Hyouka’s tenth episode opens with one more of those classic sequences where the framing tells two-thirds of the story, in a way you can viscerally feel even if you’re not looking out for it. The intent is to put you in a character’s headspace – Oreki’s, as usual. But this sequence isn’t designed to visually evoke his intimacy with Chitanda, or discomfort embracing the rose-colored life he consistently approaches. This sequence is about establishing How Freaking Scary Irisu Fuyumi Is.
We open with long shots down a well-to-do neighborhood and across a lengthy teahouse, shots that serve a duel purpose here. First, they establish this place as intimidating purely through its class and wealth; second, they create an initial assumption of open space, one that is swiftly countered as we switch to Oreki and Irisu. Our first shots of their meeting focus on Oreki’s intimate, uncomfortable body language, and then we see the small room they actually inhabit. Oreki is visually and emotionally cornered here by a much stronger predator, one who, unlike Chitanda, seems perfectly comfortable using her wealth as an extension of her own power. Extremely brief shots of Irisu from straight-on seem to imply that Oreki has difficulty making eye contact, and closeups emphasize how imposing her presence is. It is only when Oreki is able to establish his issues with each of the three detective theories that some semblance of equality is established.
This doesn’t last, of course. Satoshi is comfortable simply poking at Oreki’s persona, quite possibly because he doesn’t really want to see Oreki embrace his own talents. Chitanda drags him out of his shell, but is too considerate to actually challenge him even in the way Satoshi does – she prods at him, but doesn’t refute his beliefs. Irisu is different from those two – she’s smart, she’s not his friend, and she wants something out of him. She starts off directly with the probing questions, asking Oreki who really rejected those theories. Though Oreki answers “truthfully” that it was he who did it, Irisu rightly points out that this goes against his own words to “not expect too much out of him.”
Irisu may not know that Oreki only moves for Chitanda’s sake, but either way, she doesn’t have time for his games. When Oreki tries to interrupt, her presence practically shoves him off the screen in response. As Irisu continues to challenge Oreki’s conceptions, Oreki just keeps getting smaller in the frame. The scene shifts to emphasize the ceiling light, as if we’ve returned to the interrogation chamber. Shots close in on both their faces, emphasizing the rise in both tempo and intimacy as Irisu lays out her plan. “It was you I wanted from the start. Not the Classics Club,” she says, refusing to let him retreat into normality. And then she looks him square in the eye, and says the words everyone else has been dancing around: “Oreki, you are special.”
It’s a small thing to say, but a profound moment for Oreki, and the camera knows it. Their eyes each reflect the other as Oreki finally looks at her straight-on, engaging with the significance of what she’s saying. Those familiar rose-colored flowers dance across the screen, and the lighting shifts dramatically. From his usual grey shadow, Oreki is lit up in stage lights as he tries to grapple with her words. When he goes for his usual “I was just lucky,” Irisu tells a blunt story about how words like that actually hurt the people around the gifted. If Oreki is “just lucky” and still constantly solves the case, how should someone like Mayaka or Satoshi take that, people who struggle against their own limitations far harder than he struggles with his gifts? And bereft of his usual defenses, Oreki shifts his thoughts to “can I believe her?”, implying an identity fear that almost matches Satoshi’s. Oreki is afraid of others believing in him, but he’s also afraid of believing in himself. But Oreki has a responsibility already, both to himself and to those who try their hardest to shine in the way he can’t help but doing.
And so Oreki agrees to continue his investigations, and solve the case. But first, he ends up sharing this newfound resolve with the person most likely to be affected by it – Satoshi. As the two of them walk together to school, Satoshi commenting on how his decision to help them during summer break is another “betrayal of his character,” and Oreki stops. The scene frames the two of them as split apart before Oreki takes a breath, and then earnestly asks Satoshi if he thinks there’s anything only he can do. Satoshi meets Oreki’s honesty in kind, saying that he doesn’t think so, and that furthermore, “if Mayaka were to find an interest in Holmes, I guarantee you, she would be better than me in three months.” That way of phrasing his feelings reflects nicely on both his own self-image and why he’s so distant with Mayaka. He says he lacks the “gall” to dive into this knowledge – that he can’t commit himself in the way Mayaka constantly does. And he thinks less of himself for it, and likely thinks that he’s not worthy of getting closer to Mayaka.
“I’ll never be the lead,” he smiling admits, but before he can bike away with his feelings, Oreki shouts after him that he thinks Satoshi’s far more talented than he gives himself credit for. Oreki’s right, but Satoshi can’t see it, and in spite of being lit up by morning sunlight, a sudden shadow returns as Satoshi quietly admits his own jealousy. While Oreki can find power even in darkness, and Chitanda embodies the light, Satoshi is stranded between these poles – his brightness is an affectation, and his true desires lack conviction. He has yet to find himself.
After some dorky moments with Satoshi and Mayaka, Oreki sets himself down to solve the mystery, accepting the weight the others have put on him. The last clue is provided by Mayaka, who points out the decidedly inept filmmaking – how not only do the characters fail to sell their lines, but the dramatic pacing is totally off, and scenes are consistently shot in a lazy way that fails to provide the most relevant information. Gathering this and all his other thoughts, Oreki wanders through a wonderfully constructed dreamland of clues and deductions, and finds his “solution.”
As it turns out, all the film’s various shoddy elements might themselves be an intentional part of the mystery – according to Oreki’s final theory, it was the cameraman who committed the murder, the mysterious seventh character that Hongou was allegedly looking for. This may not be the actual solution Hongou had in mind, but it’s a satisfying one – unlike the ones presented by the other detectives, it both fits with the information as provided and, more importantly, feels dramatically satisfying. Not only does it imply faith in the author, it extends that faith to the film’s amateur construction. It doesn’t feel like a cheat, even though it technically is – it feels like a deduction they should have made, an idea just out of reach. As laid out in the previous episode, it fulfills the true job of a mystery.
The necessity of showmanship and dramatic satisfaction in mystery storytelling is made even more clear when Irisu challenges Oreki’s theory, stating that if the cameraman were the suspect, this would be obvious to everyone else in the cast. And Oreki smiles at this, and presents his answer with all the enthusiasm of a classic showman: “it doesn’t matter.” It doesn’t matter that the mystery doesn’t work as a mystery to those in the movie world – from the angle of the audience it’s a satisfying trick, and that’s all that matter. Oreki’s body language as he attempts to sell his mystery hammer home the artifice inherent in all mysteries, and we end with a great sequence of Irisu narrowing her eyes and Oreki sweating in his seat, hoping she buys his pitch. But she does, and she reiterates that he has “a talent unique to him,” and Oreki awkwardly accepts her praise. Asking him for a title, Oreki responds “What No One Noticed” – a fitting title for both this silly film and the non-revelation he’s been forced to acknowledge. And Oreki steps out into the sunlight, a lovely sequence of match cuts emphasizing his embracing of his own victory.
In the end, Oreki’s trick goes over wonderfully with the assembled viewers. There’s no reason it wouldn’t, after all – it satisfies all the emotional needs of a mystery, regardless of its actual truth or falsehood. As a class full of students leaves, Oreki gets to unconditionally enjoy the feeling of exercising his gift for perhaps the first time, and even seems shocked himself at how much he appreciates Satoshi’s praise. But Chitanda seems bothered by something, and Mayaka directly pulls him aside. First asking him about the creation of his mystery, she then mentions something Oreki forgot – the damn rope that Hongou had specifically asked for. Oreki’s mystery may have satisfied all the in-movie rules, but it didn’t account for every variable. Oreki loses his clean win.
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