Hyouka – As a Group and as Individuals
August 17, 2012 Leave a comment
The group dynamics within Hyouka are one of its strongest elements, showing how people who are clearly incredibly different can work together to solve mysteries and work as a club. What is particularly fascinating about The Classics Club is how all these characters are essentially there as an afterthought, with other activities and elements of their high school life take precedent at times. This is most obvious during the latest school festival arc, where the group splits up, with Satoshi and Ibara in particular going back to their normal club lives and doing other activities. What we see in this arc is how the characters, without the help and support of everyone in the Classics Club slowly begin to slip back into well worn patterns almost as if the Classics Club didn’t exist in the first place.
Hyouka has never really shown us these characters when they are alone like this; our first glimpses of them are during that short period before the resurgence of the Classics Club. They are simply characters who clearly know, or know of each other in various ways, and are drawn together in part due to the mystery surrounding Chitanda’s uncle, but also because they are after something new or different. Our knowledge of the characters is very limited, especially when it involves their personal lives and how they interact with others. Rather than following the group as a single entity, this arc instead flits between characters, showing how they interact with their surroundings and other people away from the safety that the Classics Club room offers. It is an arc that explores each character in more depth, looking at what drives them and how their setting effects how they act and react to a different environment.
In particular, Houtarou reverts to his lethargic and uninterested self from the beginning of the series, happy in his solitude and simply allowing the school festival to drift by. While the others are attempting to get advertising for the Classics Club so that they can sell their anthology, he is happy to sit and do nothing, safe in the knowledge that no one really cares about the club. His attitude is quite a curious one, especially when we have seen him so animated in recent episodes, especially when it involves Chitanda or a mystery. Seeing his uninterested gaze fall upon people dressed in various costumes attempting to get a reaction is quite the sight, and clearly off-putting for many involved in the festival. It is in stark contrast to the fevered excitement of characters like Ibara and Satoshi who are clearly relishing the opportunity to take part in this momentous event. Similarly Chitanda slips back into a classic and well-worn pattern, and, unable to control her curiosity it almost seems like she is going to visit every stall and clubroom.
Chitanda’s curiosity appears to know no bounds, with the colours, shapes, smells and sounds of the school festival driving her forward and controlling her every move. As Chitanda flits between stalls there is the definite feeling that despite constantly self-reprimanding herself she cannot pull herself away from these wonderful sights. When mysteries are involved Chitanda is the character that adds an emotional element to the story, looking and thinking about the people involved rather than the bare facts. But due to curiosity having such a breadth it also needs to be controlled and channelled in order to help the other members of the Classics Club. She is capable of fascinating and sublime moments of insight, however, when left to her own devices the simplest of things can distract her. The aggressive and straightforward nature of Chitanda’s curiosity is channelled by Houtarou, Satoshi and Mayaka and in doing so serves a significant purpose in the eventual resolution of each mystery. It is not that Chitanda is helpless on her own, quite the opposite, but, by being near the Classics Club and particularly Houtarou she is given a direction rather than wandering aimlessly.
Mayaka on the other hand demonstrates that despite her brash attitude when around Houtarou, Satoshi and Chitanda she is also quite a shy or introverted character. Furthermore, she feels ultimately responsible for the problem with the anthology order, one that resulted in significantly more copies being printed than they wanted. Mayaka is like Houtarou in this respect, focussing almost exclusively on one thing instead of looking at everything else that is happening around her. However, while Houtarou can find links where they should not exist and is capable of pulling in a wide variety of ideas and knowledge, Ibara almost exclusively focuses on one thing. But, it is evident from this arc that Mayaka is capable of making connections that go unnoticed by others. However, due to her relatively introverted and shy nature, she often keeps thoughts to herself, and when she does air them, it is to a very specific character at a specific time. During the film arc Mayaka points out that Houtarou’s ending failed to use all of the tools listed in the script. Whereas Chitanda and Satoshi may have told the group, Mayaka instead waits until everyone has left before she points out this key flaw to Houtarou.
