In an episode where Hyouka switches up its normal format—instead of solving a mystery himself, Oreki has to create a mystery that someone else can solve—it’s appropriate that we also see a shift in terms of the stakes of the episode’s events. Where heretofore Hyouka‘s mysteries have been expressions of interior character realities, in episode 20 (which is really the precursor episode to the finale, in many ways) we see and feel the outside world starting to creep in on the comfy lives of the Classics Club.
After episodes 18 and 19, two of Hyouka‘s most intimate and most isolated episodes, episode 20 comes as fascinating reversal. While we see Oreki and Chitanda out together in the world in episode 18 (at the library), they’re partitioned off from the rest of the world by their single-minded focus on the mystery in front of them and the deeply personal motivations that are animating both of them. And in episode 19, we see them return to the quiet bubble of the Geography Prep room—alone, and comfortable. Episode 20 is nothing like that.
It kicks off with a pre-OP bait-and-switch (one carried over from the episode preview), as Chitanda and Oreki’s conversation falls into the same kind of familiar patterns as we’re used to hearing from them and the deliberate, delicate paralleled close-up shots lend a sense of intimacy and closeness to the scene despite their talk of being in a mess. From their chattiness, the cinematography, and everything that’s come before, it’s easy to assume Chitanda and Oreki have found themselves in a small pickle together, one with low stakes and with a lot of potential for them to again grow closer. And yet, despite the fact that the trap of the warehouse bears some similarities to the self-sustaining box of their club room, in reality it’s a threat due to being a single piece of the larger organism of the shine—as well as all the social realities suggested by this tradition-laden place.
In fact, it’s these social realities—the pressures of status and tradition—that are the invisible, constant presence in this episode. From the moment Chitanda appears for the first time, we understand by her traditional dress and her arrival via taxi that this is a different kind of Chitanda than we’ve seen (particularly in contrast to the playful, giddy Chitanda of the previous episode). And it seems Oreki understands this, too, as this new (or, perhaps, old) Chitanda walks towards him in soft pink light, her motions depicted through the ghosted animation that will recur in a few episodes—and he sees her not as a whole person, but as pieces of a slightly unreal being. Unfamiliar, but enchanting.
This version of Chitanda is not just Chitanda herself, but the Chitanda running errands, representing her father, and the Chitandawho will stand on the propriety of the day, even if she can’t help but show off a little bit at the same time. Chitanda is, appropriately, an embodiment of the real conflict of this episode. She is the tension of her social responsibilities pulling against her free, fun-loving, mischievous nature as represented by her special relationship with Oreki. People may pass out of their frame at one moment, leaving them alone in their own world for a moment, but in the very next cut we see them as they really are—surrounded by people once again, by the world they both live in.
Oreki’s participation in this world is unnatural for him. He doesn’t understand it, and verbalizes as much multiple times throughout the episode—and is, further, frequently visually distanced from Chitanda as she engages with this world. The formalities and ceremonies of the New Years’ shrine visit for the daughter of a family of status are all unfamiliar to him, even as he encounters them. The above gallery is on such example of this, as shrine maiden Kaho Juumonji’s entrance (and Chitanda’s subsequent interaction, puncuated by shots of Oreki looking in from the outside) is dominated by shots focusing on the physicality of the ritual, a very Hyouka-like way to express the slight exoticness of the tradition. And yet, when Oreki joins in (shot 6), he is momentarily swept into the ceremony’s focus on small, precise motions. But immediately after, as he’s isolated by the joke Kaho and Chitanda share, he’s back to being an outsider.
All this serves to recontextualize the pre-OP sequence within the confines of social world Oreki has unwittingly inhabited by his association with Chitanda. Thus Chitanda must help him understand the situation when he’s about to yell for help. Thus Oreki struggles not with just the challenge of their situation, but against the rules and etiquette of Chitanda’s world, as well. The intimate box of the shed, with all its echoes of the comfortable closeness of their Classics Club games, brings with it stakes because of its association with the world outside. This presence—symbolized silently in the episode’s first half by the ever-present crowds—has become real and important. They may be split off (just as in this shot that repeats the corner of the room shot so common in the classroom), but they are no longer alone together. Even trapped inside the shed, they are further ringed in by the outside.
In the end, they’re saved from scandal by a strange connection between Oreki and Satoshi (via Mayaka). Their (or, really, Oreki’s) showdown with the forces of traditional society is postponed—but only postponed. Oreki now understands Chitanda a little bit better than he did before (another turn from episode 18, wherein Chitanda came to understand Oreki more), and he’s caught a glimpse of the wider context that surrounds this girl. And so what will he do with that?
That remains to be seen.
[Final note, a word on outfits: Mayaka looked lovely in her shrine maiden clothes, Chitanda’s kimono really was stunning, Oreki’s coat is cute, Satoshi is apparently not bother by the cold at all.]
3 thoughts on “Hyouka, Episode 20”
I loved that episode and the finale in particular. A lot of things are coming together without beating you over the head with it.
For example: @”outside world starting to creep in”: I felt that was a development that started during the mystery arc; which disturbed the inner balance which then made outside relations activate conflict potential, which then played out a little and healed a little, so when things come in now it… falls on more fertile soil?
