Hyouka – 21

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There are times when Hyouka makes almost every one of its contemporaries look positively amateurish by comparison.

There are certain things this show is all the time.  It’s slick, it’s sophisticated, it’s clever, it’s astonishingly well-made from a technical standpoint (and I apply that to the writing, too).  Even if it isn’t always riveting or especially adept at spinning a mystery, Hyouka is clearly operating on a different level than most of the competition.  But when the show sets its mind to it, it can really make it look like the rest of the field is still on training wheels – “stay in the shallow end of the pool where you can’t get yourself in trouble.”  In a funny way you could even say Hyouka is a lot like Houtarou himself – not always motivated to do its best, but capable of greatness when it is.

Apart from the Kanya Festa arc, this probably goes down as my favorite ep of the series (and one of the best of the season).  Sometimes my jaw drops at the level of the writing – I don’t know whether to credit the novelist or the anime staff, but with subtlety such a rare beast in anime I really appreciate the layers upon layers of detail you get with Hyouka, and how it doesn’t beat you over the head with the character development but lets it slowly percolate to the surface and reflect itself in the characters’ actions, not in speeches.  There were a lot of things touched on in this ep, and it went to some pretty dark places – and a fascinating exercise it was.

As you know if you’ve been following my posts on Hyouka, I’ve argued from the moment he gave his “shining bright” speech that Satoshi was the most interesting character here, so it’s hardly surprising an episode that mostly focuses on the inside of his head should be so compelling.  It’s been clear for a long time that far more than with the others, Satoshi’s exterior is in sharp conflict with his inner self.  The nature of that conflict hasn’t been fully explored (more’s the pity) but it’s a credit to the way the character is written that it’s always been detectable beneath the surface, like one slightly off note in a symphony orchestra’s performance.  As I said once, Satoshi’s nice guy isn’t an act – he really is a nice guy – but there’s more to him than that.  There’s more to all of us than just one thing or two things – we’re complicated beings, often at odds with ourselves, and no one in this cast more than Satoshi.

In the Kanya Festa arc, the element of that which came to the surface was Fukube’s frustration at being a “database” – really, at being a sidekick, Watson to Oreki’s Holmes.  That’s symbolic of a much greater syndrome he feels dominates his life – the inability to be the best at anything, “jack of all trades, master of none”.  Satoshi even rejects Houtarou’s attempts to call him a “hobbyist” because hobbyists, after all, can devote themselves to one thing and become great at it – something Satoshi feels that’s beyond him.  In his own mind (though not mine) he’s a dilettante, a lightweight, a poser – and his only route to happiness is admitting that to himself.

I’m quite certain the fans of the series who view Hyouka through a traditional anime lens will rip Satoshi to shreds for daring to be mean to the cute girl and for being a spineless dickhead, and probably Houtarou for helping cover for him.  I’m not going to say Satoshi’s actions in this ep were admirable, but with apologies to those fans I think they’d be missing the point.  Hyouka isn’t a conventional anime by any means and I think it needs to be judged with as much nuance as it’s presented.  One reason I think this ep works so well is that the “mystery” isn’t remotely the point – it’s made obvious from the start that Satoshi was the one who stole the Valentine’s chocolateHyouka is always as its best when it focuses on atmosphere and subtle character dynamics, and this ep was loaded with both – especially the latter. 

Houtarou, whip-smart lad that he is, deduced from the beginning what really happened.  But even at the end, he still didn’t know the why – he had to ask Satoshi straight-out.  That says as much about Houtarou as anything, though it’s not trumpeted to the skies and could easily be overlooked at the expense of the flashier stuff happening.  I think it’s really fascinating that in the end, it’s Oreki who apologizes to Fukube (though not aloud) and not the reverse – in his own words, “I’m sorry – I didn’t know anything about you.”  Even Satoshi’s best friend didn’t truly understand him – a testament to how complicated Satoshi is, and how Oreki’s social acumen lags behind his detective skills.  And it also says something that Houtarou has grown enough as a person to chide himself for not being a better friend.  In many ways Hyouka is a reversal of the anime convention where the boys are plot drivers and the girls have the deep inner conflicts and big character arcs – here, Chitanda and Mayaka both are really quite direct and straightforward compared to the boys and its their actions which often move the plot forward, while the character exploration comes in watching the guys react.

