Hyouka – 22 [END]

Spring comes once again, and life moves on…

Well, Hyouka is over an done with. …It’s funny. This show completely missed my high expectations, but by the end, it became my favourite thing to blog about. It gave me so much to talk about for a slice of life show. Anyways, I have lvlln here with me to talk about how Hyouka turned out.
Many thanks to Kara for letting me butt in for the finale. Hyouka was a show I watched with fascination, one that I thought about writing about all season. With it finally wrapping up, I knew I needed to get something in. I’ll miss this show.

lvlln// Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say, and no show has exemplified that better to me than Kyoto Animation’s first big hit. Like many people, I love The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya , but apparently for the wrong reasons. I would classify Melancholy as a romance first and science fiction, mystery, and even comedy second. I thought the genius of the show was in how it used its sub-genres to tell its central romantic story. The larger science fiction mystery story was strong enough to hold up the show on its own, and god knows it was funny enough, but all of those were merely support for the underlying drama. That is, Kyoto Animation snuck the budding relationship between Haruhi and Kyon in while we were too busy watching them having fun.

But this is about Hyouka, another mystery light novel adaptation by Kyoto Animation (in fact their only light novel adaptation since their works in the Haruhi franchise). It was this fact that piqued my interest: Kyoto Animation has always had the best visuals in the business, but since Melancholy they hadn’t put out a show with the writing and characters to equal it. Another light novel, instead of visual novels or 4-koma, might have the quality story needed to make their next great show. So I had enormous expectations of Hyouka from day 1.

Karakuri// To tell you the truth, I wasn’t even really aware that Hyouka was animated by the same people as Haruhi Suzumiya until I started paying attention to what people like lvlln started saying things about both of them. Even after having that pointed out for me, I still didn’t quite see the parallels until they were laid out in a rather obvious fashion. Even after that though, I still think of Hyouka as it’s own entity. Where I loved Haruhi for it’s action/sci-fi, Kyon’s wit, and the questions about god and whether or not Haruhi’s gift qualified her as a higher power, I loved Hyouka for being more down to earth. It was fantastically realistic and while I hated that at the beginning, it grew on me. What other show would spend 20+ minutes on something like if a teacher like helicopters or not? It could take the most simple ideas and expand on them endlessly to make the most mundane things into something worth noticing.

I’m so glad that Hyouka went full out with the scenery porn this episode 

lvlln// How happy I felt when the 1st episode flung the parallels right into my face! Here was Oreki Hotarou, the cynical, lazy (ahem, “energy saving”), disenchanted boy, and here was Eru Chitanda, the “manic pixie dream girl” with the unique ability to pull Oreki into her web of curiosity. One can’t expect the parallels to be perfect, but damn, were they close. The addition of Satoshi Fukube, the slightly effeminate sidekick forced to play second fiddle, was just a bonus. I could see clearly: just like Melancholy, this would be a romantic coming of age story in which the boy gets dragged out of his shell by the girl who doesn’t understand the word “no.” And just like the science fiction of Haruhi, the mystery of this show would primarily be used as tools to bring the leads together. This framed how I watched the rest of the show.

Karakuri// Needless to say, since Hyouka focused so much on everyday things, and myself being a huge fan of excitement and plot twists, I found the first couple of episodes falling drastically below my expectations. Nothing exciting ever happened. I was disappointed. Somewhere in that though, the characters became the highlight for me. Since the show was so focused on realism (or maybe it was the side effect of  this anime lacking a straightforward plot), the depth of the four main characters stood out to me where I had pegged them as cliches in the first few episodes. By the end, I could sympathize with Satoshi for being caught between two decisions and cheer on Houtarou for coming out of his gray, energy-saving life style. I consider this a pretty big accomplishment considering that I couldn’t have cared less in the first episode. Hell, the character cliches weren’t even cliches that I liked. To be absolutely honest, I hated Mayaka at the start of this anime, but she won me over with her strength of character and blatant sarcasm. Long story short, I’m glad I stuck with this even though I was extremely close to giving up completely on it.

