Living in the Shadows: The Role of Support in Hyouka 17

“Asumi’s always looking up at the sky, right? Anyone who’s with her ends up looking up too. You will too, I bet.”

Twin Spica, Volume 9, Chapter 54

This quote is lifted from a conversation in the manga Twin Spica, which follows a girl, Asumi Kamogawa, who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Throughout the series, she and her friends must overcome multiple hardships to achieve their dreams. In chapter 54, Asumi’s dormitory resident assistant confronts one of Asumi’s childhood friends. Their conversation culminates in the quote above. Everyone around Asumi naturally begins to look up at the sky due to, among other things, Asumi’s strong will and desire to go to space. They feed off of her energy, focus, and determination.

The same idea can be applied to Hyouka with interesting characterization results. As foreshadowed in Episode Five, tension between Satoshi Fukube and our main protagonist, Houtarou Oreki, has been steadily increasing. The first episode establishes Houtarou as an introverted high school student with a “gray-colored life.” In contrast, the series introduces Satoshi as a class representative, an enthusiastic personality, and an all-over, well-liked and jovial sort. It’s a traditional archetype pairing, made all the more potent by the fact that the series’s four main characters are also stand-ins for common detective fiction elements. Traditionally, Satoshi’s character type would exist as a potential foil for the main’s personality, crack a few jokes to alleviate certain situations, and generally not exist outside of these two supporting roles.

Satoshi Fukube the character steps well beyond this, beginning with pigeonholing himself into his own role of the database in Hyouka‘s first episode. By doing this he is already actively holding his own desires back. It’s all fine until Houtarou begins to look up, so to speak.

Inspired by his attraction to Eru Chitanda and his dormant desire to lead a “rose-colored life,” Houtarou begins to get to know other people. He starts to use his deductive skills to help other people or, at the very least, Chitanda and his own club members. In Episode Four, Houtarou actively takes the first step from passive observer, being dragged into mysteries by others, to active participant. He chooses to sequester himself in the bathroom until he can reach a plausible conclusion, rather than admit to the other three members of the Classics Club that he could not deduce an answer for them.

It’s no coincidence that the opening scene of Episode Five, mentioned above, immediately follows Houtarou’s decision to step figuratively into the light. From this starting point, we see Satoshi’s mask slip in Episode 10, where he admits his jealousy towards Houtarou. This tension continues to build into the Kanya Festival, where Satoshi vows to himself that he will catch the Juumoji culprit, not Houtarou.

“I didn’t want to win, but when you’re always looking up…”

-Satoshi Fukube, Hyouka Episode 17

Looking up, in this case, not only means that Satoshi is looking up to Houtarou generally, but he is also looking up alongside Houtarou and realizing, next to Houtarou’s brilliance, he will never be able to reach that high of a level. Houtarou’s deductive capabilities are too good, and now that he has started to look up himself, and pursue a similar life to the one that he believes Satoshi already leads, he is inadvertently causing Satoshi a great deal of pain. As Pontifus points out in this article at Super Fanicom BS-X, readers always remember Holmes, forgetting that John Watson was, in his own right, extraordinary. Expanding this idea beyond readers to in-universe characters of Hyouka, people remember Houtarou because of his exceptional deductive skills. It’s not that Satoshi isn’t intelligent, it’s that he’s not as apparently intelligent as Houtarou.

“A database can’t draw any conclusions.”

This leaves Satoshi crushed, with the only option present being returning to Houtarou’s side as his support: providing and memorizing facts as any good database should. Technically there’s nothing wrong with this. Detective fiction, like most things, is a machine of moving parts, with each part performing a specific task until the conclusion is reached. Possessing a memory that acts as a database is in and of itself extraordinary. However, now that Satoshi has been given a broader picture of how brilliant Houtarou really is, and the possible heights that Houtarou could reach, how can he possibly return to the role of support?

Hyouka provides two answers for Satoshi in the forms of Jirou Tanabe, and Mayaka Ibara.

Jirou Tanabe is the Kanya Festival arc’s culprit, Juumoji. He is indicative of silent support; the kind that actively pushes for the person they’re supporting through manipulative tactics. While Houtarou accurately guesses that Tanabe is Juumoji, he doesn’t deduce the actual motive. Tanabe had constructed this elaborate mystery to jog the memory of his friend, and enigmatic student council president, Muneyoshi Kugayama. Unlike Houtarou, who is unintentionally causing Satoshi pain by using his gift, Kugayama is causing Tanabe pain by not using his. A talented artist, Kugayama had drawn the manga A Corpse by Evening which had captured the hearts of many, including Mayaka Ibara, at that previous year’s Kanya Festival. Unfortunately, this had been a one-time project for Kugayama, and he had no plans to continue drawing to the disappointment and anger of Tanabe. Therefore, Tanabe set up the Juumoji thefts, hoping that they would inspire Kugayama to read the completed manuscript, based on Agatha Christie’s The A.B.C. Murders, and draw once more. Not only does it not inspire Kugayama to draw, but he didn’t even realize that Tanabe was reaching out to him.

