Hyouka, Episode 11

The official title of this episode was “Closing Credits of the Fool.”

But I think “The Scourging of Oreki Houtarou” works just as well.

Hyouka

There are a lot of things to think about this episode as the closing to the movie arc specifically, and the first half of the show more generally. In terms of the movie arc along, it all played out more or less how I’d expected. Irisu had been using the Classics Club for her own devices all along, and her adroitness at manipulation enabled her to get them to dance for her without them knowing until the answer was almost staring Oreki in the face. However, as with many of the other mysteries so far, he didn’t get there on his own—it was the help and hints and unique perspectives of his friends that enabled him to connect all of the dots (I wonder if he realizes how instrumental the others really have been in assisting him with solving the various mysteries?).

As far as the show goes, though, we’re in an interesting place. Hyouka‘s clearly a well-crafted, lovingly produced show that cares about its characters enough to hurt them and let them grow. To this point, most of the growth we’ve seen has been from Oreki, though. The slow burn nature of Hyouka means that some of the subtler nuances of the characters (Mayaka’s rationality, for instance) are just now starting to become clear. And at just the moment when it seemed we’d see Oreki start to grow, he’s been slammed back against the wall by the revelation that he was being used. Will it make him resentful? Will it cause him to close off others even more? Not all of this—heck, it’s probably fair to say very little of this—is his fault, yet the question of how he will ultimately react remains.

But let’s see how we got to this point. As I see it, Oreki suffered under a number of brutal attacks (unintentional from all but one) against his newfound sense of self.

Hyouka

Section 1: Intellect

Mayaka is justice. Among the Classics Club members, she’s the most honest and the most socially well-adjusted. She’s also kindest when it counts. And she’s probably second only to Oreki in terms of basic intelligence. But she’s also the person Oreki gets along with least well, so for Mayaka to be the one to point out the critical factual element—the rope—that Oreki missed is an assault against the intellectual prowess he perceives himself to possess (in part thanks to Irisu’s goading last episode). It’s not that Mayaka desires to strike at Oreki; she just honestly can’t help it. She’s Justice, after all. She desires the truth. As I’ve said before, Mayaka understands Oreki’s gifts and the self-imposed ostracization they cause him. Torn between her kindness and her need to see Oreki justly dispatch his talents, she speaks.

And we see the effect it has on Oreki immediately through the cinematography. The lighting turns to harsh contrasts, sparse long shots appear, and the shot framing blocks Mayaka out as Oreki’s thoughts turn immediately inward. We’ve seen Oreki manipulated, confused, intrigued, enamored, bored, and annoyed before, but never has his emotional state been conveyed so clearly as upset. The reason why isn’t difficult to apprehend: having just recently somewhat accepted a new conception of himself, that sense of a “special self” has already been challenged. His gift, as it were, is imperfect. If Oreki is not special, is he normal? Or is he worse? Unfortunately, Oreki doesn’t have time to consider all of this or to redeem himself by coming to a new solution before the next bomb hits.

Hyouka

Section 2: Identity

The cinematography is not particularly kind to Oreki through the first half of the episode. He’s isolated, imposed upon, and cast constantly in heavy contrasts between light and dark. But Satoshi, who delivers the next blow (again, not intentionally) against Oreki, is a masterful actor, and so the way his scene plays out is more complex than Mayaka’s. He is, after all the Magician. But first, a word as to why Satoshi does what he does. We know already that Satoshi is jealous of Oreki’s talents. He’s a man of no talents, the one who is most hurt by Oreki’s constant refrain of “I was just lucky.” Where Chitanda humors Oreki and Mayaka snaps at him, Satoshi simply hurts—and pretends everything is alright. But much like Mayaka’s sense of justice prevents her from keeping quiet about the rope, Satoshi’s insecurity makes it so that he can’t not approach Oreki. “Was that Hongou’s trick? Or was it yours?” Satoshi is really asking, “Should I, a Sherlockian, have been able to discover the trick? Or was it really something only you could have figured out?”

Satoshi said last episode that he didn’t care about being the best Sherlockian, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t care about it at all. “That movie is my style,” he says. For Satoshi, this is a matter of both insecurity and identity. Satoshi is a Sherlockian, the movie was in his style. They are things that belong to his self-conception, yet he was shut out of them—and can only watch as Oreki strolls in easily. And that’s why he so desperately asks Oreki about the trick’s owner and why he’s even willing to believe Oreki’s word. But Oreki is having his own identity crisis, and can’t find his way to a place where he A) understands why Satoshi is so visibly upset or B) can figure out the right way to respond to Satoshi’s unusual display of emotion. Some of this is Satoshi’s fault, because he uses the trick as a decoy to distract from his actual reasons for confronting Oreki—but the things Satoshi is worried about aren’t easily said, even assuming he’s aware of and able to articulate them.

Hyouka

It’s unfortunate, but the blowback that Oreki gets as a result of this is rough, and all the worse because of the state he’s in prior to Satoshi’s lashing out at him. Oreki can tell Satoshi is upset, and he also know that Satoshi’s right—it wasn’t Hongou’s trick; it was his. But Oreki sticks to his guns, because the alternative is to confess in front of Satoshi that he hadn’t just forgotten a factual piece of evidence, but had also lost sight of who the mystery belonged to in the first place. And so, stunned by Satoshi’s guard breaking down, all he can do is haplessly grasp at trying to apologize.

