Recap: Mayaka’s chocolate is stolen during the most dramatic Valentine’s Day ever.
Holy shit, was this episode dramatic. Mayaka really wants Satoshi to accept her Valentine’s Day chocolate, and the Classics Club is on the case when the handmade confection vanishes from the clubroom. Every single one of them has some personal stakes in the matter, to the point where they all seem really pissed off the entire episode over the whole debacle. It’s a far cry from the normally lighthearted and casual feel Hyouka gives off, and it comes across as almost scary to see everyone so angry.
While in earlier arcs the characters were often flustered or troubled, it never quite reached this extent before. Satoshi spends the entire episode in quiet solemnity, and Chitanda is so driven to find the culprit that Houtarou has to physically stop her to calm her down. Even Houtarou’s unflappable stoic cynicism cracks a bit once he finally confronts the culprit. This mystery, more than any of the others, hit them close to home, and it really shows.
This wouldn’t be nearly as effective an episode if it wasn’t this far into the show’s run – we as viewers wouldn’t care enough if it aired during the first half, but having been through 20 episodes, the 180 flip in emotional tone can have full effect because we empathize with these characters. We can feel frustrated and somber right along with them, and that allows a story with stakes as low as missing chocolate to be an exhausting emotional episode. That’s more than a lot of shows can boast.
Marlin’s Thoughts: Man, while there have always been hints of a less lighthearted reality under the happy-go-lucky slice of life we’ve seen, I never would have expected Hyouka to go so dark. Satoshi has always been shown in the background as hiding under a mask, and boy did he leave it behind this episode. Hearing his thought process it almost made sense. He’s still a huge dick for allowing things to play out as they did, but you can understand how he wouldn’t want to ruin things by becoming obsessed with Mayaka in a relationship. It’s actually very much similar to the thought process of Inaba in the last few episodes of Kokoro Connect. Part of me honestly hopes this is not the last we’ve seen of the Classics Club’s problems, as the drama in this even most mundane of crises was an enthralling change of pace.