Hyouka – 22 (Fin)

Chitanda recruits Oreki to hold an umbrella above her in her shrine’s live doll procession where she will be the Empress. On the way Oreki notices a bridge that will shortly be closed for construction. While there, the subject of the bridge comes up, and when another bridge is suggested, it puts everyone off. Chitanda summons Oreki and he tells her what’s happened. She tells him to tell the same idea who called to block the original bridge – someone who’s a budding photographer who thought the procession would look better on the new route, which sported out-of-season cherry blossoms. As the sun sets, Chitanda explains that she wanted to show Oreki her place: the place she’ll always return to, and the place she’ll be responsible for. Oreki thinks of saying something romantic, but hesitates.

Will they? Won’t they? They won’t. That’s Hyouka in a nutshell. Good night!

Sorry, that was perhaps too concise…especially when describing a show with such subtlety and nuance. And few series we’ve seen have made us care so much about a couple, even while knowing they don’t have a chance in hell of getting anywhere on the romantic front. While it seems both of them wanted to say something to one another numerous times, the words never come out. We’re even teased at the end, with Oreki imagining he’ll take on the business side of her farming occupation, considering she wants to focus on the farming part. But when his chance comes – and he knows it’s his chance – he just doesn’t take it. We understand it would be a little cheesy for the series to wrap with such a…proposal, especially considering Oreki has never discussed anything with Chitanda about wanting to share his heart or his life with her.

But throughout the series she’s given off a soulmatey vibe. And after all, just because nothing happens here doesn’t mean it never will – it’s up in the air (and no, we don’t expect they’re saving the answer for an OVA or film.) Viewers are either optimistic about their chances or not. Instead, the series parts with one last little mystery, lots of Oreki hanging out in an unfamiliar place with strange customs and ways of speaking (though he comports himself well enough), a confirmation that things with Satoshi and Ibara are “normal”, and of course, the procession, an achingly beautiful sequence that’s literally a blur for Oreki. And in the end, while there were no “I love yous”, Chitanda did want to share something very special with Oreki: another side of her life. So, you know, it isn’t like she detests the guy.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 12

Yui is saved when Yamamoto pins the tank Beta with the forklift, and she saves him by killing it. They get back to work, arguing over who should stay behind to detonate the prototype. After successfully exposing the cannon’s core modules, Yamamoto goes below and is ambushed by Beta. Yui can only put him out of his misery, and it isn’t long until she too is surrounded. Yuuya saves her at the last second, and pulls the shrapnel out of her arm while Stella covers them. The main force of the Beta are converging on the hangar.

There were times during this episode when we started to wonder whether really would be the end of Lt. Takamura Yui. After all, she’s dead-set on scuttling the cannon, bushido dictates she sacrifice herself to protect others, and we flashed back to when she was still a bright-eyed student in Kyoto. Also, she’s not the only main character. While killing her off would be piss us off to no end, it would no doubt be a bold, audacious move, no doubt providing fresh motivation for Yuuya. But the question we asked at the end of last week’s review is answered in the affirmative, and that works for us, too.

Unfortunately, Corporal Yamamoto – who had a target on his back the moment we first saw him – isn’t so lucky, though you could say he died with honor. Doing so didn’t require staying alive as the Beta eat him, which is why Yui’s mercy shot was fully justified. And while we still maintain they’re pretty stupid looking, they can also be downright frightening in such close quarters, dwarfing the tiny, delicate Yui. Yuuya’s peril-extending first-aid aside, Yui’s still not leaving until that cannon is destroyed. The cannon that, we reiterate, is the potential savior of mankind. Silly humans…

Rating: 7 (Very Good)