"If I don't have to do it, I won't. If I do have to do it, make it quick," is the basic principle by which energy conservationist Houtarou Oreki lives. But after his sister convinces him to join the Classics Club, Houtarou's life is turned upside down when he meets Chitanda, a perpetually-inquisitive girl who challenges the boy's easygoing existence. Intrigued by the slightest hint of a mystery afoot, Chitanda doesn't hesitate to pester the reluctant yet highly analytical Houtarou into satisfying her curiosity at every turn, no matter how small the problem. Alongside fellow members Satoshi and Ibara, the group tackles cases ranging from a self-locking classroom door, a strangely-popular library book, and even the shadowy history of the very club to which they belong!
Well, it tried, I'll give it that.Hyouka, also known as "Hyou-ka: You Can't Escape" (a title that basically means nothing) is the latest series by acclaimed studio Kyoto Animation, who, despite their huge fanbase, generally produce work of more style than substance. Hyouka unfortunately follows this trend, though superficially it doesn't fit in with the rest of KyoAni's back catalogue very much. Hyouka is generally very dry in tone... which pairs up somewhat poorly with KyoAni's signature over-the-top style.Hyouka is a mystery series, revolving around four high school students in the Classic Literature Club (an aimless club that happens to end up solving mysteries a lot). The students in question are main character Oreki Houtaro, whom I am about 99% certain has some form of autism. He has zero interest in socialising, fun, or... well, anything. He deliberately tries to live life as uninterestingly as possible. This is hampered a bit by him being insanely gifted at solving mysteries. This gift goes untapped until he meets Chitanda Eru, a plucky, cheerful girl with an insatiable curiosity who refuses to let the even the smallest of mysteries go unsolved. They are joined by Satoshi Fukube, a cheerful happy-go-lucky human database simply full of useless facts who is seemingly Oreki's only friend prior to the series, and Mayaka Ibara, a library assistant who's known Oreki since childhood, who is probably the most level-headed member of the cast.Now, remember how I said Eru refused to let even the smallest of mysteries go unsolved? Well... that's the big problem Hyouka has. The mysteries really are the smallest of mysteries. Each and every one revolves around a very trivial subject, and just about all of them could have gone unsolved without any real problems. Something so down to earth could in theory have been a good idea, but unfortunately Hyouka doesn't really deliver. As a result, Hyouka is, in a word... dull. With the exceptions of one or two mysteries, Hyouka totally fails to be entertaining.But that isn't to say they didn't go the extra mile to make Hyouka more interesting. KyoAni's huge animation budget is flexed quite a bit. Random quirks in the presentation show up every now and then when Oreki is explaining his theories, sometimes in rather trippy fashion. The unusual techniques in the directing aren't limited to these, though. Hyouka plays around with angles and closeups a lot, to try and make every scene more dramatic.It doesn't work.While they occasionally spice up a scene a little bit, they really don't do much to save Hyouka from being very, very bland. And often, the harder they try, the worse it gets. It's most "dramatic" moments end up being, if anything, idiotic for how hard they're trying to sell something so insignificant.Directing techniques aren't the only thing in Hyouka intended to spice things up, though. Character-driven subplots are also involved. All of Hyouka's cast members are likeable, if nothing special... though Oreki's disinterest with everything can be irksome, and Chitanda can be more saccharine than cute sometimes. Romantic subplots flare up between the characters, as well as some mild feelings of envy from Fukube towards Oreki, and these would all help a lot more if it wasn't for the fact that all of this goes absolutely nowhere and amounts to nothing. Just like the directing techniques, it's an attempt to spice it up that at best is a mild amusement, usually falls flat, and at worst, is simply idiotic.With all that having been said, Hyouka is not bad. But it certainly is not good either. At the end of the day it is simply very average. But there are really much better wastes of your time out there than Hyouka.Final Words: For the biggest of mystery enthusiasts and diehard KyoAni fans only.Story/Plot: 5/10Characters: 5/10Animation/Art: 8/10Music: 5/10Acting: 7/10Overall: 5/10For Fans Of: UN-GO, Gosick
In 2010 there was this weird explosion around a subgenre most didn’t care about until then. Anime with loli detectives started to sprout like mushrooms all over the place as if all of a sudden they were the coolest brand new trend every animation studio just HAD to be part of. Here is the list:I.G.: Loups=GarousJ.C. Staff: Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, Heaven's Memo PadGainax: Dantalian Bones: Un-Go, GosickSilver Link: Tasogare Otome x AmnesiaI have no idea what had gotten over them; no indication was offered at how this would work, and not even one of them ended up being above average. After a few months of ridiculous hype most in the fandom didn’t care about them either. It’s as if a representative of every studio gathered on the same table and had a bet regarding who is going to do the worst show. Apparently the next one who pulls the same gimmick is Kyoto Animation with Hyouka. Let’s see how much they phailed. First of all, if you are suckers for that K-On moe style then you will love this show. The budget is over the roof and it looks amazingly detailed, lively, fluent, and cute. Voice acting and music pieces are also good for what they aim to accomplish (making you feel fluffy inside). If though you are one of those who like some originality, then you won’t find any in here. Nothing we haven’t seen before and in my eyes it’s just a watered down combination of Haruhi’s motivational gimmicks and K-On aloof characters. It’s the same school grounds and moe styled artwork