Happy Valentine’s Day! To commemorate the occasion, I thought I’d do a close analysis of one of my favourite Valentine’s anime episodes in my all-time favourite anime —Hyouka. Unlike any other show I’ve watched, Hyouka continues to impress me, and I come away each rewatch with something new to think about. The Valentine’s episode is not only one of the more incredible episodes in the show, it’s also the most bittersweet. With that said, let’s dive in!
Episode 21, The Homemade Chocolates Case, is one of the few episodes in Hyouka that focuses on the dynamic of secondary characters, Mayaka and Satoshi. The two have an incredibly nuanced and complicated relationship that the show doesn’t usually address in full, preferring for it to fill out background space than be at the centre of the frame. But here, their relationship is on full display and scrutiny in time for the most emotionally vulnerable of holidays. In this analysis of Episode 21, I’ll be looking at the role of Mayaka’s chocolate heart and how it connects to her emotional role. While this seems pretty straightforward, Mayaka’s heart is inextricably linked to others, and the treatment of her honmei chocolate in this episode highlights not only her relationship to the recipient of her chocolate, but the relationships she has with others as well.
Middle School Chocolates and Confession Pains
At the beginning of Episode 21, we see a flashback to the previous Valentine’s Day. Satoshi, Mayaka, and Oreki are in middle school, and Mayaka has offered Satoshi a Valentine’s Day chocolate which he doesn’t accept. According to him, the chocolate must be made entirely from scratch, not melted and reshaped. This is all to delay him providing her with a real answer, and as such, they delay the confession until the following year. It’s important to also point out here that Mayaka and Oreki were voted best couple in middle school despite not being together or even being remotely interested in each other. As a result, Mayaka hurts, Satoshi is off the hook for a bit, and Oreki moderates between the two as a voice of relative reason.
Let’s look at the chocolate as Mayaka’s heart. She offers Satoshi a personalized chocolate heart with lots of effort put into it, but it’s not enough. Satoshi’s excuse for not accepting is that remolded chocolate isn’t technically homemade, which spurs Mayaka to make chocolate entirely from scratch the following year. I think it’s worth it to look at how Mayaka’s confession to Satoshi pans out in middle school. She gets mad, rips open the chocolate and disfigures it herself, which has so much symbolism to it that I’m a bit overwhelmed. On one level, Mayaka destroys her handiwork to prove she isn’t afraid of Satoshi’s rejection and that she will continue to pursue him. On another level, Mayaka is doing something much more emotionally important: she’s marking her own heart with the rejection. After this, her relationship with Satoshi is forever changed; they are aware of the feelings of the other, but are not able to bridge that distance and actually do anything about it.
Now in high school, Mayaka decides to make a new chocolate entirely from scratch. This chocolate is more involved and much more difficult. Her heart has evolved, but it hasn’t been broken. Rather, her experience in middle school has built her character. For better or for worse, Mayaka is more insistent and more ardent in her declarations of love. Interestingly, Oreki introduces Mayaka in Episode 2 as someone with a crush on Satoshi, which she doesn’t get mad or embarrassed about at all. Mayaka’s heart isn’t something timid —it’s her strength, and the thing that defines her character development. I have to step back for a bit every time I analyze Mayaka’s character for how incredible she is. As I’ve written before in my full series character analysis of Hyouka, Mayaka is all about passion and aggression. She wears her heart on her sleeve but she is by no means passive about it. She uses her emotions as a weapon, and her heavily charged encounters with everyone around her define her personality and her relationships. Episode 21 is no exception, and this is really neat because of how personal her situation is this time around.
