Hyouka, Episode 4

For a show about a group of teenage friends living a curiosity filled life together, there sure is a lot of understated tension bubbling underneath the surface of their generally cheery lives (Oreki excepted, of course). They aren’t saying it, of course—but they don’t have to, because the camera is taking care of all of that for them. [1]

Hyouka

I’ve said before that the mysteries themselves are generally the least interesting and enjoyable parts of Hyouka for me, so my first watch through the episode left me feeling just very slightly cold on it due to the amount of time devoted to theories and information about the events surrounding Chitanda’s uncle, Sekitani Jun (which strikes me as a really cool name, for some reason). For now, all that’s simply information about events and people we, much like Oreki, have only cursory interest in due to the fact that it’s all important to Chitanda. [2]

That being said, what I do have a vested interest in are these characters—with whom I really do feel I’ve spent a lot more time that just four episodes (possibly due to the weekly posts and the elongated watched schedule, but whatever). I’ve got my pet peeves about Oreki and delight in seeing him get tormented by his friends and by the situations in which he finds himself. I’ve come to really love Ibara, her causally easy friendliness with Chitanda, and the clear effort she’s making to keep up with a trio of really intelligent people. I’m kind of fascinated by Satoshi’s increasingly obvious passive-aggressive behavior towards Oreki, and I’m charmed by the sincerity with which Chitanda approaches every situation. These are a good group of characters, and watching them together is a lot of fun—despite Oreki’s constant attempts to rain on the parade.

Hyouka

Although I wouldn’t really say Hyouka does character highlight episodes in the way, say, a harem anime will spotlight one girl for an episode to fill out her character, this episode was about as close as you could get to that on Hyouka terms—and the focus this week was on Satoshi. I was warned early on that Satoshi might, in fact, be the most complex member of the cast, and after this week I’m inclined to agree. Despite his superficial genki personality—a character type common neither for anime males of Kyoto Animation leads—it seems pretty obvious that a great deal of Satoshi’s hand-waving and excitability is manufactured. I don’t mean to say that it’s inauthentic or fake. Satoshi may indeed be putting on airs, but it seems to me that he does it because he wants to and finds it fun.

And this very willful adherence to what Oreki continually categorizes as the mindless go-with-the-flow rose-colored life is something Satoshi takes seriously. He’s doing what he wants to do because he wants to do it and likes doing it—which seems to be a fact Oreki hasn’t quite grasped. And Satoshi, rightly, isn’t all that pleased to be demeaned by Oreki’s constant harping on the way Satoshi chooses to go about living his life. Visually, we see this on their bike ride to Chitanda’s house when the camera shifts from the medium shots in which Satoshi has room to gesture and act to his heart’s content into a series of tightly framed close-ups in which his face extends past the frame. And why? Because Satoshi is resisting Oreki’s attempt to label him as yet another thoughtless follower of the “rose-colored life.” He resists the confines of the frame just as he resists Oreki’s assumptions:

This is one case, though, where I can’t entirely blame Oreki. Satoshi’s clearly got a problem with his fluffy-haired acquaintance (it seems a bit incorrect to call them friends), as his passive-aggressive jabs and frequent actions taken seemingly to specifically annoy Oreki demonstrate—but it also doesn’t seem like Satoshi’s ever taken the time to spell out for Oreki why he acts the way he does or that Oreki bothers him. But we’re still just in the opening moments of this show, so we’ll see if things get worse or better from here on.

And that was all before they even got to Chitanda’s house! Although the surface level interactions were based around the rather mundane scenes of the group communicating the results of their research and explaining their theories, the tension between Oreki and Satoshi continues to underline a lot of their exchanges. Ibara’s nowhere near as subdued as Satoshi is in her dislike of Oreki—she just outright blasts him when she can—and Chitanda seems to be more or less oblivious to the existing relationships in which she has inserted herself. Chitanda is an outsider in this group, an ironic status for her to maintain at a gathering she put together in her own house. However, it’s not like Chitanda has exactly invited them to a cozy cottage…

This may be the place Chitanda lives, but it is certainly not a “home” in the sentimental sense of the word. When the camera wasn’t busy flicking through the reactions of the group to each other (almost as if they’re continually sizing each other up), it spent a number of shots establishing just how big this structure is. It’s a rather obvious point, but it bears mentioning that we don’t see even a suggestion of other people besides Chitanda being here. It’s an empty, lonely space, as show by the isolating long shots in the gallery above. People are confined to small areas of the frame—the negative space of the house’s vastness takes up the rest.

