Hyōka (ep. 20)

Happy New Year!

. . . is what I’d say to all and sundry, if we were working on Hyōka time.

Whilst the balmy weather of the real world wrings beads of sweat from one’s brow, over in our reluctant Sherlock’s universe, the ground is covered in snow and the townsfolk are wending their way to the local shrine for their traditional hatsumōde.

Our story begins with the resident cream puff inviting our reluctant Sherlock to accompany her on a shrine visit. There’s a minor errand involved, but no matter: Eru seems quite pleased with the opportunity to show off her traditional finery. (Judging from the dazed look on our reluctant Sherlock’s face, the choice of garb has clearly made its desired effect.) After the customary New Year prayers, the two proceed to the caretaker’s residence, where Hōtarō finds himself thrust into the rarefied world of the local nobility. Witness how the poor commoner looks distinctly out of place as he watches the exceedingly formal, almost ritualistic exchange of greetings between Eru (representing her father, the Chitanda patriarch) and Kaho of the House of Jūmonji, administrators of the ancient shrine.

The structured dialogue between these two members of Kamiyama City’s aristocracy is just one of the small glimpses into their gilded existence that we are treated to today. We’ve been introduced to the great names of the area before (recall the first episode where Satoshi mentions several of them), but for the most part they’ve appeared and acted no different from the common folk. That they operate by certain strictures and standards not shared by the man on the street is more in evidence today, however. The stiff greetings, for example – but more significantly, Eru’s concern about how her potentially compromising situation with Hōtarō might impact relations between her father and the shrine guardians. In a world where reputations are valued more than wealth and every clan member must remain above suspicion, the potential for scandal is such that even the need for rescue becomes a subordinate consideration.

With the last episode limited to our two leads, it’s a real breath of fresh air to see the whole gang assembled once more. Mayaka is already onsite, having spent the day working as a part-time shrine maiden – dispensing fortunes, managing the lost-and-found, adding to the atmosphere with her full miko regalia, etc. Otherwise, not much of a role for her today, beyond being the bearer of both good and ill fortune (for whom I won’t say, though I daresay you can venture a guess). Satoshi prances along towards the end of the episode, court jester and knight in shining armour all at once (again, easy enough to guess which role he played in the eyes of which character).

There is a mystery to solve of course, but not of the usual sort: here Hōtarō’s deductive powers are bent upon how to covertly convey a message to, and elicit the desired response from, a very restricted audience. As usual, our reluctant Sherlock puts together a solution, though he fails to find one that would spare him from the greasy look on Satoshi’s face as our knight-errant gleefully takes in the sight of his half-frozen friend.


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