Despite Mayaka’s aggression, her heart is still fragile. Her chocolate heart can still be rejected, and it’s also possible for it to break. Interestingly, her relationship with Satoshi accounts for this. The unspoken agreement that Mayaka and Satoshi have presents some interesting complications. Satoshi is not required to give Mayaka a straight answer so long as he remains open, and Mayaka is free to continue pursuing him for as long as is necessary. This is not your typical high school romance! The fact that Mayaka and Satoshi’s relationship is only fleshed out like this in the second-last episode of the whole show leaves a lot to be desired, but it does prove one thing; that Mayaka and Satoshi’s relationship will take time, even if they are both meant to be together. Mayaka’s heart is open, but she still has a while to go before she is completely able to devote it to Satoshi without any repercussions. Her chocolate heart may need to be melted and reshapen multiple times before Satoshi finally accepts it.
Stealing Hearts, Stealing Chocolates
As per any Hyouka episode, a mystery pops up in Episode 21 that needs solving. This time, Mayaka’s chocolate is stolen, and Chitanda convinces Oreki to help her look for it before Mayaka returns from the Manga Club, getting Satoshi involved in the process. Episode 21 has a unique mystery setup since Oreki solves the crime the minute he hears about the stolen chocolate, but for posterity’s sake he doesn’t reveal this information until he is ‘sure’ he can properly convict the thief. Satoshi is revealed as the thief, having stolen the chocolate because he hadn’t yet figured out his feelings towards Mayaka and didn’t want to confront her directly, thereby creating a third response to Mayaka’s original middle school ultimatum.
Having Satoshi steal Mayaka’s chocolate heart is a really neat narrative move because it limits the activities of the Classics Club. There’s no external force. While Oreki does go around the school interrogating potential culprits, there’s a feeling that something is not quite right and that he’s barking up the wrong tree. Several intentional cuts to Satoshi’s solemn expression and an emphasis on Chitanda’s loyalty to Mayaka’s heart hint that the problem is among them. In this way, Mayaka’s heart becomes something that affects everyone around her. Her emotional role in the Classics Club is unique and affects each character deeply. Chitanda becomes invested in protecting Mayaka from rejection and starts the search for the chocolate, Oreki wants to protect Chitanda from discovering that Satoshi was guilty all along, and Satoshi finally realizes how much his opinion of Mayaka matters.
While this analysis is focusing on Mayaka’s heart, it’s important to note that Episode 21 gives the viewer some of the most concrete and useful pieces of information on Satoshi’s character as well. Up until Episode 21, Satoshi was a bit of a mystery (which is just such a perfect way of describing anything in this show, tbh). He was always cheerful, busied himself with his interests, and loved giving the rest of the Classics Club random but helpful pieces of information. However, Satoshi has also been seen to struggle with his self-image and the knowledge that it’s not in him to be the best at anything. He just can’t compete. One scene in Episode 21 focuses on Oreki and Satoshi playing a shooter game in an arcade that they used to visit in middle school, and Oreki notes how Satoshi has changed based on his fighting style. Satoshi is determined not to be obsessive, and as a result, finds it difficult to devote himself to anything, even things he cares about deeply, like Mayaka.
When Oreki walks Satoshi and the viewer through his Valentine’s crime, there’s an interesting bit where he says that “it was larger than he thought. He couldn’t fit it in the bag, and there weren’t any other bags that would fit it in the room…and so he decided to…” at which point Satoshi is shown breaking the chocolate in half. This scene is so chilling to me, because not only does Satoshi show no emotion when Oreki is retelling the scenario, it also shows what he’s done to Mayaka’s heart. The chocolate heart that she hand crafted for him is broken in two and hastily stuffed into his bag, hidden and taking up way too much room for Satoshi to be comfortable. In many ways, this handling of the chocolate is symbolic of Satoshi’s conflicting feelings towards being in a relationship with Mayaka. He finds it difficult to have room for his own heart without breaking hers.
Communication, Silence, and Meaning
I think perhaps one of the most incredible things about Episode 21 is that Mayaka and Satoshi never directly speak to each other for the whole thing. There is only one instance where an attempt is made to directly talk to each other, and it’s by Mayaka, ever the initiator. Interestingly, the one time Mayaka speaks to Satoshi in this whole episode, her question is to the point and loaded with meaning: “did you like my chocolate?” Mayaka’s heart, both literally and figuratively, is on the line here. Instead of resolving this issue, Oreki and Chitanda speak up to tell her it was stolen, which pushes Satoshi and Mayaka further apart from each other. I’ll be honest, this was something I only really caught onto when looking at this episode for the zillionth time, but character interactions are extremely important to understanding Hyouka. So much subtle development hinges on how characters express themselves.