Visually, its another tough run for Oreki. Although Satoshi starts off the conversation casually—the shadows that symbolize his insecurity have not yet manifested—the longer shots are confrontational, letting us see all of Satoshi and far less of Oreki (1, 2 in the gallery below). And in the backgrounds, we see the school buildings inform their conversation. Satoshi’s is ordered and brightly lit by the sun, but the windows are closed, a lovely visual metaphor for the cheerful face he puts on to mask his interior life (3). In turn, Oreki’s is dark and complex, with only a a single window open into the interior—as if a hole has been punched in his identity (4). When it comes time for the climax of the conversation, time for Satoshi’s desperate plea for Oreki’s honest, we see all the same signals that usually mark their conversations crop up—the subtle shadows on Satoshi’s face and neck that accompany his almost agonized expressions, and the darkening shade of hiding that covers Oreki’s eyes. Both of these boys cause each other to question their own identities—in the end its probably good for them, but it’s awful tough to go through.

Section 3: Relationship

Thus enters the Fool, serious and thoughtful. These first three encounters truly do compound upon each other, moving from Mayaka, who Oreki isn’t particularly fond of but respects, to Satoshi, who Oreki probably actually likes pretty well, to Chitanda, who… well, I think it’s obvious the importance Chitanda has in Oreki’s eyes. But if you doubt the obviousness of this, consider how—even in the midst of their tense conversation—Chitanda and Oreki’s conversation is flooded with color that neither Mayaka or Satoshi’s confrontations had. Even the lighting, which still comes in halves of shadow and light, is more diluted and less harsh.

Of course, none of that means anything once the damage has been done and Oreki is forced to consider how entirely wrong he’s been [1]. From the start, Chitanda has brought her own set of priorities in the situation and, as it turns out, she’s been looking at the context in which the mystery occurred (much like me, if I can pat myself on the back). Chitanda’s curiosity has been the human element from the start, but this leads her to drop the most damning line of all right on top of everything else Oreki has been dealing with:

Hyouka

This is the revelation of Oreki’s fatal flaw—although given what we already have seen of Oreki, it should come as no surprise. Appropriately for someone so wrapped up in his own conception of self, Oreki lacks the ability to empathize with others. He cannot put himself into other people’s experiences; he can analyze, but not understand. Seikitani Jun was an exception—so strongly did Oreki relate to Seikitani Jun’s experience that empathy was unnecessary in the face of identification. But thing were different with Hongou. This wasn’t a logical puzzle, it was a puzzle of the human person—and Oreki entirely missed it because he was too focused on what he’s good at: deduction. “What a detective I am,” he chides himself later. But Chitanda is about relationship. Although Mayaka is the least socially awkward of the Classics Club members, Chitanda is definitely the most relational. Through her strengths, Oreki’s weaknesses are shown—and in this case those weaknesses were enough to compromise the effectiveness of his strengths.

Oreki’s not dumb. He understands this immediately, and the effect this understanding of where he’s lacking washes out the color even from the vibrant experience of being with Chitanda. It’s similar to how Mayaka’s reminder of the rope sharpened the contrast of the lighting in the room, but in the extreme. This is the lowest point for Oreki.

Section 4: Talent

Change my perspective?” Words from Oreki that are both wonderful to hear, and which we see end up driving him into despair. Although his exercise in empathy leads him to understand Hongou, it also leads him to understand how he’s been manipulated. And at this point we truly are deep into how Oreki conceives of himself—as an independent person, who doesn’t do things he doesn’t want to do simply because he doesn’t want to do them. Except… Oreki’s not that person anymore. While it seems he can come to terms with the pushiness of his sister and although he has some motivations of his own (consciously or not) in relation to Chitanda, being manipulated by Irisu is unacceptable—especially because of her methods, which (again) altered the way he perceived himself.

Even in his mental pictures, Irisu appears cloaked in shadow and light (later paralleled in reality). The light around her is harsh and glaring, and although Oreki has broken out of the manipulative, confining visual patterns of the previous episode, it’s more because of his passion and agency than anything else. The bars behind him are offset, the open shot of the tea room recurs multiple times to open the scene up again on even terms, and he controls the camera. Is it because Irisu chooses to allow it? Perhaps, but whatever the case, we see Irisu remaining in her shadow-light duality, and Oreki plunged into deep darkness. The darkness of Irisu’s deception literally blocks out Oreki’s light. All the growth she prompted in him, undone by her manipulation. Oreki’s talent shines bright, but she’s given him a reason to lock it away once again.

I may have done a disservice to him.” May.

