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)

Hyouka – 21

A year ago, Fukube rejects Mayaka’s Valentine’s Day chocolate; she vows to present him with homemade chocolate from scratch next year. That day approaches, and after help from Chitanda, she leaves the masterpiece in the club room for Fukube. Chitanda enters and is shocked to find it’s been stolen. Oreki agrees to help investigate, but they’re too late, as Mayaka shows up before it can be found. She goes home without a fuss. On their walk home, Oreki confirms Fukube himself stole the chocolate, because he wasn’t ready to give Mayaka an answer. Mayaka knew he stole it too, surprising Chitanda. That night, Fukube gives Mayaka a call.

Fukube Satoshi has always irritated us a bit. He’s just so…insufferable at times. But apparently even something as recent as his “defeat” at the hands of Oreki in the Juumoji case has humbled him. As Oreki notes while he’s playing an arcade game they used to play in middle school, Fukube used to be obsessed with winning, and pissed off when he didn’t. But then one day, he realized winning wouldn’t fulfill him. So he decided to become obsessed with not being obsessed with things. To be simplistic, he went Zen. Which is why sometimes earthly occurances – like a girl in love with him demanding his answer, or his scheme to sidestep the issue hurting another girl – no longer immediately occur to him.

He’s gone so inward, the effects of his actions on those around him, while not lost on him, are allowed to unfold without his intervention. But he knows he’s in a comfort bubble; one he’s afraid to leave. Even if he won’t admit it, his friendship and interactions with Mayaka led him to win her heart, whether he intended it or not. Now that he’s won something, he struggles to take the next step, because it could lead to pain; not now, but somewhere down the road. Oreki doesn’t offer him any sage advice (he has his own struggles with whatever he and Chitanda have), but we know part of him wants Satoshi to take a leap of faith, just like we know part of him wants to punch Oreki – hard – twice – for what he did to Mayaka and Chitanda. We’re not sure Fukube deserves Mayaka, but it sounds like he loves her too, so giving her a straight answer would go a long way towards redeeming himself.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Car Cameos: On the bridge where they meet, several cars we’ve already seen in past episodes drive by Mayaka and Chitanda: a Mitsubishi i, Toyota Ractis, Honda ACTY Van, Toyota Sienta, Toyota Comfort, Suzuki Alto Lapin, Mitsubishi Colt, and Honda Civic.

P.S. Chitanda’s excuse for not giving Oreki chocolates – that “her family doesn’t give gifts to those she’s truly close to – that was an adorable exchange…par for the course where Chii-chan is concerned.

Hyouka – 20

Chitanda invites Oreki to a shrine for New Years to show off her kimono and deliver a bottle of sake to its owners on her father’s behalf. They also visit Mayaka, who is helping out as a shrine maiden. She is in charge of lost and found and selling fortunes. Oreki gets a “misfortune”, and he and Chitanda end up trapped in a storage shed. Not wanting her father’s friends to get the wrong idea, they throw personal items out of a hole in the shed so they’ll be taken to Mayaka. Satoshi arrives when Mayaka receives Chitanda’s purse with a string around it, which Satoshi recognizes. He races to the shed and frees them.

Oreki Houtarou would argue even now that his investigative and deductive skills are simply a matter of good luck, but an ominous mis-fortune spells trouble, and this week he has none of his usual luck. Don’t get us wrong: Oreki is not unlucky because he’s trapped in a dark, cold shed with Chitanda Eru in a kimono that makes her look like a perfect doll. He’s unlucky because he’s locked with her in a shed on the grounds of a shrine whose owners are friends of the Chitandas. Oreki gets a little bit of how rich people interact, and if one’s young, attractive daughter were found locked in a shed with a peasant like Oreki, Chitanda may not have to commit seppuku or anything, but it wouldn’t look good. One gets the feeling Chitanda wouldn’t even mind if this situation had happened elsewhere, and if it wasn’t cold.

So yeah, even if something was going to happen, or if it would be construed that way by a third party, nothing can happen. In this regard, there was a little less romantic tension between Chitanda and Oreki this week than last. After exhausting escape plans that would draw attention and/or destroy the shed, they must rely on the very efficient lost-and-found network of the shrine, in which lost items are sent straight to Mayaka without delay. When subtle items don’t work, Oreki gets lucky again, in that Fukobe recently watched the same Nabunaga historical TV drama he did, and will understand when Chitanda’s purse is sent with a string around it, it indicates they’re “trapped like rats.” Another fine standalone episode with a beautiful setting (when not in the shed) and festive atmosphere.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Hyouka – 19

After school, Oreki is irked by Chitanda classifying his ability to form cogent theories as a talent and not luck. So he challenges her to come up with a situation, and he’ll prove he can make a theory up about anything. A strange, specific, cryptic P.A. announcement is made, and she asks him to come up with a theory about that. He theorizes that a “student X” is being called to the staff room to for the crime of using a counterfeit ¥10,000 note to purchase stationary, then writing a letter confessing his crime to the owners. By the time he completes his theory, he forgets the original purpose of the “game.” He declines Chitanda’s suggestion they try to deduce that, and goes home. The next morning, his theory is proven in the paper.

