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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My take on Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita 10 written here is a rambling mess, because sometimes it’s good for the mind to ramble about a show, especially one as odd as this one.
We go back to Watashi’s first days as a mediator, er, researcher, whatever it is; just so she can avoid working in the fields. Her first contact with fairies. This time they build a bustling, colorful city overnight and declare her a god after she gives them a naming dictionary. She doesn’t want to be god and so passes the honor to one of the fairies, and the entire city collapses in ten minutes, except her statue. What are we to make of all of this? I have no idea. I want to know why humanity has declined and where the fairies come from. If humanity had declined it’s to an agrarian society where there are shortages but basically enough to go around, enough water so that they can run fountains, and plenty of places for shelter. It actually seems like a nice place to live if you like that sort of life. Maybe humanity has declined only to the point where they can inhabit a stable and not intrusive environmental niche.
Of course the fairies’ presence should remind me that I shouldn’t look for too much realism in this anime. They’re around, apparently, to present metaphors for human society, and to act cute. This week it’s all about religion. Watashi abducts and befriends three, make that four fairies, showing herself as immensely big and powerful but kind at the same time. She makes the mistake of trying to give them names, a concept that had not occurred to the fairies and so, even though they possess abilities far beyond human comprehension, she becomes like a god. Watashi doesn’t want the title. She had explained to them that old humanity had stepped down. But the fairies, the “current humanity,” don’t seem to be capable of anything without something from old humanity to spark their interest. So I’m not sure the concept of us humans as gods is so far-fetched. But again, this is a fairy story loaded with metaphors. The Whys and Hows aren’t important as the themes themselves. Now I’m repeating myself. Time to move on.
Hyouka 20 is just another passing fancy, another way to get Houtarou and Eru together, this time locked in a freezing shed, a variant of the locked room mystery, I suppose. I simply marvel at the over-formality, or maybe the timidity of those two that they can’t even get close to each other for warmth. It’s the perfect opportunity! You have the perfect excuse: cuddle or freeze to death! Maybe Eru’s social status puts an extra barrier on it. And the other thing is that they can’t shout out to anyone, because of that same social status. I admire Houtarou’s foolish respect for Eru’s reputation, but damn it it’s freezing in there! So instead he has to come up with a cryptic message that only Satoshi (if he’s even at the shrine) will understand (and he may not), if the item is picked up at all. It adds up to one of the more frustrating episodes we’ve had. At least Houtarou probably managed to score more points for imaginative thinking and gentlemanly behavior, if not for common sense.
So Hyouka pretty much wastes an episode. Rinne No Lagrange 21 does pretty much the same thing. It seems we’ve been getting a lot of these goodbye episodes recently, and they’re getting stale. I know we have to see Kirius and Array off, but how long do you think they’re going to be gone, anyway? A little more interesting is that Lan and Muginami are thinking of moving on, too. Of course they are. The only one not concerned with moving on with their life is Madoka, exemplified by her not filling out her future plans questionnaire for school. In a way I feel a little sorry for her. She’s quite happy in Kamogawa, doing all those little things, not realizing it can’t last forever. And there’s a whole galaxy out there to explore. On the other hand, would she be happy anywhere else? Or can she be happy at home without Lan and Muginami?
This all slows down developing story arc, and it’s a good one. Moid has gone missing with that big rock and is wanted all across the Polyhedon. He’s with Dizel, who is undergoing the kind of torture-thing he was putting Lan through at the beginning of the new series. This basically goes against everything he agreed upon with Villaguilio. And Villaguilio is covering for him! But Dizel is muttering things like how Villa betrayed him! Is he channeling something or remembering that past kerfluffle? It’s great for us because we have no idea what to expect now. Who’s on whose side? Our only clue for what’s going on might come from Asteria, sorry, Maycun, who reveals her past to the Pharos team to some incredulity and shrugging. But apart from the “Memoria” she uncovers, she’s pretty much in the dark, too, well until that fleet shows up at the end. Okay, enough goodbyes and introspection about goals in life. Let’s have some action!
