Hyouka Anime Review
Written by: ClayDragon
“If I don’t have to do it, I won’t. If I have to do it, I’ll make it quick.” This is the motto of Houtarou Oreki, a normal but lazy student who joins the empty Classics Club at school simply so he’ll have a room to himself in which he can relax. Unfortunately for him, the walking bundle of curiosity known as Eru Chitanda also joins the club, and continually ropes Houtarou – who has an almost Sherlockian level of deductive abilities – into helping to satisfy her curiosity.
|Words of wisdom.|
Hyouka is a mystery anime with slice-of-life elements, although unlike some other series in the same genre, the mysteries presented here are somewhat more mundane. There are no murders or crimes committed, instead most of the questions that drive the plot are more low-key and are started by Chitanda seeing or hearing something that sparks her interest, which then causes her to rope in the rest of the Classics Club to help her.
However, despite the mysteries in this series being somewhat ordinary, that doesn’t mean that they’re dull or uninteresting. Unlike Gosick (another mystery anime), all the clues are dropped throughout the episodes, so it’s entirely possible for the audience to come to the same conclusion as Houtarou either when he solves the mystery, or even before him if you’ve been paying enough attention.
The deductive processes that Houtarou uses to answer the questions are simple and believable, and they don’t require any wild leaps in logic. For example, he’s able to deduce the meaning and context behind an ordinary school announcement asking a pupil to go to the headmaster’s office, despite not knowing anything else about the situation except for what was in the announcement itself. He does this simply by analysing the nature, time and content of the broadcast, and then bounces a few ideas off of Chitanda before settling on a conclusion that turns out to be 100% correct.
The four main characters in the series are another strong point. Houtarou is very easy to identify with, primarily because all he wants to do is go through life expending as little energy as possible. On the other hand, Chitanda is incredibly active and always seeks out new mysteries to solve, with creates a nice contrast between the two main characters. The Classics Club also consists of Satoshi Fukube, Houtarou’s best friend who leads a more involved and interesting life, and Mayaka Ibara, a girl who helps out in the school library.
Whilst it’s easy to talk about how Houtarou and Chitanda develop as the series progresses, it’s a little harder when it comes to Satoshi and Mayaka. Despite being a likable and somewhat interesting character, Satoshi doesn’t develop much over the course of the series, and Mayaka often gets sidelined. However, with regards to Satoshi, it doesn’t take a lot of thought to see that he’s the main reason that the Classics Club stays together, as he mediates the arguments between Houtarou and Mayaka, as well as encouraging Chitanda’s curiosity, which then causes Houtarou to get more involved in the club activities. Sadly, Mayaka doesn’t have a role like this, and as such she ends up seeming like a wasted character.
Hyouka’s plot is pretty good too. Most mysteries have a multi-episode arc that focuses on the club as they attempt to solve it, with some smaller mysteries being contained to one episode. Both formats work equally well, although there was one arc in particular which contained an awful lot of plot points and parallel storylines, which made it very hard to follow. Another slight problem is that some of the mysteries require a familiarity with the Japanese language, and any non-Japanese speaker (such as myself) might be left feeling a little confused.
The openings are both good, and although the second opening is a bit of a step down compared to the first, it’s still enjoyable. However, the best feature of Hyouka is, without a doubt, the presentation. The animation is beautiful, the backgrounds are detailed and vivid, and the music captures each scene perfectly. Go to YouTube, search for the first opening, turn the quality to 1080p and you'll see what I mean. There are even pieces of classical music playing in the background occasionally, such as “Air on the G-String” by Bach.
|Now everything just seems dull in comparison.|
One aspect of the animation that bears mentioning is that it quite often changes into a completely different style, usually when Houtarou is explaining the circumstances behind the mystery or his explanation of it. It’s a nice touch, and it works to clarify the situation a lot better than if the characters were just sitting around and talking to each other On a somewhat unrelated note, each character's eyes are animated really well. It's a weird thing to mention, but they're more detailed and full of life than in other series.
Overall, Hyouka is a worthwhile watch. The mysteries are fun, the characters are likable, and the plot is interesting. There are a few issues though, such as the fact that Mayaka doesn’t get enough screentime and the occasional over-reliance on Japanese. The ending is a bit of a letdown as well, as there isn’t really a suitable climax. Nevertheless, it’s still a good show, and the animation and sound make Hyouka one of (if not the) best-presented anime I’ve seen.
|Sadly, this isn't the weirdest costume he's worn.|
Good Things: Likable main cast.
Fun, solvable mysteries.
The beautiful animation and soundtrack.
A number of emotional moments.
Bad Things: Mayaka’s lack of screentime.
No real ending.
Some mysteries can get very cluttered.
Got a suggestion for an anime I should review? Post it in the comments, or submit it to ask.fm/ClayDragon!
|"Yay! We got a good review!"|
ClayDragon is currently studying Physics at university, and is constantly bewildered by it. The main method of contacting him is his Gmail account at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has an ask.fm account at ask.fm/ClayDragon. When not playing games or reading, he can be found with his head in his hands whilst trying in vain to understand quantum physics. Digimon World 3 is underrated.