What kind of life does Houtarou Oreki want? Does he truly want the gray life he lives, or does he actually desire the kind of rose-colored life he see around him—the kind of marvelous life that comes from living fully, whatever that might mean for him? Oreki has never been wrong in his assumptions about his basic differences from those who are his inner circle, but than in itself is not a unique experience. Just as Oreki sees himself as different, so do others see themselves as different, too. The loneliness of individuality is vast, but it may not be so hard to find your way out of it as Oreki thinks.
“I was just lucky.” Since Hyouka‘s premiere, we’ve seen Oreki struggle futilely, frustratingly, and stubbornly against any suggestion that he might be “different.” Sure, we had his second episode monologue about being different, but at that point in this show Oreki was still busied with the idea of his gray, energy-conserving lifestyle versus the rose-colored life he perceived others as living. We, and Oreki, are in a different place now—one where the true nature of Oreki’s differences have become clear. If you’ll recall my post on Hyouka‘s fifth episode, you’ll remember that I outlined my thoughts on the pathos of Oreki’s situation—fundamentally, he’s just a person not well understood by those around him. We’re now starting to delve into the reasons he’s not understood; that is, we’re feeling the differences that make Houtarou Oreki distinct from those who are his friends. And, allow me to assure you, this runs deeper than just a gray life versus a rose-colored life.
It takes Irisu, the self-assured Empress with the cajoling, controlling touch, to bullying Oreki into self-awareness of these differences. Throughout the first scene of the episode, we see the camera use a variety of tricks to impose upon Oreki’s visual space, pinning him into increasingly small areas of the screen, until Irisu has made her point. See below :
Whether the shot’s echoing last episode’s locked room shot (1), pinning Oreki behind a table (2), constructing a second frame to shrink the room (3), obstruct part of the room (4), using Irisu’s presence to dominate Oreki into a corner of the screen (5), or cluttering Oreki’s visual space with other objects (6), this entire part of the episode continually locks cuts off Oreki’s escape routes, until it pushes him into the forgone conclusion .
Oreki’s reaction to Irisu’s proclamation is telling. Suddenly, it’s like we’re back in the cafe with Chitanda about to “confess”—the generally subdued, cool color palette is suddenly overcast with warm tones and the cramped visuals widen into the shot above, one that lets us fully take in how completely Oreki’s world has been transformed by this moment of someone connecting with him.
But Oreki isn’t so unguarded that he’s just going to be sweet up by someone like Irisu entirely. The moment of surprise fades, the rose-colored life drifts away as Oreki gives his usual excuse: “I was just lucky.” But Irisu knows better, so she tells her story—smugly constructed so as to be blatantly pointed—and Oreki is forced back into contemplating his specialness, his differentness. Earlier in the episode, amidst all the shots cutting into Oreki’s visual space, there had been a sequence of increasingly close up shots of Irisu’s eyes, and that same sequencing returns after Irisu’s story.
In the end, we don’t really see the results of Oreki’s thinking—after all, Irisu isn’t here to help him along the path of self-discovery, but to use him to achieve a particular goal. And so, having prodded him enough, she releases him and he begins to take the next step on his own.
This step leads him into Satoshi’s company; that is, into the company of the boy with whom he has an understated rivalry—a rivalry which Satoshi knows instinctively to exist only because of Oreki’s self-deception. It’s been clear long before now that there’s some tension on both sides of this relationship, but with the division between them made visible in many ways throughout this conversation, I found my sympathies lying more with Satoshi than with Oreki (not that it’s necessarily a mutually exclusive thing). The fact is that Satoshi has probably long understood Oreki’s specialness and, perhaps thanks to Oreki’s presence as a constant reminder, of his own mundanity. Another thing that’s been long evident is Satoshi’s transparent self-awareness, even to the point of self-degradation. As much as a high school boy can, Satoshi understands his own limits and his own talents. The “database” moniker is perhaps not as self-flattering as it may have initially seemed.
And all of this is just the set-up for the surprisingly genuine conversation the two boys have. With Oreki starting to find some sort of confidence in his talents, Satoshi can do nothing but begin to wallow in his own insecurities—although it’s to his credit that he doesn’t take it out on Oreki.
I’ve tried to pull together the most important lines and shots from this conversation to unpackage the undertows of what’s going on here. The first, and most important shot, is the one at the top—showing the clear division between Oreki’s complex background and Satoshi’s simple one. They’re separated visually by the pole, and this is our starting point . What we see following is an explication of Satoshi’s insecurities and his strength. Because Satoshi is aware of his own relative weakness, he’s also able to deal with that weakness in a way Oreki can’t. But self-awareness isn’t a panacea for insecurity—in fact, it may help fuel it.
It’s because Satoshi understands himself that he can say that Mayaka (who we do know is pretty intelligent ❤) would probably surpass him as a Sherlockian if she tried (1-dark). It’s because he understands himself that he can declare he’s not entirely depressed by that anyways (2-light). Satoshi can exist on the border between being consumed entirely by the darkness of his insecurity and the light of resisting that temptation. But his jealousy of Oreki—the talented kid who doesn’t use the talents he has (and which Satoshi probably wishes belonged to him)—isn’t quite as easily managed. He turns into the darkness (3, 4), but rides off into the light (5), because that’s just what he does.
And Oreki’s left standing in the darkness because he’s not willing (or able) to come to terms with himself the way Satoshi is. As of yet, he hasn’t taken a step into the light (6). He can only offer cliches from the shadows.
We’re going to mostly wrap up things here , because the rest of the episode kind of just an expansion on this idea of Oreki’s differentness and what that means for him . Among the compelling moments the second half of the episode has to offer, the most prominent for me where those related to Mayaka (because she’s my favorite). While Satoshi understands the division between him and Oreki, it seems Mayaka is perhaps the most acutely aware of how that division affects Oreki. It’s quite notable that much of Mayaka’s irritation with Oreki seems to stem from her recognition of when he’s not stretching himself to the fullest, an understanding that also implies she’s aware of his differentness.
It’s why she apologizes as they leave him alone to shoulder the mystery, and why the camera moves into a canted shot  after the prescreening, and why she hesitates before asking him about the rope. It’s like she was there to see Oreki’s excitement over solving the mystery—”Home run“—and knows that bringing up the detail he didn’t remember is going to be hard on him. Mayaka is a sweet, thoughtful person. And I’m really looking forward to seeing the role she plays in the final part of this arc. 
 It’s really, really important that we see Oreki within Irisu’s eye in the shot where she says, “You are special.” The whole scene has been built on visually confining Oreki just as he’s confined by the truth, and in this moment both of those limiting factors come to bear at the same time.
 With reference to Oreki being “different,” in this context you could say with equal fairness that Satoshi is the one who is “different.”
 Sorry about cutting out halfway—please believe me when I say the rest of the episode’s visuals are less focused while still being excellent. A lot more of those little moments show up in the second half, rather than sweeping visual codes.
 But hey! Maybe being different isn’t so bad! Maybe people can appreciate that about you!
 The dutch angle is probably among the most misused techniques in all of anime, but here’s it’s brilliant cinematography foreshadowing. Loved it.
 Sorry about not being able to fit analysis of the big imagery moment in—in short, different colors, different kinds of shots show Oreki considering the case from a variety of angles.