Photography in Hyouka episode 22.

I should write a proper conclusion to Hyouka, especially since it was such a good anime, but alas, this will have to do. I know that it may seem like I have been talking about Hyouka a lot lately, but this post has been in the pipeline for a while and I only just got around to finishing it; sorry about that.

Consider this to be a final “Ode to Hyouka” if you will.

Normally, photography involves a camera and a photographer, but in this case, I am simply talking about the framing of shots and their accompanying animation.

Hyouka Photography

Back, when episode 22 aired, GIFs of Hyouka spread all over the internet (especially on Tumblr).

hyouka_cherry_gif_1 hyouka_cherry_gif_2 hyouka_cherry_gif_3

(I got these gifs from this tumblr, but I am not sure of the source.)

Pretty much every anime ever made has at least one Cherry blossom scene (even if it is out of season like in Hyouka) and yet the scenes in Hyouka captivated people. The above scenes are very good Cherry Blossom scenes. They do an excellent job of capturing the serenity and sense of peace that is normally associated with Cherry Blossoms.

The framing is excellent. We see just enough of Hōtarō, Chitanda and the surrounding environment. The lens filter use is also excellent.

Thanks to certain shows like K, lens filters have become infamous (in a slightly bad way), but the use here is excellent. The focus on red/pink colors really emphasizes the setting sun and the floating petals.

It is not obvious from the above scenes, but the choice of camera angles during this segment was also great. Take the following two pictures for example:

They are walking towards a bright future of some sort.

They are walking towards a bright future of some sort.

They are leaving behind their past or something.

They are leaving behind their past or something.

In the first shot, Hōtarō and Chitanda are silhouettes. They are backlit and so you can’t actually make out much detail. In the second shot, the camera is at the front instead. Since the sun is behind the camera, you can make out more detail. There is also no significant light source behind the two, so the background is very dark.

It is a great use of camera angles and I love how stuff like the lighting and object placement (e.g. trees are on right in first shot and left in second) carried over.

Another thing this episode did really well was focusing, or rather the lack of it.

Unfocused Images

Normally, when you take an unfocused image, you feel dismayed because the image sucks. You can’t see or make out anything and you failed at whatever it was that you were aiming for. Hyouka episode 22 actually uses unfocused scenes to good effect. A good part, or rather the entire parade is fuzzy and out of focus.

Hyouka No Focus

This accomplishes two things.

Accompanied by the traditional music, the lack of focus gives the scene a very traditional, mystical feel. It isn’t magical because Hyouka is not a magical show, but it is as close as you can get to magical. It is like a slow motion look back in time.

The lack of focus also echoes Hōtarō’s inner thoughts. He is feeling faint and dizzy. Part of his unease comes from all of the attention (he isn’t the main attraction, but he is walking right next to it) and the other part comes from his own feelings of attraction towards Chitanda. It is even better because the video goes out of focus the moment he lays eyes on Chitanda and it doesn’t stop until he is shown to be no longer in her company. He really likes her, heck he almost admits it to her that he does.

Depth of Field

Depth of Field is an interesting thing. It is rather complex and technical (I don’t get most of it either). The essential gist of it though is that by adjusting some things in a camera (normally the aperture), you can make the unfocused parts of the image blurry or not blurry. You normally make stuff blurry when you want to attract attention to something else (like someones face) and you normally make the whole picture less blurry when you want to represent stuff more equally.

Take this ugly picture of my Spice and Wolf coin that I just took.

Spice and Wolf Coin

This image is grainy for some reason. I am not sure but maybe the iso is a bit too high?

The coin is in focus, so it is not blurry, but the tree in the background is hardly a tree because of how blurry it is. A shallow depth of field like this one grabs the viewers eyes and makes them focus on something.

(There are other fine examples in that Wiki page I linked. If you are wondering, the quality of the out of focus regions is called “Bokeh“. )

Now, let’s get back to anime.

In anime, you often see less detail in the background and more detail in the on the important thing in that scene.