we’ve been getting for a decade and I was constantly waiting for Haruhi to bump on them at some point. It’s the exact same artwork and even the sceneries are identical, so why not? And sure, I’m not saying it is ugly or tiresome, just that it looks so similar with older titles by the same company and it feels like a rehash. I’ve seen that already; try something a bit different dammit! But then again, if it sells, why change it? The story is slice of life around four cute teenagers and some really shitty mystery cases no sane person would care for more than two seconds about. Their seriousness is of the same level as “Why did the chicken cross the road” and the answers will always be something like “Because it saw a worm on the other side.” And the award for the most boring mystery cases of all times goes to Hyouka! As for the rest of the non-mystery duration, it is spend on getting to know the characters. It is supposed to be a motivational show of sorts, since the main character is bored to death and yet doesn’t want to do anything with his life, until a cute girl spurs him to be part of activity clubs, and mysteries, and stuff. He constantly ignores her but she is thrilled with his supernatural ability to figure out fast things like why birds cross roads, so she is constantly begging him to give her explanations. Talk about patting a certain type of people too much in the back. Are you an anti-social person, with a rosy but otherwise boring life? Someone who deep inside feels you are charismatic and people of the opposite sex should be very interested in you, even if you act like an uncaring person that would normally make everybody to be fed up with you? Then Hyouka is the show for you! Now, I am not going to say I hated the whole thing, since it is not just comedy and storyless cuteness. Every episode offers a sort of progress as we get to learn more about the characters. The thing is there is very little of that, as most is just about carefree moments and moe-moe smiles. Whenever Chitanda is looking at the screen with those starry eyes of hers, you just want to hug her. There is no escape from that feeling. So it is very important to approach the whole thing from the proper angle; don’t see it as a gripping mystery show with some moe people, but rather a moe show with silly mysteries and subtle character immersion. If you go for the later HEY THERE IS MORE THAN MOE IN HERE! And that is the only reason why anyone should care about this one a bit more than most of anything else in the same genre. Too bad it has no espers, time travellers, or aliens since it is trying to be as realistic as possible … to the point of boredom. Not that it would be definitely better if it had but it sure feels underwhelming as a setting. It’s still just a school with some teenagers and a bunch of shitty mysteries. SNORE! There isn’t much of a story or even a solid ending, plus everybody’s backdrop and personality can be described in three lines. So it’s one of those relaxing shows where you are watching for the sake of not thinking and just feeling woozy with the cute faces Chitanda does every two minutes. It’s definitely not my cup of tea but compared to all the other loli detective shows, it’s using what it has in a better way. There are no magical or technological nonsense and the missions are not murder cases solved in 10 minutes and treated like nothing much happened. The mysteries are also just a light excuse for the characters to do something and open up to one another in the long run, it gives them a goal other than studying for school and growing older without doing anything with their lives. It does it in a very subtle way but it feels ten times better to having a NEET loli detective spying people through cameras or a boy transforming to a woman and brainwashing the culprits to admit they did it (you know what I mean if you watched those horrible shows). Thus KyoAni gets the last place in that bet they all made around the worst loli detective show. That’s right, it has the most undermined detective aspect, thus it wins for not having anything to screw up. Since there is no real tension, danger, or major goal in this show, it just can’t mess up no matter what it does in the end with its own premise. That is the dreaded power of moe; it is never wrong. Just boring as hell, something of which tens of millions of people are so fond of. After a hard day full of exams, deadlines, school bullies, demanding teachers, nagging supervisors, and gang shootouts, you return home, sit down, and relax by watching a show where all you need to think about is why did a chicken cross the road. Oh, right, and melt every time Chitanda smiles. If you watch anime to feel excitement or make your mind think in strange ways, keep the hell away from this. Slice of life fans can have a big party out of it. Oh, and Oreki? If you don’t want to waste any energy, you will miss the chance to score with super cute Chitanda, who is so more than obviously all over you. Die virgin and let me have her, ok? And Chitanda, are you by any chance really curious to find out about the mystery of where do babies come from? And now for some excused scorings. ART SECTION: 9/10 General Artwork 2/2 (well made) Character Figures 1/2 (generic) Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series) Animation 2/2 (very smooth) Visual Effects 2/2 (nice cinematics) SOUND SECTION: 9/10 Voice Acting 3/3 (fitting perfectly with the feeling of the series) Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series) Sound Effects 3/3 (fine support in cinematics) STORY SECTION: 2/10 Premise 0/2 (boring) Pacing 1/2 (slow) Complexity 1/2 (not much) Plausibility 0/2 (too ideal to feel plausible) Conclusion 0/2 (doesn’t exist) CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10 Presence 2/2 (super cute) Personality 2/2 (cheesy but well founded) Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there) Development 1/2 (subtle but it’s there) Catharsis 0/2 (doesn’t exist) VALUE SECTION: 3/10 Historical Value 0/3 (none) Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot) Memorability 2/4 (a well made slice of life show but nothing worthy to remember it past that) ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10 Art 1/1 (looks great) Sound 1/2 (sounds ok) Story 0/3 (what story?) Characters 2/4 (sweet but that is all) VERDICT: 5.5/10
