Final Review: Hyouka

DISCLAIMER: Anime reviews on this blog will attempt minimal to no spoilers unless other noted. If a review seems dull or shallow, it’s because I’m trying to make sure not to go into too detail for those who are actually interested in the show before or after reading the review or those who have yet to finish the title. If you want further details, there are usually tons of reviews that can be found elsewhere on the internet. Furthermore, anime reviews in general are the sole opinion of the author writing it and thus differ across the users. There is no such thing as a “right answer” only a majority agreement. You are free to have your own opinions and thereby free to state and/or argue/debate in the comments section below or on the Fansub TV Forums. The review is not necessarily meant to serve as a recommendation but rather a personal opinion of having completed the series.

Hyouka is based on a light novel that began running in 2001. The series aired during the Spring and Summer 2012 anime seasons and boasted incredibly staff credentials. From the staff as well as the light novel author of Full Metal Panic! and the highly acclaimed animation studio, Kyoto Animation, Hyouka was considered a “set in stone to be good” title….or so many thought. Whether the series held up to this standard is something that will be analyzed in this review. The series follows four high school students, particularly Houtarou Oreki, who is forced by his elder sister to join the classic literature club. There he meets the beautiful yet mysterious Eru Chitanda, who is curious in the finest details of things she lacks knowledge in. How will Houtarou, the energy-saving boy, deal with  Eru, the Kininarimasu girl?

The story…it involves “simple” yet “not so simple” mysteries. If you’re confused by that already, then congrats, you’re probably not alone. The mysteries in this show are solved in a rather complex but, to some extent, interesting manner. They take into account a variety of possibilities when drawing conclusions as well as the most extreme cases. This may at first seem completely unnecessarily even for the simplest mysteries in this show but is in fact what makes this show so much more interesting. The mysteries are thoroughly detailed both in setup and explanation and take what seems like a simple “daily life” moment and makes it “kininarimasu.” Now, what’s the problem with this show? It has a lot of transition issues. The show fails to ever decide whether it wants to be a slice-of-life title, a romance title, neither, or both. There is literally no flow between one mystery arc and the next, with some exception during the events of the school festival. Secondly, the show has a difficult time keeping up a strong or constant momentum to keep the viewer engaged. Some arcs are a couple episodes while others can span quite a few and entertainment value is incredibly volatile. There also lacks any sort of interesting connections between arcs to really spice up the story. Overall, while the mysteries are certainly interesting, many of them are far from memorable. In fact, you could potentially sum up the series in the first 5 episodes when the club attempts to compile its anthology “Hyouka.” In terms of conclusion, it’s really no more than a one shot so it doesn’t really have an immediate hook nor did it feel like a proper conclusion. However, you could say it was a beautiful in its own right I guess.

Art and animation are both fantastic for title. While just shy from being perfect due to a bit of animation inconsistencies, it’s one show in the past cour or two that has demonstrated extraordinary detail and fluidity in all departments. From backgrounds to character designs and basic movement to eye-candy visuals, Kyoto Animation and co. have demonstrated their strong presence in the animation industry once again, especially after the flop that Nichijou was a year ago. In one way, you could see it as making up for not being able to animate Little Busters….nah, that’s not good enough of an excuse.

The first OP is probably my most favorite theme of the series followed by the first ED. ChouCho continues to demonstrate that she is an incredible singer despite the Oricon ranking not reflecting this (kind of like eufonius in a way). The second pair of OP/ED really never caught my attention. They’re “cutesy” in a way and fitting with the series but by no means good songs. Seiyuu wise, Yuuichi Nakamura did a fantastic job as Houtarou and Satomi Satou made wonders with Eru. Sound effects and background music were also all fitting with the series and above average.