lvlln// I think it’s safe to say that I was off by quite a bit. The mysteries that made up this show did advance the relationship between Oreki and Eru, but not consistently and not in the ways I had expected. Like Melanchly, Hyouka was very much focused on the growth of the male lead, showing him grow less and less cynical as he developed a trust for others. At the beginning, romance wasn’t even a possibility for Oreki who wouldn’t accept such expenditure of energy. The bulk of the show was him getting out of his selfish rut, at first being unwillingly dragged to solving Eru’s mysteries, then finding satisfaction in it, eventually going out of his way to solve them. He had grown to love his friends at the classics club. It was only after the culture festival arc that the show really started consistently teasing us with this future couple. I had been disappointed to see Satoshi and Mayaka get the highlight in the penultimate, Valentine’s Day themed episode, even if Oreki’s actions – going out of his way to save Mayaka’s feelings, threatening to hit Satoshi – were an excellent example of how far he’d come from his energy saving ways. But perhaps the show was saving the really good stuff for the main couple. It was with this expectation that I entered the final episode of Hyouka.

Karakuri// Now that I look back on it, Hyouka had a great sense of control over it’s story telling. As far as I’m concerned, they always gave just enough information for each of the mysteries and explanations. Houtarou’s deductions and reasoning always made sense and he never over explained things. Even after all of the drama between Satoshi and Mayaka last episode, somehow it was enough for Mayaka just to say that things were ‘going’. We know that Satoshi was stuck and refused to move forward. We know that he phoned Mayaka and they had some sort of discussion.  However, I don’t think we need to know how that discussion went. I’m quite satisfied to know that Satoshi is finally starting to get over himself and move somewhere else. I assume he’s starting something with Mayaka, since they were together during the festival, but I think I’d be happy either way. The same goes for Houtarou and Chitanda’s relationship. I don’t need to see him confess for real. Just knowing that Chitanda wants to show him her world (-insert cheesy Disney music here-) and that he wants to be part of it is enough for me. I honestly think that if they had gone further with the topic, the ending wouldn’t have worked for me the way it did.

lvlln// It was a wonderful finale, a beautiful send off to this show, even if it didn’t fully deliver. Hotarou was still struggling with his feelings, but by the end, he had come to realize that he wanted Eru. That imagined confession-but-not-quite at the end proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that something was brewing between the two, but there was no grand display of passion like in the Melancholy finale. I had been mistaken in thinking that this would be a romance – it was too innocent for that. Its focus was the classic coming of age formula that was in Melancholy: this was Hotarou’s story, of him coming to acknowledge the futility of the life philosophy he stated at the beginning. In the end, he accepted Eru’s invitation to carry the umbrella without a fuss, and he himself volunteered (in his imagination) to help Eru, just to be with her. We didn’t see any external affirmation of their relationship, but we already knew that they were going to be together.

Karakuri// This is just something personal to me, but I’m VERY picky about endings in just about everything story-related. Anime, books, television, you name it and 99% of the time, I really dislike the ending to just about everything for one reason or another.  In saying that though, I’m surprised at myself in the fact that I actually adored the ending to Hyouka. It was just so perfect that I was actually crying a bit. Maybe it’s because Hyouka was character based rather than plot based, so there weren’t many extra threads left hanging by the end, but that doesn’t explain away everything. I was super interested (perhaps ‘curious’ would would better here) in how Mayaka and Satoshi would end up. Like I said above though, having Mayaka say that things are working was just enough for me. There’s hope there. Like a kind of purposeful metaphor, this series ended in spring, which is a symbol of beginnings. For me, I don’t need any more closure for this series. I don’t need to know how Chitanda and Houtarou progressed past that point. All Hyouka did was tell us that things are beginning for the characters, and they did that in such a lovely way that I can accept that conclusion without question.

