Hyouka Review

“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.

Rating
Story: A
Character: A+
Art: A
Animation: B+
Sound: A-

Final Score
9/10

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This entry was posted by Kai.

8 thoughts on “Hyouka Review

  1. While the mysteries were simplistic at time, the character interaction is what made it very entertaining to watch, especially for Houtarou’s development as he gradually drives away from his low-energy life style he wanted thanks to Eru. Even so, the development of their relationship is quite facinating, especially with the mystery about Eru’s Uncle and the festival mystery with the missing items. It looked that they have a romantic relationship, but they don’t make the confession too apparent as seen in the last episode.

    Still, I think Kyoto Animation did a great job adapting Hyouka with it’s production value and music… The music was interesting for the fact that it used classical music and it fit quite well for the appropriate moments.

    • While there was mysteries, it was more about the characters. Indeed, even though he kept self-proclaiming that he wanted to be in the “gray” part of his life, another part of him keeps wanting to enter the “rosy-colored” life. Satoshi was still indecisive but he managed to make his decision nearly towards the end. A part of Hyouka’s themes is accepting another part of oneself, which I think they done quite brilliantly. Yep, mundane to the very end eh? How very Hyouka-ish.

      It’s the classics club after all, so classical music is the way to go (same pun, but just can’t help it xD)

  2. I did enjoy Hyouka for what it was. My quip every week after I see the episode would be “Taking the mundane and making it interesting!” It eventually evolved from that a bit in the second half and was a pretty solid anime series that was fairly enjoyable.

  3. Considering that I seriously disliked this anime at first, I was very sad when the last episode ended.

    I guess it wasn’t the cup of tea I would choose in the first place, I like slice of life, but then it should be filled with more activities instead of 4 students sitting in a room and talking about mysteries nobody would care about :D

    Houtarou was the only reason why I didn’t drop this as fast as possible, I liked his lazy attitude and that he didn’t wanted to waste his brain capacity on such lame mysteries. Chitanda was a funny character, she was quite enchanting and like portrayed in one of the openings she pulled him out of his shell, this alone was a very nice part of this show. Well, before I noticed it all the characters really grown on me, and I enjoyed the interactions between them. But I still think that Satoshi is dangerous ;p

    Aside from the curiosity torwards little mysteries, these teenagers were portrayed in a very nice and believable way.
    With their struggles they were pretty much down to earth, what I found to be a very likeable aspect of Hyouka.

    Aside from my aversion torwards solving these simple mysteries Hyouka changed my opinion on it with every episode, in the end it was a lovely experience I wouldn’t want to have missed. Also the animations were awesome and I loved all the songs there, from the soundtrack I liked this little detective jazz piece ” de dem dem dem” something like that ^^

    • I can’t say it was really my favorite myself, the plot’s not the best and I’m not even sure about the concept of making the everyday mundane life into a mystery. But in the end it works well, and the dialogue and characterization is top-notch.

      Houtarou is definitely my favorite character of the show as well. “Save your energy and blast ahead of things you need to do”, that’s what I learn from him and it matches well with my “shotgun” method of doing things xD I think what’s the best is that Houtarou and Chitanda is like fire and water, both completely different, but that contrast is what made these show’s characterization so epic. Indeed, after all, Satoshi knows everything :D

      Indeed, we can “connect” to them, and feel their struggles, it’s one of Hyouka’s main strength.

      I definitely would had missed out big time if I decided to skip it out. Ironically, I tend to have much higher expectations for Amnesia (another mystery anime releasing in the same seaon) and it’s ironic that it’s another anime that I had less expectations of winning my favor. Hyouka’s music is certainly top notch but I’m not sure what piece you’re talking about :D What I liked best are still the classical pieces (me and my classical, lol)

  4. Pingback: Kai And Oreki Houtarou – The Energy Conservationist Style « deluscar

  5. Pingback: The Significance of Foil Characters | deluscar

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