Of course, major bones of contention will be Satoshi’s reasoning for stealing the chocolate, and whether Houtarou was right to keep the information from the girls.  I thought Satoshi’s logic was quite in character – he simply deduced that he was unable to be great at anything and was miserable for the effort, so if he stopped trying he could be happy.  And he convinced himself he was, seemingly, and certainly acts the part most of the time.  Fear of commitment is certainly not a new charge to be leveled at a male in a relationship context, but it was done so in a very original way here.  I could see him being legitimately concerned that by dedicating himself to Mayaka he’d slip back into his old patterns, but in the big picture I think he’s just running away from himself.  You’re either someone who cares or you aren’t, and I don’t think it’s possible to turn it on and off like a switch – only sublimate it. 

Houtarou’s decision not to tell Chitanda what he knew is a complicated one.  Certainly part of it is out of loyalty to Satoshi, and there’s a calculation that Chitanda and Mayaka would be happier not knowing.  Of course Mayaka, with her back-story with Satoshi, has already figured out what happened – but Houtarou doesn’t know that.  The fact is, Houtarou is out of his depth here – the mere fact that he stayed behind to help is something that would have been unthinkable when the series started, and interpersonal relationships are as far from his comfort zone as it’s possible to be.  There were no easy answers for him – he was winging it, and made a judgment call, rightly or wrongly.  And if he was angry at Fukube for anything, it was for getting Chitanda caught up in his dysfunction and upsetting her – further proof that the two of them are entangled now beyond a doubt.

So what will Satoshi do, in the end – what does his “We need to talk” really mean?  I still think there are things about his feelings we don’t know, things he didn’t share with Houtarou – but I do think it’s obvious that he hurt Mayaka and that he did so knowingly, though he would have preferred not to and feels remorse for doing so.  Oreki for all his apologies about not knowing his friend actually sums up Fukube quite well – “You’re pretty stupid for somebody so smart.”  I don’t know how Satoshi truly feels about Mayaka or girls in general, no matter what he says – but Mayaka isn’t the problem, he is.  Satoshi needs to stop selling himself short and realize that he’s actually considerably smarter than Houtarou when it comes to many things, including people, and has a personality that does indeed shine bright, as he said himself way back in the first month of the series.  Teenagers dealing with self-esteem issues are certainly not a new topic in anime, but you won’t often see an example as fascinating and layered as this one is.  If you were to tell me there was to be a second season of Hyouka, canon or anime-original, I’d be thrilled – because it really seems as if we’ve just barely scratched the surface.

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36 comments

  1. x

    Enzo, give this show a "pleasure" re-watch after it's over. The amount of foreshadowing of today's development will blow your mind.

  2. A

    I just rewatched ep. 6 (the one where Chitanda gets mad at the math teacher). It's very, very relevant to this ep., considering both Chitanda's views on anger, Houtarou's suspicion of pride, and his thoughts on understanding Chitanda's character. In this ep., as in ep. 6, he claims to not truly understand Chitanda's motivations and emotions, but he shows that that you can be profoundly close to someone, without completely understanding their different emotional registers. The germ of that fact is in 6, but it reaches fruition here.

  3. A

    Ha! Enzo, I just looked at your blog for ep. 6, when you not unreasonably scratched your head a bit as to what was the point of that whole ep? And while I remembered the interesting bit about Chitanda's anger, I didn't remember all the foreshadowing for ep. 21 until I watched the whole thing a second time. It says something about this series that I can get so much out of it rewatching episodes.

  4. A

    If you are satoshi friend both satoshi and mayaka friend and know of their situation what advice would you give to them Enzo ?