This is obviously done to focus attention on the important things, but Hyouka does this in a very elegant manner. I can’t say that the animators were particularly thinking about depth of field per say, but it really reminds me of depth of field. Take a look at this example right at the beginning of the episode.

Hyouka Houtarou is sleepy 1 Hyouka Houtarou is sleepy 2

You could have done the above scene with two distinct shots instead. You could have focused on Hōtarō getting up, then changed the camera angle and shown the phone/clock, but the animators didn’t do that. The camera is stationary. All that changes is the focus of the shot. When the focus changes, the blurry/non-blurry regions change as well. This way, the viewers don’t have to adjust to a different angle. They don’t need to reassess the setting. Everything is still the same, but now, the time and cause of the sound is clear.

It is a very effective animation technique.

Now, take a look at this shot:

Hyouka aperture

The shallow depth of field emphasizes Mayaka and her slight happiness at her progress with Satoshi. It isolates the subject from the background and yet she isn’t out of place either. It is a pristine shot. I really like it.

Speaking of smiles, the following picture is one of my all time favorite screencaps:

Hyouka Irisu

I didn’t really like Irisu until this episode, but this image hit me.

Irisu is like Chitanda in that both of them have a pre-set future. They are both daughters of powerful families who likely need to carry on their families traditions and will forever be confined to this small town. Unlike Chitanda though, I don’t think Irisu likes this confinement.

She sees herself as a doll and while she has accepted that this is the real her, she doesn’t like that.

That image above happens right after she has explained this to Houtarou  (well, she never said she doesn’t like being a doll, I just figured that was obvious from her face). The image does a great job of capturing her smile and I absolutely love that smile. It is a very bittersweet smile that belongs to someone who has accepted their fate, but can’t help but wish for something else. It’s sad, heart breaking and very lovely.

A photograph is a moment captured in time. Hyouka often feels like a collection of moments and it probably does so because the animators are damn good photographers. That’s just another reason why I love this show so much.

And with that, I am done making posts for 2012. It has been a great year and I wish you all a Happy new Year.


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  1. #1 by Highway on January 2, 2013 - 8:16 pm

    Hyouka really was a great show, and showcased awesome shots like this from top to bottom, but you’re right, episode 22 really was full of them. And it felt so teasing, that all we got to see of ‘dolled up’ Eru was that briefest of looks as Houtarou saw her before his world went fuzzy on him. And even though we moved from his perspective, the style stayed the same, even through the parts where they saw Satoshi and Mayaka.

    I don’t know if you watched Girls und Panzer, but they did a lot of very well done shots as well, including the same kind of shallow depth of field / moving focus shot that really stood out, with one stationary tank in focus on the hill, and other tanks moving past it from background to foreground.

    • #2 by Reiseng on January 3, 2013 - 2:31 am

      Yeah, dolled up Chitanda was a tease.

      I did watch Girls und Panzer. I didn’t notice the cool shots, but that is mostly because I wasn’t paying attention. I will have to go back and check them out and I will be sure to keep an eye out on future shots.

      Thanks for telling me. 😛

      • #3 by Highway on January 3, 2013 - 9:36 am

        Some of the best things in Girls und Panzer visually were due to the CG for the tank battles allowing them to use long sequences of action from a single camera, following and flowing through the action area. Episode 6 had a lot of good ones,such as the camera being set a couple meters off the end of the Firefly barrel as it rotated and elevated, the aforementioned shallow depth of field, and a sliding shot between the multiple tank groups in the chase. Episode 9 also had some really nice sequences with Anzu’s / Kame Team’s rampage through the Pravda tanks showing a full 8 second sequence throuhgh the 38(t)’s gunsight, and also that mad dash by Ahiru to avoid being shot and killed at the end.

  2. #4 by John Sato on January 12, 2013 - 12:42 pm

    I-I saw Reiseng’s hand. . .! >///<

    Also, great post!

    • #5 by Reiseng on January 12, 2013 - 1:21 pm

      Haha, thanks John.

      I am glad you liked the post and well my hand as well! 😛

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