There is something genuinely shocking to me about how highly I think of this anime. I stumbled upon it believing it would be fun for a couple of laughs. Yet, I feel like I have actually stumbled onto one of my favorite animes this year. The story begins with Houtarou, a boy with no other purpose in life but to conserve energy. He eventually ends up joining the "Classics club", and meeting Chitanda, a girl so fascinated with all of life’s mysteries that Houtarou ends up having to find an answer to all of her curiosities. At first, I thought this story would be a watered down Sherlock Holmes. It's a bunch of high school kids solving small time mysteries. Yet, as the episodes go along I found myself drawn into these little mysteries. They don't have to over sell themselves. These high school kids aren't trying to find a murderer or save the world from certain destruction. They’re solving mysteries in their school, their community, their families etc. These feel like realistic every day mysteries that most people often ignore, accepting that these little inconsistencies are just part of life. This show has brought out the charm in the mundane. The animation snuck up on me with the realization of how brilliant it is. The settings and characters are average normal places and people. On the surface they may not seem like much. However, the amazing amount of detail put into the animation is astounding. I rarely see animation where the animators bother to have a character change gears on his bike, let alone let the audience see the inner mechanisms of the bike reacting to the gear shift. In another episode, the lighting changed slightly due to the setting of the sun. Yet it changed everything about the scene. The characters all of a sudden seemed to glow with an inner light and it changed the focus of the whole scene. I am an art major and I have done some animating before. It has made me realize that simple things like light changes can actually be a pretty major undertaking as well as animating the small details that most people don't notice. Ultimately, most animators let the little things go by the way side because it’s too much effort to animate that little change in the sun, the boy changing his pencil lead, that little reflection off the window etc. However, this anime has taken great care to animate the small actions that most take for granted. Once again, even in the animation the creators are elevating the mundane to something almost glamorous. The voice acting is pretty wonderful in my opinion. Each character feels distinctive to me without feeling overworked. Anime, for me, is usually like taking the amp on real life and cranking it up to 10. This anime doesn't do that. It scales everything back and settles you into this world. I feel like the voices do that really well as well as the music. It doesn't call a lot of unnecessary attention to itself and really blends well with the scene as a whole. The characters really grew on me. In the beginning, the characters appeared very one dimensional and stayed that way for the first few episodes. I had resigned myself to the characters being mediocre until they started to change. Their personalities begin to alter in small ways that some may not notice. However, I pay special attention to characterization so it really stuck out to me. Now that I have finished the series, I actually went back and watched the first episode over again just to see how much the protagonist had grown. Ultimately, this is a story of a boy who is coming to understand that he has a gift. He has denied any sort of skill whatsoever so seeing him learn more about his own talent is actually pretty fascinating. This is one of my favorite aspects of the series; its choice of main character. Houtarou is very introverted and chooses not to talk to other characters about himself. Yet, he is likeable enough that other characters end up talking more, which makes potentially boring characters more interesting. However, since he is the main character, we also have access to his inner thoughts, giving us a deeper understanding of his character than the people around him. Chitanda's character needed some work. She spends a vast majority of the series feeling more like a plot device to cause drama within the story. She is the one who, a majority of the time, forces the other characters to solve the mystery by harassing them into it. She actually does get a lot more depth to her character, but only in the last episode. If they had started bringing out these plot threads in the 6th or 7th episode I would have probably loved her character. As it is, I dealt with over 20 episodes of this character and the addition of actual depth came far too late. I am incredibly fascinated with the relationship between Houtarou and Satoshi. The creators did an excellent job of developing a straining friendship and what it actually feels like. Ultimately, I don't love Satoshi's character by himself. The only part of his character that comes out in other scenes tends to be that he is an encyclopedia of facts and that he is outgoing and generally pretty positive. But as soon as he is put in a scene with Houtarou, it becomes truely fascinating. Houtarou simultaneously brings out the best and worst of this character, which made me absolutely love any interaction between them. I will admit that this is not a typical anime and I can see how some people would call it boring. There are no fight scenes. There is no melodrama. There aren't any villains... or heros for that matter. What this anime does have is an appreciation for real life. It reminds me of the days when a gust of wind will blow by and I will stop walking out of sheer joy to feel it across my face. Like I said before, this anime appreciates normal life and focuses on everything we stopped paying attention to because we saw it every day. This anime is perfectly summed up by Chitanda's catch phrase "I am curious!"
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