It’s also interesting to track the development of Chitanda’s function (as opposed to her character development) throughout the show: she starts out as the outsider and catalyst, and to the extent that she becomes part of the group (with the group coming to her home being the first major turning point) the outside world starts to filter in – i.e. other things than her “curiosity” need to drive the plot forward, and near the end what she’s been escaping from the entire series becomes a plot point. I’m not sure how plausible this improvised plot analysis is, since I haven’t actually re-watched Hyouka yet, and it was definitely a show I underestemitated early one while watching it, so it’s also post-hoc analysis, which means I might have re-interpreted my memories rather than the show.
Aside: I really liked the two shots you posted of the Chitanda/kimono sequences: it struck me how the camera cut off Chitanda’s head during the formal part, while cutting off her body during the more relaxed part. I really should re-watch Hyouka in full one of these days. Thanks for these posts!
Completely unrelated: I have trouble focusing lately, so sometimes I drop out of the text while reading. This time, there was a rather unexpectedly humorous effect, when my attention slipped at a rather felicitous moment:
“The Trap of the Warehouse Bears”
Doesn’t that sound like an interesting anime in its own right?
Also, I didn’t expect Love Lab. (Entertaining show, isn’t it?)
Yes, the seeds of this episode are definitely sown earlier, but the contrast between this and the two preceding episodes is so incredibly stark. And even though the Kanya Fest arc opens up the world a little bit, this is still something even of a different order yet, I feel.
And yup! Focus on the body/physicality during the formalities, which depersonalize everything—but when Chitanda is off the chain, so to speak, with her friends, we get to see her personality (i.e. her face) in force.
Love Love is delightful! I recently rewatched it on a whim and enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time. It’s not a show I’ll repeat constantly, but it is one I think I can come back to every now and again.
Yay, the reviews are back!
You haven’t seen Kanon yet, but there’s a scene in that series where they discuss the musical concept of canon, which is a song with a repeating melody, where each repetition builds on the previous one and the song becomes richer, fuller, and more beautiful as the repetitions build, reinforce, and harmonize with each other. The characters discuss whether life could be like that, with someone’s life becoming deeper and more vibrant even as it appears outwardly the same. This episode of Hyouka could be a direct response to that, since it starts right off with Oreki and Chitanda having a conversation about repeating events, and then proceeds to tell a story with lots of surface repetitions between this episode and Episode 1, but with some pretty neat inversions and variations that also illustrate some of the changes in our main characters since they came together.
-The very first mystery that the Classics Club solved together in ep 1 was, “How did Chitanda get locked in this room?” – now she’s locked in again, and the mystery’s been flipped from a trivial theoretical question to a serious practical question: “How do I get Chitanda out of this room?” Repeat and evolve: this time she’s not alone, and her and Oreki are united in their desire to solve the mystery (versus ep 1, when she practically had to bully him into it); she doesn’t even have to use her puppy dog eyes and catchphrase this time.
-The second half of ep 1 involved Satoshi manufacturing a fake mystery for Oreki to solve (the “Silk Spider Society”), as a plan to keep Chitanda’s attention away from other things. This time, as you noted, it’s Oreki manufacturing a mystery for Satoshi to solve, as a plan to keep other people’s attention away from Chitanda. Repeat and evolve: the first time around, Oreki was putting his own feelings first and came up with that plan to get out of doing even more work. This time around, he’s putting Chitanda’s feelings first, and once he understands the stakes he keeps right on working to resolve their problem even after she’s ready to give up and accept the heat. And she’s also putting his feelings first when she makes that suggestion; she’d rather risk losing face than see him get sick.
When Satoshi first meets Chitanda, he implies that it looked like her and Oreki were having a private rendezvous in the club room; she gets very flustered about that until he admits he was joking. This time they’re trusting Satoshi to rescue them from a situation that could be interpreted the same way, but by people who definitely wouldn’t treat it as a joke. Repeat and evolve: as Oreki and Chitanda’s relationship has grown, the stakes and seriousness of being seen alone together have also grown.
-When Oreki didn’t know anything about the Chitanda family yet, Satoshi wrote down his list of the four prominent local “rising power” families and showed it to Oreki – also on his list besides the Chitanda family were the Juumonji family as the keepers of the shrine. Repeat and evolve: here’s where that old tidbit of info really gets fleshed out significantly, from abstract names on a page, far removed from Oreki’s own life, into something very real and omnipresent for both Oreki and Chitanda throughout this story.
Also, not a direct repeat/evolve, but your comment that, “Their (or, really, Oreki’s) showdown with the forces of traditional society is postponed—but only postponed,” reminded me of Satoshi’s comment in ep 1 that the “Silk Spider Society” scheme was Oreki not being used to having Chitanda around yet and trying to put it off for a while. Well at this point in the story he’s certainly gotten used to her, but now it’s the other ancillary things that come along with being part of her life that he doesn’t know how to deal with yet, and that’s going to require more learning and adjustment for him.
It’s funny how on the surface this feels like a breather episode compared to what we got in 17/18/19 and what’s to come in 21, and yet even with this “breather” there’s still so much we can unpack here.