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 – 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 – 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)

Hyouka – 10

Oreki details his dismissal of the amateur detectives’ theories with Irisu over tea, and she tells him she knew they’d fail, which is why she sought him – not the classics club – out. She coaxes him to stay on the case, and he comes in to school to do just that, shocking Fukube and Mayaka. Re-watching the video with Mayaka’s suggestions and Fukube’s notes at hand, he figures it out: the culprit is none of the six actors, but a seventh actor – the one behind the camera. With this in mind, the film is completed and shown to a satisfied audience at the festival. But there is one thing Oreki forgot about: the rope Hongou requested.

A student who is always ignored by his/her classmates follows them to a seedy theatre. They know he’s there, but aside from a momentary glance they pretend he isn’t. Suddenly, the kid pops, and when everyone else is out of sight, he kills one of them and makes it look like a locked room mystery. It’s a home run of conclusion that seems to fit all the facts, and even more impressive is how quickly Oreki comes up with it, drawing from everything he’s seen and everything he’s heard. The rope question is a hole, but as the original intent was to make a successful film, it didn’t matter. Or does it?

This episode was a turning point for Oreki. Chitanda wasn’t here this week to flash those majo shojo doe eyes at him (she was hungover). It’s Irisu who exhibits confidence in him he never had himself; who tells him to take pride in his talent; who calls him extraordinary numerous times for dramatic effect. Oreki’s never done anything he didn’t have to, but now he finds that solving mysteries is not only something he has to do, but something he wants to. He may have given the film a culprit, an ending, and even a title (Out of Sight, Out of Mind; heh heh), but the thing he wants and needs most of all is to find out the truth.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Hyouka – 09

The three “amateur detectives” of the film club offer their theories to the classics club, one by one. Vice director Nakajou believes it to be a simple matter of the murderer escaping through the window, but the grass outside wasn’t disturbed. Prop master Haba believes the culprit is Kounosu, also of the mountaineering club, because Hongou asked for a rope. Haba hasn’t watched the film yet, so doesn’t know how hard and loud opening the window from the outside would be. The third gumshoe, Sawakguchi, suggests it was going to be a horror flick with a slasher killing everyone save one couple, but there wasn’t enough blood ordered. With all three film club theories refuted, it’s up to the classics club to crack the mystery. On his way home, Oreki bumps into Irisu, who asks him out for tea.

This turned out to be only Part Deux of the film club murder mystery, comprised solely of listening to the three film club detectives rattle off their personal theories about whom the culprit may be. None of their theories survive the scrutiny of Oreki, Chitanda, Mayaka, and/or Fukube. Of course, it would have been awfully anticlimatic for one of them to come up with the answer instead of a member of the Classics Club. Instead, the presentation of their theories served to eliminate certain possibilities, if only somewhat.

While a wholly different mystery than that involving Chitanda’s uncle, due to it involving a much smaller scope of history (months, not decades), the series still manages to brew quite a stirring mystery here. We have no idea how it will be solved, and even if we had a clue, it’s likely it would be refuted by Oreki & Co. Quite amusingly, Chitanda snacks on whiskey chocolates throughout the episode, developing hiccups and eventually passing out after an apparent epiphany that “it’s like a kaleidoscope,” whatever that means. We’re also curious why Irisu wants to meet Oreki one-on-one.

Rating: 8 (Great)

Hyouka – 08

Irisu Fuyumi of the A/V Club enlists the Classics Club to attend a screening of the club’s mystery film. The writer, Hongou, took ill and was unable to finish the script. It’s a crudely-made affair, but Irisu believes Oreki & Co. can devine the culprit from the small amount of footage seen. Oreki balks at the opportunity, not wanting so much responsibility, but instead agrees that he and the Classics Club will be “observers”, listening to the theories of the A/V club’s ‘amateur detectives’ and advising them when necessary.