Such is the chemistry between Oreki and Chitanda, and the snappiness of their discourse that they can carry an entire episode by themselves, in the clubroom, without a single cut elsewhere, aside from the neat diagramatic visual aids in their minds. At the start, Chitanda wants to prove to Oreki that he relies on innate talent, not merely luck. Oreki wants to prove the saying that “a theory and ointment will stick to anything” – even his theories. The perfect opportunity presents itself when a seemingly innocuous announcement is made over the P.A. But there’s enough in that message to get the two going in a rousing, ingenious bit of investigative work that isn’t gussied up with any exterior parties. It’s just Oreki, Chitanda, and their constantly-churning brains.

Before their investigation game began, however, we paused the show and came up with a theory of our own, predicting the P.A. announcer was summoning an eyewitness to a crime. We came to this conclusion based on the exacting structure of the announcement: almost like how a trial attorney would ask a witness “Where were you on the evening of the 31st?” We were more or less as right as Oreki, though we gave “Student X” the benefit of the doubt regarding whether they committed a crime or merely witnessed one. It would seem both are true: the student was given the fake cash by an older person, couldn’t turn it down, used it,  confessed, then reported to the staff room as ordered and aided in the apprehension of the counterfeiter. Case closed.

Despite having a good idea where Oreki was going, watching HOW he got there, and all the details that led him there, indeed makes for a rousing spectacle. Factor into that Chitanda is on the edge of her seat the whole time, rapt and ready to spring to action should anything he says not match the facts they have or strain credulity. On more than one occasion, this leads her to draw very close to Oreki (one time, as seen above, even close enough for a kiss). Yet each time both blush and recoil. This behavior – combined with Chitanda’s nervous invitation for Oreki to join her at her uncle’s grave – adds to the already compelling body of evidence implicating them both with barely-repressed mutual attraction and romantic tension in the first degree. Will that potential ever be realized? Regrettably, with a scant two episodes left, we predict not. But we’ve been wrong before.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

P.S. Perhaps part of why Oreki is hesitant to acknowledge his talent is because he wouldn’t be where he was today – with so many investigative feathers in his cap – were it not for Chitanda getting in his face, prodding him, and giving him those maho shojo eyes. She compels him to act, which more often than not leads to success. She’s like his reluctant muse.

Hyouka – 18

A passing helicopter reminds Oreki of Ogi-sensei, a middle school English teacher he had with Satoshi and Ibara. Oreki remembers he liked helicopters, but Satoshi doesn’t agree. Unsure of his own memory, Oreki’s curiousity is piqued – shocking everyone and greatly exciting Chitanda, who meets him at the public library to investigate. By sifting through newspapers around that date, they determine Ogi-sensei was also a mountaineer, and was looking out the window for a helicopter to rescue climbers who were stranded in the nearby Kamikakiuchi range.

After that huge, sprawling, epic school festival arc, this one-shot episode almost came as a shock. Even more shocking, Oreki becomes curious enough about something to get off his ass and check it out – without any prodding from outside parties. It’s definitely an unprecedented occurance, though Satoshi and Ibara’s reactions are a little overdone. It also occurs around a totally random helicopter flyby that sparks a random memory about a teacher. It also speaks to how easily our memories can be corrupted by plausible embellishment. In this case, Oreki made a statement about something – that Ogi-sensei liked helicopters so much he’d pause the class to look out the window at one flying by.

But when Satoshi recalls other cases of helicopters that Ogi didn’t react to – followed by him remembering Ogi was struck by lightning three times – leads Oreki to want to find out the truth. That truth – about the helicopter rescuing mountain climbers – was something we figured out pretty early in the investigation, making this one of the few episodes where we knew exactly where the case was leading long before the episode got there. In the process, Oreki and Chitanda have a kind of quasi-date at the library, though any romantic aspirations for these two remain irritatingly shelved for now, despite their chemistry. Even Kyon eventually kissed Haruhi.

Rating: 7
(Very Good)

Car Cameos: Background cars include a Honda Life/Zest, Suzuki Alto Lapin, Toyota Vitz, and Mitsubishi i.

