May 28, 2015
Hyouka (Anime) add (All reviews)
Kirik0h (All reviews)
High school – It is probably not incorrect to suggest that this is the most ubiquitous setting for anime nowadays. Yet even amongst the endless swathes of high school anime that inevitably centre around cute high school girls, there are always exceptions and Hyouka is one of them.

We find ourselves in the Classic Literature Club of which Oreki Houtarou, our energy-conserving protagonist is reluctantly a member and is soon joined by his eclectic group of friends, thus completing the groundwork for this “mystery” anime. When one considers what constitutes a “mystery” show, it is often associated with preconceptions of crime, horror and eerie suspense but Hyouka is not your typical mystery show as it centralises on mysteries of little real-life consequence. These aren't mysteries whose resolution will lead to justice being carried out but mysteries whose consequence lies in how it affects our characters. Nonetheless, Hyouka excels at executing these mysteries and in an atypical manner, with each of our main characters bringing a unique perspective in solving these mysteries, making the process fascinating as we observe the quirky and unpredictable methodologies being used.

Hyouka does not have one unrealistically prodigious detective that can unravel and deconstruct even the most intricate of puzzles but a range of characters, some unique to each case, that all contribute key aspects leading to the solution. This makes for a more fulfilling and genuine resolution as you feel part of the process rather than a bystander in awe of some amazing detective. The solutions themselves are meticulously well-written and thus accurate and realistic yet simultaneously complex making you feel slightly more intelligent by the end of every one. Some may find the lack of ramification in the mysteries innately boring as the characters aren’t actually usually directly involved in them, for they act for their own various reasons but they at least create a desire for you to solve them.

However, what makes Hyouka so enjoyable is not the satisfaction of decrypting it all but the development of our 4 main characters throughout each one. Hyouka is an exemplar of how the high school slice of life genre could be achieved as the relationships between our characters are captivating yet incredibly realistic with each action remaining true to the psyche of high schoolers and the ways they make decisions. The pacing is slow but constant and we can see a smooth progression in the development of our characters which tackle real-life issues that high schoolers face but nonetheless in a Hyouka-esque fashion, usually amongst the mysteries. Besides the hyperbolised curiosity of our female lead, the dialogue is extremely genuine and for me at least, indistinguishable from your real life conversations with friends at school. As the characters interact more with one another and face their problems, we are shown a vast array of emotions and considerable depth to their actions and motivations which are relevant, accurately portrayed and likely to be issues that you yourself may have faced.

On the technical aspects, Kyoto Animation (Kyoani) must be lauded for how brilliantly Hyouka is presented. The atmosphere is prominently compelling with both the visuals and the sound contributing vastly in creating a well-constructed universe that entirely fits Hyouka’s quirkiness. The animation is also of the best I’ve seen – be it the expressions, movements or the background/setting -they are all smoothly animated with appropriate lighting and colour palette to fit the tone of each episode. Hyouka’s episodes are visually stunning to behold in particular when mysteries are being solved, as it involves the use of experimental animation that diverges completely from the usual crisp style to a tailor-made style suited for each different mystery. To top it off, complementing this is a fantastic soundtrack that consists of light instrumental pieces which further amplifies the ambience in each situation. The majority of the pieces share a "playful mystery" theme and whilst lacking in variety, the entire musical score is definitely a strong one that can instantly be identified as "Hyouka's OST" rather than forgettable music which lacks the identity of the show it aims to enhance.

Ultimately, I feel Hyouka is an excellent anime. For me, it fell slightly short simply due to the sense of incompletion in the way the show ends. I say no more to avoid spoilers but if you do watch it you may find out. If you’re looking for a unique mystery or slice of life show whose fortes lie in its characterisation, production values and its take on the mystery aspect - this is one to watch. If you’re however looking for a serious mystery (à la Death Note) then this might not be for you as the satisfaction you receive derives from observing how these mysteries are solved rather than the fear of heavy consequences, and the impacts each one has on the development of our characters. Some anime attract an audience through heavy fanservice, others via an action-packed plot and others with a deep/profound plot. However, Hyouka is an anomaly. It shows us how even seemingly mundane things can be made fascinating. Whilst I obviously cannot guarantee you'll enjoy it, if you’re looking for a distinctly novel anime experience in either mystery or slice of life, then I’d wholeheartedly recommend Hyouka.

Thanks for reading if you got this far!