End Thoughts:

Hyouka couldn’t live up to my expectations of matching Melancholy. It lacked the predecessor’s precise direction and focus, and the mysteries that took the main stage proved to be inconsistent. But it would certainly be unreasonable to expect another show that was an absolute joy every single episode like Melancholy. What we got instead was still a show with a clear direction and at least one extremely well realized character. And gorgeous work by Kyoto Animation. The animation used for break dancing during the culture festival or in the student film would be unthinkable from any other studio. The abstract art used heavily early on during Oreki’s deductions displayed that they could do the same things as Shaft, but even better. And the sweeping views of the countryside rivaled works by Makoto Shinkai. Actually, thanks to Tanaka Kouhei‘s majestic score, those scenes had me thinking of Diebuster, which is not a bad thing. Kyoto Animation was making a statement with this show; already known for having the best art in the business, it displayed just how big a gap there was between it and everyone else. In 2006, Kyoto Animation produced what I consider to be the best show of that year and one of the best in that decade. It’s been 6 years, but they’ve again produced the best show of the year, even if it comes nowhere near matching the magic of its first hit. God may be great, but I sure do enjoy having shaved ice in the summer.

This whole anime worked amazingly for me as a formula. It never settled too long on the dramatic parts and it was rare that they ever pushed a plot point to exhaustion. Things just fell naturally into place and then the storyline would let them settle while distracting us with mysteries. The mysteries themselves were fun (once I got over the fact that Hyouka wanted to focus more on figuring out why a teacher was angry and not on about people dying mysterious deaths every week) and the world itself was amazingly well established. Sure, the main characters were the main focus, but there was just so much other life going on in the background. That was the most interesting (not to mention longest) Cultural festival I’ve ever seen and I can honestly say that nothing overly exciting happened in it. The fact that Hyouka managed to have an entertaining hot springs episode without throwing a thousand cliches at us is amazing as well. Hell, even the side characters seemed like they had goals and ambitions themselves, rather than just being there for the purpose of moving the plot along. Overall, I think KyoAni did an amazing job combining the world/animation with the story and I don’t think that this would have worked nearly as well if any of these elements were missing. This was a miss that became a surprise hit for me.


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31 Responses to “Hyouka – 22 [END]”

  1. Joojoobees says:

    I completely agree with lvlln about the focus of Melancholy. It was evident from the genius of the original broadcast order; the DVD release order placed the climax at episode 5, then went on to tell side stories.

    I also agree that this is the first thing that Kyo-Ani has done that merits being compared to Melancholy. It gives me great hope that Chou-ni Byou (Fall 2012) will be worth watching.

    Kara, I think a lot of people were fooled by Hyouka’s purported genre, and the tag line: “You can not escape!” Given where things ended up for Houtaro, I think the tag line was appropriate, but it probably led a lot of people into believing the show would be much darker than it actually turned out to be.

    Speaking of “dark”, great choice in screencaps for this episode. It really goes to show that Houtaro might not have thought he wanted a rose colored life, but he got one one, anyways.

    • Karakuri says:

      I was definitely fooled by the tag line. Following what lvlln said above about Haruhi, even though this is right under the mystery genre, I would classify this as slice of life waay before mystery. Like I’ve said multiple times though, how Hyouka turned out wasn’t terrible in the least despite throwing me off.

      Whoa, I never even noticed that before. I noticed the abundance of pink before, but never thought of connecting it to that ‘rose coloured life’ Houtarou talked about. There were just so many beautiful screens this episode. I had to go through at least 50 for that one where the wind is blowing Chitanda’s hair around with the petals.

  2. Highway says:

    I don’t remember why I started watching Hyouka. It wasn’t really from a sub-group that I had watched anything from before (although I had a bookmark to their site for some show), and that was before I actually read any aniblogs (yes, that’s how recently I’ve come to Metanorn, within the span of this not quite 2-cour series). So I went in with no expectations, and had absolutely no idea what it was even about.

    And I was blown away by the first episode.

    I didn’t make any parallel comparisons to other shows. I certainly didn’t realize that it had anything to do with Haruhi Suzumiya, even just the same studio. I just thought it was excellent. Within 2 episodes I was recommending it to anyone who would listen. And it just kept getting better for me. I absolutely love that the overall arc of the show was the budding romances between the main characters, even if it did it mostly as a side development all the time. The ‘mysteries’ were nothing special, and I thought that was great, because that way they didn’t overwhelm the rest of the show. Really, it was all about the characters and their trip through a year of high school.