Hyouka

Section 5: Normality//Hope

Fortunately, we have Chitanda around to somewhat mitigate the awful effects of Irisu’s actions. “Then I’ll ask like me and ask,” Chitanda says. In the face of getting burned over being special, she validates not only his gifts, but his using them. How? Because as his aimless speculation helps her understand Hongou, it helps him understand Chitanda. And her grateful face is, I think, all he needs for now. [2]


[1] Very important distinction here in context of the whole episode. By “wrong,” I mean wrong in terms of the mystery as understood at the time. At this point, Oreki is still operating under the assumption that he was supposed to be the detective, not the screenwriter.

[2] I just want to note that I’m sorry I couldn’t get even more screenshots from this amazing episode into the post proper and had to use so many imgur links.

8 thoughts on “Hyouka, Episode 11

  1. And I’m still not caught up. Additonally, I’m behind on my weekly viewing. I’m tired and have a headache, because the weather won’t let me get used to a single temperature. But this was an excellent read, worthy of the finale.

    I think this is my favourite arc because the long build-up phase was paying off grand dividends. Up until this arc, we were developing the classics club from the inside. And then in comes Iris sempai, an excellent catalyst that gets things moving. You’re the special guy in your own little universe, and then someone comes and bursts your bubble, and the world comes flooding in. It’s not that the world has changed, not really. It’s just that you suddenly don’t know your place anymore, because the vista’s just opening up. I love how the stand-off between Satoshi and Oreki takes place on a bridge between two buildings, between places, above places – a non-place, a connecting path.

    It’ll be interesting watching this arc [i]after[/i] having read your posts. 🙂

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    • Thank you! It was definitely a finale worthy of the best work I could throw at it!

      And definitely—Oreki’s both validated and then invalidated by this outside force. But he has to look to Chitanda to prop him up at the end of it all. I like that a lot.

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  2. Another strong analysis. Even after watching this episode twice I wasn’t entirely sure why Satoshi was so upset, but your thoughts on that scene make a lot of sense.

    With Oreki, I’m wondering after this arc if he has some kind of inferiority complex regarding his sister. Like, if she was one of those genius kids who always got top grades and commanded all the attention and had everyone raving about how special she was and all that, while he got overshadowed and progressively more discouraged and eventually quit trying to do anything because he could never win. It’s just a theory, but I saw some clues in this episode and last that made me wonder. Like the way he interpreted the Strength card totally backwards, seeing himself as the tamed lion when the Strength is actually represented by the woman doing the taming, or the way he clings to Irisu’s words of praise as if he rarely gets any, and seems almost desperate to meet her expectations of a “special” person after that (note in ep. 10 how tense he is while he waits for her verdict on his solution – he really, really wants to live up to her words). Also, even though the episode didn’t say it, I’m almost positive that Irisu’s talking to Oreki’s sister when she said she’d done him a disservice, and the way the (presumed) sister calls him an “idiot” later in the conversation pricked my interest. Now I’m sure that by itself is just a casual sibling insult (I doubt she would’ve recommended him to Irisu if she really thought he was stupid), but it made me wonder if she talks that way around him too, which if he was already having self-esteem issues wouldn’t do anything to help.

    Like I said, though, that’s all just theorizing at this point, based on what we’ve been shown.

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    • Hm, this inferiority complex idea seems like a good one to me. His sister definitely is a huge influence in his life, and seems to hold at least a little sway over him—both directly and indirectly. I have no doubts that the person who directed Irisu to Oreki was his sister—to me there’s not even ambiguity about it. I will say, though, that the “idiot” thing seemed more like an affectionate jab at a younger sibling who’s still a naive teenager at heart. I think she wants him to grow up, but perhaps is still too immature herself to understand that’s a journey Oreki needs to take for himself.

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  3. I continue to enjoy these posts.

    On another note, I was wondering if you’d ever considered doing a post series like this for Blast of Tempest. Since it’s your favorite, I’m sure there’s a lot of nuance to the visual direction that I haven’t appreciated. I’d love to see it through your eyes since it’s one of my favorites too.

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    • Glad you’re still liking them!

      As for an episodic series on Tempest…I’m not sure about that. You’ll notice if you hunt around the blog that I’ve never written anything more substantial about Tempest than my blurb for it on my top shows list. That’s not necessarily by design; it’s just that trying to do extensive writing on something so close to my heart is exceedingly difficult.

      That being said, I have considered writing some more general theme pieces on Tempest, but episodic breakdowns like this are probably a level of analysis I’d rather not subject my favorite show to. If that makes any sense at all.

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  4. There is one big problem with the resolution though: why the heck did nobody raise these objections before the filimg started, when Oreki first presented his solution. Chitanda especially should’ve raised her objections before because they depended less about realising Oreki missed something and more on a general feeling that this wouldn’t be what the original writer wanted.

    Personally that would’ve been my first objection had I been in Oreki shoes: you should’ve told me earlier if I had missed something. The way it was done now it comes across as spiteful rather than helpful, even if done in all innocence.

    (Just finished watching this episode so the annoyance is fresh…)

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    • I sort of got the impression that it wasn’t something that really came to any sort of meaningful head until after they’d actually seen the whole thing play out. In addition, Oreki presents his solution to Irisu separated from the other three, so they may not have even had a chance to say anything until they same the film.

      I do agree that the way it happens, though, is probably the least comfortable way possible for it to happen to Oreki.

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