All of the mysteries of Hyouka, save one or two, are trivial matters. More often than not they are merely frameworks on which to hang what the episodes or arcs are really about. Such is the case with episode 21, possibly the least cheerful Valentine’s day episode I’ve ever seen.
Many anime Valentine episodes are downers. The girl enters with high expectations and things go wrong. They can also, like in Kimi ni Todoke, be annoying as hell (or they can be happy, like Cross Game). Hyouka’s starts with Satoshi acting like a cad in middle school and ends with him acting like a cad now, or maybe not, depending on that phone call we don’t get to hear. And, as in many such episodes, the poor girl’s heart is dashed. How it gets dashed is the mystery with a solution deeper and more hurtful than I expected. Not only that, it’s sleeting outside. The whole thing, down to the bitter chocolate Houtarou’s sister gives her as a joke, is just depressing, and rather mean.
What cad would steal a girl’s gift chocolate to a boy, anyway? I could take this as a metaphor and stumble with it, stuff about Satoshi stealing Ibara’s heart and crushing it so he could hide it in his bag … never mind. That’s the biggest question facing Houtarou. As usual, we are given a challenge with certain rules (only one stairway), a couple of people to question, etc.. Still this one looks impossible until you get back to that first question. Then it becomes obvious (well, to Houtarou) and we just wait for the can of worms to open. When it does, Houtarou is appalled, and Eru gives a dark look I thought her incapable of making, and she didn’t even know everything yet.
A couple thing about the Houtarou/Satoshi scene at the end. First, Houtarou comes close to actual violence. It’s reassuring to see he can get so angry when he sees friends hurt. Second, Satoshi is a coward. He’s afraid of his own feelings, of being obsessed. I can sympathize a little. But these are dear friends of his he hurt, one of them is in love with him! Compare him to Ibara, who put her love on display yet again only to be cruelly shot down. Ibara is no coward to be able to do that. In fact, I admire her toughness, and I was happy to see her bounce back in her conversation with Eru. Stuffing yourselves with cake sounds like the perfect cure. And so ends a Valentine’s day I hope all of the characters will be able to forget soon.
Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita 11 takes us to Watashi’s unpleasant school days. I have mixed emotions about this. First, I don’t like school hazing stories, it hits too close to home. On the other hand, she partly brings it upon herself by openly rejecting offers of friendship when they come up. On the other other hand, the little blond thing, whom Watashi nicknames “Curly,” who later desperately tries to make friends, was probably the instigator of much of the hazing early on. Or not. Watashi knows that children are devious, so who can she trust? Not to mention her classmate Y’s own hazing attempt, really an attempt of her own to find a friend. Watashi sidesteps it and Y gets mad. But why trust anyone when she doesn’t want any friends anyway?
Another problem Watashi has is at that tender age she already had the sarcastic and world-weary attitude she has as an adult. It’s as if emotionally she doesn’t mature at all. While this makes her dialogue funny (as usual) it doesn’t always sit well with her classmates. It also makes you wonder if there’s more that meets the eye with Watashi. While she often plays the straight-woman while weirdness plays around her, maybe her existance is just as strange, which might actually explain the loneliness she finally admits to. Speaking of strange, she meets her first fairy (the first human who’s ever been nice to it) and after a tearful admission that she IS lonely … er, Curly has moved in with her and invited her to a tea party. Now Watashi is thinking how to get out of it, and we start to wonder about Curly, too. Did the fairies get to her? It’s an excellent episode that mixes genuine child problems with the show’s own brand of weird.