    I might have liked a bit of a different ending, but I thought this one was good and fitting and beautiful. Maybe I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to clearly see how beautiful Eru was in her outfit, but we did see something just as important: that moment that you fall, hard, and want to be with another person. The imagery of Houtarou walking in a daze, yet not dazed or out of it, just unable to see anything else, was brilliant. And maybe I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get confirmation of them as a couple, but there’s an inevitability there, especially considering Houtarou’s energy-saving lifestyle. I don’t see him as having changed his entire lifestyle. It’s more that he made an exception for Eru, and that’s something I can definitely understand. And having made that exception, it’s easiest to just go along with that, rather than having to develop another exception. Would I have liked more couple stuff? I always like more couple stuff. But it was still excellent without it.

    • Karakuri says:

      Oh, I guess you have been here about that long. Hmm, it seems like it’s been longer since you’re around so often. …I swear I’ll comment on SGK one of these days.

      I can’t say that I had even thought of the idea of Satoshi and Mayaka until around the cultural festival arc (I think it was seeing the 2nd ED for the first time), but Houtarou and Eru were always the two people I wanted to see get together. That’s a good point about the mysteries taking the background. Without the downtime, Houtarou would have just been another lazy genius instead of a teenager struggling with between he wanted to live his life and how Eru kept pushing him towards something else.

      I keep with what I said about the ending. If they had shown me more, I would have wanted more. I liked the effects they did with the dreamlike walk and animation since it was more of how Houtarou saw things as opposed to Hyouka showing us Eru dressed up and expecting us to find her attractive as well. I don’t think I would have had this episode any other way.

  3. BlackBriar says:

    At first, Hyouka wasn’t my style, wasn’t something I’d be interested in but I gradually grew to admire it. I don’t even remember why I started watching. Maybe it was all on a whim because things were boring at the time. Now, it’s become totally memorable. Here’s wishing that it could’ve lasted two more episodes.

    The outstanding genius here was in its steady pace in careful storytelling so one could come to appreciate it, like creating relevant and compelling scenes of events from rather meaningless information that could found anywhere along with beautiful animation from the studio and the unique characters that harbored distinct personalities which complemented each other. This is the kind of stuff other school life genre animes can learn from.

    Houtarou is front and center for noteriety. I admired his change from a less-than-energetic boy who joins the Classic Literature Club at the request of his older sister to someone fueled by his own motivation without the constant push from those around him.

    Second being the eternally curious Chitanda. She was adorable for being polite and kind but simultaneously ditzy and energetic. The perfect remedy to pull Houtarou out of his shell. It’s only natural that he finds Eru attractive, and that he may have developed feelings for her. Despite his overall progress, outward confession wouldn’t be his style. It doesn’t suit him and I’d have a hard time accepting it.

    The side characters with ambitious motives like Irisu making the mysteries deeper did a good job shooting down any cliches that came close to the surface.

    This episode was nice, a good way to cap things off but the finale felt very open ended, in my opinion. Regardless of that fact, it gains an easy 10 out of 10 much like Tasogare Otome x Amnesia’s well sent off ending. Only a few animes can reach that level of excellence.

    • Highway says:

      Something that really struck me, thinking about it later, is the almost reversed nature of Eru. And we couldn’t really understand this until the last 3 episodes, I think. She is actually a very serious, very observant, very intelligent, very responsible, and very proper young lady. We see that in her dealings during their shrine visit, and later preparing for the parade. This made me realize that school, while usually being a constricting place for children, a place where they have to now follow rules and schedules and obey commands and adults, is actually a liberation for Eru. It’s a place where she can be Eru, where she can literally let her hair down, let her curiosity go, let her intelligence show, and let her mind run wild. Her home life is MUCH more constricting, her dealings with people as a Chitanda carry much higher expectations, much more serious ramifications.

      So of course she’ll act a little flighty at school, a lot more unreserved. But she still is very appropriate. She bridges the two very well, although she definitely has taken a different tactic about it than Irisu does. Irisu is the same person in both places. But Eru doesn’t want to be that person when she doesn’t have to be. But I think it’s just so hard for the rest of us to invert those expectations. We expect school to be the place where students button up and follow along.

