I’ve been working hard on this post for a good two months, so you better appreciate this!
I-It’s not like I write reviews for every show and everyone, baka…
Synopsis: Houtarou Oreki is a boy who’d rather live life at his own pace, while Eru Chitanda is a girl who’s constantly curious about everything (“Ki ni narimasu!/I’m interested!” and all that). The two team up to solve mysteries along with the rest of the Classic Literature Club, who Houtarou’s been urged to join at the behest of his older sister.
Source material: Novel by Honobu Yonezawa (ongoing, Hyouka is the name of the first novel in the Kotenbu/Classic Literature Club series)
Main studio: Kyoto Animation
Anime season/s: Spring – Summer 2012
This anime was able to prove to me the flaws of the mystery genre. That is, once you know the answers, the fun gets sucked out of the work. I’m terrible at guessing clues to Detective Conan cases (which is probably why I’ve been a fan of it for so long), so after reading bits and pieces from the Wikipedia page, knowing what was next was both a test of memory and yet sort of annoying…basically, if you’re an anime-only watcher, once you experience it once, it’s probably best not to watch it again. That said, the fact it’s easy to come to sound conclusions when you’re fed clues about the scenario is best attributed to a combination of visuals, direction and storyboarding, which is extremely commendable.
Later on, the red paperclip scenario Houtarou has during the Kanya Festival is amusing. I found it even more amusing than the initial mysteries, since the first one I’d read ahead on and one of the second’s twists was given away by the line provided at the end of the episode (which seems to be the name of the arc), “Why Didn’t She (i.e. Irisu) Ask EBA?” Some of the items Houtarou trades for come across as a bit strange, especially how the water gun is specifically made in the shape of an existing type of gun, but it’s all in the name of plot relevance…at least, I think so.
Speaking of Houtarou, he has some pretty vast development in the first arc or so but then becomes something of a characterisation “blank slate”, making it easier for the viewer to follow many people’s perspectives during the Kanya Festival in particular. Also, Chitanda’s Ki ni narimasu! is definitely a make-or-break trait of hers; that is, you may not like her due to the fact she says her catchphrase so much initially, it almost comes off as unnatural, not to mention I find her voice very high-pitched. Meanwhile, Fukube comes off as the most multifaceted – he’s “a database” but trying to solve mysteries of his own accord, he’s dense but clearly trying to avoid close contact with Mayaka and he has his hands in at least 3 different societies without wearing himself out. How does the guy do it???
Mayaka’s a pretty standard tsundere, but I’m mentioning her separately because I feel like Mayaka was being bullied during the Kanya Festival arc…especially when the dirty water was splashed on to her. I’m not sure if it was intended that way or just trying to exacerbate her disappointment at not being able to show her senpai A Corpse by Evening at that point in time, but it made the atmosphere between her and the Vocaloid-cosplaying members of the Manga Society hard to read…
This work is by KyoAni, so of course it looks pretty stellar. In particular, I thought things like how Chitanda’s eagerness was portrayed as her sprouting dog ears and a tail were nice visual flourishes and added depth to Houtarou’s thought process without being too intrusive. However, episode 20 was extremely dark (visually speaking) at parts, so it stood out in a negative way. Conversely, the haze effect in episode 22 worked really well to convey Oreki’s being lost in the moment and how stunning Chitanda looked.
In regards to music, I find the second ED was the most relevant in regards to going all in on the mystery stuff and the first was plain pointless, as that’s just a love song to the tune of the Classics Club girls sleeping. The OPs didn’t stand out much in comparison, because they were basically selling the SoL aspect of the show rather than the mystery aspect.
Of course, I have to talk about that ending – it wasn’t a bad ending per se, as Chitanda and Oreki do point out visions of the future in an attempt to tie up loose ends that were so open, they couldn’t possibly be resolved in a few minutes. However, it just didn’t feel complete…and that’s a bit of a shame.
- Due to how the Funimation/Crunchyroll split happened days before I got my Secret Santa choices (I got the email on November 11th and the split was November 10th in my timezone), I missed out on watching it on Crunchyroll…! Please be aware of that if you don’t want to watch fansubs of this show.
- Rainbow Parakeet is one of the characters Mayaka cosplays as. Another is Frol from They Were Eleven.
- Tomoe seems to be this series’s stand-in for Mycroft Holmes from the original Sherlock Holmes books. Likewise, “Why Didn’t She Ask EBA?” seems to be a parody on “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?”, which is an Agatha Christie story.
- As of linking the AniList and MAL links to this piece (around the time I watched episode 17), the sources listed the score as being 80%/8.15, which is quite respectable. I do think slightly less of it, though, due to how much less I enjoyed it having learnt some of the key spoilers beforehand.
Hyouka looks gorgeous and you can tell effort has gone into even minute details (both visual and non-visual), but even though it embraces having homages to its genre, it also holds the stereotypical trappings of said genre.
Watch it if you:
- would like a mystery you can guess answers to (provided you go in completely blind)
- would appreciate a show that portrays people’s thought processes in a metaphorical manner, much like how Tsuritama uses drowning as a metaphor for social anxiety
- are a bit of a mystery nut who’s brushed up on Holmes and Christie stories in particular, plus have at least a moderate knowledge of Japanese language and culture to understand where some of the wordplay comes from
Pass on it if you:
- are sick of high school student protagonists, catchphrases and school settings
- are looking for something with more action and violence – the only real violence it has is the student protests, which are only shown through flashback
- want a proper ending – the last few episodes are one-off cases and I was worried there wouldn’t be a proper ending to those, but they resolved themselves just fine. However, after finishing episode 22, that feeling lingered even longer because the show’s conclusion wasn’t 100% resolving loose threads (e.g. did Mayaka and Fukube get together after the chocolate debacle?)
Purchase or watch links/Information sources:
- Crunchyroll (videos no longer there due to the incident mentioned above)