In which all of my irritation with Oreki melts away—even if Oreki is constantly putting on an act for his friends, he can’t fool the camera. Unsurprisingly, the sincerity offered therein has given me a whole lot more appreciation (dare I say affection?) for this character and the particular circumstances of the life he’s living.
I suppose it’s been kind of obvious since much earlier in Hyouka, but it turns out Houtarou Oreki is a pretty lonely kid. Of course, I don’t say this to excuse anything about the way he behaves in his loneliness, but giving Oreki someone outside of himself that he could relate to—even if that person was in his situation 45 years ago—finally helped things to click for me. It’s not just that Oreki feels or is different from his classmates, and it’s not just that he struggles to invest in the events and people around him (although I’d say that’s still a big part of his problems)—it’s that he’s trapped inside an echo chamber consisting of just himself. Oreki’s incapable of communicating how he feels about his gray school life because there’s no one out there that’s he’s found that genuinely wishes to understand him.
The separation between Oreki and pretty much everyone else in Hyouka is made almost painfully obvious via the cinematography this week. Of course, I still think it’s important to note that Oreki isolates and differentiates himself from the others as much by himself as they do to him, but the fact itself remains: Oreki is not, and for the moment cannot, be integrated into the group in which he’s found himself. Like most things in life, this is not an absolute. However, it is a pattern consistent enough to be noticeable—and that is really the point of this whole episode and the story of Seikitani Jun. Observe:
- Shot 1: I think this one is pretty self-evident, as it combines the dull browns of the puddle with Oreki’s line about being unable to find anything interesting in his life—the larger point showing up in preponderance of emptiness around Oreki in the shot. Is he alone because nothing interests him? And is that his fault, or the world’s? Or no one’s?
- Shot 2: A less obvious shot because the composition actually surrounds Oreki with people, but the kicker here is Ibara’s line—which socially isolates Oreki while the cinematography does that same. In conjunction with some of the other shots in this sequence, the idea that Oreki is alone despite being around people shows up quite strongly.
- Shots 3&4: These ones work together, as the negative space in the shot (that is, the visual area where the vacuum sits) shows us twice that Oreki is separated from Satoshi and Ibara—and by using two distinct shots with the same technique only emphasizes the distance more.
There are plenty more shots like this that show up, but I think I’ve made my point. Now, how does all of this play into making me far more positively inclined towards Oreki than previously? Because it’s not like his isolation—whether via his passive-aggressive relationship with Satoshi, his openly tense one with Ibara, or the gentle naivety of Chitanda in their relationship—was unclear before. That hasn’t changed. As I said earlier, the key that unlocks the door from “Oreki is isolated, but he’s kind of nasty about it” to “Oreki is isolated, and now I can empathize with him” is named Seikitani Jun.
Although his “tribute” to Seikitani Jun is about as close as Oreki gets to stating this explicitly, it seems he’s found a kindred spirit in the high school exile of 45 years ago. There’s the parallel of the deliberate exclusion of Jun by the school body and the way people like Ibara and Satoshi push back again Oreki’s way of living, but the really important resonance between the two is the lack of being understood—and it’s this that really pushes Oreki as far towards genuine emotion as we’ve seen him go yet. Understanding the true meaning of “hyouka” seems to actually be the easiest part of the whole mystery for Oreki to solve, and why? Because “I scream” may as well be what Oreki has been doing this whole time. The inability for the other four characters in the librarian’s office to understand Seikitani Jun’s feelings isn’t just them not understanding a 45 year old puzzle—it’s them not understanding Oreki himself.
Of course Oreki would be frustrated by having to spell out the meaning of the pun plainly for Satoshi, Ibara, and Chitanda! Doing so is like having to explain himself, having to justify his way of life. “Seikitani Jun screams. I scream, too! Why can’t you understand that? Why do I have to tell you?” Honestly, I’ve having a bit of trouble putting it into words myself, because it just seems to make so much sense. It may not be an entirely fair emotion to direct at others—after all, how are Ibara and Satoshi supposed to really understand Oreki when he refuses to be frank with them except on rare occasions? Despite that, though, it’s an emotion that arises and so, it’s a valid one.
However, for Oreki, there’s still hope. There are still people around him who, even if they don’t really understand him, are willing to stick around him. I think Oreki does recognize that, which is why he can tell Satoshi that he sometimes wants the life Satoshi’s living—knowing that Satoshi, for once, will take him entirely seriously—or why he’s willing to be “used” by Chitanda to complete the anthology. And just because they don’t understand him doesn’t mean they can’t understand Seikitani Jun, which I think gives Oreki a little bit of hope. Because eventually Satoshi and Ibara do figure out the pun themselves, and even though Chitanda must be told, she has stared the same fear of being “alive, but dead’ (you could, perhaps, call that gray) in the face that Oreki sees every day.
