Anime Review: Hyouka Part 1

By Drew Hurley 17.12.2017

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Hyouka Part 1 (UK Rating: 15)

Based on a Japanese mystery novel, Hyouka tells the tale of a Japanese teenager suffering from a unique condition. Hotaro Oreki can't abide dealing with any activity. He lives by a simple code of "If I don't have to do it, I won't. If I have to, I'll do it as quick as possible." He would rather spend his time doing nothing and being left alone. That's a little difficult when he's attending a school renowned for its widely diverse range of social and sports clubs. He had managed to avoid joining any of these until his sister sent him a letter from abroad, begging him to join the Classic Literature Club, a club that is about to be disbanded due to its lack of members. Hotaro is joined by some old friends and a new one, all of them investigating the mysteries of their school. This first part is out now, courtesy of Anime Limited.

This is a 22-episode series and this release is the first part of that series, consisting of the first eleven episodes and this is the type of show that will take a good few of those episodes to really get into the story. It's a slow burn here as the characters slowly take their places and the initial premise is laid out. On his first day as the only member of the Classic Literature Club, Hotaro collects the key to the club room and lets himself in… only to find a girl his age already waiting inside. How did she get in without the key? She claims the door was open when she arrived, yet it was locked when Hotaro got there. This classic "Locked Room Mystery" is missing the usual corpse, but it is representative of what the show has to offer.

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Hyouka is very much a mystery show, although one that deals with the mundane mysteries of the everyday. There are no murders, terrorists, or evil plots here, instead the mysteries in the initial episodes consist of solving why a library book is checked out with strange regularity, tracking down some missing anthologies, and eventually building to an agreement between all of the members of the classic lit club to "Become fully invested in illuminating the mysteries of the club's past." This includes digging into Chitanda's blocked memories of her childhood regarding her uncle who was also part of the club in his day, although was mysteriously expelled.

The club becomes four members by the end of the second episode. Hotaro is first joined by the girl he met in the locked room, Eru Chitanda. Chitanda comes from a wealthy family of farmers; she's an obsessive girl that finds it impossible to forget about a mystery once she's found out about it; something that brings her close with Hotaro thanks to his deductive abilities. The third member to join is Satoshi Fukube, Hotaro's childhood friend. Hotaro is the generic, permanently upbeat and happy, best friend character and has a flawless memory, which helps with their investigations. Finally, the fourth member is Mayaka Ibara - another childhood friend of Hotaro, yet one who doesn't seem to be particularly fond of him. Ibara is smitten with Fukube and the relationship dynamic between the three works well.

The characters' descriptions may be very familiar, and when the series begins they feel very trope-like. Not only that, but the first few episodes feel like they really drag. There's nothing dramatic to grip the audience's attention and it builds slowly. The pacing of the show never really improves, but the show and the characters both improve as the story progresses. It's a slow-burn series, definitely.

Hyouka scored big with its anime adaptation, snagging anime studio superpower Kyoto Animation. It consistently produces quality and continues to do so here. The art and animation both look absolutely stunning. The characters are classic KyoAni, with enough individuality for them to be identifiable not just between each other but against previous KyoAni characters. While the show is very much the normal slice-of-life story KyoAni has come to be known for, the style is massively changed up when the club is trying to deduce a mystery. Here it switches it up to some surreal and artistic sequences. This includes Kanji characters that come to life, stick figures acting out possible solutions, or even dummies playing out scenarios.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
A strange show, it's hard to place just what makes Hyouka Part 1 so interesting… but interesting it is. Somehow it manages to make the simplest puzzles absolutely intriguing. KyoAni's gorgeous art and animation really help to elevate this and the characters grow from tropes into likeable characters. The end of this first half gives a gripping multi-episode mystery with twists and turns that will make viewers eager to receive Part 2.

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