“My message never reached him.”

Secondly, the series presents Ibara, who had been inspired to draw by manga like A Corpse by Evening. When comparing her drawings to those in the aforementioned story, or another one of her favorites, Body Talk, she finds her own to be severely lacking. However, the next day she is seen pushing ahead and still drawing, even in a hostile environment like the one festering in the Manga Club. Ibara is dutiful, works hard, but is not prodigious. She shows her support by fiercely defending the impact of the things she loves, all the while attempting to share her love and passion with others. At the end of Episode 17, Ibara discovers that a senior club member, Ayako Kouchi, has never finished A Corpse by Evening, which was drawn by Muneyoshi but written by her friend, Anjou Haruna, because she was too afraid of just how good it was. In the face of such talent from a writer who, according to Kouchi, rarely read manga, Kouchi is not willing to recognize her friend’s success.

“Mine is a hundred levels below it!”

The brilliance of her friend’s work so overshadows her own in Kouchi’s mind, that she’s too ashamed to admit her own defeat. A final, emotional punctuation mark is put on the whole scene as Ibara notices that a doodle Kouchi was drawing matches one in Body Talk. Thinking of how far behind her own manga is, Ibara cries. Later in the episode, with red eyes, Ibara is seen moving on and far more upbeat than she had been throughout the rest of the festival arc. Seemingly, Ibara is one who is able to express her emotions and step forward: a good example for one who represses his emotions like Satoshi to follow.

Hyouka is an excellent character piece. Not only does it follow Houtarou Oreki as he attempts to become an active member of society (with manipulative help of his older sister), but it also provides emotional repercussions, both negative and positive, of this development. When one so brilliant decides to look up, heaven help the people who surround them.

A few other notes:

Previously, I had taken it upon myself to guess at the culprit. I actually guessed correctly; however, I would hardly count it as a win. For one, following Episode 16, I had thought that the culprit was actually Kugayama, and said as much to several people. Secondly, my speculation around how the culprit would be caught was completely wrong. I had been thinking that Chitanda would be the key, but as it turns out, she was being used by the series for a different purpose. A database can’t draw any conclusions, after all.


Filed under Editorials, Hyouka

11 responses to “Living in the Shadows: The Role of Support in Hyouka 17

  1. I was hoping you would write something for this episode Emily!

    Episode Seventeen concluded the festival arc fantastically, but it also closes the curtains on a slightly melancholy note when considering Satoshi’s character. Feelings of inferiority and jealousy were the main themes of the arc and it is easy to understand what troubles Satoshi as Houtarou becomes more active. What is sad, though, is that Satoshi is (as I see it) holding himself back with his mentality that “a database can’t draw any conclusions.” By saying that Satoshi is saying that he is not only unable to match Houtarou’s deductive ability, but also that he simply impossible for a person like him.

    Looking back, I am glad that Hyouka had so many character arcs going on that deal with the same themes because it gave us many examples to compare. While Satoshi should be following Mayaka’s example and, as you pointed out, expressing his emotions in order to move forward, he is instead following what I think is the path similar to Kouchi. She is a character that is hiding her inferiority and her own defeat behind an absolute statement in the same way that Satoshi is doing. And this is a real shame because Kouchi is apparently very talented herself as the author of “Body Talk,” and someone who could become even better (I also find it amusing that Kouchi’s position is both someone who feels inferior and inspires the same inferiority in someone else). Satoshi may never have Houtarou’s deductive ability, but he definitely has some deductive ability. But unfortunately, he holds himself back.

    One thing that the episode did NOT address and has left me curious is what role Houtarou’s sister played in all of this. Having her show up with the manga Houtarou needed to solve the mystery was too convenient to be a coincidence. However, I have no idea how she would know what was going on unless she was somehow involved with the creation of “A Corpse by Evening” or had solved the mystery already. So unless she is actually the writer and “Haruna Anjou” is just a pen-name (which I think is too much of a stretch), I can’t see what connection she would have had. So for now, I am completely at a loss for what to expect from Houtarou’s sister. And I don’t think it will be revealed until the final arc, if at all.

    • But of course! ^ ^

      There’s no doubt that Satoshi is holding himself back, both with his words and his attitude. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. He is brilliant at gathering information and retaining it. Most people I know would love to have the memory and mental capacity that he has for such things yet, in comparing himself to Houtarou, he feels as if he’s still lacking and uses his abilities, which should be considered amazing, as handicaps. “I only have my memory so…” “I’m only a database therefore…” and so on. He sees this as a bad thing instead of an asset and because of this attitude, cannot step forward from beyond Houtarou’s shadow. Satoshi doesn’t realize how truly valuable he is.