Rinne no Lagrange 20 is a filler episode to gear up for the next big plot thing and to give the girls a breather. Unlike other such episodes, they save the plot-gearing for the final couple minutes, and while there’s no action, they’re heavy with import. We got that stone carving that Asteria wish she could remember but can’t, since her soul was ripped away by Rinne 20,000 years ago. The next thing you know, Moid is down there, turns it into something like a grief seed, and offers it to Dizel(!) and shows scars he got 20,000 years ago. I kind of figured Moid would show his past sooner or later, you can’t stand on the sidelines and smirk a lot without knowing something, but how many faces does Dizel have, anyway? Is he still going to do Rinne stuff? Even after Madoka punched him??
As I said, this all happens in the last three or so minutes. The rest of the episode is typical high school silliness as the Jersey Club is threatened with the loss of that clubroom they hardly ever spend time in anyway, and the appearance of a clumsy girl named Reika who joins the club in order to fly robots and is shown to be the clumsiest girl in school, unless she’s stalking one of the jersey club, whereupon she becomes the epitome of stealth. We also get the three guys pondering their future and drunken talk with Youko about her own needs. Yeah, not much of an episode, but by this point I enjoy watching the girls do whatever, so it’s okay.
Hyouka 19 left me a little confused. Houtarou claims that you can make a theory out of anything, Eru says that his theories are usually right on the money, and that’s where his talent lies, so he supposedly comes up with a theory about a cryptic intercom message that just happens (ding dong!) to play at that point. So what’s he trying to do? Shouldn’t he try to come up with a bizarre theory that sounds plausible rather than try and earnestly try to figure it out? Or maybe that’s what he WAS trying to do, but he wound up being right anyway? Wait, WAS he? We don’t see anything in the newspaper that would connect his theory to the crime. As for me, I still don’t get why Student X would be considered a perp. I’m not convinced he’d simply turn himself in. I was certain Student X was a witness to a crime, not the perp. Anyway, now you know what Houtarou and Eru do when they’re alone. Well, they had a couple of close-face moments too, but I’ve pretty much given up on anything happening with that.
Let’s see. Of the Yuru Yuri 2 sketches in episode 9, I liked the Akari/Chinatsu sleepover, maybe because they didn’t devote too much time to trying to keep Akarin awake but instead got to the scary movie part. Chinatsu’s inadvertent hiding in a closet scene wasn’t bad only because of the monumental stupidity she exhibited by hiding in the first place. The study scene wasn’t bad. The final bits, possibly to fill out the episode, maybe little sketches that couldn’t fit in a longer scene were okay. All in all a B- episode.
Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita 8 explains everything! Even the dog!
Okay, it doesn’t explain the underlying question how? We get a nice stab at Why, though. Assistant, never given an opportunity to develop a personality because he grew up in isolation, decided to look for one, and used the suggestions by Watashi and all those other Watashis in the forest for ideas. Okay, great, thanks for the explanation, Watashi. But I’ll probably never figure out how the fairies got involved, why they got involved, and all that other weird stuff, such as the hearth, had to do with it. Apart from them wanting sweets.
At least they did the recap cleverly, cutting just enough that I for one didn’t start muttering “endless eight, endless eight” under my breath. And Watashi’s dry delivery and responses always lighten slow moments. And so we get Assistant, a nice boy in a Hawaiian shirt with many attributes that a young woman might find desirable in a boy, which is maybe not the best way to put it, but there’s that moment when they all giggle … So what was the deal with that other Assistant, the one with the hat who kept pawing Watashi and making suggestive comments and running around the place? A trial run, an experiment that was rejected? Whatever, I was just glad to see him go. Well, whatever the hell happened, I think we can label this an origin story and move on to whatever weirdness the show has in store for us next.
Hyouka 18’s mystery isn’t really one until one of the gang decides it is and decides to investigate. You’ll never guess who.
