“So…just what exactly is this show trying to do again?”
Hyouka is not concerned as much about solving its own mysteries, or presenting said mysteries to the audience, as much as it wants to explore the genres of mystery and detective fiction and what makes them so well-loved. As it grows and develops its characters, nurturing their love of mystery, it too pushes us, the viewers, along a similar path.
Acting as detectives for a moment, let’s delve a bit deeper into this theory.
“Come to think of it, I was on my way to deliver the contents to Kunagisa. But this lady really figured that out just from this bag? She was like . . . like one of those famous books of yore. Like . . .
Like a detective.”
-“I,” The Kubikiri Cycle (the first novel in the Zaregoto series by Nisio Isin)
In storytelling there are three basic beings responsible for the dispensation of the story: the author, the audience, and the narrator, with the latter often serving to bridge the gap between the author and the audience. When this occurs with a first-person narrator, they become our window or entry point into the story. This means that, especially in mysteries, the narrator is someone easily identifiable; someone who one can see themselves as in order to insert themselves into the thick of solving the mystery; a viewpoint character.
At first blush, our narrator for Nisio Isin’s Zaregoto series, who refers to himself only as “ぼく” or “I,” appears to be the perfect viewpoint narrator. Surrounded by geniuses of all types, he constantly reaffirms the fact that (although intelligent) he is not a genius like his peers, especially his best friend Tomo Kunagisa. He is not a detective. He is not a genius. He is not a complex or complicated man.
Or at least, that’s what he says.