Hyōka (ep. 17)

Fear my forelock of doom, o ye evildoer.

In flaming glory – and of the quite literal kind, I might add.

So ends the brief but distinguished career of Jūmoji, the Thief of Kamiyama High.

That our reluctant Sherlock would catch his quarry in the end was never in any doubt, though the revelation itself still packs quite a wallop. It does strike me as rather implausible that a seemingly level-headed chap like Tanabe-senpai would choose such a roundabout (and potentially futile) way to send a message to his friend – but then again, motive is likely the most unfathomable part of any good mystery. The means, the opportunity; the who, the when, the how: easy enough to pick apart through a careful and rational examination of the available evidence. As for the why – well, it’s no surprise that whether in one of Agatha Christie’s books or in this episode, we are so often left relying upon the culprit’s own confession.

It’s also interesting to see how closely linked the main mystery was to Mayaka’s manga club subplot. The dōjinshi does have a part in the story, though not in the way I expected, and much of the role assigned to it turns out to have been played long before the events of the current school festival.

Then there’s Satoshi. The sunshine in the room, the court jester, the eager beaver – but not for much of this episode where he almost cuts a tragic figure. His story highlights the common theme that links the other threads in this twisted tale. Here we have characters who see themselves surpassed by others to whom what they aspire for comes almost naturally. That in itself might be painful enough, but worse still is seeing the talented treat their gifts with disinterest or outright scorn.

Hōtarō solves the mystery almost as if it were child’s play, though does so simply to extract a favour. Kugayama-senpai creates breathtakingly beautiful art, but declares it “just for fun” and sets his drawing pen aside. Anjō-senpai isn’t even much of a manga fan, yet her first dōjinshi turns out to be a masterpiece.

Consider the thoughts that must have been running through Satoshi’s head as he overhears Hōtarō confronting the criminal he was unable to unmask. The frustration of Tanabe-senpai, himself an aspiring artist, over his friend’s wasted talent. Kouchi-senpai’s pain at seeing her own work surpassed so effortlessly.

One can empathise. I certainly do. At the same time, I find it easier to understand why envy is called a deadly sin.

Amid such weighty considerations, it’s a tremendous relief to watch the Classics Club rejoice over the triumphant conclusion of Operation Sell-All-Copies-Of-Hyōka. My sense of relief is greatest at seeing Satoshi regain his usual cheerful self – and if Mayaka’s knowing look is anything to go by, it’s a feeling we have in common. As the Jūmoji Incident fades into history and the four friends turn their sights towards a well-deserved celebration, my own thoughts begin to dwell with eager anticipation upon the last few episodes of this truly impressive series.


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