      I quickly turned into a huge Eru fan during the show, probably before the hot spring trip episode. And I think that she tends to get a lot of short shrift in the analysis of the characters, because she didn’t make a huge change in personality like Satoshi or Houtarou, or be moodily demonstrative like Mayaka. But she was a person who we found out about, even if she didn’t have to ‘change’ much. She even tried rejected changes that were suggested, choosing instead to remain truer to the self she had already figured out. And that’s something really commendable in a 16 year old, that they can be that confident in their own self.

    • Karakuri says:

      I totally echo your thoughts in this first paragraph. Hyouka wasn’t my style either, but it had its own charm that turned out to be more interesting than I had ever pegged the slice of life genre to be.

      I don’t watch much slice of life to begin with (unless it’s mixed in with a comedy or harem genre), but I have never seen an anime take such insignificant things and run with them. The animation was just a bonus. I can see why people praise KyoAni endlessly for their quality, but I have to give them credit for their storytelling as well. I don’t know how descriptive the novels were about the setting, but I’d say that KyoAni nailed whatever they were going for.

      For me, Satoshi was always the character I watched ever since his speech about being a master of none. I really liked the depth of his character, his becoming obsessive in an attempt not to be obsessive and how he hid his real self behind a constantly cheerful act (…though after a while, that whole cheerful thing might have been natural). We heard Houtarou’s inner monologue constantly, so we knew what he was thinking for the most part. For Satoshi though, his thoughts were more vague unless he stated his intentions out loud (even more so since he was constantly hiding part of himself). Honestly, I would have probably liked Houtarou the best as a character as well if the story had been told mostly from Satoshi’s perspective. That wouldn’t have been the same Hyouka though.

      Eru was surprisingly deep as a character too. Especially after what Highway says above. All of the characters were extremely well thought out.

      I like this ending better than Tasogare to be honest. I agree with the 10/10 though. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve felt this satisfied with an anime ending.

      • Highway says:

        I like this ending better than Tasogare’s as well, but I really liked that one too. While that one was plausible, this one was natural.

    • lvlln says:

      For certain definitions of open ended, certainly the ending was open ended. Though I write there wasn’t a “shadow of a doubt,” surely there is simply not enough evidence to prove anything beyond even just a reasonable doubt. But it’s just so pleasant to think that they got together, so perfectly fitting. I’m not generally a man of faith, but in this case, I can’t help it.

  4. PrimeHector says:

    Actually I think that Hyouka was the third light novel. I think full metal panic was their first light novel.

    • lvlln says:

      Ah interesting, seems you’re right. I did not realize that that was originally a light novel. To be honest, the Full Metal Panic series is one I never got into.

  5. Hazou says:

    I’m of opposite I didn’t like the ending of Hyouka. I thought they didn’t fully complete the arcs with the characters. I also felt that the last few episodes particularly during the school festival it just got simply boring. I was looking for more murder and spice in my anime, those are the kind of animes. I was hoping kind of like a Ghost Hunt style. Not supernatural. But with that more realistic tone to it and something more eerie. In the end Hyouka became stale and flat.

    • Karakuri says:

      I was hoping for something more supernatural too, but in the end, I was just happy with how things were. I know a lot of people dislike this series since it was a lot more realistic and less exciting than they thought it would be.

  6. D-LaN says:

    Finally a sort of confession-but-not-actually bet ChitanRou. It feels like the entire anime is a prologue to them and the story begins now. Plus its animated beautifully with cherry blossom, flowing hair and pink sky lol.

    Kinda wish there more of a resolution from SatoKa but its enough just by knowing tht they r working things out.

    Well I can’t say tht this is the best anime of 2012 but Hyouka deserve a special place in my list. There just… something tht makes me come back every episode to see them solve daily lives mystery and enjoy their high school lives.

    And I take my words back, H-ka now have won the “Best School Festival” award from P4 IMO.

    • Karakuri says:

      Oh, thats a great way of putting it! Yeah, it did feel like a prologue.

      Hmm, I can’t say it was the absolute best either, but I don’t even remember what else came out this year to be honest. OTL Hyouka turned out great for a slice of life anime though. Especially since I like avoiding slice of life because it bores me (for the most part).

