Hyōka (ep. 18)

Who are you and what have you done with the real Hōtarō?!

The revelation that our reluctant Sherlock is capable of entertaining the merest taint of curiosity – just like, oh, I don’t know, a human being – sends shock waves rippling through the clubroom.

Hōtarō? Curious? And not about just anything, but something that happened way back in middle school? The reactions from his flummoxed companions – Satoshi in particular – are comedy gold, though quite understandable under the circumstances.

Thus begins this wee filler of a tale. Of course, I use the term “filler” here loosely, as I’ve no idea whether it’s an original script or draws upon a side story in the original light novel series. Either way, as a self-contained one-shot episode, it certainly has the characteristics of a filler (albeit a reasonably well-made one).

No particularly heavy puzzles this time around, even though the old incident that managed to prod our energy conserver into action does turn out to have a rather sad conclusion. With fewer knots to unravel, Hōtarō’s natural brilliance doesn’t shine through for this case – but that’s just par for the course given that we’re between arcs.

Since the mystery itself isn’t anything to write home about, I’ll move on to the peripheral elements that helped make an otherwise dull episode worthy of attention. As I’ve described earlier, Hōtarō’s uncharacteristic display of curiosity becomes a source of humour as his coterie reacts in laugh-worthy ways. Satoshi’s near-panic attack is the star attraction of course. Mayaka’s concern and the advice she offers – perfectly sensible under different circumstances – are so far off the mark as to be almost worthy of ridicule. And as for Eru . . . well, this little gem of a human being gets so worked up about every little conundrum that life throws at her, I’m not surprised that she’d be curious about someone else’s curiosity.

Eru’s offer of a ride on her bike creates a decision point where Hōtarō either mans the handlebars or perches himself on the back, both alternatives being rendered in ridiculous fashion within our reluctant Sherlock’s inscrutable head. Needless to say, the offer is firmly turned down.

One thing I’ve seen a lot of in this series – and particularly in this episode – is, now how shall I put it, how familiar the setting is. It’s a feeling brought about mainly by the realistic and detailed rendering of the characters’ material surroundings: the crossing lights, the street scenes, the interiors, the architectural tossed salad of drab concrete structures mixed in with elegant old buildings (like the town library). There’s nothing grand or fantastic about it (save perhaps for the impossibly rich lighting and colours), but that’s exactly it – the depiction is so wonderfully mundane that it instantly conjures up happy memories of my past visits to Japan, where I encountered very similar sights. It’s the sort of delightful déjà vu sensation that I feel when watching, say, a Shinkai film, where seemingly insignificant elements like street signs and trains are reproduced with striking realism.

The preview – sketchy as usual – offers scant indication as to whether there’s more filler material ahead or a new arc is set to begin. Still, with this series slated for just two dozen episodes or so, we haven’t got much time left. I do hope this ends in a manner consistent with its strong run (so far).

Cheerio.

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