And so the episode’s biggest mystery may not have been “Why did Ogi-san like helicopters so much?” but “Why on earth is Houtarou so interested in that helicopter that one day in middle school?” The former is hardly a mystery. If they had gone to ask Ogi why he had reacted like that I’m sure he would have happily told them, if he could remember. And the investigation isn’t really much of one. A couple of deductions plucked out of thin air and a quick leaf through old newspapers (a half an hour to find an enormous bound volume? That library’s closed stacks must be a mess) and we have a satisfactory answer, though it’s a let down from the epic school festival arc we just had.
So instead we spend a lot of time wondering what goes on in Houtarou and Eru’s heads and watching the latter react cutely to books about vegetables and dung beetles. That Houtarou is interested at all shocks everyone (a great little scene, especially when Eru announces that she’s curious about why Houtarou is curious). He tries and fails to explain himself adequately at the end. Eru’s coming along could be explained away by her, er, curiosity, not to mention the unacknowledged attraction to Houtarou. Yeah, thinking about it, her motivations this time are pretty clear–to everyone but Houtarou, a brilliant mind but clueless when it comes to Eru.
Let’s see, at the end of last episode of Rinne no Lagrange, Madoka was cracking her knuckles in anticipation of smacking around two intergalactic kings far bigger than she is. No way, I thought. Then I began to watch episode 19:
That was about the only interesting thing in this half-hour denouement episode. Suddenly Dizel and Villa decide to work together, never mind their war, and so the Polyhedron Intergalactic Conference got a lot duller but happier. The rest of the episode was all about everything returning to normal. Seeing off the kings, doing homework, etc. Like the conference: happy and dull. In fact it felt like a series finale except that the girls this time get to stick together and ever swear never to use their voxes for violence again, thus guaranteeing that they’ll have to.
But in the middle of Jersey Club activities and talking about love, we get the finale (I assume) arc going. It only makes sense that it’s going to involve Asteria and either that huge fragment they found or some bit of history repeating, or something, and it looks like it will lead to her death or utter destruction, but, let me guess, Madoka et al will find away to prevent annihilation and save her, or Madoka will do what her namesake did last year and sacrifice herself, only her friends interfere … Well, lots of possibilities, but possibly not a human enemy unless it’s Asteria herself.
Hyouka 17 unravels the Juumoji mystery, but it shared the spotlight with a look at what the translation calls “expectations,” and the inability to reach them.
Is “expectations” a proper translation. It made Satoshi’s scene with Ibara difficult for me to understand, unless Satoshi is saying that one has expectations for someone when one has no power to do anything about it themselves. But Satoshi had (failed, as it turned out) expectations for himself in catching Juumoji and could only listen in while Houtarou laid out the solution clearly and succinctly to the culprit: Tanabe. In the end all he could contribute was help to fake the attack on the Classics Club. So that’s why he his reaction to the manuscript blowing up seemed off…
Otherwise the word, as in people failing to live up to them, worked just fine. Satoshi couldn’t meet his own. Meanwhile we have two, mirrored scenes. Ayako said that Haruna was a newbie to manga yet created a masterpiece on her first try. Tanabe has similar thoughts about Muneyoshi, tossing out a brilliant work and never bothering to pick up his pen again. Ayako and Tanabe (and Ibara) can only read the “A Corpse by Evening,” feel their own inadequacy, and anger that people much more talented than them don’t give a fuck. Proud characters like Ayako find it especially galling. As for Eru, you could say that she had expectations for herself when she tried to take Irisu’s advice, but when it didn’t work for her she was happy to drop it. We should all be so honest and unaffected.
It’s not fair to say that Houtarou doesn’t give a fuck, but he doesn’t get much pleasure from solving the mystery. Even if he hadn’t figured out a plan to sell the overstock, I figure he’d have done it the exact same way, a quiet talk with the culprit among the bicycle racks, or, at most, in front of the other club members, if only to get Eru off his back. This is galling for Satoshi, but the boy likes his peace and quiet. I’m sure Haruna and Muneyoshi have their own priorities in life, too. Such deep mysteries and profound emotions in a school festival! It’s been a long arc, but I’m sorry to see it go.