      Generally, when one is not confident in themselves, they tend to ignore all of the brilliant things that they are good at, comparing themselves unfavorably to people who they see as superior. The grass is always greener and such. There will, 99.99% of the time, always be someone better than someone else in everything. The key is to recognize the things that one is good at and leverage them to make up for what you lack. Unfortunately, this takes a self-confidence that characters rarely have, never mind actual people. Thanks for bringing up the Kouchi comparison. I hadn’t made that connection myself, but that is excellent. ^ ^

      Like you, I doubt that Tomoe Oreki had more to do with this arc other than being a master puppeteer. As I’ve mentioned to others, I see her as the grand mastermind of nearly everything that has happened to Houtarou in this series. I hope it will be revealed in the final arc; however, if it isn’t, a second season would be lovely.

      Thank you so much for your comment! Great food for thought. ^ ^

  2. A Day Without Me

    Ah, so did you take Kugayama’s reaction as indicating that he didn’t get what Tanabe was trying to convey after all? It sort of seemed like that in the festival closing scene, but I wasn’t terribly sure on it.

    I do enjoy your posts on Hyouka, although I must confess that my impulse was to leave a comment simply stating “TanabexKugayama 4 realz”.

    • Honestly, I didn’t even consider that it could be taken any other way, but perhaps I was focusing too much on the tragedy of Tanabe not being about to reach Kugayama. I took Kugayama’s wink at Tanabe during the closing ceremonies as a “Thanks for making this interesting, buddy!” rather than acknowledgment of what Tanabe’s true goal was.

      Albeit, my reading makes the entire scene super-angsty and much more ripe for fanfiction fodder, wouldn’t you agree! ^ ^

      I’ve been loving reading your posts on Hyouka as well. Sorry I’m not a better commenter, but usually you say everything so well that I don’t have anything else to say but, “Yeah, that’s great.” ^ ^

      • A Day Without Me

        I sort of went back and forth on how to take his actions, as I couldn’t decide on whether I wanted to interpret it quite so harshly or not. I think its definitely in keeping with the general arc of Tanabe’s storyline to take it as Kugayama missing the point, although the show does leave it intentionally vague.

        Admittedly, I also tend to envision BL I’d write of them as having the jumping-off point as Kugayama asking Tanabe why he didn’t just come to him directly to express his frustrations, why did he go to such elaborate lengths, so my fanfiction vision may be clouding my vision of canon!

        Eh, don’t worry about leaving comments.

  3. hyper

    Once again good post. I’d just point out that Houtarou himself is the third example: a complete retreat. He had been living with someone who overshadowed him in every aspect throughout his life. So much so that his energy-saving mentality is probably because of her. Of course, I’m talking about his sister, Oreki Tomoe.

    • Oh my gosh, that is an amazing thought. Thank you so much for bringing this up. I hadn’t made this connection but that makes so much sense. Wow. Thank you! ^ ^

      As a corollary thought, Chitanda is another example. Throughout this arc we see her pressed into duty by the Classics Club in order to garner attention and publicity. Even while following Irisu’s rules of manipulating others, Chitanda finds herself tired and worn out. Simply put, it’s just not in her personality to advertise. Instead of getting down on herself about it, she accepts that others are better than her at this and moves on. It’s a great display of self-confidence to accept her own weaknesses and move forward.

      Thanks for this comment. You’ve given me a lot to think about. ^ ^

  4. A Twin Spica reference! You have my attention!

    This was a beautiful arc, wasn’t it? And I’m absolutely loving that Hyouka has been fueling your character study fervor; my favorite kind of aniblog post and you handle them so well!

    The festival arc captured both the frustration & melancholy of living in the shadow of apparently greater talent while, like Sekitani Jun’s arc, operating within the realistic tone of a high school setting. As I watched episode 17 I couldn’t help recalling Amadeus’s (inaccurate) portrayal of Antonio Salieri as he struggled to create, obscured by Mozart’s incomparable shadow. Unlike Salieri, however, Hyouka’s melancholy three, while recognizing the talent gap, aren’t futilely railing against fate’s whims & fancies–they all three have a future of improvement ahead of them.

    There are so many things to look forward to in the final four episodes! How will Mayaka, Oreki, & particularly Satoshi develop; what will they reveal about Chitanda; will they reveal Tomoe Oreki; in addition to the always lovely music & visuals–its enough that I fear Hyouka’s impending conclusion, and the termination of our connection with the Classics Club!

    • Twin Spica is amazing and I know that both you and Day will agree with me when I say that more people should read it.

      Ah, thank you! I love good characterization. It’s what makes my mind go ’round, and Hyouka is simply amazing at it. The reason why I chose Twin Spica actually is that its characters go through similar melancholy periods when comparing themselves to each other. As with any group of friends, one person is better at one thing, another person is brilliant at another. Not everyone can go into space, after all, and the group of friends is more than well-aware of this. However, the manga does a fantastic job of showing the characters’ self confidence grow individually as they feed off of each other. Hopefully our Classics Club members will discover this as well, especially Satoshi.

      As I said above, I’m fervently wishing for a second season; however, this series has instilled enough trust in me that I don’t doubt that it will end well (even if it doesn’t address Tomoe Oreki).

      Thank you for commenting! ^ ^

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