The light mysteries and other assorted treasures continue in Hyouka’s second episode. A month has passed since Oreki joined the classics club, and we feel the passage of that time. This episode opens with a sequence of lazy establishing shots, all of which emphasize the lovely but very specific color palette of Hyouka. Like Chuunibyou’s purple sunset colors, Amagi Brilliant Park’s bright pastels, and Euphonium’s deeper browns and greens, Hyouka has a very specific visual personality – auburn and yellow gold, the browning light of the late afternoon.
From morning to night, Hyouka finds ways to illustrate the world within its specific palette, creating a consistent visual mood that’s amplified by the show’s expansive framing and lovely classical music. This aesthetic consistency doesn’t just make for a beautiful show with a very strong tonal personality; it also establishes a baseline normal to contrast against the show’s tonal intruders, in the form of Chitanda’s invasive movements and clashing, brilliantly purple eyes. When Chitanda pushes into Oreki’s world, the frame gets closer, and the colors shift.
Chitanda continues to stage an offensive on Oreki’s milquetoast affectation throughout this episode. When Oreki makes a bland joke, she leaps on his words, genuinely surprised to get a hint of snark out of him. There’s a great negotiation of space all throughout this episode, as in both animation and framing Oreki is consistently pushed out of the frame. By the time Oreki’s capitulated to Chitanda’s newest demand, he’s normally huddled in the corner of the shot, Chitanda having annexed basically all his visual real estate as an expression of her power. The two have a wonderful chemistry expressed through body language alone, and the show knows how inherently funny this is. Many of the jokes here are built purely on Chitanda demolishing Oreki’s personal space, making her a more soft-spoken but no less insistent version of the old Haruhi role-player.
After a few cute scenes of Chitanda bullying Oreki, the show introduces another character to bully him – Mayaka Ibara, an old “friend” of Oreki and Satoshi from middle school. Ibara will form the fourth pillar of the cast, and her role is critical within the group – if Chitanda represents “earnest engagement,” Oreki represents “insecure artifice,” and Satoshi covers “earnest artifice,” then Ibara is “insecure engagement.” Like Oreki, she’s a snarky and self-conscious character who has trouble engaging high school immediately. Like Chitanda, she actually does want to engage – she makes jokes, but is honestly frustrated when Oreki solves a mystery she couldn’t, and isn’t above saying and seeking what she wants.
One thing she wants, something the show wastes no time in establishing, is Satoshi. The first conversation between Ibara and Satoshi is one of the most loaded exchanges possible, with every line reflecting their relative personas and feelings on each other. Ibara wants an honest engagement with Satoshi, but Satoshi’s the jokester, and so he refuses to actually speak on her terms. Frustrated by Satoshi’s attitude, Ibara pushes him off with a sullen “grow up already!” – a phrase that works perfectly well as a surface-level dismissal, but also reflects the maturity she actually wants to see in him. Playing games with your persona is a childish thing to do, even if it’s comforting, and neither Ibara nor Chitanda seem interested in letting the men in their lives get away with it.
The relationships between these characters are also established visually, though the execution is less humorously on-the-nose than the Oreki-Chitanda exchanges. When Oreki and Chitanda enter the library, there’s a wall between them and Ibari. The two trade barbs at each other, but it’s Satoshi who forms the bridge, connecting two prickly people with his own over-the-top friendliness. His mediation leads to Ibara handing Chitanda a new mystery, which is accompanied by its own lovely sequence of Oreki getting physically browbeaten into assistance. These scenes might play as mean-spirited if not for the fact that we both know Oreki’s smitten and have been reminded by Satoshi last week that Oreki could always end this treatment if he wanted to. Oreki’s a clever guy without many friends; getting people to not engage with him wouldn’t be that difficult.
Instead he does engage, and solves the mystery through some common-sense deduction and an assist from Chitanda. Chitanda’s already establishing herself as having a different set of strengths from Oreki – she lacks his strange, specific ability to make final leaps of deductive creativity (likely an expression of what Chitanda describes as “seeing the world as a cohesive system”), but her curiosity extends to an exaggerated ability to actively engage with the world. It was her excellent hearing last time that discovered the janitor, and it’s her keen sense of smell that finds the final clue this time. Simply opening your eyes to the world is a worthy power on its own, one Chitanda excels at.
There’s one last thing I found worth mentioning in this episode, and it sadly doesn’t flow gracefully out of all these previous topics, so I’m just gonna stick it here at the end. Clocks. Clocks everywhere. This episode was lousy with clock shots, running from Oreki’s alarm right at the beginning, to the clock in the classics room, to the clock in the library, and ending in an inescapable clock extravaganza right at the end. How is time relevant to this episode’s themes? Well, the characters do reference their mystery solving as a “fun way to pass the time,” and there was that loaded “grow up already” from Ibara. But in truth, I don’t think those are enough of an answer, at least not yet. Hyouka builds slowly, and not all of its pieces are going to explain themselves immediately. Clocks are important! Make a note.
This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.