Perhaps the biggest mystery since “Hyouka” falls into the reluctant lap of Oreki and the Classics Club, thanks to Chitanda offering to help a fellow rich empire heiress in need, Irisu. Unlike a hotel ghost mystery, a lot of people in the A/V Club are now depending on Oreki’s investigative skills, and even if he said he wouldn’t take responsibility for failure, we’re as confident as Chitanda, Fukube and Mayaka that he’ll be able to solve the unfinished film’s mystery. The cold open was similarly mysterious, with two people texting and chatting online – who turned out to be Chitanda and Irisu. Clearly Chitanda’s vision for the Classics Club goes far beyong enjoying literature.

With Detective Oreki at her side, the club has become a formidable detective force. We really liked how much detail went into the depiction of the indie film: shaky handheld camerawork, wind noise, intermittent focus, and bad acting were all on display, but despite its flaws, the underlying mood of the film commanded our attention and respect. We also liked how horribly hot and muggy it looked when Oreki poked his head outside. Were it not for Chitanda meeting up with him at his house, he’d have retreated indoors.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Hyouka – 07

The Classics Club goes on a trip to a hot spring inn run by the young daughters of a family friend of Ibara’s. Oreki has an early night due to the strains of travelling and being in the spring too long, but in the morning, Mayaka reports she saw a hanging shadow in a room across from hers. Chitanda also saw it and want Oreki to investigate. After piecing together all of the events of the night before and observing the behavior of their hosts, he concludes it was only a yukata hanging out to dry.

The Classics Club has an away game, and like so many old inns, the one they stay at has a ghost story attached to it, regarding the hanging suicide of an embezzzler. When the girls insist they saw something unusual in the night, it’s up to Sherlock Oreki to solve the case. What amazed us, first of all, was that a fourth grader and sixth grader could run a frikkin’ inn all by themselves, even if only for four teenage guests. Not a whole lot of American inns like that. What also caught our eye was, well…everything; the calm, picturesque setting was particularly pretty.

As for the mystery; naturally there was a perfectly logical and un-supernatural explanation for what Mayaka and Chitanda saw, and when they beg him to find it, he considers it a hassle but does his duty, making full use of his detective skills. Once again, nifty details abound, from the older sister writing her name on everything that’s hers, to the ladybugs landing on people then taking off. Oreki also proves a most astute observer of behavior, which he uses to connect all the myriad dots rattling around in his head to form a picture of what happens that fits the facts. The kid’s on a roll.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Hyouka – 06

Oreki’s history class is momentarily disrupted from an argument coming from an adjacent class; he recognizes Chitanda’s voice. After school in the clubroom, Chitanda tells the others what happened, and presents Oreki with the mystery of why her teacher made a mistake. After eliminating a few possibilities, Oreki concludes the math teacher mistook the lowercase a for a d in his notes, thus messing up Class A’s progress with Class D’s.

Oreki Houtarou is well aware he cannot refuse Chitanda Eru’s request to solve her mysteries, be they grand like last week’s, or relatively mundane, like this week’s. But while this mystery wasn’t as glamorous (it was just a case of Chi’s teacher mixing up two letters), the club took it just as seriously, and the episode didn’t skimp on the neat little details. For instance, the first half is merely the club discussing the seven deadly sins, including anger, which Chi believes necessary but chooses to avoid it whenever possible. She tries to stop an angry Ibara’s Fukube-aimed tirade with cookies. Once that box of cookies is open and we see that they’re letters, the solution is right there before us long before Oreki figures it out. This speaks to Oreki’s belief in luck as a major player in whether and how he’s able to solve things.

After the opening credits, the entire episode takes place in the clubroom, and nobody leaves until the end. Yet we’re still taken to different places: Chitanda’s story of what caused her to yell at her teacher is visualized as a kind of noh theatre with traditional masks on non-traditional mannequins (the teacher himself is a crash dummy). When Oreki feels Chitanda’s catchphrase “I can’t stop thinking about it!” coming on, he imagines hundreds of tiny, intent Citandas climbing over him like cute leaches with amathyst gazes. Indeed, after he solves this, Oreki is still frustrated by the biggest mystery of all so far, at least for him: what exactly is going on inside Chitanda’s head and any given moment…and why he can never refuse her.

Rating: 8 (Great)