Hyouka: Thus Far
July 7, 2012 4 Comments
Kyoto Animation is one of the few anime studios where if they make a new anime, I will pick it up no questions asked. KyoAni’s latest addition into the world of anime is Hyouka. Four high school students, Chitanda Eru, Fukube Satoshi, Ibara Mayaka, and Oreki Houtaru reestablish the Classic Literature Club. The basis of what they do is solve mysteries, big or small. Thus far, the show is wavering between somewhat good, and stupidly bad.
So what exactly makes Hyouka somewhat good? Visually, it’s stunning. It is the best looking show this year. For me this is to be expected from KyoAni. But it’s not just the way the characters look or how they move around the world. I’m talking more along the lines of how Takemoto Yasuhiro visualizes the conversations between characters or the thoughts of one character, similar to what he did towards the end of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. Instead of just having characters A, B, and C sitting around conversing with one another, their conversation is animated and presented in a way where the audience can actually see what they are talking about. This is something I do not see all too often in anime and an aspect that I think other anime, old and new, can use to their advantage. Look at episode 9 of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex where Motoko joins a chat room dedicated to the Laughing Man. That entire episode is all the members of the chat room sitting having a round table discussion on different theories of the Laughing Man, each personified by their chat room avatars. The episode itself is filled with nothing but dialogue. If they took the approach of what Hyouka does and actually draw out their conversations on screen, that episode wouldn’t be as long winded as it is. This is what makes Hyouka interesting to watch.
The charaters in Hyouka are actually pretty interesting to watch as well. Oreki and Chitanda are kind of the ying and yang of the series. Oreki is lazy and doesn’t do anything that would “waste energy”. Chitanda is the overly curious and super excited character that drags Oreki into everything that requires some sort of problem solving that piques her interest. But they haven’t really clashed yet at all. There hasn’t been that moment where Chitanda wants to get Oreki to do something and he tells her to fuck off. There is an understanding between the two of them. It’s as if Oreki has been caught in Chitanda’s hair web of curiosity and he is breaking away from his lazy ways. Or maybe, deep down inside, he actually likes getting dragged around my Chitanda. Either way, they are the two most interesting characters in the series. The other two, Ibara and Satoshi, have their own subtle purposes in the show. Aeroblip, AJtheFourth, and myself had a pretty interesting conversation about Ibara and Satoshi over Skype. AJtheFourth says that Ibara represents Watson to Oreki’s Sherlock, and that Satoshi represents the database. I think that Satoshi fits the Watson role more because he feels like more of the sidekick to Oreki and Ibara represents the database. Check out AJtheFourth’s thoughts on Hyouka in her post.
So what makes Hyouka stupidly bad? The mysteries are too simple. There is no complexity to what the Classic Literature Club is trying to solve. The entire premise to the show is bland. I was willing to forgive Hyouka in the beginning for having simple mysteries to start off with, but we are half way through the series and everything Oreki conjures up solves every problem. There is no conflict anywhere. And no, these last two episodes in my opinion had no conflict. Oreki getting something wrong is not shocking in any way and the fact that the show tries to make it into something shocking falls completely flat. The shock value is not there because Oreki is not this all knowing person the series tries to make him out to be. The ending to Death Note is a prime example of how shock value is done right. They use the entire series to make Light into this untouchable, god-like character whose schemes go “all according to plan” where as Hyouka uses nine episodes of Oreki solving simple problems that Chitanda drags him into. So when Light finally screws up, it’s shocking. But when Oreki makes his goof up, it doesn’t feel satisfying. This is where the show sours. Hyouka has potential for being really creative and engaging. It just hasn’t show that yet. Hopefully it will bring more to the table in these final ten episodes. Because Hyouka needs something else to drive itself forward outside of it looking really pretty.
These are really the main points I’ve taken away from Hyouka. The show really isn’t that terrible, it’s just not that great. It looks really nice, which I appreciate seeing in anime, but the material isn’t at the level it probably should be. It’s pretty disappointing to see the director of my favorite anime movie of all time and one of my favorite studios create something that’s nice to look at, but doesn’t perform well anywhere else.
Now that I’ve said my thoughts on Hyouka, I will get into the second reason for making this post. I’m using this to sort of test the waters of making more posts like this. I will use the same “: Thus Far” title and make posts for individual airing shows like this one, entire seasons, and non-airing shows that I have picked up. And each one will represent how I see each at their halfway points. Maybe I’ll even have a post for the second half of each and score it. Kind of like a two post review. Just a little something to bring more activity to the site.