“An epic tale of an energy conservationist.”
KyoAni has done it again. Animating various gems like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, K-ON and even most of Key’s anime, KyoAni’s newest work, Hyouka, deserves the praise and recognition it receives, and it is certainly a good show worthy to be in the list of KyoAni’s epic productions.
Hyouka follows an apathetic high school boy, Oreki Houtarou, who was somehow forced by his sister to join the Classic Literature Club. The unwilling Houtarou begun his lazy ventures into the club and through his “daily activities”, he meets the other member of the club; the always-inquisitive Chitanda Eru, childhood friend and self-proclaimed database, Fukube Satoshi, and the compassionate Ibara Mayaka.
The anime was categorized as a “mystery” genre and as shown, the classic club’s “daily activities” consists of solving subtle puzzles like the mystery of the door locks, the mystery behind a book in the library and so on. The script skillfully exaggerates on the most minor of details into something major. No other anime had ever spent one whole episode just to figure out why a middle school teacher likes helicopters, none had done like Hyouka and spent a single whole episode figuring out what happened just from a single phrase of a school announcement.
Hyouka is a very minimalistic show and progresses very slow in terms of pacing, but that is one of the highlights of Hyouka’s storytelling. It takes it’s time to develop the plot and the characters, and the “mysteries” of Hyouka serve as an excellent catalyst for character developments. After solving each issues at hand, the characters grow slightly each time and learns another new mentality. The slow pacing made it easy for us viewers to “connect” with the characters, making the developments feel much more realistic.
I also find how contrasting all the main characters are in terms of personalities, and sometimes, contrast creates the best harmony. The four main characters operate in the best chemistry yet; the calm and lazy Oreki Houtarou, the “information-specialist” Fukube Satoshi whose happy-go-lucky facade is more then it seems, the always-curious Chitanda Eru whose personality is almost a direct opposite of Oreki Houtarou and last but not least, Ibara Mayaka whose passions won’t ever lose to anybody else.
Oreki Houtarou, the main protagonist of the story is an energy conservationist or to be blunt, just lazy. He has the mindset of not doing anything unnecessary but if he had to do it, make it quick. A very similar mindset to how I accomplish my tasks which I could certainly relate to, but that will be a discussion for another time. He is the “brain” behind the group as once he is compelled to do so, he easily solves puzzling riddles once he puts his mind to it.
Fukube Satoshi is probably the most controversial character yet. In parallel to Houtarou’s apathetic altitude, Satoshi is bright and cheerful. However, he stopped caring about making accomplishments at some point and just became a “database.” He is however, envious of Houtarou’s talents at times and tried to settle some problems on his own. Needless to say, under that carefree mask of his, he is a much more complex character then initially thought. I made a post about him some time ago so you can check it out if you want.
Chitanda, as MAL puts it, is an embodiment of curiosity. Unlike Houtarou who desires a “gray” life not looking for anything special, Chitanda lives a “rosy-colored” high school life, seeking out anything that strikes her fancy, like a curiosity of a cat. Chitanda plays the role of being the polar opposite of Houtarou, and is very nice to see how much Houtarou had changed just by hanging out with Chitanda.
Last but not least, there’s Mayaka, the last member to join the Classic Literature Club. Aforementioned, is a passionate girl who stayed strong whatever obstacles come in her way, whether or not not it comes to her favorite hobbies, or even love. She defended insults to her favorite things and she had suffered through one year of anxiety due to her previously “rejected” confession. It’s amazing how she could stayed strong and still love the same person despite all that.
The characters in Hyouka is definitely the main highlights of the anime. The depths explored in each of them shows how much focus is being poured onto them. The slow development of the characters make them relatable, especially Houtarou, who had grown into a fine man at the end of the series. It was also nice to see conclusions between Mayaka and Satoshi too.
As for the technical aspect of the anime, I find it interesting how the anime uses abstract visual elements to act as a metaphor of what was currently happening and also symbolizes the character’s present thoughts. KyoAni had always been the one to give details to backgrounds too, and Hyouka is no exception. The details poured into the backgrounds are astonishing, breath-taking and at times awe-inspiring.
Character designs for the characters are a reminiscence of K-ON’s, big eyes and moe-looking. Because of this, Houtarou’s designs in particularly stood out from the rest, since he is one of the very rare character from the cast with unique squinty and “dead-fish” eyes, a reminiscence of Gintoki from Gintama. I guess that’s a given for lazy characters like those eh?
Hyouka’s oldest trick in the book is using exaggerations to reinforce a detail, and the soundtracks played a big part in this as well. Most of the soundtracks are indeed soothing and calming, but I find the use of classical music oddly fitting as well. One example is when Bach’s “Air on the G-String” was being used at the beginning, it reinforces the feeling of entrancement that Houtarou is experiencing, as he is being pulled into Chitanda’s pace. Besides, I don’t see anything wrong with a Classic Literature Club using a classical music (pun intended).
Ultimately, Hyouka is an excellent character-driven show which focuses on four high school students as they slowly grow mentally, accepting a part of themselves they are not willing to accept. Hyouka is a definitely recommended show for fans of slice and life and drama.