  5. Make sure the shower curtain is inside the tub and always take 6th Street when Wilshire Blvd. is backed up.

  6. In all seriousness, I don't think this is an instance where advice is really going to help – Satoshi needs to deal with his own issues before he deals with being in a relationship. And free advice is, as they say, worth what you pay for it.

    If I told Satoshi anything, it'd probably be "You should at least tell Mayaka you think she's great, but you're working some things out and can't think about going out with anybody until you do. You're not ready to date anybody, but don't leave her hanging."

    As for Mayaka, I'd just tell her "Guys are complicated, and the best thing you could do to help your cause would be to back off a little and let Fukube tell you when he's ready. The more pressure you put on him, the more he'll back off."

  7. V

    Well Ibara waited for a whole year and Satoshi knew he was keeping her hanging all this time.

    I'd say Ibara gave him a considerable amount of time and even then Satoshi was indecisive. He's in the wrong… and that's why he called her when he understood that.

  8. A

    Sound advice on both accounts Enzo, and honestly, that was what I was getting at on the AS thread. Satoshi at this point in time is in no shape to be part of a romantic relationship, at least not a healthy one, but instead of doing what was reasonable to handle Mayaka, he instead tried to dodge the issue by driving into a mud puddle. ''For a smart guy, you are pretty stupid'' never rang truer …

    That's why I'm so angry with him right now (but no less fascinated by the direction the show is taking with him). Satoshi didn't have to do this, he didn't need to maneuver the issue or hide what he was feeling since there was no shame in what he is going through. Had he been honest to his friends, just like how Chitanda had been when she came for help with her Uncle's words to her, and how they all managed to discover the truth together.

    Seriously, I wouldn't be as angry as this if Satoshi had not been a far better person than the way he acted in this episode.

  9. G

    So unexpectedly, Hyouka may be one of my favorite anime to date and this episode is my favorite episode to date. It's truly spectacular in how it manages to achieve such an emotional height through perfectly controlled subtlety. It's artistic in style, elegant in manner, intelligent in narrative, it's a show that completely destroyed the conventional boundaries of its genre. With this episode, it just proved to me even with what it has achieved, it's capable to reaching new heights and the possibilities are endless. Hyouka, will be a classic.

  10. x

    The show dropped in so many clues about Satoshi that it was possible to figure him out many episodes ago.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/anime/comments/wm6ba/hyouka_episode_13_discussion_spoilers/c5euwd9

    I think Hyouka has proved to be KyoAni's best looking TV series, and the medium's most realistic portrayal of high school life.

  11. S

    I agree with your post one hundred percent.

    This was, by far, one of the best, if not the best episode of the series. I think its worth commending how Hyouka keeps up these low key episodes before building up to what is clearly the most "ZOMG" moment in character development I've seen in a while.

    I think I have to applaud Satoshi in some ways. Given how conflicted he is, about himself, it would be the worst time for him to get together or start any form of committed relationship with Mayaka.

    I really liked Oreki's progression too. Man, has the guy changed from what he was in episode 1. The guy who barely wanted to get involved in things, just went out of his way to keep the girl he likes and his best friend from exploding in a really complex situation.

    I think even Chitanda understood at the end what Oreki had done, for all of them. I don't think Chitanda and Oreki are bad characters, they are just less conflicted and therefore less complex than Satoshi or Mayaka.

    That is probably why Satoshi and Mayaka are so interesting in my eyes. Its that contrast that really brings out the intriguing elements of both sets of characters.

  12. A

    Regarding Mayaka, I think she is equally, if not more, obsessive than Satoshi. In her manga club arc we saw how passionate she can be about something, while realizing her lack of talent compared to much less passionate people.The whole situation actually brought her to tears. She cares that much. That's actually the same as what goes on in Satoshi's mind right now. He knows he will probably never be the best at something he likes so he reached the conclusion that it's more fun to try to relax and get involved, even superficially with various interests even if he has to lie to himself every day . Mayaka can't or doesn't want to suppress that part of herself, so she gets hurt.

