Hyōka (ep. 4)

The sundered fragments of a long-forgotten memory are slowly coming to light.

Now comes the hard part: figuring out how everything fits together. (That is, if they even fit together at all.)

Synopsis

The childhood memory Eru spoke of in the previous episode is still a closely-guarded secret that, other than herself, only Hōtarō knows about. In the hope of moving her investigation forward, and realising that four heads are better than two, she finally decides to bring Mayaka and Satoshi into the loop.

During a meeting at the clubroom, Eru declares that what happened to her uncle 45 years ago is firmly fixed in her mind and asks for the assembled team’s help. The other two are ready and willing to lend a hand: Satoshi, as he was already doing his own historical research on that time period; and Mayaka, who is eager to find out more about the club anthology’s strange cover illustration.

After allowing themselves some time to conduct independent enquiries, the four agree to meet up at Eru’s house to discuss their findings. Hōtarō meets up with the boisterous Satoshi (I say, that chap sure knows how to make a shameless entrance) and they ride their bikes together towards the Chitanda estate. Along the way, the two friends strike up a conversation – nothing earth-shattering, although at points rather touching and it does help flesh out their respective personalities a bit more. Grey and shocking pink . . . interesting combination.

In due course, they arrive at the sprawling Chitanda mansion where Eru and Mayaka are already waiting. The demure club leader provides the framework for the proceedings: each person will describe their findings in turn, the others will pose questions, followed by the presentation and consideration of their theories as to what took place 45 years ago. As the day wears on, the meeting moves from one part of the house to another and each member is given the chance to take centre stage. Eru goes first, followed by Mayaka and then Satoshi.

The evidence presented comes from various sources: the 1968 preface to Hyōka volume 2 (which was read out in full last episode); an excerpt from another student publication released in the same year; an article from a contemporaneous school newspaper. As presented, each source appears to contradict the one before, and none of the theories put forward is judged satisfactory. (One major point involved references to an event that took place in June, and another in October. Which of the two was relevant?)

Now it’s Hōtarō’s turn. He hands out copies of an extract from Kamiyama High: 50 Years of Progress. (If this title sounds familiar, it should be: it’s the official school history book at the heart of the mini-mystery in episode 2.) The trouble is that our reluctant Sherlock had prepared his evidence, but didn’t prepare a hypothesis to go with it. On the pretext of using the restroom, he buys himself a short period of private time in which to assemble all of the seemingly disparate facts they had unearthed into one over-arching theory. (Cue the slick inner-thought-processes animation sequence.)

Here’s what he comes up with. One April day 45 years ago, the principal moots the idea of shortening the five-day annual school festival, on the grounds of encouraging the students to focus on their studies. Naturally, the students respond with protests and nonviolent action (possibly including class boycotts), led by none other than Sekitani Jun. Later that year, in June, a special meeting is held to discuss the matter. The administrators back down, but the price of the students’ victory is the expulsion of the one who had inspired them to defy their superiors. To ensure that the dismissal of Sekitani Jun doesn’t trigger further unrest, school officials wait until October – by which time passions had cooled down – to carry out the sentence.

And that’s that. The other members accept his version of events, the only one that manages to address all the apparent contradictions in their evidence. The meeting breaks up and Eru is left alone with her thoughts, one of which she gives voice to.

If that is what really happened, then why did she end up crying on the day when her uncle told her the story?

My two cents

If it were all about solving humdrum high-school mysteries on campus, this show would lose steam in no time flat. Thankfully, the last episode left us with a tantalising glimpse at something far bigger than The Case of the Missing Pencil Sharpener.

The ghost of a problem that we’ve been introduced to is now beginning to take on a more discernible form, with our Gang of Four sniffing out clues from various sources and trying to figure out how to piece them together into a coherent whole. Given that no direct references to the mysterious event of 45 years ago have survived, the Classics Club team are forced to rely on vague, seemingly contradictory accounts gleaned from all manner of source material. The best part – from my perspective as a passive observer to all this – is that their bits and pieces of information are presented in detail, allowing me to feel as if I were sitting in the same room and scrutinising the very same documents they were examining.

Now this is the sort of detective story I take delight in, where the clews (mm, I’ve grown rather fond of the old-style spelling of that word) are set out in such a fashion as to permit me to craft my own theories and refine them as each new scrap of evidence is revealed. This endows Hyōka with a certain immersive quality that almost borders on interaction, giving rise to the impression of being able to participate rather than merely spectate – at least, right up until our reluctant Sherlock switches on the supercomputer within and crunches out a solution. (Even then, with Eru’s moment of doubt at the end, I am at liberty to decide whether or not his version of events is definitive.)

Nothing more to say really, apart from the usual plaudits for excellent production values. KyoAni rarely fails to impress (“rarely” being the operative word, as they’ve disappointed me before), and this episode really takes things to their peak. It says something about the efforts expended by the production team when even the ride to the Chitanda estate positively drips with detail, right down to the movement of gears on Satoshi’s bike after he triggers a shift change.

Episodes 1 to 3 treated us to a range of little appetisers, scrumptious but hardly satisfying; now we finally come to the main course. Good stuff all around, and I’m game for a whole lot more.

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