A spoiler-free review of the spring 2012 anime “Hyouka,” produced by Kyoto Animation, based on the “Koten-bu Series” novels by Honobu Yonezawa.
Do you read the newspaper anymore? You know, that compilation of local and global updates printed on cheap, ink-rich, pulpy paper that would arrive every Sunday morning (delivery date varying on location)? Yeah, me neither. Between bright news channels on TV and the instant convenience of the Internet, I have no right reason to order such a monochrome, drab publication (unless you do it for the ink odor, to which I reckon you meet with a psychiatrist ASAP).
But despite my preferences, there are still those who cling to this plain method, which is completely fine, by all means. My only question: Who would want to pay for boring when digital brilliance is free with the click of a button?
Enter Oreki Houtarou, our mundane, dispassionate, high-school culprit who would indeed prefer this simple format. Why? A newspaper is neither flashy nor motivational. Additionally, it comes to you rather than you going to it, which though might not sound like a good enough excuse for us, works fantastically in Houtarou’s favor.
To save his elder sister’s club from disbandment/comply with orders, Houtarou reluctantly joins the Classic Literature Club. There, he reunites with his lively buddy, Fukube Satoshi, and adversary/manga addict, Ibara Mayaka, a couple too energetic for him to be around. That’s not all lurking in the clubroom, however. Violet-eyed Chitanda Eru, a proper, lovely girl, transforms into the quintessential curiosity bomb when something interesting and mysterious catches her eye, or rather, tongue (“Curiosity killed the cat,” or “Cat got your tongue,” anyone?). Anyway, the story follows the Classics Club and their investigations surrounding their beloved Kamiyama High, for the more they unravel mysteries, the more they get tangled up with each other’s personal lives.
And that’s all these kids do. Solve mysteries for the mere sake of solving mysteries – all while satisfying Chitanda’s raging curiosity, of course! The development of the setting and characters comes from each of these case arcs that divide the series. That’s where problems can arise, you see. With the way the anime is set, beginning strongly and upholding that entertainment through the middle, the end pulls the characters out of the thrilling school festival setting to further polish the two relationships. What that creates is a most lackluster ending – as if we ended on just another episode – which is a real shame considering that the suspense from the two previous potent mystery arcs was driving up to this ‘finale.’
Despite my need to rearrange the story arcs, Hyouka’s characters are at least one-of-a-kind. As you know, Houtarou is and was my site’s mascot prior to my watching this anime, and you might be glad to hear that he’s sticking around! “If I don’t have to do it, I won’t. If I have to do it, I’ll make it quick.” Bent on avoiding a “rose-colored high school life,” that is his faithful motto. But he gradually breaks away from this eternal LAZINESS the more he quells Chitanda’s curiosity. The consequent result of his efforts – He develops a driving curiosity for himself!
“I’m not stupid. I’m just too lazy to show how smart I am.”
Houtarou is also incredibly relatable (my bedhead twin). I found his nonchalant way of dealing with the day-to-day schemes of his rather gray life not only amusing but realistic. Besides his dull “oohs” and “ahs,” provided by the charming actor Yuuichi Nakamura, he also has very little to say. Most of Houtarou’s ‘dialogue’ is composed of complex thoughts in that brown bushy head of his (indicated by the tugging of his bangs), while what he actually spouts is concise and to the point.
If Chitanda’s energy combats Houtarou’s laziness, then Satoshi’s spunk grinds with Mayaka’s bluntness. Claiming to be a “database” that can store info but not make conclusions, Fuku-chan supports Oreki regardless of his high expectations for him. All the while, Mayaka tries desperately to win Fuku-chan’s heart and Chi-chan fires questions in Oreki’s direction. Ladies and gents, here you have the musings of the Classics Club!
Calling the animation simply “beautiful” would be the easy way out. The cinematography here makes other KyoAni works look elementary. The dull world around Houtarou is coated in pale browns and yellows to reflect his boring view. In contrast, when he becomes shocked or surprised, lighting plays a key effect, as everything sparkles and brightens the eyes! When it comes to the mystery aspects of the show, each time a new case is introduced, the run-down of the information carries its own unique and quirky animated sequence. It’s as if Shaft and KyoAni birthed a gorgeous, brilliant, and eccentric child!
I want to bring up the OST not because it’s necessarily the greatest thing ever, but because it fits the mystery atmosphere so perfectly! For the majority of the tracks, irritated strings, peculiar xylophones, and romantic choirs/pianos/harps pave the way for intense thinking and detective work. Sleuthy, eerie, dramatic, or flat out rambunctious, the music remains an engaging feature of Hyouka. The exciting inclusion of classical music, be it the reoccurring Beethoven, Bach, or Faure adds a, and imagine this, “classy” feel to the whole shebang. I simply can’t get enough of “Sicilienne” and Bach’s “Cello Suite!” *Cue reading letter from Oreki’s sis*
Before we leave the OST department, I’d like to highlight “Yasashisa no Riyuu” by ChouCho, the first opening. This song just oozes with good feels and astonishing visuals, so it was naturally a shame to lose it after the first half! Similarly, the first ending “Mikansei Stride” by Saori Kodama was also a pleasant touch.
Hyouka’s best feature was its ability to juggle the genres of mystery, drama, romance, and slice-of-life, and do it phenomenally! To parody, it was like “Fifty lazy, dull, Grey Shades” of freakin’ curiosity. Seriously, if I was having the crappiest day ever and was wanting to be cheered up, or if I wanted something fairly heavy to dip my emotions into, then this is one of the bests. Even if the mysteries are lacking towards the end, there are plenty of other great qualities the story has to offer. So why don’t you throw down that dusty newspaper of yours and hop online with Hyouka!? It’s not like you were reading it, anyway.
“People who are confident in themselves never talk about expectations. “Expectation” is a word rooted in giving up. It leaves you with no other choice. It makes it obvious that you’re powerless.” – philosophy of Fukube Satoshi
+ One-of-a-kind characters (especially Oreki, Fukube, and Irisu) with different viewpoints and philosophies on expectation. Great vocal performances for characters
+ Mystery arc “Why Didn’t She Ask EBA”
+ Sensational cinematography of Oreki’s drab world and its contrast, captivating art and animation
– “Just another episode” ending; no satisfying conclusion
I can’t believe I finally got to watch Hyouka! Uf, and what a splendor it was. For the café, Hyouka is a solid 8/10 with a superior caffe mocha rating! It’s a real bummer that, at this point, there is no English localization of the anime (WHY HASN’T ANYONE PICKED THIS UP). While I encourage you to watch it if you have a hankering-for-a-tinkering with some mystery drama, the only way to find it is through fansubs, meaning not-so-legal streaming. Only watch it if that kinda thing doesn’t bother you. To those who have, what did you think of Hyouka? “Watashi KININARIMASU!” *Oreki: . . . shit.* Thanks for reading, keep an eye out for thieves hangin’ around your club room, huehuehue, and until next time, this has been
– Takuto, your host