    Also,Satoshi gets all the blame for the whole thing that happened in the latest episode but if you think about it, what Mayaka is trying to do, is get him out of his comfort zone, in a rather…violent way. Kind of like Chitanda.It's how she does things. Traditional chocolate presents,feelings and confessions.We already saw her being passionate about manga and she has the same attitude with romance.All that can put a lot of pressure on somebody and make him hesitate before coming up with an answer. The intensity of her feelings can be scary for the guy on the receiving end. Especially if he is indeed having fun everyday just like he said. His life is not perfect, but good. There is a very real fear there of things going to worse if he tries for change, so he chooses not to act. He is a very real character and I am pleased we finally gott to know a part of what goes on inside his mind.

  13. A

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-CGglbbiO6M4/UE2GHnVpv4I/AAAAAAABx6k/ETPaqbxQ5BY/s1600/%5BCommie%5D+Hyouka+-+21+%5BD8E746A7%5D.mkv_snapshot_00.29_%5B2012.09.09_21.38.44%5D.jpg

    This was my favorite moment in the entire episode, and that's saying something …

    ''Watson to Oreki’s Holmes''

    I'm pretty sure he is the Moriarty to Oreki's Lupin actually 😛

    '' I don’t know how Satoshi truly feels about Mayaka or girls in general, no matter what he says''

    Still believing that he might really be gay? I mean THAT would really take this show into a whole new level of sophistication (and subtlety) but I just don't feel like it's going to go there …

  14. All I'm saying is that Satoshi's feelings – regarding Mayaka and otherwise – are probably much more complicated than what he revealed here, interesting as it was. Even Satoshi, who reveals more verbally than the other three leads combined, still reveals (and likely even knows) only a fraction of what's going on inside his head. And if there were larger issues that were causing him confusion, they would be very difficult for him to admit to openly, even to his best friend. They're still 16 year-olds, after all.

  15. A

    There are enough well meaning adults who still make poor decisions that hurt those around them that it makes me wonder about Satoshi's long term prospects. Oreki asks him if he hesitated before he broke the chocolates; as I recall, all he got was an ominous silence in response. Yes, he's 16 and the call at the end gives the viewer some hope, but this episode really makes the story bittersweet. Even as we see Oreki and Chitanda really blossom, I don't think we can count on Satoshi getting his emotional house in order.

  16. Who knows? But Satoshi's self-doubt and emotional immaturity aren't unusual, never mind exceptional. What's exceptional about Satoshi is his self-awareness and intelligence (no matter what he thinks at the moment) and I think there's no reason to be especially pessimistic about his chances of working through his issues – whether that means he ends up with Mayaka or not.

  17. A

    This is one of those glass half full, half empty things. One of the shopworn premises of anime is the idea of personal discovery and growth among adolescents. But the older I get, the more I'm struck by how *little* people in the most fundamental ways change–and how they continue to do stupid things, even when they should know better. And how sometimes no one, even themselves, ever really figure out why they hurt the people around them, much less stop the negative behavior. This is why Oreki's comments after the bridge scene is so germane–even after Satoshi's speech, he remains perplexed by the whole business, and it's a testament to the dark mysteries of the human heart, which even his intellect can't illuminate.

    I don't think the writers want to end this on such a grim note, so they won't foreclose on Satoshi figuring things out, but I do think they're going to leave it in doubt–and this is one way Hyouka is so much truer to life than other anime. For both couples to have positive resolutions by the end of the next episode would be just too unrealistic in my view. I'm guessing Satoshi and Mayaka end on speaking terms, but with the most fundamental problems between them terribly unresolved. Chitanda and Oreki move along further, and even though I don't expect a confession (not to say I won't mind seeing one!), it'll be obvious where they're going. I think I read on the AS forum that the creators mentioned a bittersweet ending, and that's what we'll get.

  18. H

    I was wondering if Satoshi's rejection of the term 'hobbyist' is a translation issue, because to me, it's almost the very essence of someone who works at something and *cannot* be the best at it. When someone 'does' reach the pinnacle of an activity, it seems that they cannot be called hobbyists anymore.