Hyouka – 17

Chitanda very directly advertises the Classics Club and their anthology by declaring it Juumoji’s last target, specifically their manuscript. The clubroom fills with intrigued students, and the anthology is nearly sold out, when the manuscript explodes in a puff of smoke, and Juumoji leaves a note behind. Flash back to when Oreki confronts Tanabe Jirou and declares him to be Juumoji, laying out in great detail how he figured it out. Rather than expose him, he asks Tanabe to buy 30 anthologies, and in exchange, the Classics Club will help him stage the final theft, using sodium for the explosion. Once the four members each purchase a copy, the Hyoukas sell out.

All’s well that ends well! In fact, all’s well that ends fantastically. This concluding episode of the Kanya Festival arc brought everything together so nicely, and did so with panache and dramatic fluorish. Rather unfold in a linear fashion, we’re shown the ending first, and rather than watch Oreki’s process, we merely watch him confront, shut down, then enter into a pact with Juumoji himself that will mutually benefit both parties, including achieiving the primary objective – to sell all the anthologies. It’s an epic feat of both detective work and negotiation – and Fukube can hardly believe how soundly he is beaten.

At the heart of this episode is a subject that has been building up for the entire series, and while rarely on the surface until now, informs the relationships of the whole club, and how they see themselves. To put it perhaps too simply, there are passionate failures and casual geniuses in Hyouka. Oreki is a genius, yet doesn’t seem to care (though we know he cares more than he outwardly lets on) This is accentuated by how abruptly he’s shown wrapping everything up in a neat little package. Fukube is frustrated by always looking up to Oreki, and the reality that he’ll probably never be able to approach his deductive skill can be a crushing, hopeless sensation.

Similarly, Ibara learns that Kouchi was friends with Anjou, the writer of A Corpse By Evening – a work both written and illustrated by casual geniuses. She thought she was 100 levels below Kouchi – the author of Body Talk – but Kouchi thought she was 100 below Anjou. It’s all relative! Even Chitanda learns that the school of manipulation Irisu tried to teach her simply isn’t for her – she’s too straightforward, but like Oreki, she succeeds in getting things done without seeming to try. We could frankly go on and on about all the lovely details crammed into this episode (the OP and ED are even omitted to provide maximum airtime), but we’ll simply close by saying the mystery was solved to our great satisfaction, and gave us a deeper look into the lives and personalities of all four club members.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Hyouka – 16

Satoshi’s stakeout is a bust, as Juumoji skips “ku” and steals from the Light Music Club (“ke”) instead. Oreki’s sister pays him a visit and trades him his mirror for a copy of “A Corpse By Evening.” The foreward announces the group of artists’ work for the next Kanya Festival will be called “Kudryavka’s Order” and based upon a Christie classic. Chitanda borrows the manga and shows Mayaka, who confirms the festival poster was drawn by the same artist: Council President Kugayama. Oreki comes to believe the manga’s foreward was an announcement of the Juumoji incident now occuring…

So now we’re done guessing when this arc will come to an end – having been proven wrong once again this week – but we’re definitely still enjoying the mystery as it deepens and begins to encompass all of the little details and events that inititally seemed unimportant. Oreki’s “Straw Millionaire” system has proven to be a crucial plot propellant, with the latest item being none other than the very manga Mayaka tore her room apart to find. Oreki is as impressed with its quality as she is. Leave it to Oreki’s sister to throw a vital bone into Oreki’s bowl for him to gnaw on. We’re not sure why her face is never shown, but it definitely adds to her mystique – along with her offbeat wardrobe.

Satoshi, who was on an indie streak last week, stumbled on the direct approach. You can see his frustration at failing, along with his exasperation with the fact that Oreki seeks to solve this thing without depending on connections to the clubs or mistakes by the culprit. He beleives the Juumoji plot is important to its makers, having been carefully planned since at least last year. Satoshi and the others can only sit back and hope Oreki can solve it. Also in this episode: Chitanda gets ready to go on the air, and Mayaka gets soaked in inky water, ruining her cosplay outfit and leading to a quiet retreat from the manga society.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Hyouka – 15

After briefly celebrating their Wildfire win, Fukobe, Chitanda and Ibara bring the Juumoji mystery to Oreki’s attention. Chitanda uses her catch phrase, and Oreki grudgingly agrees to participate. They determine that the pattern of crimes indicates the use of the ten first characters in the hiragana alphabet, and that the final theft could occur in the Classics Club. Chitanda reports this to the Newspaper Club, who are already on top of it, while Fukobe tries to catch the thief in the act, wanting to solve the crime without further help from Oreki.

