Finales: Hyouka, Mankind has Declined … also Chocolate 10

Rather a fitting ending to Hyouka. A little mystery surrounded by bigger events and drop-dead beautiful animation.

Chitanda enlists Houtarou to help out in her villages annual doll festival. There is considerable time taken in him waiting at the place while the festival guys try to work out a crisis involving a bridge the procession was to cross, and there’s are mystery for the week. Who phoned the construction company and told them it was all right to start work that very morning? But it’s hardly the issue at the time, and it’s forgotten because the crisis has become where will they cross now. Typical of this show that there’s no real mystery until someone decides there is one.

If there is a theme to this episode it would be the descent of Chitanda from the heavens. The first time she appears she’s hidden behind a sheet and we only hear her words–orders for Houtarou to deliver a message, as if a mortal isn’t fit to see her form. Later we see her as the Empress of the procession, well, sort of. Much of it is from Houtarou’s view and he doesn’t get a lot of good looks. But the images we get, the side of a painted face, an eye, our view shifting in and out of focus (you can understand that this is all too much for Houtarou. Not only is he dazzled by her appearance, but he’s expending way too much energy doing the procession), is that of a divine being come to earth. It’s only after the procession that we see her as we usually do, her cute, earnest self, curious about who could have told the construction company to start work on that bridge.

She’s curious!

So we get our mystery. Again, things we didn’t think of, like that cherry tree blossoming out of season, come into play, though we couldn’t have known about Konari’s son being into photography. But it’s a small, harmless mystery, put there maybe because we had to have one. This episode is really about Chintanda, well, and Houtarou, too. No longer a goddess or an empress, but a girl who likes a boy and who wants to show him part of her life. And KyoAni couldn’t let this last scene pass without showing off a little. We get a false confession from Houtarou where the wind blows, and then in real life it blows for real. The scene is vibrant, colorful, Chintanda’s hair and cherry blossoms flying everywhere. But no confession, except in Houtarou’s head. Maybe an understanding.

A lovely way to end the series, but I have to ask, what was it all about, anyway? Every genre or style I try to pin on it won’t stay on. Mystery series? Hah! High school romance? Where was the romance? Slice of life? Maybe, but the mysteries work against it. I think many people (sometimes including me) grew frustrated over its refusal to BE anything we could pigeonhole. That’s not Hyouka’s fault. What might be Hyouka’s fault is it’s tendency to lean toward one thing we could recognize or another, only to pull away, like Houtarou and Chitanda pulling away every time they got too close. There was a lot of those unfulfilled desires floating around the show, whether it be for romance (both couples in different ways), or frustrated, inadequate talent, or to shout out when you can’t. This was a melancholy show, almost sad, all in little ways. But KyoAni did such an extraordinary job with it that the sadness was always beautiful to see. And if they want to do another season, I’ll happily watch it, and remind myself that nothing much will really happen. Probably. And isn’t that sad?

Speaking of shows that didn’t do what you expected them to, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita bids us farewell this week, too.

That’s what I said last week!

We wrap up Watashi’s school days, and the time she spends with the Wild Rose Society, her reconciliation with Y (or Silver), and the fairies. It didn’t strike me until later that she had completely forgotten about her meeting with one. As usual, none of it works quite the way you’d think. Y shows her the secret lives of the other Society members, and they’re pretty ugly, but nothing more is made of it, not even Curly’s homicidal tendencies. Instead, Watashi gets Y to rejoin the group and search for a fairies tea party together, and everyone actually has a good time doing it. While Y and Watashi are rightfully wary of the other girls, no one tries to blackmail, rob, bully or kill anyone.

Complete with roses. At least they’re not lilies.

And then it’s the present day again, and Y has shown up with one of those robots. I thought that would be fodder for next week, but there is no next week for this show. It just ends after a dream of the original fairy (who’d been around all the time). Where did it go? Why did it return now, when there are plenty of other fairies around? Can the robot be restored even if it doesn’t have a soul? All we know is that in the timeline Y is about to embark in her Yaoi adventure. What happens next or before? Why has mankind declined? Okay, I don’t really don’t expect an answer for any of these questions, and I suspect I wouldn’t understand the answers they gave me anyway.

So what do we make of THIS show? It knocked me off balance from episode one (bleeding bread will do that), but when it settled down I thought we were going to get a weekly dose of commentary on modern consumerist society, but the show kept taking left turns. There were those living spacecraft and the whole Assistant business. Apparently the show was using its setup to explore any topic the creators saw fit. Some of it made little sense (the Assistant), some of the topics seemed beneath the show’s potential (Yaoi). From time to time I got a little tired of the overly-bright colors. But every time I sat down to watch it I didn’t know what it would give me. You don’t get a lot of shows like that.

