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A distant light: Hyouka

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.

Comments

Exactly! Very nice and precise short summary of Hyouka. Thank you, if just for this~

okiru says:

I recently stated watching Hyouka and liked it from the beginning. But it does take a few episodes to really get into. I’ve seen up to episode four.

That being said, I love everybody’s slightly messy hair. I love the complex camera movements. I love the visual richness of the scenes (feels very cinematic). There’s a quietness (reminds me a little of Mushishi) that’s really engrossing. All around a good anime.

Peter S says:

It’s odd that you talk about the warmth of the series when much of the time the we’re seeing the dull lifeless colors of a high school. I hadn’t thought about it until now but the characters to me seemed to be searching for a way out of that dullness. Or maybe I’m just thinking about Houtarou. And then he goes into one of his bright thinking modes, or looks into Eru’s huge sparkling violet eyes …

But yeah, apart from that the series is full of life. The animation is simply astounding. I’ve never seen anything like it in a TV series. I watched much of the school festival arc with my mouth open in awe.

Martin says:

I feel as though I’ve talked endlessly about Hyouka, which surprises me really because there’s not a great deal of detailed stuff to say. It’s harmless, fun, looks stunning and has this gentle melancholic charm to it. I guess it’s one of those cases where you can point and say, “nobody but a Japanese studio could make an animated series like this.”

It doesn’t do anything large-scale or groundbreaking, but the attention to detail is fantastic. It does a simple job but does it well, and that’s what matters I think.

I found it to be a great way to unwind on a monday evening to soothe the ‘back to work blues’ each week…I miss it on days like today.

Gmforbes says:

I’ve been meaning to pick this one back up. I started it while it was airing at the beginning of the spring season, but in general I have difficulty following shows while they air (I’m the type who generally marathons series).

I was amazed from the beginning by how engaging the show was. Describing it in words makes it sound pretty dull to me, to be honest. But the first few episodes were enticing enough for me to continue watching, eventually.

Thanks for the editorial! I definitely need to pick this one back up one of these days.

Ivy says:

I’ve had this underlying fear that Hyouka would not be able to measure up to other KyoAni shows. Not in the emotional aspect per se but in the overall quality of their shows (being whimsical, unique and having that air of confidence in the production). It didn’t help that impressions around the blog sphere were lukewarm. Now that I got through that editorial I feel more at ease, as I have all 22 episodes waiting to be devoured by me! Thanks for that write-up I feel more confident in the quality of Hyouka, and hey even if it does not measure up it’ll still look beautiful.

bateszi says:

I think it’s probably the best thing they (KyoAni) have done, but then, I’ve only really seen Haruhi: it’s the least most otaku-centric, at any rate.

I tried watching Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! in the hope that it would be as good, but it… isn’t.

[…] I’ll finish this post with some lines that I thought really captured how I feel about Hyouka as a whole. It’s from Bateszi’s blog: […]

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