So we were a little off: this episode didn’t comprise the third day of the festival in which the mystery is solved. Instead, the second day continues with the start of the investigations. It’s a day that concludes with a pretty solid theory in place for what’s going on, and whoever the thief is, he’s pretty clever. Chitanda takes Irisu’s advice amusingly literally, but beause the Classics Club could be the last target, the mystery nets them more free publicity anyway, which is good, because there’s a lot of anthologies still on that table.

In the meantime, Fukube starts to show signs he may be sick of playing second fiddle to Oreki. He stops himself when about to suggest something involving the case, then goes off on his own to catch the thief in the act, which he believes is the only way he or she will be caught. Mayaka’s Manga Society troubles continue, being teased by her clubmates and retreating to mope beside Oreki and at an isolated bridge where her prez tries to console her. But the overarching question is, who will catch the thief? If it isn’t Oreki, will he care? We think he will.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Hyouka – 14

On the second day of the Kanya Festival, Irisu agrees to sell anthologies bundled with her pamphlet. Oreki trades an anthology and the water Glock for cookies and a bag of wheat flour from the Confectionary Research Club. Satoshi enters himself with Chitanda and Mayaka into a cooking contest called “Wildfire”, but Mayaka will be late due to a poster-drawing contest at the Manga Society. During his time, Satoshi makes only Tonjiru, but Chitanda manages to make four more dishes including Katsura-muki and Giseyaki.

In her haste to cook as much as possible, she leaves hardly any ingredients left for Mayaka, who arrives with only ten minutes to spare. Overhearing the competition, Oreki tosses the bag of flour to Satoshi, who gets it to Mayaka, and she makes Kakiage on rice in the remaining minutes. The Classics Club wins the competition, but a missing ladle turns out to have been stolen by someone named “Juumoji”.

We love cooking, and we also love cooking shows like Iron Chef and Chopped. So when the majority of this episode became a cooking contest, we were thrilled. Another team has a ringer, but so did Satoshi: namely Chitanda, who cooks up a storm. The key clue that we didn’t miss when the rules were being explained: if there are no more ingredients available, they can be procured from around campus. That’s when a seemingly random bag of flour becomes the key to the Classics Club’s victory.

The show does a masterful job building up this connection, and creating great suspense as the time ticks down on a desperate Mayaka, who is only one ingredient away from being able to make something…anything. Finally, Oreki comes through with the major assist. Can oil heat up to frying temperature in two minutes on a hot plate? No friggin’ way. But that’s okay; Mayaka’s quick thinking and ingenuity meant all four club members contributed to the win. We suspect the next and final day of the festival will center on the mystery of the petty theif called “Juumoji”…and selling the rest of the anthologies.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

P.S. Smoking at school is an expulsionary offense, but apparently waving lifelike Glocks around with pumpkin masks is TOTALLY OKAY.

Hyouka – 13

In the course of the first day of the Kanya Festival, Chitanda is able to get clearance to sell anthologies at other booths but must give the wall newspaper a good story to be included; Satoshi successfully advertises the Classics Club before narrowly losing the quiz show; Mayaka gets in a philosophical argument about manga with her senpai; and Oreki sells fourteen copies and trades a safety pin for a Glock 17-modelled water pistol.

The Clasics Club quartet is, for the most part, separated from one another this week; all in their own little corners of the Kanya Festival, trying to make things happen vis-a-vis getting all those anthologies sold off, while trying to have at least a little fun on the side. This reveals how everyones’ idea of fun differs. Oreki is naturally pefectly content to sit in the clubroom gathering dust. Chitanda takes her mission seriously, but of all the fifty or so clubs, she manages to visit and spend time with all of them. Satoshi wants to show off his skills, both as database and (next week) cook.

Finally, Mayaka just seems a bit uncomfortable in the manga society: clearly passionate about the material, but perhaps not so enamored of her clubmates. Her “debate” with her senpai Kouchi killed any chance of selling the anthology there, but was a nice character moment for her, and we hope it resolves itself later. This vary varied episode even includes a couple of mini-mysteries involving an artfully stolen tarot card and go pieces…though in our minds, the prevailing mystery of this arc is how in the heck they’re going to sell all those anthologies in the final two days. Can it be done?

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. What the hell kind of high school allows such life-like replicas of firearms to be allowed on school property?

Hyouka – 12

The 54th Kanya Festival has arrived, and all the members of the Classics Club are looking forward to it in their own way save Oreki, for whom it’s just another day. They over-ordered the 46th Hyouka anthology, so they have to sell 200 instead of 30, and their club’s low profile and isolated location will make that difficult. The club devises a strategy in which Chitanda negotiates for a better booth and Satoshi will advertise. Both get easily sidetracked by the many booths and events. Oreki, meanwhile, mans the booth, making his first sale to a punked-out member of the fashion club.