The only true instances we get of Satoshi and Mayaka speaking to each other are through their flashback at the very beginning, and the first few seconds of Satoshi’s phone call at the very end. The space between these bookended bits of dialogue are filled with their silence. Here, Oreki and Chitanda become important, since they are the access points for Mayaka and Satoshi’s true feelings. Chitanda opens up about her crush (which is implied to be Oreki based on a cut) to Mayaka while Mayaka vents about Satoshi to Chitanda. Satoshi confides in his fear of obsession with Oreki, and Oreki expresses genuine anger for the first time in the series to Satoshi. Only after building up their feelings separately could Mayaka and Satoshi then get on the phone and talk to each other at the end of the episode. The decision to limit their interactions this episode points to the value of silence, and how not saying anything and thinking things through can be just as important as coming clean.
Oreki and Chitanda’s Hearts
Episode 21 mostly fleshes out where Satoshi and Mayaka stand in relation to each other, but it has an ulterior motive: developing Oreki and Chitanda’s relationship. At the end of the episode, Oreki tastes some Valentine’s chocolate, remarking its bitterness. This is not only a comment on how the Satoshi and Mayaka ordeal went that day, it also teaches Oreki a lesson about emotions and relationships; that they’re not always sunshine and rainbows. Oreki and Chitanda go on their own emotional roller coaster in Episode 21, from Chitanda implying she would have given him Valentine’s chocolates, to Oreki getting upset at how Satoshi hurt Chitanda while avoiding Mayaka. There are several excellent scenes between Oreki and Chitanda that hint at the painfully awkward Valentine’s feelings they seem to be experiencing. Problem is, neither of them are at the point of confession like Satoshi and Mayaka, especially given their personalities.
Oreki and Chitanda console and encourage their friends, while also providing them with criticism. Through this experience, they learn more about each other’s personalities and what makes them tick. The pair see each other in perhaps the most emotionally harrowing circumstances of the whole show, and the decision to focus on these erratic and desperate emotions is no accident, seeing how Mayaka and Satoshi are the main focus this time. Oreki’s Valentine’s chocolate from his sister seems to hint at what lies ahead for Oreki if he chooses to break out of his grey life and embrace the rose-coloured one he was originally against, full of emotions and the fear of them being hurt. Towards the end of the episode, Oreki and Chitanda call each other to affirm that the chocolate thief was caught, both knowing the circumstances, but not admitting it to the other to keep Satoshi and Mayaka’s privacy. Both want to protect the other, and value each other’s involvement.
Mayaka’s heart, as I hope you’ve noticed by now, is worth so much more than it would seem. She binds the Classics Club together in the smallest of ways, but the effect of this binding is unmistakable. Her unashamed passion brings out aspects of romance that not everyone is comfortable with; the assertion of individuality that conflicts with being a team, the pressure of both people feeling a certain way, the worry of rushing into things and not taking your time…Hyouka addresses these things by giving its secondary characters an episode to contemplate the repercussions of their feelings rather than acting on them without any thought. This is a Valentine’s episode that truly distinguishes itself from the rest of them!
Despite everything that I’ve mentioned about Episode 21, I feel like I’m still missing pieces. Hyouka is just one of those shows that continues to offer little bits of information no matter how many times you’ve rewatched it. The Valentine’s episode is one of the most complex and bittersweet I have ever seen in an anime, and I have not come across anything that comes close to topping it. If you haven’t watched the show yet, I HIGHLY recommend that you do. Hyouka is such a joy to analyze and I’m so happy that I could dig into it once more for good old February 14th!
If you would like to read my full series character analysis on Hyouka you can click here!