Hyouka, Kyoto Animation’s latest finished series, is not for everyone. Ever since it first started airing, the reviews for it were very mixed. I can understand the complaints, but if you manage to get absorbed in the, at times, simplistic mysteries and the cast of interesting characters, it doesn’t take much to realize the value this series has.
On the surface, this is an anime about a Classics Club that solves mysteries. If you don’t already know, these “myseteries” are nothing too grand. They range from things like, “the mystery of the locked door” to “the mystery of the unfinished film”. At a glance, it may not seem all that engaging, but they manage to utilize these stories to their fullest. By that, they create a plausible mystery that gives the audience enough facts to solve it too.
When it comes to anime, I’m sure some may agree this is a rare quality to actually come across (I’m looking at you UN-GO and Gosick!). Though, even with this evident simplicity, the actual solving of it, is always shown as a very complex process. There is a lot of info dump, but considering the answer is never all that obvious, the need to know the answer is nothing to probably keep your interest.
I know it may go without saying, but I just need to point out that the animation in Hyouka is top notch. In terms of the quality in the animation and the creativity, this could easily be considered KyoAni’s best work. All the facts and speculations discussed throughout the detective work, are often teamed with some demonstrative animation that make the visuals in this scene much more interesting, rather than just having four people talk to one another. These visiuals really help to get through some of the more slow, dialogue-filled episodes.
In terms of all the mysteries this show has to offer, I referred to that as only what is on the very surface of what this anime has to offer. For some it’ll be more than enough, but for others, this series also offers a lot of nuanced character development. The characters in this series are extremely complex, and if you look around the internet, you’ll see it isn’t too hard to write a character analysis on any of them. For the most part, within the first arc of the series, each characters flaws are introduced and we are shown what they are striving for in life.
Take for example Houtarou. Yes, he rants about an energy conserving life to no end, but it becomes clear that he doesn’t enjoy this state of mind as much as he likes to tell himself. He talks to Satoshi about how he is “tired of being grey”, and is striving to have that rose-coloured life. Despite the attention to this one line at around episode five, it gets carried on throughout the series, and through the some slow nuanced development throughout each arc, you see the result of this dream.
As for Satoshi, there’s plenty that can be said about him. In fact, he might very well be one of the most interesting and complex characters I’ve seen in an anime in the past three years! In contrast to Houtarou, he says that at a glance he may be considered a character who has a “rose-coloured” life, but that’s hardly the case. To put it simply, he feels he can never be the “main character” by just being the database, and is jealous of Houtarou’s talents and ability to only become better. Of course there are other ways to analyze and that’s just my idea of how to describe the tip of the iceberg to his personality.
Point is, Hyouka not only offers enjoyable mysteries, it has a cast of characters that create another story behind the scenes. Although I only referenced two, the rest of the cast is nearly much of the same. Not to mention, seeing as this is a school anime, main characters aside, plenty of side characters get unique personalities and character design. The amount of effort put into this series is as clear as day.
At the end of the day, despite how long I rant about how much I enjoy this series for however many reasons, for some it’s just going to be too slow moving. To see if this series if right for you, I’d suggest just getting through the first arc and if you like it, you’ll probably like the rest of the series. If it doesn’t appeal to you, well the first arc isn’t much different from what the rest of the series has to offer, so it’s to your own discretion what you want to do. Personally, I was absorbed immediately into the fun antics of the Classics Club with the help of great stories, fantastic characters, clever scripts, and the dash of romance that got thrown into the mix. It hit all the right notes for me!