So, I’m going to believe that Oreki’s desire to be understood will eventually help him to transcend all the blocks and barriers he’s put up himself to prevent that from happening. I’m going to believe in his friends, that they won’t give up on him and that they’ll someday come to understand him a little bit better. At the very least, I think Oreki’s ongoing interrogation of his own lifestyle will help him to avoid the fate of Seikitani Jun—someday, he’ll scream and be heard by someone.
8 thoughts on “Hyouka, Episode 5”
I LOVE YOU BLESS
I LOVE YOU FOR WRITING THIS
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR UNDERSTANDING
Confession: I actually teared up a little reading this
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Ah, well I’m glad it connected with someone, because I was really struggling to explain this understanding I was coming to here. It sort of seems like one of those things you either get or you don’t.
I love ya too, Froggy ❤
I think you put it all into words very well. I felt this all instinctively while watching because I identify very strongly with Oreki. Both the episode and your analysis did bring me to tears. Wonderful post.
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It’s sort of hard to articulate these sort of things right, isn’t it? In the last two weeks, I was so close to say something like, “wait for episode 5”. I was sitting there reading your assessment of Houtaro and thought “not wrong, but incomplete” (based on this episodes tagline). You’re a lot more perceptive than I was my first time round. Also, since I instinctively connected to Houtaro (even though he didn’t really catch my interest) my annoyment with this situation found it’s target in Chitanda, and so I didn’t really re-assess Houtaro at that point.
But things do drop into place.
When rewatching the show, the thing that struck me about the scene when they were interviewing the librarian was the seating order: Chitanda closest to her, Houtaro facing her (but furthest away), Satoshi closest to Houtaro, and Manaka in the middle. The three of them on a bank, a bit like the jury in court. It’s an interesting set-up, and then you get to watch the bodylanguage.
I always find your analyses of the cinematography interesting. They’re pretty convincing, and I don’t really have a good eye to figure these things out on my own. I get that there’s something in a scene that makes me feel a certain way, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. You often do (and helpfully provide screenshots).
Yeah, it’s difficult for sure. How do you talk about something that just suddenly clicks and makes sense? It seems from people’s reactions that I managed to get there, for which I’m immensely thankful.
And yeah, everything in Hyouka is deliberate, down to the way they sit in a room. Glad the cinematography analyses are working for you, too! It’s often a difficult thing to talk about because of the visual element, so I always worry about the accessibility of it. Once again, feedback like this is very gratifying on that front.
Now I truly understand the emotions behind Oreki’s desperate exclamation of how everyone couldn’t see the meaning behind “hyouka” right away. At least it wasn’t that clear to me, but it is now, thanks to your analysis.
Your perspective on the people and their relationships (particularly on Oreki on this post) is really different from how I watch Hyouka. I think this is a really good direction. Instead of only focusing more on the mysteries themselves, I now get to understand and focus on the growth of the characters and the developments of their relationships.
This story arc is really something to me. The tragedy of Sekitani Jun. The ugliness of society. I had to pen down my thoughts and assemble a series of screenshots right away. I posted what I wrote on FB and blog immediately. I had to ‘scream’ my feelings out and make people understand.
Yeah, the mysteries themselves aren’t inherently interesting to me. I see them more as vehicles for conveying information about these characters and their relationships to each other. I think it’s a clever construction that keeps the drama from becoming overwhelming or overwritten—it really lets the story be “shown” rather than “told”—but I don’t think it necessarily would have been mysteries for the show to work as well for me as it has.
And yeah, this arc is very good. Definitely the best the show’s been.
I do think, though, that mysteries are the ideal vehicle for the show. There’s Chitanda’s curiosity, and Oreki’s good at solving them – thus satisfying her curiosity. That’s sort of the axis along which the series runs, but it’s not just a plot excuse. It ties into characterisation: there’s a connection between Oreki’s being good at solving mysteries and him having trouble finding things interesting. I mean, if you figure things out easily, you tend not to get the high of discoveries a lot, and if you don’t get the high of discoveries a lot, mysteries may not seem too compelling, because it’s just a matter about how much effort you put in. Chitanda just barges in and asks, very straightforward; but that tends to trigger a retreat-reflex when people want to hide things; people-based mysteries run away from her (and people don’t tell her to stop, because she’s from a good family).
And plotwise, there’s a social component: if you solve a mystery and make people open up (such as the librarian in this episode), you need to take responsibility for that, in some way. I felt that it was liberating for the librarian to talk about this, but there’s always a risk involved in scraping at old wounds (or in scaring a pot-smoker, for that matter).
So basically, while I, too, think it needn’t have been mysteries, I think mysteries work exceedingly well for the purpose of the show. (When I first watched Hyouka, one of the reasons why I didn’t click with it right way was actually the mysteries. Back then, Hyouka followed in the wake a few mystery shows: Gossick (the popular one that felt like the trend-starter), Dantalian no Shouka or Un-Go come to mind. I thought Hyouka was cashing in on a trend.)
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