    I thought it was said that Satoshi's frustration with his previous self was not that he was trying to be "great" at everything, but that he was trying to be *the best* at everything. Granted, that is not necessarily a large step, but it is a significant one. Unfortunately, in ultimately rejecting that obsession, he replaced it with another obsession, which is equally damaging – "To never be obsessed with anything." Even the pursuit of not obsessing about anything can become an obsession, as it seems to have become in his refusal to act upon his confessed attraction to Mayaka solely for the reason that he might contravene his self-imposed ban on obsession. Hopefully, he can realize that he has swung between two extremes, and that neither is the path to happiness and an interesting life, and correct himself to a more normal path between the two.

  19. A

    Satoshi is currently going through his middle-age crisis in high school.
    That's japan for you.

  20. A

    "Houtarou’s decision not to tell Chitanda what he knew is a complicated one. Certainly part of it is out of loyalty to Satoshi, and there’s a calculation that Chitanda and Mayaka would be happier not knowing."

    You need to keep in mind that Satoshi destroyed the chocolates to fit them in his bag, if Houtarou told Chitanda and Satoshi was actually made to produce them as they were, the day would take a very very ill turn. That part Mayaka and Chitanda still don't know about and probably never will be.

  21. e

    This episodes was so absorbing I was left surprised at how 'soon' it ended, albeit the pace in itself wasn't rushed at all, in true Hyouka fashion.
    The emotional surges, especially in the final part complete with body language and expressions were exceptionally well done ((the wrist-grabbing and Eru's flashing eyes really struck me, plus of course the whole sequence of Satoshi and Houtaro on the bridge).
    Anyway… Satoshi, if you ever decide to dedicate yourself romantically to someone – and to a girl at that – I'd say Mayaka has shown she's the one who understands you best, as intense as she can get sometimes ^^. And both from my foodie and artistìs POV that chocolate of hers looked like a great piece of work my boy.

  22. Yeah, that was surprisingly artistic choccy. Why do I think Chitanda actually did most of the preparation?

  23. e

    Surprisingly artistic? Why not. All that passion for manga she has could spring a collateral outlet in food art. I have friend of mine who are both good artists and love making elaborate food presentation… and some great cooks and pastry makers who can't draw well but still churn out mightily fine cake decoration and fondant statuettes without molds, just by hand (yet they do poorly at molding clay). Such skills are similar and can overlap but are not the same :)
    I do like your Chitanda theory anyway, and I think she did take part in the preparation of the actual chocolate. My main three reasons for agreeing to this:
    a) cooking or at least food and table presentation tie into her family pedigree and upbringing imho
    b) friendship and female mutual support of course
    c) <—-ties into a&b —– enjoyment of St. Valentine's Day by proxy and an outlet for her own wish to be allowed to give a present to the oh-so-hard-for-us-to-guess boy she likes (a – mostly unconscious I believe – workaround of sort to her family's duties&obligations. This celebration is basically forbidden to her. See her mention to Oreki about giving gifts earlier in the periode) . Also… it makes for good training 😉 .

  24. Basically my theory is based on the fact that Chitanda has already demonstrated the ability to cook with artistic flair, and we've seen no such evidence from Mayaka.

  25. A

    Well, Mayaka did improvise pretty well during the cooking competition. But yeah, I'm pretty sure Chitanda helped out *a lot*. I like elianthos' theory that there was a bit of vicarious participation in Valentine's Day involved, also, for Chitanda.

  26. H

    I also think you're selling Mayaka short on the cooking front. Like Aquifina said, she did improvise really well during the cooking competition, using basically the trash from Chitanda's cooking to come up with a competitive dish. She'd also done the research on producing chocolate on her own.

    Plus, doesn't Mayaka show an obsessiveness that matches Satoshi's (or at least his former obsessiveness) through this escapade? Producing chocolate candy from raw materials is a gigantic pain, as in something that really shouldn't be attempted in a home kitchen, and she knew this before starting yet she followed through on it. While it's certainly some combination of her own stubbornness and her desire to land Satoshi, that still shows far more desire to stay on task than just about anything.

