Finding Yourself in Hyouka’s Small Moments

Twwk: Today’s guest post was submitted by sleepminusminus, whom you can find on Twitter. It’s a wonderful read—I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

I love slice-of-life anime. If I’m honest, it’s because slice-of-life is cute. But if I’m being more reflective, it’s probably because slice-of-life delights in small moments. Grand, cinematic, emotional scenes are thrilling, but our real lives are filled with small moments—moments we can often take for granted. Sometimes, it’s meaningless conversations in school classrooms that say the most about people. Slice of life reminds us of that.

So it’s no surprise that I love Hyouka so much. Hyouka is about mundane mysteries: school rumors, ghost tales, and other everyday oddities. And, like any good slice-of-life, Hyouka delights in small moments and the people that inhabit them. Every mystery in Hyouka is its own series of small moments. Every mystery says something about the people who solve it.

For one, Oreki Houtarou, Hyouka‘s prime detective, doesn’t want to solve mysteries. A self-proclaimed energy-saver, Oreki clings to the sacred motto “If I don’t have to do it, I won’t.” Solving mysteries is a waste of his precious energy, no matter how good he is at it.

But Chitanda Eru won’t let Oreki linger in idleness. Chitanda overflows with curiosity about the smallest things, from mysteriously locked doors to peculiar library patrons. Ever since Chitanda met Oreki in the Classics Club, she’s compelled Oreki to spend excessive amounts of energy solving mysteries at her behest.

Time passes. Chitanda continues to drag Oreki into mysteries, and Oreki continues to spend energy solving them. And as time passes, we watch Oreki as he struggles between his mystery-solving talent and his energy-saving lifestyle. He begins to want to help Chitanda solve mysteries, but he can’t help his instinctive attraction to idleness, his penchant for hoarding energy.

Of course, none of this struggle is made explicit in Hyouka. There’s no scene where Oreki tearfully confesses his struggle for identity between mystery-solving and energy-saving. After all, Hyouka is a slice-of-life show. In our real lives, there are rarely such tearful confessions.

But isn’t Oreki’s struggle something we can all see in our real lives? We all feel the tension between who we are and who we want to be. We don’t see the fruits of our efforts to better ourselves. And as Christians, we’re often drawn away from our identity in God by our own sin. We neglect our callings and indulge in selfish pursuits instead. We fail to experience the renewal that God promises us in Christ. Does Hyouka have anything to say about this struggle? Does Oreki ever overcome his own idleness?

Not really—at least, not as dramatically as we would expect. But there’s one small moment near the end of Hyouka that represents a small shift in Oreki’s thinking—a novel approach to his struggle.

(Minor spoilers for episode eighteen of Hyouka follow.)

Oreki and Chitanda have just finished solving a mystery about whether Oreki’s middle school teacher—Ogi—liked helicopters. Par for the course, but not quite. This mystery wasn’t Chitanda’s fault; it was Oreki’s. Oreki dragged Chitanda to the library to solve the mystery, not the other way around. In short, Oreki was curious—which makes Chitanda curious. What’s changed about Oreki, that he would set aside his energy-saving ways so loosely?

Oreki gives a few reasons, but one stands out to me. In his words to Chitanda: “You were there to help.” Oreki can’t bear the burden of mystery-solving alone; it’s Chitanda’s guidance in each trivial mystery that stirs Oreki from his energy-saving slumber.

And this small moment captures what Hyouka’s ultimately about. Not mysteries, but people. And not just Oreki and Chitanda, but friends who, in small ways, guide us towards finding ourselves. Oreki never renounces his energy-saving ways once and for all. But with Chitanda’s help, he begins the journey.

Hyouka reminds us that though we feel the tension between who we are and who we want to be, we don’t have to struggle alone. We’ve been given friends to join us on the road—to stir us from our idleness and travel with us in the small moments of our lives. Hyouka comforts us that though we might not always see the fruits of our efforts to better ourselves, we can still enjoy the journey and the joy of each small moment along the way.

And, in some sense, I think Hyouka points us as Christians to God. Because God is our eternal Friend—the destination of our journey and the light along the way. He stirs us from our slumber in sin and joins us on the road to finding ourselves in Him. He gives us a new identity, hidden with Christ in God, safe from our tendency to wander into selfish pursuits.

So we can take comfort. The road may be long and progress may be gradual—I might not be who I want to be now, or maybe ever. But we can delight in God’s presence in the small, inconsequential moments of our lives, and in the people he’s given us as tangible reminders of His grace along the way.

sleepminusminus lurks unnoticed in the dark corners of anime Twitter, occasionally peeking out to retweet something cute or clever. When he isn’t hiding behind his computer screen, he ponders theology, mathematics, and everything in between.


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