Title: Hyouka (lit: Ice Cream)
Genre/Themes: Mystery, school, drama
Number of Episodes: 22
Original Creator: Honobu Yonezawa (novel, first volume published in 2001)
Animation Studio: Kyoto Animation
Director: Yasuhiro Takemoto
Oreki Houtarou enters his first year in high school with only one thing in mind; preserving his life motto: “If I don’t have to do it, I won’t. If I have to do it, make it quick.” Unfortunately though, Oreki’s sister has asked him to join the Classics Club, which is on the verge of being disbanded due to having zero members. He meets Chitanda Eru, who was already in the club room. For some reason, Oreki finds himself unable to reject Chitanda’s requests to satisfy her curiosity by solving various mysteries, including the personal affair that prompted her to go to the Classics Club. So Oreki finds himself being dragged into the club by Chitanda along with his two other middle school friends, Satoshi Fukube and Ibara Mayaka.
I’m skipping the ‘General Comments’ section this time as I don’t have anything to say that doesn’t fit into the other paragraphs. Except for that you should ignore the ‘Classics Club’ part and just replace it with ‘Mystery Club’. What the characters are doing is anything but related to ‘classics’.
While Oreki might believe people like him who don’t want a ‘rose-colored high school life’ are rare, the anime world is filled to the brim with characters like him. More often than not are they accompanied by an overactive female protagonist who gets all the attention. Although Hyouka has a charming female protagonist, the spotlight is still mainly pointed to Oreki, who is the person solving all the mysteries. Even the two other characters, Satoshi and Ibara get a fair share of screentime as well.
Being on screen is one thing, being an interesting character is another. Amazingly, all four characters are very enjoyable to watch in my opinion. Oreki inevitably gets some character development as he slowly takes more initiative. Satoshi and Ibara are shown to have inner conflicts and/or own problems as well, raising their roles above the ‘just a support character’. The only character who seems to stay practically the same is Chitanda, although I doubt fans of cute characters find that much of a problem.
Hyouka‘s mysteries mostly originate from in and around the school grounds and are quite ‘ordinary’ stuff. The first mystery for example, involves how Chitanda got locked in the clubroom whereupon Oreki entered the same room by unlocking the door with the key. You might think something like that can’t be that interesting and you may be right. To make things worse, the mysteries aren’t that spectacular or creative. Even for a person like me who hasn’t read/watched a lot of mystery genre, it didn’t impress. However, solving mysteries is less than half of what this show offers; the other big part is watching the character interactions.
There’s no overarching plot that involves all the smaller mysteries. There’re a few longer arcs that span several episodes, but their stories are limited in such a way that it wouldn’t be hard at all for an outside to grasp what’s going on. Except for the relationships and the role of each character. These longer arcs have a single mystery at their centers and slowly build up to a climax where Oreki, after a lot of complaining, takes a few minutes to think before revealing what he thinks happened.
And all well ends well, for the characters that is. But what about the viewers? Well the problem with Hyouka‘s story is that it doesn’t really captivate you. The drama is kind of ordinary and you never feel anything for the ‘culprits’ since they’re never on screen for a long time. A good example of this is the culture festival arc. It was much more enjoyable to watch the events around it (cooking contest) than watching the mystery unfold (some thievery). The mystery felt more like some kind of side-event that the characters decided to solve even though it barely had anything to do with them. The same could be said about most other story arcs; making a big fuss about nothing.
Score and Visuals
Can I just say ‘bland’ for both of them and be done with it? Probably not, so I’ll say this. I can barely remember anything of the BGM. It might be because Hyouka is a show where there is a lot of talking, which doesn’t leave room for dramatic music to be played, not that the plot has a lot of suspense in the first place. The voice acting is so-so, nothing less, nothing more.
Let’s move on to the visuals which are just as uninteresting as the audio. The only stylish parts are the animations at when they’re trying to figure out what happened. That is accompanied by a sudden change in the art style that describes and animates the characters’ thought processes. Other than that though…Let’s say the background art seems to have come straight from K-ON! (being in a school helps too). The same could but said for the characters, but without all the moe-goodness. Maybe for Chitanda…maybe.
You want a down to earth mystery show with high school detectives in a high school club with some high school drama mixed in? Then you might want to watch Hyouka. Are you looking for some simple enjoyment? Well, think twice before watching is my warning. It can get a bit too down to earth. Are you looking for something that will really impress you? Then you are better off looking somewhere else.