    Re: Chitanda's vicarious enjoyment through assisting Mayaka – I also really enjoyed Chitanda's implied confession of feelings to Houtarou in that scene where she admits not giving him anything because of family tradition, in that she feels they are *too* close as friends to do so. It would have been even better if she'd given Satoshi a gift, tho.

  27. A

    No way I used to play the game Oreki and Satoshi were playing in the arcade all the time with my friends as a kid! Does anyone remember what it was called!? That was so well animated with the exact robots, moves, level and everything wow.

  28. A

    Nvm with some searching thanks to a Japanese friend I found out it was called Virutal On. It was a Japanese arcade game that was released in the US for Play Station 2 in 2003, really awesome to see it shown in this anime. The game is in a link below if you want to compare it yourself.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgxXcz2p1TA&feature=related

  29. d

    Satoshi thinks too much. How he compares himself to Oreki, worry that he might ruin his relationship with Mayaka, this guy is just nuts. He should just do it and worry later when it's actually happening. I'd bet Mayaka would be happier that way.

  30. B

    I have nothing to really add that hasn't been discussed already, but for the record, this is easily one of my favorite episodes of the series.

  31. Z

    I actually kept myself from saying it but I really hated Satoshi. I know that some of you may justify him for what he did but hear me out for a sec. The reason simply is because I really can't understand what is he trying to accomplish.

    As a person, by signalling yourself as a database, you just reduced your role to a supporting one but despite everything, he still wanted to win. His character are all over the place and I can't really deduce what exactly did he want. Is it to win against Houtaro, a recognition for himself or what?

    Also, because I hated him since the first episode, I actually felt that that's a dumb reason to not accept a girl's feelings. Beyond just being an anime cliche' if he claim to care for Mayaka that much then he should've had the guts to just let her go instead of being a happy-go-lucky person about and thus dragging him and Mayaka in a merry-go-round.

    He himself does not have the guts to admit that someone's better than him and so submitted himself to a supporting role but that in turn hurt him even more. And thus, dragging the girl that liked him for what he is down with him as well.

    Fanboy Rant: Mayaka should just leave him and Satoshi can just suck it.

    Sorry if this is too long and sorry if this offends anyone. Just had to let it out.

  32. Z

    Although to be fair, I did have a friend like Satoshi and I did end up kicking his ass for not accepting a girl's feeling for a dumb reason. (Mind you, its about as silly as Satoshi's). But they did end up up happy and just getting married.

    K, I'll leave you alone for now. Sorry…

  33. v

    For the sake of simplicity and keeping my response focused, I'll address each point via direct quotation:
    "I really can't understand what is he trying to accomplish"
    He said it himself. He was once obsessed about winning and being the best but he didn't become the best at a lot of the things he attempted and on the odd occasion that he did succeed, he did not find happiness in the fact. Therefore, he realised that by giving up on his obsession with winning and by generalising his interests while not becoming too worked up over rivalry and achievement in any of them, he was happy. That, in the end, was what he was trying to accomplish: happiness.

    "but despite everything, he still wanted to win"
    Yes, despite labelling himself as a database, his relationship with Houtarou caused him to relapse a bit into his old self. He never let Houtarou get wind of it and Houtarou was too dense to realise it himself. The relapse occurred, most notably, during the School Festival arc. It is not that Satoshi was consciously contradicting himself but he subconsciously lapsed into his old ways and before he knew it, he getting carried away.

    "I can't really deduce what exactly did he want. Is it to win against Houtaro, a recognition for himself or what?"
    Satoshi was not aiming for recognition or superiority over Houtarou, except during his relapse into his old self during the School Festival arc. He just wants to enjoy school life without being burdened by his former competitive self.

