I think…it would be pretty easy to despise Houtarou Oreki if you were so inclined. I myself may indeed be inching that way. As our warm-hearted friend Eru Chitanda notes, Oreki is not a nice guy. And that meanness, born out of selfishness, was on full display in this episode.
If there was anything connecting the two halves of this episode of Hyouka (like last week, this week’s episode was effectively bisected into straight character moments and character moments coming through the myster plot), it was that Houtarou Oreki, as I said in the intro, is not a nice person. Last week, I noted that Oreki’s problems seem to be less about energy conservation and more about an unwillingness to engage with and invest in other people. He’s walled himself off, and he’s got a boatload of convenient excuses at the ready to avoid ever having to say this explicitly. Whether it’s constructing an arrogant responsibility for Chitanda’s future life and rejecting it, making other people do things for him that he could do himself, or telling Chitanda just to “look harder,” Oreki’s always, always avoiding having to put himself on the line in any sort of way, no matter the situation.
And, in fact, the visual language surround Oreki seems to support this measured, consistent, apathetic attitude. I’ve noticed this before, but Oreki is pretty consistent shot in medium shots without any sort of angle. During the cafe scene, I was thinking this was representative of Chitanda’s perspective—which sees Oreki head-on—in contrast to the oblique nature of his view of Chitanda (who is shot at varying angles and rarely straight on). However, as the this sterile shots continued into the mystery half of the episode, my thoughts started to change.  Rather than representing Chitanda’s perspective on Oreki, I’ve come to think these shots represent the utter lack of emotion Oreki brings to ever situation. Or, if you will, lack of investment and engagement. 
And this brings me back to the structure of the episode—that is, the writing—because I find it fascinating how the mystery plots (which I’m generally less fond of than the pure character interactions on personal preference alone) seem to be functioning as capsules in which the implied character traits of the first halves show up in action. There’s a continuity in the “themes of character,” if you will, so it’s appropriate that the cinematographic linguistics  would carry over, as well.
Again, the “theme of character” I’m talking about here is Oreki’s nature—that of the low-investment, low-engagement, “energy conserving,” person that prioritizes his own comfort over all else and over anyone else’s needs. And that’s the sort of near-obsessive self-interest that gets you called such things as “mean,” Or-e-ki. The persistency of this selfishness is ubiquitous, it seems, cracked only in the moments where Oreki realizes he’s crossed the line, such as when his callous suggestion for Chitanda to “use force of numbers” (a piece of advice almost mocked by a shot devoid of all human life but him) compels her to explicitly tell him that this is something important to her, that she’s trusting him with.
And this selfishness manifests all over the rest of the episode, too—in the way he averts his eyes from Chitanda, having obviously learned that he’s unable to resist her requests when he looks into them; in the way he closes himself off to her even as she opens herself up to him (see the above gallery); in the way that he watches Chitanda floundering around in the dirt of her own memory and can only motivate himself to help because he’s got nothing better to do; in the way he reacts to Tougaiko’s obvious emotional distress with nothing but a flatline; in the way some of his questions direct the importance of the conversation back to himself. In a lot of ways, there’s not much to like about Oreki—which is why I think I react with such amusement every time he’s pulled in against his will by Chitanda’s strength. She’s going to drive him out of his selfishness, even if he’s selfish the whole time she’s doing so.
And that’s about all I’ve got on what I felt was the main thrust of this episode. As always, there were a handful of individual moments and cuts that I felt were excellent, but the majority of them were just this obviously talented and well-focused staff doing their normal excellent work. Of these remaining small pearls, the most notable was the pre-OP (once again, the overall episode structure compartmentalizes the kick-off segment all together to preserve the consistency of the rest) scene of the “confession,” aka Chitanda asking for a favor. In an episode filled with strong cinematography, this scene was by far the glorious stand-out. The light pink overtones softening and romanticizing Chitanda’s every word. The heart-shaped pendulum of the clock pausing for a moment along with the rest of the world as she takes a preparatory break. The visual metaphor of that same pendulum for a steady, shining heartbeat. And the way it all reverts back to a more stoic normal as soon as the “confession” is revealed to be a request.
In short—it was beautifully done.
 A brief digression excised from the main body of the post: “Forgive me if I ramble briefly, but one thing I’m always struggling against when I analyze cinematography is the tendency to prioritize the individual shot above the entire context of the visual language. Hyouka is a show where the cinematography is so organically intertwined with the show as a whole that it’s dangerous to do this—especially when we aren’t getting the more dramatically staged shots like the hair moments in the first episode. Those kinds of shots specifically draw attention to themselves because they are so obviously staged, but the rest of Hyouka‘s cinematography generally works on a much more subdued level.”
