After a period of inactivity, the Classic Literature Club of Kamiyama High School is reestablished by Eru Chitanda. However, she has one particular reason behind joining and becoming the president of the club; her uncle named Jun Sekitani. He was part of the club during his high school years, but went missing in India for the last seven years. With the help of Houtarou Oreki, Satoshi Fukube and Mayaka Ibara, the Classic Literature Club revisit the origins of Hyouka, the official publication of the club with a history that goes back 45 years, hoping that it would give clues to an important period in Jun Sekitani's life.
The Classic Literature Club (also known as the Classics Club) is one of the many clubs established in Kamiyama High School. Its history goes back for more than 40 years, but it suffered from a lack of new members for three consecutive years prior to the start of the series. At the present, the club is known for publishing an anthology series entitled Hyouka, but doesn't have any other substantial club activities.
Due to "personal reasons", Eru Chitanda joins the Classics Club and becomes its first president for the first time after the three-year vacancy. Soon after, Houtarou Oreki, under a special request by his sister, former Classics Club member Tomoe Oreki, joins the club. Chitanda quickly asks for his help about her uncle Jun Sekitani after seeing Houtarou's talent in solving mysteries. According to Eru, she heard of a particular story related to the Classics Club's anthology from her uncle when she was still little, and she was brought to tears after listening to the story. Eru no longer remembers the details, especially why she cried to the story, but she hopes that Houtarou would help her recall the particular event to give closure to her uncle's life after being registered as legally dead after seven years of being missing. Despite Houtarou's hesitations, he accepts her request.
Establishing the Classics Club
At the time Houtarou listens to Eru's request, there are only two members in the Classics Club. Satoshi and Mayaka, friends of Houtarou, joins shortly after taking interest in seeing Houtarou's detective-like skills in action. A seemingly random call from Tomoe about the location of the copies of past anthologies becomes the impetus for the Classics Club to move. Following this, the club members head to the Wall Newspaper Club, whose room was previously used by the Classics Club.
The Wall Newspaper Club refuses to cooperate at first. The president, Masashi Tōgaito, doesn't allow the club to make a search in their room. However, Houtarou sees through Masashi's suspicious behavior and eventually forces his way into the clubroom by blackmailing the president about his smoking habits. Eventually, the club finds the copies of the Hyouka anthology, except for one. Seeing the need for more minds to be involved in the case, Houtarou suggests letting Mayaka and Satoshi know about Eru's request and help out. Eru hesitantly agrees after she discovers an urge to resolve the case immediately.
The Classics Club, Revisited
Upon Eru's invitation, the four members of the Classics Club present their theories in the Chitanda Residence after being given some time to research individually. As they enjoy Eru's hospitality, Eru herself starts the meeting by presenting her theory of Jun Sekitani performing a heroic feat as a student. Here, she also assumes that he was involved in physical violence including those who wanted to extort money from the cultural festival at that time, which was grounds for Jun's expulsion. Both Houtarou and Satoshi reject the idea. First, cultural festivals during that era did not allow refreshment booths to be set up, and second, the political situation of the time made the possibility of violence amongst students improbable.
After a change of location, Mayaka explains her theory, showing clippings from school newspaper articles that reveal a rise of tension between the authorities and the students, linking together a possible show of force that caused Jun Sekitani's expulsion. Once more, Houtarou and Satoshi shoot down the possibility of violence as a possible cause of the expulsion. They also point out a four-month gap between the incident and the expulsion, which shouldn't exist if the offense was as grave as physical injury. Satoshi's turn soon comes up, but due to his nature as a "database", he didn't contribute much, except for modifying Mayaka's theory with the keyword "movement".
The others demand of Houtarou his take on the case. After quickly taking shelter in the bathroom of the Chitanda Residence, he decides to use the theories of Eru, Mayaka and Satoshi to form his own. Through those theories, he concludes that Jun Sekitani was involved in a mass student protest as an answer to the faculty's decision to shorten the school's cultural festival from five days to two, and he was punished as soon as the issue had fully subsided, which was four months after the protest.
The theory made by Houtarou impresses the three so much that they prepared to use it for the next anthology. The meeting adjourns and the four go their separate ways, but Eru is still left baffled about the reason why she cried when she listened to the story as a young child.
The Real Story
As Houtarou heads back home with Satoshi, Houtarou starts to doubt his own findings. After his short talk with Satoshi on the way home, and a call he receives from Tomoe regarding the term "Kanya-sai" being taboo and "a certain tragedy", Houtarou revises his theory about the case, changing his view that Jun Sekitani did not live out a rose-colored life of a "hero" as Houtarou first theorized. After preparing his newest theory, Houtarou gathers Satoshi, Eru and Mayaka and brings them to the school librarian Youko Itoigawa, herself a former student of Kamiyama High School and a former president of the Classics Club.
In the Librarian's Office, Youko confirms that Jun Sekitani became a sacrificial lamb after a series of protests, linked to the shortening of the cultural festival, caused a fire to one of the school buildings (Martial Arts Centre). Months after the incident, he "represented" the student body against his will and was expelled from school on behalf of the students as the so-called leader of the rioting. It is also revealed that the term "Kanya-sai" used as a shortened name of the Kamiyama High School Festival was linked to Jun Sekitani himself—his surname 関谷 can be read as both "Sekitani" and "Kanya".
But, one last question remains, which is about the reason behind the name of the Classics Club anthologies, Hyouka. Youko doesn't know the answer herself, but Houtarou soon figures it out, much to his frustration. He reveals that the term "hyouka" (氷菓, lit., "ice cream") is a pun on the English phrase "I scream", symbolizing his cry of anguish over the events that abruptly ended his school life.
Satoshi and Mayaka eventually understand the meaning behind the name of the anthology, and the cover graphics where the rabbits were the students, the wolf was the management and the rabbit taken down by the wolf was Jun Sekitani. Eru sheds tears upon realizing the reason why she cried at her uncle's story as a young girl.
With the real story behind Jun Sekitani fully laid out, Eru decides to use their discovery as material for the newest issue of Hyouka. Houtarou ends up writing the story, while Mayaka handles the publishing. By that year's Kamiyama High School Festival, the anthology is made available to the students.
Meanwhile, Eru also prepares for her uncle's funeral after he is finally categorized as legally dead. Houtarou, in particular, is invited by Eru to attend, especially because he was responsible for the resolution of her uncle's case.
- The keyphrase in the case during its airing in the anime series is "The niece of time", which is a reference to The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. The Daughter of Time is a story a modern police officer investigating the crimes committed by Richard III of England.
- The Daughter of Time elaborates on a conclusion that King Richard's villainy was all a frabrication. The Origin of Hyouka draws an opposite parallel, elaborating on a conclusion that Jun Sekitani's heroism was all a cover-up.
- In the novel, that historic event was occurred 33 years ago instead of 45 years in anime.