There’s no way Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate can top these two shows, but episode 10 comes loaded with big scenes. The first half is the all Chisato and her insecurities. She spends most of it gripping Yuuki’s arm after he’s released from the hospital. You can’t blame her, really. She lost the Daiki kid (who wouldn’t eat her chocolate) and latched onto Yuuki as a surrogate boy. Now she nearly lost him, too. But after he’s gone all the way home and she still won’t let go of his arm something needs to be said, so Yuuki says it, rather bluntly, I thought. And the chocolate he suggests she eat herself for once makes her sick.

Remember her?

If that wasn’t enough drama for you we also, finally, get a return to the incident that happened ten episodes ago and has been completely ignored since. Thanks to Michiru the cat girl’s harmonica, we learn about someone named Kana, whom we see in the hospital and who must have been the one shot back in episode one, though that was so long ago I forget what she looks like. One thing leads to another and suddenly Yuuki’s in an interrogation room of sorts with the President and two goons looking at him. We all remember what that was like in high school. And it turns out Michiru is an agent for the Public Safety Department’s secret police. I THOUGHT she was sneaking around too much … and the President is trying to cut deals for Kana’s getting out of her zombie state. And there is the President’s ultimatum to drop the bullying of financial students platform because it would alienate voters. Plus, Michiru can read auras! A LOT of stuff going on this week. There’s hope for this show yet.

4 thoughts on “Finales: Hyouka, Mankind has Declined … also Chocolate 10

  1. Episode 3 of Mankind Has Fallen may have used yaoi to convey a message, but it could have been applied to quite a few things. To pigeonhole that episode to being solely about yaoi is not the proper interpretation, in my opinion.

    The space probes were there to show that the humans in the series took the Earth for granted with them being more interested in space travel than improving the current situation. Watashi’s grandfather dismissed the monument (that was a space probe, and was a reference to a Space Odyssey. This arc had tons of sci-fi references as well as shounen ones), as it didn’t look like it actually came from space and appeared to be a hoax. The other village people also wanted to send Pioneer and Voyager back into space, even though that action would be meaningless and do nothing to improve the Earth’s situation. Voyager even tried to forget his mission by staying in an environment that would stop him from doing recovering his memories. Pioneer returned to Earth and was an interesting application of the Pioneer Anomaly in fiction.

    1. I suppose episode 3 could have been about more, perhaps commercialized fandom or fetishization. Or the state of the publishing industry or the transfer of goods from one community to another. The arc tossed around a lot of things. But they centered on yaoi.

      I’ve read compelling blog entries which took the satellite arc as a look at a being whose prime directive has been forgotten or abandoned, but again, as you’re pointing out, this show fires a lot of ideas at us in a scattershot way. I must rewatch it.

  2. Hyouka:
    1- To me, if the series were about anything, it was about Houtarou coming out of his shell. Or, as the second half opening credits showed it – he was on the outside looking in and Eru is pulling him into participation with the world. It wasn’t until this last episode that it occurred to him _why_ she was so successful at it (dense as he is). I know that doesn’t quite answer exactly what genre of tale this is…
    2-When I get confused with an episode or series in this way, I suspect there is some cultural reference that I’m missing. For example, earlier, in the arc about the amateur movie, I got that they were referencing Rashomon (several mutually contradictory accounts of what happened, the trampled grass, even that ROPE). That makes me think there must have been other clues along the way, over my head, that maybe helped define the series in the context of Japanese culture?
    3- Eru is awesome. So Japanese in talking about her hometown. I found it moving; the more she belittled it the more I thought how proud she really was, how she was sharing something important – it even seemed to get into his thick skull.
    4- Animation was beautiful
    5- I’ll miss it, hope they do another season. Maybe, you could say that since this last episode is the first time that Houtarou can admit his feelings for Eru to himself, not yet anyone else, and therefore certainly not Eru right away, this is a romance that is just starting? Hmph. Maybe, just what you seem to be saying; this series is teaching us aware.

    1. I hope there’s another season too!

      This really was Eru’s episode. I don’t think she was belittling the area when she said those worlds, she was maybe apologizing for her love for it, but there’s no doubt that this is where Eru belongs. She’s a young girl embracing the old and rich traditions and culture she was brought up in. And acknowledging that fact gives her considerable strength and stature. I think Houtarou is just beginning to realize it.

      I don’t try very hard to solve the mysteries, such as they are, in this series, for the reasons you mention. If I spot something resembling a clue I might give it some thought, but otherwise I’m content to watch Houtarou do the work, and enjoy the animation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s