It’s less evident when there are other people around her because of the physicality of the staging, but Chitanda is alone, trapped within the restrictive openness around her. I suspect this will eventually play into a larger part of her character arc, but (again) we’re still just in the beginning stages of this journey—no need for Hyouka to spill all the marbles yet.

And that’s all I’ve got for this week—as always, there were plenty of other little moments I noticed and could have talked about, but perhaps those are more fun for you guys to find and notice yourselves? In any case, I’m really enjoying this show. See you again next week~

Hyouka


[1] You may notice this is showing up on a Sunday, not a Saturday. I apologize for the delay, but this is going to be the new weekly home for these posts. I’m hoping to add an editorial-style piece to my output every Friday, so pushing Hyouka back a day gives me a bit more room to work with and space out my update a little bit better. It’s all for more content!

[2] I don’t need to make a big deal out of this again, as it seems to be on its way to becoming matter of course, but once again this week the pre-OP segment was a really effective choice of events to incorporate Ibara and Satoshi into the search while keeping that necessary event encapsulated within the smaller block of time. Good stuff.

9 thoughts on “Hyouka, Episode 4

    • They aren’t.

      And yes, that was something I was wondering about, too! I definitely like the idea of Ibara staying over at Chii-chan’s, but at this point in their friendship I’m not really seeing it happen yet?

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  1. Houtaro and Satoshi are closer to friends than acquaintances, but I do take your point. I think it’s easiest, if you go through the Japanese term. Pick the one that feels to work the best for the relationship:

    Shiriai hito
    Nakama
    Tomodachi
    Osananajimi
    Shinyuu

    I’m not expert on Japanese culture, but it seems to me that Hyouka is one of the shows, where you’ll get more out of watching it if you become aware of your western bias and suspend it a bit. Houtaro and Satoshi say things to each other they’d never say to acquaintances (shiriai hito). But at the same time, it’s clear that they’re holding back. They don’t bare their hearts to each other, so you’re right: they’re not best friends (shinyuu). I’m fairly sure they’ve identified each other as childhoodfriends (osananajimi) in the first episode (but I might misremember). That’s a lot like siblings, but with more opportunity to distance yourselves from each other. I think their behaviour makes a lot of sense when viewed like that.

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    • Your point is well taken, although I think from my perspective it’s just a limitation of language and the difficulty of translation. I basically understand their relationship in the way you’re describing—”acquaintances” is just closest approximation I can give in English.

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  2. If you think tensions are running high now, just wait until the story arcs starting at around episode 8. 0_0 I suppose that in all fairness, I do remember things sometimes being like that as a teen – the smallest things could feel intensely dramatic and on some days, absolutely /everything mattered, to an almost laughable degree.
    On another note, this post reminded me of another reason why I love Hyouka so much, and that would be the characters as a group. Normally when I watch an anime, there’s at least one character among the main cast that I either dislike or think is basically unnecessary to the overall story, but in Hyouka’s case, I feel like everyone belongs exactly where they are. It’s not quite that I personally love every character, but by the end of the show I had come to feel that Hyouka would have been a much lesser show were any one of them missing.

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  3. Your posts have spurred me on to watch this, which is one of the very many anime on my “want to watch” list. I caught up with episode 4 yesterday and I’m really enjoying it. Though, predictably, I seem to like different things about it than you do. 😉

    For instance, I really strongly relate to Oreki. I know what it’s like to be that person stuck in a grey life who secretly wishes for a colorful life while also actively resisting any sort of change. It’s a miserable place to be. I wish I had had a Chitanda, whom I like quite a lot also. While she fulfills the role of the “manic pixie dream girl” as we call it over here, I feel there’s a lot more to her than that. As you say, she’s alone and outside and I hope to see her get her own development arc. Satoshi hasn’t impressed me yet. He just feels a bit manipulative and I have a strong aversion to manipulative characters.

    Also, I really like the mystery aspect of the episodes. I think the show would be much too boring without that kind of thing to use as a lens to focus on the characters through. We can learn more about them by seeing how they think about and react to the mysteries they encounter. I mean, I like character development as much as the next person. But I prefer there to be plot as well. And I really enjoyed their speculations on Sekitani Jun (and yes, awesome name!). I thought the mystery itself was very interesting, but I tend to enjoy mysteries in general, especially when they aren’t crime-related.

    What really won me over though was the use of classical music in the soundtrack. It was so beautifully woven in, especially the Bach cello suite and the Faure. (I love Faure.)

    Looking forward to watching more and reading your analysis!

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