Monday, 21 May 2012

Hyouka - Episode 5

It seems that Houtarou has done it again as a brief, concentrated period of ponderance brings forth the most likely solution to Chitanda's queries about her uncle... or most of them, at least.  As Houtarou ponders his own future and whether he'd rather have a "rose-coloured" life like Jun Sekitani, a rare phone call from his sister makes him realise that there's more to this story than his theory thus far has uncovered.

More specifically, the comments from Houtarou's sister suggests that Sekitani's "hero" status isn't as clear cut or obvious as it might seem, leading to a re-evaluation of the evidence gathered so far.  Although the true meaning of some of the writing concerned is ambiguous, Oreki quickly picks up on an important clue that's far better than any written source - the identity of the author of the introduction to volume two of Hyouka.  What's more, she's still an active part of their school...

Thus, one trip to the library later we're on the cusp of answering all of Chitanda's questions - the truth about her uncle's place as the leader of a revolution in the face of cuts to the school culture festival, the exact reason for his expulsion and why the entire experience far from the "rose-coloured" exit the group might have imagined.  This still leaves one question unanswered - what did Sekitani say to reduce the Chitanda of her childhood to tears?  The answer lays within the name of the Classics Club's anthology, Hyouka, and with it a rather ropey play on words which explains everything about Sekitani's feelings during the incident in question.

After last week's episode ran a little too slowly and kept its powder rather too dry, this latest instalment of Hyouka is a far better example of how to do a lot with relatively little.  It almost goes without saying that the series is packed with visual flourishes and outright gorgeous animation throughout (with some surreal moments that feel more like SHAFT than KyoAni), but on this occasion the actual story-telling does an expert job of building tension and mystery despite its sedate pacing and setup to the point where you actually end up caring about the big reveal towards the end of the episode.  The biggest obstacle facing the series now is where it goes now that its first major story arc is over - can it survive with solving low-key mysteries, or does it need to ramp things up and aim for something a little more spectacular?  To be frank, even I'm not sure what the answer to that question is - perhaps its one for the lazy yet genius mind of Houtarou to ponder...

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