Kyoto Animation at its finest.
When Hyouka was airing, I didn’t really understand what it really wanted to do. It was set in high school, which we’ve seen many times before. Some Sherlock Holmes elements were thrown in to spice it up and create a mixture of multiple genres, namely high school slice of life and mystery. I’m not really fond of series that center around high school and take trivial things to a next level without really having any reason to do so.
Nonetheless, the anime community was riveting about Hyouka and I just gave it a minor 7 on MyAnimeList. The thought of me giving Hyouka not the full credit it deserved, crept inside me since it aired. So I decided to take it upon myself and rewatch this gig and see what it’s truly worth. Boy, was I overwhelmed by the brilliance within this show.
Hyouka centers around Oreki, a young lad who is keen on preserving his energy. He’s not lazy, he just doesn’t want to burn up too much fuel to get by. When choosing the classics club, a club inherited from his already graduated sister, he expected a club where he could just doze off. Yet he discovers he’s not the only member as he is joined by Chitanda Eru, a girl with a healthy appetite for mystery and unraveling them.
This puts Oreki in quite the unfortunate position of burning up energy to fill Chitanda’s craving for solving mysteries. Consequently this sparks a character development for Oreki, who more and more gets out of his way and slowly changes into another person. A person who develops romantic feelings and becomes more proactive in helping his peers. It’s a very good narrative that flows steadily along the episodes and while not totally breaking character, he keeps giving in which gives the studio room to play with. Oreki is often portrayed afraid, in humorous fashion, when Chitanda’s curiosity peaks.
The mysteries in Hyouka aren’t from the caliber such as in Gosick, that involved murder and the likes. The scale is different, but the storytelling is what makes or breaks a story. Kyoto Animation uses a unique visual manner to portray the mystery at hand. It varies from mystery to mystery and feels refreshing every time. From gears grinding as a metaphor for the train of thought to still frames with the main cast moving through it,analyzing the scene at hand.
I almost dare to say, that this creativity originates from their less successful franchise Nichijou, which was a bit too niche for comfort. Hyouka is packaged in a more KyoAni friendly smack of paint, making the theme and creative input accessible for a wider audience.
Hyouka follows the familiar Kyoto Animation style. The movements are slick and the colors are bright and sparkly. Especially the attention to detail is noteworthy when focusing on the eyes of Chitanda and Mayaka.
That animation might not be complex and is simply said an extra layer that rotates within the eyes, nonetheless does it create a very unique vibe we don’t see much in anime nowadays. Or ever. This animation technique gives the characters a soul and becomes a narrative to drive the story forwards on a natural pace.
In a separate article I praised the fan service, that really added value to the experience of the viewer. Chitanda is shaped as a very curious type of person, but also has a serious feminine side which pops up every now and again during the during. I really liked this set up from a storytelling point of view.
The soundtrack wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was sufficient to give Hyouka its mystery vibe a little push in the right direction. The opening theme of ChouCho was far out the best of the two used for Hyouka.
Hyouka sets itself apart from the herd with a fresh theme and creative visual storytelling. It mixes high school and mystery with a likeable and convincing cast. It brings depth to the theme by making the mystery a crucial part of the plot and rarely slipping off unless its intended, and even then does it feel like added value. I rate the show a 9 out of 10 for its extraordinary performance.