Another lighthearted week with our characters all spread out across the campus of the school, which means another week lacking an overarching cinematographic code. Of course, when I say “overarching,” I do mean in terms of the entire episode. On a case-by-case (that is, character-by-character) basis, there are definite visual trends that accompany each member of the Classics Club on their trek through the Kanya Festival. It’s… not as easy for everyone else as it is for Oreki.
Before I dive into this episode, though, there’s an important note that I think it’s important to articulate. I think, on the whole, it can be somewhat tempting to assume (and I’m including myself here), when we talk about Hyouka‘s visual codes within episodes, that the cinematographic language has to be constrained to the unit of the episode. Said another way, I don’t think each episode has its own distinct way of doing visuals apart from every other episode. While certain episodes certainly do lean into particular motifs or specific system of lighting, composition, sequences, etc., on the whole they’re more similar in their techniques than I perhaps make it sound as I’m writing these posts. In a rather impressive way, Hyouka very intelligently walks the line between using a number of the same techniques, introducing new ones (or new versions of old ones), or recontextualizing all of the above to create a new effect.
The point of saying this now, I guess, is that this episode was (like last week) one made up of efficient smaller sequences that communicate on their own, generally detached from larger patterns outside of the context of the scenes in which they show up. Of course, I say all this now, but it’s interesting to note that many of the tricks that showed up in the prior episode (the “head at the bottom of the frame, etc.” one, for example) were generally absent from this episode. Take that as you will.
And with all that said, let’s get into this week’s episode. While we await Hyouka‘s next watershed episode, we’ll be focusing in on particular sequences—because that’s what this episode was all about. In a way, I suppose you could note that the divergent visual patterns are emblematic of the way the Classics Club members are, for the first time in the show, operating individually.
I say all that, but I guess I lied because the quiz, for the most part, was dominated by long shots and long takes. In a sense, I suppose you could argue that the quiz was the most cinematically dull part of the episode, but to me the distant camera and the stretched times on a single shot were all about establishing the atmosphere of something like a school festival quiz—that is, something that’s not inherently all that interesting. Have you ever been a spectator at an event like this, where the amateur hosts stretch things out way longer than they should? Congrats, you’re right back there. Plus, it helps emphasize how hard Satoshi is trying to advertise when he punches through the pattern of long shots and medium close ups with his ridiculous costume and energy.
Interspersed with this primary line of action is a quick check-in with the manga club, which is lacking visitors and hosting a Mayaka who really looks like she’d rather be anywhere else. You know, like, hanging out with Satoshi. Despite the briefness of the stop, it sets the stage well for the future conflict with Ayako—alerting us quickly to Mayaka’s emotional state and the setting in which the fight will occur.
We also follow Chitanda for a short while, who’s pooped out from her frantic dashing around the school by the time she returns to the club room to drop off her stuff with Oreki. We get a couple of nice repeated shots when Chitanda enters and exists the club room, a cute visual representation of how she’s always on the move and Oreki… is not. Chitanda also finds her way into a tent where a mystery dwells, and although she puts it aside (it seems the same mystery has found Satoshi, as well, and maybe Mayaka) for the sake of the club. I have a feeling we’ll be back to it.
Anyways, all this is just Hyouka burning clock until we can get to the real setpiece of the episode, Mayaka’s showdown with the eternally infuriating Ayako (affectionately dubbed ‘Smugi’ by people on Twitter). The whole scene is basically a constant string of brilliant little sequences, so let’s take them as they come. Click the first thumbnail, then click through the gallery. My comments on each shot will show up on underneath the image once you’re in the gallery:
Welcome back! I apologize that I couldn’t find a more graceful way to incorporate my commentary along with the shots than that.
After this, the only real highlight left is Oreki and Chitanda’s infinitely awkward exchange as Chitanda realizes Oreki’s been look at the silly pictures she took with the Photography club. It’s a charged moment between the two of them, and the snappy cuts up until the longer take where Chitanda stares at the envelope and suddenly understands what’s happened set up a pace that’s comedically undercut by the awkwardly lengthy shot (relative to the ones immediately before it).
I’d be lax to end this post without chatting briefly about the wonderful, delicately-animated, verisimilitude-filled scene at the end of the episode with Mayaka in her room, hunting for the manga she said she’d bring the next day. This entire scene is filled with lovely animation details—like Mayaka counterbalancing herself as she pulls manga out of the box, or using her hand with the book to get herself out from behind her TV set. Kyoto Animation’s strengths were out in force, and getting to see them used in the service of my favorite character in the show. And getting to see a little Mayaka discover the joy of fiction she loves… well, that’s something I can relate to a lot. Just a few more points for Hyouka‘s best girl.
And that about covers it for this episode. Again, apologies for the awkwardness of the 35-shot analysis on that argument. I’ll try and figure out a better way to convey that kind of stuff for the next time. Hopefully you all enjoyed the shot-by-shot break down of what was really a fantastically directed scene.