Have you ever wondered why Hyouka’s plot is in distinct pieces, often not even connecting one to another? Have you wondered about the significance of Ibara (who, on the surface, is entirely pointless?), or why Chitanda is rich? The story could function without Chitanda’s family money, after all. Hyouka’s mystery, its hidden sign and significance, are obvious when you begin to actually pay attention.
Let’s go backwards through the above points. Chitanda’s family money manifests itself most obviously through the constant stream of gifts she brings to the club. At one point she brings alcoholic chocolate eggs, though she eats nearly all of them herself. She also brings cookies shaped like the Roman alphabet. Given that these gifts are a result of Chitanda’s contacts across the city – they are overtly gifts given to her family that no one wants – and given that she brings all of them to the club, then we can safely assume that the city is funneling some kind of gastro-intestinal information into the Classics club. Why would they do this?
The first story arc demonstrates Oreki’s ability to delve into the past, into social issues the ruling elite want kept under wraps. So it would be reasonable to assume that there are other events in the past they want covered up, moreso than the Sekitani Jun incident. And let us not forget that Sekitani himself went mysteriously missing in India, and that Oreki’s sister is away in the first half of the show traveling around the world, in and around India.
Did she kill Sekitani Jun? Of course not. She knew about him already, because she had also been a member of the Classics club. And she was still in school when he disappeared – he is only declared dead after she begins her travels in Europe and Eurasia, not actually killed. She is likely searching for him, for whatever information he had that might help in the clandestine activities the club had been up to in her day, probably left over from the tradition of social activity in the 60s.
That tradition is broken when everyone graduates all at once, and Oreki – obviously trained as a strategist and mastermind by his equally (possibly more) gifted sister – is sent into the club to keep its resources strong, if not its purpose. Chitanda is a wildcard at first, drawn obviously by her interest in her uncle’s mysterious past, but her placement appears to prove advantageous for the elements of the upper, ruling class of the city and countryside. Heiress to a fortune and a long-standing farming business, employing an incredible amount of workers – as we are allowed to see in the final episodes – Chitanda has been groomed to take over power – again, as we see in a later episode, at New Year’s, when Chitanda’s training nearly kills herself and Oreki. She would rather freeze than call out for help, because her situation would tarnish her family name.
But Sekitani Jun ruined the family’s plans. Probably part of the reason he was killed: he nudged Chitanda off the path they had set her on, and even after her uncle’s death she continues to diverge through her association with Oreki and his friends.
Which is where Ibara comes in. Ibara is obviously quite useless in the plot and frankly a bore. She is there for two reasons: the simple one is to represent the dreaming working class, who hope to rise above their station through artistic endeavors. But she is also the medium, the artistic voice as yet untapped. Perhaps if the show had gotten more episodes her role would be clearer. Not all automatic writing is transcribed by the same voice that hears it: sometimes a different hand must set down what a voice says or a mind dreams. Ibara is the pen, the brush, in Satoshi’s hand and the mind of Oreki and Chitanda – who are patently paired in a logic and unreason binary, a question and an answer.
The plot is in pieces, then, because the viewer must piece it together like Oreki does. It has an active message meant for the perspicacious few, and we must quest after it just as Oreki and Chitanda must. The secret is one of vast importance, but first we must determine the secret within the show – why was Sekitani Jun killed?
What does one kill a disgraced but intelligent person over? He is away in another country. He is pursued, eventually, by a protégée-by-pedigree, Oreki’s sister. She seeks also what he sought. He went to India. Oreki’s sister got in trouble with the law, for fighting a mugger. Presume this is the real story – doubtful whenever Oreki’s sister speaks – and that someone tried to mug her. Why? She doesn’t appear affluent, but she might be in terrible neighborhoods seeking lost or hidden knowledge. What might be in India that she would seek, and that Sekitani would be killed over? What could be hidden there that Chitanda’s family would be connected to?
What came from India and made its home in Japan? The answer is obvious: Buddhism. The Buddha emerged from India and his traditions and teachings passed east, in fact leaving much of India still Hindu – Hinduism that had absorbed the Buddha’s teachings, but still Hindu. What might a learned but disgraced man, shunned by all his family but his young, curious niece, seek in the vast reaches of India, where one of his faiths came from? And why would his family seek to stop him?
Naturally it would be one of the legendary items associated with the Buddha. A grim, learned, and relatively peaceful man like Sekitani Jun, cast out for trying to help his fellow man, would of course follow in the Buddha’s footsteps. And given the three seekers in the show: Oreki, his sister, and Sekitani Jun, it could only by Buddha’s three-pronged spear, the Trishula. From Brahma’s traditional iconography it appears in the Buddha’s hand and footstep, and disappears with him. It is said to represent “ethics, meditation, and wisdom,” but a spear is, after all, a spear. It is a weapon meant for the meditative and ethical wise man, a man like Sekitani Jun, a man like Oreki, if his sister’s training had taken better hold. The trishula is an instrument of powerful and godlike reaving, but is also a fisherman’s spear, a magnificent weapon of the people, and so naturally set against the powerful illuminati represented by Chitanda’s family and their numerous contacts through the school and the city.
The show clearly hints at the need for social revolution in Japan, and the need to find Buddha’s trishula in the hands of the faithful and the downtrodden. Hyouka is a “scream” for revolution, nothing less.
If you liked that little theory, you may enjoy some of my work over on Wondrous Windows.