“Even if I did win, it was boring. How can it be interesting unless you win in an interesting way?”
I think we can all relate to the fact that life is simply quite boring at times; in our daily routine we often find a serious lack of novelty. However, this is not what our protagonist Houtarou Oreki thinks. If he had his way, every day would pass like clockwork without a worry in the world. After all, he can’t be having his precious energy wasted on nonessential things. At least this is how he thinks until he meets one captivating young lady with an unending curiosity.
At its heart, Hyouka is a story of a couple of adolescents finding novelty in an otherwise mundane high school life. The show is trying to communicate that anything can be interesting as long as you have a bit of curiosity. We follow the four lead characters: Oreki, Satoshi, Chitanda, and Ibara, as they restart the Classics Club at their highschool. In doing so, they explore the mysterious history of the club for their new anthology. Down the rabbit hole they go, as they discover more and more about the events that surrounded a controversial School Fair.
Now that description may have led you to believe that Hyouka is some kind of detective thriller, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The show communicates its themes through a slow burn slice-of-life style. Instead of a structured arc with a clear story direction, Hyouka takes the approach of introducing characters with certain qualities and have the plot points work themselves out. Does this make for the most riveting story possible? No, but it makes it one of the more believable shows out there.
Story - 8
The writing for Hyouka is definitely well done. It isn't meticulously crafted, but as I have mentioned that isn’t the point. As a result, the story is strung together through character development rather than continuing plot points. I would have preferred a more ambitious approach, but the story achieves everything it sets out to. That’s basically how I feel about Hyouka in general. I have no serious criticisms of its education, but the writing can’t be said to have gone truly above and beyond.
Art - 10
On the other hand, the visual presentation of Hyouka is nothing short of phenomenal. It is even more impressive considering that Hyouka was produced in 2012, being one of the first shows to utilize this style from Kyoto Animation. It can be seen as a precursor for the visually stunning shows that came after like Violet Evergarden. The only thing to be desired is for the show to have made more use of visual metaphor toward the end as it had done heavily in the beginning.
Sound - 9
The sound design for Hyouka is similarly unique and a treat to listen to. One thing I greatly appreciate is that the show is not afraid to push the soundtrack to the forefront to capture the viewer’s attention. In most pivotal scenes, the music is instrumental (pun intended) to developing the tone and mood. However, there are a few instances where the music seems tonally dissonant what’s going on screen, but this is understandable considering how ambitious it is.
Characters - 7
The characters of Hyouka are pretty simple and easy to understand, but this doesn’t mean they’re bad at all. Hyouka’s characterization comes more so from the interesting interactions than great inner complexity, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The dialogue is always natural and believable. None of the character decisions presented struck me as poorly presented, but there was a certain lack of a sense of purpose. Yonezawa played everything pretty safe, so while consistently good, the characters aren’t anything really special.
Enjoyment - 7
To be completely honest, the show’s core message of overcoming the mundanity of day to day life didn’t really speak to me. It’s not a struggle that I’ve ever had to go through personally. I do however really enjoy the organic character dynamics that build throughout the story. There is a meticulous attention to detail that I can really appreciate. Hyouka wasn’t necessarily my conceptual cup of tea and I was never itching to watch the next episode, but I can recognize a well-crafted story when I see one.
Overall - 8