Enjoyment? The mysteries are certainly interesting but generally forgettable due to a lack of any references to them from other arcs. Longer arcs definitely had a greater impact and were more interesting to watch. The show definitely stood out above recent titles like GOSICK and Kami-sama no Memochou due to more clear cut and believable explanations as well more difficult to read mysteries. I should also note that the “difficult to read mysteries” are least solvable if thought carefully whereas in say GOSICK, you can sit around for a bit and not quite get the same conclusion deduced in the show. However, unlike the aforementioned titles, there was no significant plot continuity making not only  the rewatchability of this show at a low but also difficult to really get properly engaged in. On the other hand, one would think this means it’s easier to watch certain arcs only. Unfortunately, there are some things like the “Hyouka” anthology that do carry over to future arcs despite not playing any significant role in the plot. The reference to the anthology may confuse those who skipped over that arc, hence it’s not all fun and games when trying to skip around.

Overall, the show has a little bit of value. It’s more down to earth than titles The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Mawaru Penguindrum and contains significantly more substance than titles like K-ON!, Kami-sama no Memochou, or GOSICK. However, it fails to really grab proper attention. Had it fixed this and found a foundation for its overarching story it may have been a far more memorable and enjoyable title. Maybe there is an overarching story that we haven’t gotten to yet (particularly regarding Houtarou’s sister) but at the moment, I’m not convinced that there is one and if there is, the staff did a pretty poor job at trying to bring it out in approximately 2 cours worth of episodes. There’s no direct recommendation that I could give over this title as very few titles (if any) can really fit with Hyouka’s indecisive set of genres. However, Kokoro Connect comes to mind first (maybe because of character designs and similar animation styles)  and is literally worth your time more than this.

 

Story and Character:

  • Premise (0.5/1): Nice setup in terms of rational deductions. Uninteresting premise overall though.
  • Character Personalities (1/1): Interesting set of characters
  • Character Development (0.5/2): Not much. The show used more of a tell than show technique making it really difficult to accept anything a character says about his/her past.
  • Character Usefulness/Presence (1/2): Main cast is relatively small and memorable. If anything, however, Oreki is really the only useful character in the show.
  • Pacing: (1/1): Nothing really wrong with it. Just no proper connections.
  • Reasonable/Plausible (2/2): The best thing that the show excels at. Logical conclusions is something I always like to see in an anime and this show takes that one step further by thinking outside of the box yet within proper reason!
  • Conclusion (0/1): Story wise, it doesn’t add value. Didn’t feel like a conclusion of any sort.
  • Total: 6/10

Art and Animation:

  • Backgrounds (2/2): Very well done
  • Character Designs (2/2): Appropriate for the context. Mayaka and Satoshi look a bit too similar but still manageable
  • Fluidity (1/2): Some inconsistencies
  • Visuals/Special Effects/Flashiness (2/2): Beautiful.
  • Art and Animation “Expectation” (1/2): Kyoto Animation showing that it can bring Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya level of animation to a full TV series. After Nichijou flopping, it’s about time KyoAni went back to their roots, not to mention what they were good at. K-ON! looked better than this though, which is a disappointment on KyoAni’s end
  • Total: 8/10

Sound and Music:

  • OP/ED/Insert Themes (1.5/3): First OP was fantastic. First ED was okay. Second OP and ED were boring.
  • Background Music (1.5/2): Above average.
  • Sound Effects (1.5/2): Above average
  • Seiyuu (3/3): Great seiyuus bringing out the best in their characters. Yuuichi Nakamura and Satomi Satou were great as Oreki and Chitanda.
  • Total: 7.5/10

Enjoyment:

  • Amusement (1.5/2): It has its perks. Chitanda’s “Kininarimasu” was always great to watch.
  • Weekly/Next Episode Anticipation (1/2): When they were length arcs, things were actually interesting. When they were one-shots, not so much.
  • Presentation (1/2): Lots of room for improvement. Arcs happen chronologically and can’t be picked up individually despite feeling “episodic”
  • Re-watchable (0.5/1): Some for the interesting deduction process.
  • Recommendation (1/2): Hyouka is kind of unique in its own right. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Kami-sama no Memo-chou are the likely the closest examples in recent memory.
  • Value (0.5/1): Overhyped and overrated. Has some value due to its rational deductions.
  • Total: 5.5/10

Preliminary Score: 7/10

Final Score: 7/10

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