 By way of contrast, Chitanda is shot in an ever-varying sequence of angled and straight shots (and changing colors!)—as if the camera is paralleling her active emotional state. Of course, this isn’t a binary where Chitanda is shot at angles and Oreki is always shot straight on, but these things works in patterns, not in absolutes.
 Did you see that, Mom! I said “cinematographic linguistics” and it makes sense. I’m so cool!
 Obligatory Ibara face.
7 thoughts on “Hyouka, Episode 3”
It’s interesting how you say Oreki is selfish, because I remember thinking to myself when I first watched this that Chitanda is the selfish one. As polite as her language is, she still imposes on Oreki a great deal, you know? And she either misreads or ignores Oreki’s body language altogether. Well, perhaps it’s going a bit far to say that she’s only interested in herself, but she’s certainly not understanding him on his level. That lack of awareness may as well be selfishness because it results in miscommunication anyway.
Of course, this brings up an important question. When it comes to isolated, apathetic individuals, is it their fault for not engaging with those around them, or is it the fault of others for not engaging them in a way that makes them feel comfortable?
I mean, I guess to a point I feel like Oreki’s being dishonest with himself about what he wants? His “different” speech reeked of a desire to not be different—yet he’s unwilling to make the effort to change his situation. Instead, he’s gotta rationalize that he’s fine the way he his. Of course, I realize I’m making it sound much easier than it is—but even so, it’s not just that’s he’s selfish, but that he allows his selfishness to spill out and affect other people. Oreki’s clearly intelligent enough to know when he’s crossed lines (as we saw this episode), but what about not crossing them at all?
I suppose I’m more willing to forgive Chitanda because of her obvious naivety and also because of how lacking in malevolence she is. I don’t believe for a second that she would impose on Oreki if he actually communicated honestly with her. But, again, he doesn’t do that, even though he definitely has the capability.
I dunno, I feel like I’m maybe getting a bit more judgmental of Oreki in this comment than I’m really comfortable with only three episodes in. So I guess take all of this with a grain of salt. I do pretty much stand by what I wrote in the post proper though. Just use pepper there! ^_^
I think it’s not a fault of either sides. For apathetic individuals, they think that they are OK with the state that they are in, and they want to be like that. It is a choice of lifestyle they made. It is not as if they are lonely but unable to show to others that they want companions, and thus hide in their shells. Whether or not an apathetic lifestyle is good, that’s another topic to determine if it is their fault to have such a lifestyle.
For the others, I don’t think it is their fault when the other party chooses to live that way. Drawing comparison with people who truly feels lonely and yearn for companionship: Others who noticed it and yet take no action or effort to engage them in a way that makes them comfortable are indeed in fault. That’s my thought.
But for those who chooses to be apathetic and isolated, like Oreki, I think it is very much up for discussion if they really need the ‘help’. From their perspective, they might think that it is rude that others are forcing them to change or making them to make another choice.
“To live in to interact with others. The testament of one’s life lies within those many interactions.”
– Makiharu, Hiizumi Akina’s grandpa (Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta)
If we use this viewpoint then yes, it’ll be Oreki’s fault choosing the isolated, apathetic lifestyle, and it’ll be the others’ fault, too, for not helping him.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen the show (think I’ll need to say that every time I comment lol) but I remember rather liking Oreki when I watched the show since I was delighted to think something snarky about a scene and then hear him echo the exact same words. I came into the show on an odd note, it was halfway over and my twitter feed wasn’t shutting up and, as you might have guessed, I don’t watch a lot of KyoAni stuff since I don’t tend to like it so it felt a little like being forced to try this out. Hence some of the snark but it was still, fun, in a way to come across a character who mentally talked in the same way I did, there are plenty of snarky characters out there but most of them talk like they’re performing, Oreki’s internal dialogue felt like it was much more for himself.
At this rate I might have to make time to rewatch the show, especially with a newer computer screen that makes everything look so nice….
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I am enjoying this how immensely as it’s been a longtime since i’ve watched an anime that didn’t have overly loud characters and a myriad of fan service. I love the music they use to set the mood. The characters have some substance and yes kids do think this way. Thanks for for your analysis I’ve enjoyed reading it as you think along the same lines that I do.
Thanks for reading along! I hope I continue to do the show justice as I keep on writing about it!
I’m enjyoing your posts as much as ever, but between what I’ve already said in earlier posts and what I can’t say on account of spoilers, I find it hard to say anything meaningful. So: just a good-job post this week. ^_^
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