Rinne no Lagrange 18 feels like a cop-out, one of those unbelievable situations where the the opposing kings are brought together by circumstance and everyone is happy, but that all depends on next week and whether Madoka manages to actually beat the shit out of Dizel and Villa, like I hope she does. The switched bodies thing works pretty well, though having them switch back at Dizel’s touch was a tad unbelievable AND was a clumsy way to do have Dizel admit he loves a girl to that actual girl without him knowing about it. Otherwise, the show has fun with it. Madoka tries to use Yurikano’s body to her advantage but no one listens to her (nice touch), while Yurikano has to say embarrassing things in front of everybody to prove who she is (the repeated shock-reactions in that trippy art style–nice touch too). Madoka’s inadvertant switching on the escape pod’s communicator so that they overhear her ought to be another clumsy plot device, but we’re sort of used to Madoka doing things like that. Besides, she was playing that word game and munching on rations while she did it, chilling out in that pod while everyone outside is trying to kill each other. And we get a good space battle. Could have been a better episode, but it was still fun to watch, as most Lagrange episodes are.
Rinne no Lagrange 17 (or whatever) feels like the episode before a season-ending finale. We got the ship falling apart, Madoka and Yurikano having a fistfight, the other girls doing espionage, those three former bad guys rushing there in their Vox, and the girls’ own Voxes have taken off with no pilots. We even had Dizel giving a crazy grin while things fall apart around him. The buildup was pretty good, too. For a couple of minutes I had bought into Lan’s apparent treachery, even after Muginami had given that sly look before breaking out of her cell. It took Lan’s ridiculous speech to make me realize that they had planned the whole thing. What a great way to do it, the fear for Madoka dissolving as the speech got more and more surreal.
As for Madoka, of course she’d try to sneak off to see Yurikano. I’m assuming Dizel might have expected it; he had already shown that he was a master of manipulation at the dinner, turning Madoka to his side. I’m a little disappointed in Madoka that she allowed him to carry through his actions, to switch her with Yurikano, without raising her suspicions. On the other hand, it got her what she wanted, too. She got to meet the real Yurikano. I can’t speak for the latter’s actions on that asteroid or planet, but it ought to be clear by now that she didn’t succeed in resolving the conflict, at least as far as Dizel is concerned. So why not bring her back in Madoka’s body, or vice versa. It can only add to the craziness next week.
Tari Tari 6 continues the story of Wakana’s healing process, and while it’s earnestly done and moving at times there isn’t much to say about it. There are excellent touches, like the rest of the choir singing along to her mother’s tape, but the rest of it is routine. She gets the right messages from the right people at the right time, like everyone knew Wakana would have this crisis, rather like her dad saved the notes for that song (and the keychain, and the piano …). But as usual for this show, scenes are given a lift through little moments, like her dad asking the cat where Wakana is, or Takahashi asking her to bring gelato.
In Hyouka 16, why didn’t Ibara go and show the “Corpse by Evening” manga to the doubters in her club first thing? That bothered me the moment she saw the book, while I was excited about what she would do the moment *I* saw it. Oh, well, she has her own mystery to solve, I guess. Meanwhile, after three episodes where it was all or mostly festival and no mystery, now it’s all mystery. There are clues flying around everywhere and everyone is a suspect, even Houtarou’s sister, who obviously knows more about what’s going on than she’s letting on. To just drop THAT book on Houtarou! What is her connection? Does she know Anshinin Takuha?
Each line in the manga notes seemed loaded with significance. It made Houtarou’s chat with Satoshi a bit superfluous, since he was basically repeating the same insights I had earlier. He’ll go a step farther than I can, since I don’t know enough about the language to understand the connections he’s bound to make, but that will have to wait until next week. This story’s going for yet another episode, too long, I think. We’ve seen Satoshi try to get the culprit his way and fail, Eru’s little more than errand-girl now, though I suspect her radio appearance will stir things up. Iraba’s got her own issues. We’re basically waiting for Houtarou to start his deep thinking (and the surreal imagery that always comes with it) and the answer. But I could have said that last week.