Somewhere between its Autumn lights and shifting leaves, there’s a warmth in Hyouka. Warm is a good way of describing the series, emotional is another. Not emotional in a melodramatic sense, but rather, one feels a liveliness coursing through every table leg and dusty bookshelf in the series. It has the sense of a story lived in.
Ostensibly, it’s a mystery series, but while mystery conjures images of chalk silhouettes, blood-stained floors and shifty in-laws, this isn’t like that. Hyouka‘s mysteries are little more than trifling affairs, whether they are solved or not is hardly important.
Everyone of us is an enigma, yet we try to understand one-another. You might say it’s a waste of time, but even still, we keep trying. At the series’ beginning, Hyouka‘s world-weary main character, Oreki Hōtarō, has just about given up, but then he meets the girl Chitanda Eru. At this point, there’s a temptation to see the series as just another slice of life, moe anime. I wouldn’t blame you, but you’ll never grasp what it is about Hyouka unless you’re willing to sit down and give it time to move.
I mean, literally move. I’ve been as guilty as anyone of writing off Kyoto Animation’s past series, yet the more I see, the more impressed I am by the sheer soulfulness of their work. There’s a spirit of independence in Hyouka that’s as rare as it is commendable, and while there’s not a single moment I could pin-point and say, “That’s it! That’s why I’ve fallen for Hyouka!” I would catch myself thinking about it, wanting to watch more and feeling caught up in it all.
It has an interesting and enigmatic cast. I could never get a handle on Hōtarō’s friend, Fukube Satoshi. Eru is nearly as perplexing: at times the innocent, willing girl, at others, subdued and thoughtful. And as the seasons change and time marches on, there’s a knowing look about them that’s hard to place.
This isn’t a light-hearted series. It has a consistent sense of humour, but it’s balanced with the kind of elegance and meditation that’s unique to Japanese story-telling. Slow and a little bit sad, but as much sun as there is rain and snow. I wouldn’t have it any other way.