Satoshi on the other hand displays his competitive instincts during this arc, with a fevered attempt to out-do Houtarou by solving the mystery that they are presented with before he does. While Satoshi is a character that acts as a human database, compiling lists of facts and figures, he is also jealous of Houtarou’s ability to see links where they should not exist. Irisu in her manipulation of Houtarou discusses how those considered geniuses might put their abilities down to luck, suggesting that they are no different from everyone else. Houtarou views his ability to solve mysteries as luck, mentioning that there is nothing special or brilliant in his ability to make connections and pull together facts. However, as Irisu argues, those who are not geniuses but who still work hard may begin to resent those who have these gifts, and especially those who put such talent down to pure luck.
Satoshi does not lack the ability to solve mysteries and his ability to bring together facts in a database has helped Houtarou and everyone else on more than one occasion. However, as a self-proclaimed database he also lacks essential skills when it comes to solving the mysteries that the Classics Club have so far been presented with. Satoshi’s answers are mechanical and fact-driven, they lack the human or emotional element that Chitanda and Mayaka provide and are also far too ridged. Satoshi cannot seem to adjust for human error or planning, and unless the mystery follows the path that the facts appear to present he ends up lost. To Satoshi Houratou is clearly special while also someone he wants to surpass. He is a character that posses the qualities Satoshi strives for and wishes he possessed, while also someone that dismisses such qualities as nonsense, or worse, luck.
That is not to suggest that Satoshi or any of the central characters within Hyouka are incapable of functioning when they are not with the Classics Club. Houtarou, Chitanda, Mayaka and Satoshi are all capable of functioning on their own, however, the change in their surroundings have also subtly changed how the act and react to others. The Classics Club provides a space where these characters can act ‘naturally’, away from the stress and strains of the other clubs and students who they may disagree with. Due to the intimate nature of the Classics Club each characters on special traits and eccentricities are channelled or cancelled out by those around them. Houtarou has become more animated as the series has progressed, with the positive presence of Chitanda pushing him to re-evaluate his attitude towards life and how he views the world. Chitanda on the other hand is more controlled, with her constant curiosity channelled by everyone else allowing her to sit and contemplate her surroundings in great depth.
Our characters appear to slip back into well-worn patterns, with Houtarou in particular appearing to revert to his original lethargic and uninterested self. There are however subtle but important differences and changes in each of the four main characters, demonstrating that their time in the Classics Club has had a positive and lasting effect. The most obvious example would be Houtarou’s intervention during the cooking contest. By calling out Satoshi’s name along with handing him a bag of flour he exhibits behaviour that would be alien to the Houtarou of old. He is bringing attention to himself and actively participating in a school event instead of calmly ignoring it as inconsequential and meaningless. While Houtarou continues to put up the front of a lethargic energy-saver, he has begun to participate in the mysteries and events of his own accord. Furthermore, he has also stopped attempting to delay or misdirect Chitanda’s curiosity, and instead of apathetic response has begun to interact with her.
Similarly Chitanda has changed, albeit subtly over the course of the series, and while she still falls prey to her curiosity, it does not completely control her. While Chitanda is overcome by her curiosity during the school festival, her constant reiteration that she has work to do and should not allow herself to be distracted suggests that she is at least aware of her own problems. Chitanda is a character that is largely controlled by her curiosity, and instead of questioning what she sees flits from one thing to another, the Classics Club have therefore focussed her energy and allowed her to step back and contemplate what is happening in greater depth. Mayaka has also changed, although this is partly due to the appearance of the manga club and the tensions that it brings. We see a character that often spends her time berating Houtarou for his lazy attitude become shy and introverted. This change in attitude suggests that while Mayaka may love manga, she is far more at home in the Classics Club where she doesn’t need to justify herself to others.
This recent arc has provided a fascinating look at how these characters act when they are not with the rest of the Classics Club, giving us as the audience an opportunity to view them as individuals rather than a cohesive whole. Over the course of the series the central characters have changed, however, as a part of the Classics Club many of these changes have been too subtle to notice. Only by breaking up the club and viewing each character as an individual can we begin to see the significant impact that this club and its activities have had on the cast. Whereas the club portrays a group of people who are happy and satisfied with their lives, when they are shown on their own we see characters that are far more complex with problems and anxieties. But, by being a part of the club these characters have begun to acknowledge these issues and are slowly coming to terms with them. It is therefore necessary to understand each character as an individual in order to understand how they can work together as a group.