This is a repost of Notes on Hyouka as an Exploration of Detective Fiction as published on Altair & Vega on July 5, 2012. As the post’s original author, I have reposted it here for preservation purposes since that blog is no longer fully functioning. It has not been edited or revised in any way.
A tradition of detective fiction, the locked room mystery requires very little at its core. There are no exotic locales required, nor are many props or even people required. At its essence, a locked room mystery can thrive in simplicity– a standard crime scene, limited access, and an ultimately solvable situation for the detective, if not the audience as well.
This same simplicity is accompanied by many pitfalls. If the mystery is solvable for the audience, it cannot be too difficult or too easy, lest they come away disappointed. When the mystery revolves more around the characters themselves, said characters must be interesting or emotionally resonant. A simple setup makes both poor characterization or the lack of a compelling mystery all the more apparent.
In anime, the presentation of a locked room mystery is compounded by the difficulty of showing the mystery – often accompanied by large swaths of expository dialogue – visually, without giving too much away and all while captivating the viewer.
“When you think about what is scary in this world, those that despise you for some incomprehensible reason and attack you are the scariest. There’s no way to deal with it, because you don’t know the opponent’s objective.”
-Koyomi Araragi, Owarimonogatari, Episode 2
And so begins the search for Sodachi Oikura’s motive, along with the supposed “end” of Koyomi Araragi.
As the recognizable arpeggiated chords of Bach’s Prelude from Suite No. 1 for the cello deliberately and slowly play, the premiere episode of The Perfect Insider introduces us to two women. The first, Shiki Magata, is introduced through one scene and a monologue. The second, Moe Nishinosono, through specific framing of in-between spaces.