran slice of life fan.

  5. A

    Chitanda says to not shout cause she doesn't want people to get the wrong idea over her being in a shed with a boy.

    Yet she looks disappointed that Oreki didn't take off her belt.


    Girl, make up your mind already. Oreki isn't going to be doing anything, due to his strong sense of laziness, so if you want anything now (cause it will be taking years for Oreki to replace his laziness for a craving for cherries at this pace) you've got to put on your Otome Hardcore-Gamer Hat on and start to steamroll down this route.



    Houtarou wont know what hit him!

    That said

    ''This social gulf between them has never been lost on Houtarou, but I don’t think it was ever impressed on him in such a stark fashion as it was here.''

    It actually makes me wonder if the two can realistically have future together. Not in the sense Houtarou can't conform to the higher social standards (he pretty much can do it, we had seen him in the past do so) and to add to it all, he is actually quite shrewed and managed to mostly outsmart almost everyone in the show (and blackmail a couple of high-born's in the process lol) … But how would her family take it to her getting together with someone of lower status, especially when she is their only daughter …

    ''Can you imagine trying that trick in New York or London?''

    Oh lord …

  6. A

    I liked how Kaho (possibly) tried to cut the good mood the two had by asking Chitanda to help at the kitchen.

  7. A

    And about the convenient coincidences. The ones Enzo mentioned were foreshadowed. By the time they get locked up we already know that Satoshi was watching a tv drama at home and that Ibara is working at the L&F.
    The stretch for me was when both of them left their cellphones behind. That kinda came out of nowhere.

  8. Houtarou didn't leave his behind, he doesn't even own one. So that one I could sort of see, given how Chitanda was dressed.

    Foreshadowed or not, that doesn't make the coincidences any less convenient.

  9. D

    Not just how she was dressed, but I also got the sense that it simply would have been 'improper' for her to be carrying a cell phone at this time. It's an intrusion of the modern world on something that is heavily traditional. A cell phone ringing in her purse while she's being all formal and proper when dealing with relatives and friends of the family would have seemed terribly out of place, and probably insulting to the people she's interacting with.

    And sure, you can turn off the sound, but the fact that it's there at all… After all, what is she going to do with it? Hide around the corner texting or chatting with someone, when appearances are of such critical importance? A cell phone just doesn't belong with the outfit during her current activities, period.

  10. D

    I will say, though, that there was, in fact, one thing that I found a bit unbelievable in this episode's scenario: How did they fit Chitanda's purse (which, from its shape, seemed to still have stuff in it) through that little hole?

  11. A

    The same thing crossed my mind too. Thinking further, I think Houtarou might have used the hole he made to get the banner string. His hand fit through it, so I'm sure the purse would too.

  12. A

    Next episode will be about Valentine's Day?

  13. f

    i was pretty disappointed with this episode…at least in the other ones where nothing happened, we were treated to some character development, or at least some really great visuals, like with the school festival arc. First of all, it didn't seem believable that the predicament that chitanda and houtarou warranted that much concern. Even IF chitanda was that concerned of how people could have interpreted their situation, couldn't 1 person hide behind a shelf and the other person call for help, then retrieve the 2nd person 5 minutes later? instead of desecrating the shed with a shovel?

    Instead, we get this deus ex machina plot device of an ending where oreki and satoshi happen to have watched the same show on the same day and that's why satoshi was able to free them. I was okay with the last two, even if they only featured oreki and chitanda, but now it's starting to feel like a bunch of filler episodes with no substance. Visually speaking, this was also a departure from earlier episodes…most of the main story occurred in a shed with no lighting

  14. a

    I don't think the TV show was a Deus ex Machina. As mentioned above, it wasn't sprung on us, since we saw the show, and heard about Satoshi watching it, prior to it being needed in the end.

  15. f

    it was a deus ex machina resolution when you consider that the specific part of the show that helped satoshi understand oreki's situation wasn't revealed until the end. At least with the other mysteries, you could follow along and make a logical conclusion based on the available information… but for this particular resolution, they could have made up anything and said…"it happened to be in the show we (oreki and satoshi) both happened to watch." What WE saw of the samurai show had nothing to do with the "trapped like a rat" reference revealed at the end.

  16. H

    If the show is a classic, well-known show that's on regularly and is part of the cultural consciousness, like Mike below says, then it's only a deus ex machina to us, a somewhat unintended audience. The regular audience would likely have seen the show, and possibly been able to deduce what Houtarou was doing.

  17. A

    That show is much like the Sound of Music in America; it shows every New Year in Japan. Not a stretch.


  18. A

    I had to stop watching the episode the moment that neither Oreki or Chitanda bothered to yell out at the people locking them in the shed, despite the fact that they were at the time standing directly inside the door.

  19. D

    "Can you imagine trying that trick in New York or London?"

    One thing that always sticks in my mind from trips I made to Tokyo and New York:

    In Tokyo, someone left a cell phone on the train. I saw it, but wasn't sure what to do with it, so just left it there. Another passenger nearby asked me if it was mine; since it wasn't, he took the phone, and when we got off the train he turned it in to the Lost and Found at the turnstile area.

    In New York, someone left a small shopping bag of stuff on the subway. Not 5 seconds after the doors closed, a guy from across the aisle jumped up, grabbed the bag, and stuffed it in among his own stuff. It was clear there was no way it'd end up at the Lost and Found.

    Needless to say, there was a bit of extra paranoia in New York, to be sure I never put anything down for too long, and always had my stuff with me.

  20. A

    I love how KyoAni is saying: "Hey, we subverted the hell out of the high school club-stable with Haruhi, now we can play it dead straight and you'll still find it amazing."

    Pretty good episode, but neither of them having their cellphones is kinda unrealistic (Japanese teens in this day and age?, although I get it for Chitanda). Poor Oreki, he was defeated the moment he saw that kimono.

    One question: I was lead to believe that shrines have so few mis-fortunes in the deck that drawing them is considered very good luck. Was I wrong?

  21. The issue of why Oreki doesn't have a cell phone has already been touched on, and Eru does have one – she does doesn't have it with her because she's in formal attire. That makes sense to me, so I have no problem with it. There are plenty of other credulity-stretching coinkey-dinkeys in the ep to make up for that.

  22. G

    I personally really enjoyed the episode. The subtle flirting between Oreki and Chitanda is friggin adorable, it's really great to see the romance thread left off from the last episode getting further developed. An episode like this could easily come off as cheesy and superficial, but somehow the writer managed to play it out with a grace I haven't seen a lot in any series while still staying true to the overall style of the series. The only stretch – which you already mentioned – is probably Chitanda's concern over the potential misunderstanding. I come from an Asian background, but Japanese culture has retained a lot of traditional values that have been abandoned or diluted in my society, so while I may find Chitanda's concern a little incredulous, someone who's immersed in the Japanese culture may find it completely natural. It's nothing to nitpick about though, it is indeed another solid episode.

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