With all the guff and drama in the past relating to the Kanya Festival, it was only a matter of time before we witnessed the most recent iteration in episode or arc form, and here we are. And as is typical of Japanese cultural festivals in animes (and perhaps in reality as well; we wouldn’t know), the school goes all out. Every student is involved in something, and the school is alive with activity. The episode’s prologue shows Chitanda, Mayaka and Satoshi awake in the wee hours of the morning, filled with anticipation. Oreki gets his dream job: sitting at a booth in a quiet clubroom all day. We also briefly meet his sister, who is home, though we don’t see her face. She gives him a pen that comes in handy later.  Will she play a role next week?

Rather than have a fresh festival-related mystery pop up, the Classics Club is instead faced with a commercial dilemma: they ordered far too many anthologies, and must create extra demand for them where none existed – more than six times the demand, to be exact. They approach this problem the same way they’ve approached any problem: determine what needs to happen to sell those books, and make it happen. Easier said than done, as Mayaka is stuck in Manga Club the whole first day, Satoshi has his own festival checklist, and Chitanda quickly becomes overwhelemed by the variety of activities distracting her from the task at hand.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Hyouka – 11.5

Oreki’s sister returns home, and persuades him to be a lifeguard for the public pool for the day. When Satoshi calls asking for a book back and hear’s of Oreki’s intention to work, he hurries to the pool, Mayaka and Chitanda in tow. The three have fun while Oreki lifeguards. Chitanda believes a woman may have lost her earring. They all look for it, but Oreki learns that it wasn’t an earring Chitanda saw, but ice cream from the woman’s kid.

In this mid-series ‘special episode’ (hence no official rating), the Classics Club heads to the pool! Why a pool, you say? Well, for one thing, it’s summer, and for another, Chitanda and Mayaka haven’t appeared in swimsuits yet (though they’re not wearing much in the ED either). All the events of this episode could have been summed up as “Oreki takes a long nap at home” if only he’d defied his older sister. But for some reason, he can’t say no…just like he can’t say no to Chitanda.

We’re not saying there’s a definite connection between those two women; and while the episode never shows her face, perhaps the fact is Oreki just can’t say no to a pretty face. We liked how Oreki’s lack of motivation irked Mayaka and Satoshi to the point they called him out on it, which in turn led to him taking the “white ear case” seriously and arriving at a conclusion that satisfies and impresses all (especially Chitanda). We also like the possibility Satoshi used Oreki’s working at the pool as an excuse to slack off.

(No Rating)

Hyouka – 11

The film’s ending doesn’t sit well with Ibara, Satoshi, and Chitanda, and they let Oreki know one by one that they don’t believe it was what Hongou intended. He agrees with them, and he can’t stop thinking about it, so he confronts Irisu and gets her to admit she wasn’t looking for detectives, but script writers, and determined that Oreki’s was the best. Later, Oreki tells Chitanda the story he thinks Hongou wanted to tell.

Last week, the mission was completed, but the mystery remained. This week, the mystery isn’t entirely solved, but the truth about Irisu’s motivations are revealed, and Oreki returns to the role of detective and not script writer. Satoshi turns out to be pretty spot on with everyone’s tarot symbols (they cartainly carry more weight here than in Arcana Famiglia). Even though Oreki doesn’t see The Empress in Irisu, a little quick digging shows that’s indeed what role she played in this arc. Recurring keywords include material prosperity, power, desire, and satisfaction, along with the more obvious sexuality, pleasure, physical attraction and beauty. Irisu used her powers of persuasion to achieve her own goals and prosper from the success of the film, irregardless of whether Hongou’s intent was preserved. The ends justified the means.

This four-episode arc is bookended by online conversations between Irisu and a mystery senpai labelled as “atashi” or “me”. Who is this senpai? We don’t know, but he or she is the person who led Irisu to ask the Classics Club. (We’re guessing it’s Oreki’s older sister, since she’s “halfway across the world”, among other hints.) Irisu warns Hongou that things won’t turn out the way she intended, and they don’t. When it’s all over, the senpai mocks Hongou and the others for falling for the ploy, and Irisu feels kinda bad about what she did, even if she believed she had no choice. It was a tangled web she wove, and served as a wake-up call to Oreki, who knew something wasn’t right with his conclusion. His friends confirmed his doubts, he called Irisu out, and he whipped up a new and more fitting end theory. Too late to change the film, but not too late to regain his confidence.

Rating: 8 (Great)

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