    "I actually felt that that's a dumb reason to not accept a girl's feelings"
    Well this is opinion so I can only respond with an opinion of my own. I think that, while it may be selfish, Satoshi's reason for neglecting Mayaka is valid. Look how his relationship with Houtarou made him miserable during the School Festival arc. He fears that starting a romantic relationship with Mayaka might cause him to revert to his former self again and he does not want his school days to be miserable as a result of another lapse. The reason he fears a relationship with Mayaka might cause a lapse is because, as he himself notes, he is the obsessive type and becoming obsessed with her might lead him to his former ways.

    "he should've had the guts to just let her go instead of being a happy-go-lucky person about and thus dragging him and Mayaka in a merry-go-round."
    Well, it's not a matter of guts, it's just that he's selfish as he himself admits to Houtarou when telling him the truth. His selfishness is the reason that he cannot accept Mayaka.

    "He himself does not have the guts to admit that someone's better than him and so submitted himself to a supporting role"
    But he has admitted it many times. He's admitted that Houtarou is better than him at solving mysteries. As for submitting himself to a supporting role, I can say that it was an involuntary result of his new disposition but, occasional lapses aside, he does not seem to mind as it fits into his new approach to life.

  34. A

    Omg Zuhri69…I just laid out pretty much the same logic as yours on another blog. I agree with you, but I don't hate Satoshi.

    I have empathy for a teenager feeling inferior, but I do think that he needs to deal with his own complex. Pulling the what-so-ever obsession theory is simply lame or just another cover-up that Satoshi is good at doing, and Houtarou's advice to him on the bridge is simply brilliant. Also, I don't think Satoshi's affection to Mayaka is strong enough or even there…his action says it all, and remember, he's a teenager. While we don't know what he said to Mayaka at the end, I do hope that he could man it up and be honest with her.

    While Satoshi's character seems more complicated, I don't see much progress…it's simply the enjoyment of lifting off his mask slowly and thanks to the good writing and story-telling. Satoshi is still Satoshi…he's lying to himself how he feels and what he wants. The whole notion of being obsessive with not getting obsessed is a clear statement that he's slotting himself into hole far away from the pain of losing or not getting the best spot — this is what he is doing and not that he has the wisdom or, more important, the desire to learn that what he is good at can also be something brilliant (or the best). At the end, Satoshi is still Satoshi after 20+ episdoes…fun time unveiling his mask though, and this episode is a clear validation of who he is.

    Houtarou is the character, on the other hand, progresses — whether or not he is as complex. From trying to avoid or finding the shortest cut possible, he's now way more involved — he cares and acts for his club members.

    This is after all another engaging episode — there are a lot of details and subtleties, and I love the dialogue and interactions amongst the characters. This is a very nice and different episode of a Valentine's theme involving teenagers. I like the short and simple phone dialogue exchange between Chitanda and Houtarou at the end, and Houtarou's comment to the chocolate from Tomoe places a very nice endnote to the episode.

    ~Ronbb

  35. s

    I'm kinda surprised nobody has mentioned this, but all along I've actually had the impression that Satoshi was gay, or at a minimum unsure of his sexuality.
    By his own glossy words he started fresh in high school. This means middle school was "back then," and yet he still rejected Mayaka at the height of his obsessive time. So it doesn't add up.
    It would actually be a good character study to show a realistic teenager dealing with sexuality issues in a non-lgbt focused anime. But who knows how it will end up, haven't read the novels.
    Maybe that's too much to expect from this demographic. Would that change your opinion of him?

  36. Clearly you haven't read my earlier posts on Hyouka – I suggested he might be gay after ep 3 or 4 when he made the "shining brighter" speech to Houtarou.

    It wouldn't change my opinion of him at all, except that it would be exceptionally interesting. I believe it's as you say, too much for this demographic – but I would love to see a gay male character in a mainstream anime that isn't played for laughs or mockery. Even better, where their sexuality isn't the focus of the story – just one more character element.

    In this specific instance I think you have to take the writers at their word, and say Satoshi is probably straight – just conflicted. But there might be some sexuality issues there, too – who knows? In terms of my affection for the character (which is considerable) it wouldn't matter either way.

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