      …The crossdressing competition from P4 will forever be #1 in my books.

      • BlackBriar says:

        Speaking of Persona 4, I forgot that true ending episode was scheduled somewhere this season. Can I count on KaraCool to Tag Team that?

        • Karakuri says:

          Yeah, it’s out. Cool and I have more time on our hands now, so we’ll try to get it out (with the addition of lvlln …probably).

          • D-LaN says:

            Can we count on you guys covering P4Arena and P4G too?? P4Arena is essentially P4-2 lol.

            • Karakuri says:

              I think Jrow is doing P4A (I lack a PS3 and that type of game isn’t OC’s style), but I’m sure OC and I will be covering The Golden.

      • Highway says:

        Re: This series of Hyouka as prologue to “the story of Eru and Oreki”

        If that was given the same sort of care, storytelling, and production as this series was, I might consider that the greatest anime ever. I absolutely adore ‘relationship’ stories, that’s why MGX is my favorite or second favorite show of all time (along with Toradora, because Taiga and Ryuuji were a couple long before either acknowledged it). I think that might make an absolutely tremendous story, much like MGX was trying to solve the ‘mystery’ of this enigma known as Mikoto Urabe (by both Akira and Mikoto) I think that continuing Oreki and Eru’s story could be just as glorious.

      • D-LaN says:

        Maybe I should put it this way:

        Best realism school festival: H-ka
        Funniest school festival: P4Animation

        Fate/zero S2 and Jormungand seems like the best bet for best 2012 anime. (So far)

  7. Kai says:

    Hyouka was released at the time where mystery was all the hype (Another, Otome x Amnesia, etc.. though the qualities between these is another thing altogether). I was interested in Hyouka because of it’s “mystery” genre, or so it was as listed in MAL or other sites.

    Watching the anime though, it doesn’t feel mysterious at all. The way it exaggerates a daily problem into something big is a unique way of presenting their own “mystery”. And the mystery is a great catalyst in developing their own characters. Hyouka, it’s a beautiful anime^^

    • Karakuri says:

      …Yeah, I don’t think it was mysterious at all. …Unless you counted the inner workings of Houtarou/ everyone else as a mystery. You’re right about the character development though. Hyouka was good for that, but I wouldn’t really call it a full fledged mystery anime, even though it has the elements.

  8. D-LaN says:

    Hmm… the anime adapted up to Volume 4 judging by the Baka Tsuki H-ka page and there a Volume 5 out ady… It looks like it will be a while for H-ka S2….

    Oh and I’ve seen the original charac design pics of the cast somewhere…. They look nothing like the current one. And the current one is better IMO.

    There a manga using the anime design too btw.

    • Karakuri says:

      Oh? I was under the impression that the novel series for Hyouka was over and done with. Even if they can turn whatever volume this is on into a series of OVAs or something, that would be fantastic.

      If you ever figure out where you saw the original designs, I’d love to see them!

  9. Kyokai says:

    I highly, HIGHLY enjoyed this series. I still remember asking around on twitter if I should check this out or not and got mixed replies like they really couldn’t put their finger on it, why they got stuck with it.

    If I remember the initial reviews, some people even wrote it off as a failure mystery series but actually failed to see that this was not really a mystery rather the process of mystery (in other words, how Houtarou discovers it). Even being dubious about it in the beginning, I found myself marathoning the aired episode and looking forward to more. The characters is what really did me in because I liked all of them, the very annoying tsundere even. It had that light addictiveness of Haruhi series and I would surely miss it. I heard of a special – let it all out KyoAni!

    • Karakuri says:

      Good to hear, boss lady! I really liked this too.

      It’s great that so many people enjoyed it (from what I’ve gathered from browsing other aniblog sites). Especially since I feel like I was one of the ones who wrote it off as a failure as well. The characters kept me going through it though~

      WHAT?! Really? …Let’s hope that whatever KyoAni has planned is in better quality than that special.

  10. […] Hyouka ] I already wrote quite a bit with Kara about my love for this show. Hyouka was a wonderful coming of age tale that was outstanding at […]

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