Let me begin by admitting that Hyouka is by far one of my favorite series in anime. And while many say that the artwork in the show is one of its best aspects, it is truly seen in its original novel series that that is clearly not the case, and bluntly, it isn’t even needed.
I will refrain from an elaborate review of the first few volumes since KyoAni produced a spectacular adaptation. But for formal review sake, I would simply like to state that these chapters do a wonderful job introducing our beloved characters, and giving life to our favorite Classics Club. Oreki is the same as always and Chitanda is as curious as to her anime counterpart.
However, now the question is how well does the story continue? What have we not seen under the precision and beauty of KyoAni’s production? Well to put simply, it’s the same quality of substances that viewers have already experienced in Hyouka(2012). Currently, there are only two additional volumes that are not part of the animation (except for one chapter about Ogi-sensei and the helicopters).
The first additional volume, or volume 5, is an arc where the Classics Club members are now second years. They attempt to recruit more members and stumble upon an underclassman that seems interested initially. However, her interest suddenly changes and tension is caused between Chitanda and this new character. Oreki utilizes his power of deduction, as he does, to find the reason for her sudden change of heart. These chapters were an interesting read. It gave us a shake up in the cast as well as an entertaining chance to imagine Oreki in his prime environment, the school marathon.
However, what I truly enjoyed was volume 6. Although there is still a slim chance, I still feel disappointed that I probably won’t be able to experience these chapters in an animation form. For an extremely concise summary, these chapters basically dive deeper into our club members (all except for Satoshi - but he already had that Valentine chapter so it’s all good). It gives the spotlight for Ibara and her manga, Oreki and his motto, and Chitanda and her future. While these chapters are episodic, as viewers of Hyouka can expect, it is written superbly, emotionally intriguing, and simply made as a sign of love for the characters.
Throughout the series, we get to see Oreki use his logic in these so-called mysteries that many could argue to be futile or obvious. But what I learned from Hyouka and continue to agree with after reading these two volumes, is simply that the beauty of this series is not in the detective work. The true gem is found within our four curious characters (some more curious than others), their bond, and their ever so subtle development as they enjoy their rose-coloured high school life.
Perhaps I’m being biased. Perhaps the translators deserve the credit by providing improvements, obvious or subtle, to the story (I will never know if this is the case). Perhaps it is naive for me to say that there isn’t anything else like this series in the world (partly because one could say this for any piece of art that hasn’t been struck with copyright infringements, or partly because my experience in (light)novels is meager compared to those who can proudly say they are experienced in this medium).
But perhaps Yonezawa created a series that is actually as magnificent as I believe it to be... yeah, I prefer that one. And if it is true, it gives merit to my review. But alas, since this is a subjective review, as all reviews perhaps are, I believe that my opinion on Oreki’s quasi-idyllic life could be valid and/or useful to other readers who might have stumbled upon this wonderful series, no matter which “Perhaps…” is true.
Although what I’m about to say is unfortunately derived from my pessimistic expectations of Yonezawa, I genuinely hope for the continuation of this wonderful series. Maybe this series was just something for fun. Maybe this series was just a lucky break. But as Irisu-senpai once said, “Everyone ought to recognize their own talents… Or it would be painful to watch for those without”. But maybe the author got bored of the series, or blinded by the rose-colored life he manifested. Or maybe he is lost and is unable to see a clear path for this series to take. If that’s the case, then I give you these wings, Yonezawa, the path might be hidden in the sky. But if you respond as the innocent Chitanda said in the last chapter, “Even though I’m told I now have wings, what am I supposed to do?”, I will take one small step further than Oreki's response by providing a likely obvious answer: just keep writing. The rest is for you to sort out.