Ok, so I’m half an episode early.
If I were being wholly legit, I’d be a good little one and patiently wait for episode eleven, watch EXACTLY half of it, and then do this post. But, hey, seems I’m not patient enough. Speaking of, KyoAni seems to be slowly but surely trying to cheat all of us. I remember back when Clannad had twenty-two episodes, and we all yowled, because, really? Twenty-two episodes? That’s crazy! And now, here we are with a paltry twenty-one. Guys – KyoAni is killing anime.
That aside, Hyouka’s been a bit of an odd case for me. I only ended up watching the first episode in a moment of boredom, cut off from the internet as a friend snored their brains out in the next room, and cut off from any form of transportation not involving my feet. I’d caught up on Sakamichi no Apollon. I didn’t feel like watching Supernatural (the Not Animation). What could I do?! Well, I had this episode of Hyouka, hmm, maybe I’d give it a whirl…
Let me put it to you this way: that was slightly more than a week ago. And I’ve seen through episode ten now. Kind of seems that I enjoyed it, doesn’t it?
I’ll admit it: initially, Hyouka wasn’t terribly interesting. The mysteries weren’t terribly thrilling. But I was intrigued by the lighting up of Chitanda’s eyes and the visual hallucinations Houtarou apparently had… which, by the way, neither of which has been exactly cleared up. I also liked Satoshi quite a bit; it feels so rare to have a sidekick-type character actually have a character and not just be an obnoxious being who exists only to make us think that the lead is a great guy. That he’s turned out to be useful and matter within the story is a pleasant surprise.
And, maybe this shouldn’t be; if I think about it, Hyouka actually reminds me a fair bit of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (which, for those keeping score, I loathed). We’ve got the club in a Japanese high school that doesn’t exactly have a defined purpose, a female lead who thirsts after “weird” things (in this case, mysteries), a boy whose snarky inner commentary narrates, a male sidekick who never seems serious but who has small hints to something deeper… its all fairly superficial, but with KyoAni helming, it is difficult to wholly ignore these similarities. Thankfully, the female lead isn’t a horrible person and the snarky male providing narration is likeable. I would’ve dropped this like a hot potato otherwise.
I keep going off track a bit. I think Hyouka, while oddly engaging when dealing with small school life mysteries, hit its stride once it actually got to larger arcs. I did like the episode about the girls and the yukata (it reminded me, intriguingly enough, of a much more downer episode from Tactics), but Hyouka seems to perform best when given more time and space to tell a story. The arc about Chitanda’s uncle was the best so far, although the murder mystery movie arc has been solid, and that twist at the end of episode ten was ingenious. I’m impressed with how Hyouka managed to lull me into a false sense of security before tossing the detail about the rope in our faces. I was totally hoodwinked!
I do still think the uncle story was best, though, since it had a level of detail the murder mystery movie arc doesn’t quite possess, or, perhaps, a level of depth. Its really got it all – a seeming cover-up, a disappeared person, the student movemtn of the 60s, the passage of time… I also don’t think it is quite over, honestly. The first volume of Hyouka is missing still, for example… and under a different title. The uncle is missing as well, although I doubt that will be resolved, nor do I think it needs to be.
While I am really happy with the turn the mysteries have taken, I am a bit disappointed that we’ve been getting a lot less of Houtarou’s visual hallucinations. When I say this, I am not referring at all, by the way, to the changes in style while Houtarou explains things. I am talking about the incidents with the hair in episode one, or the kanji and hiragana taking on lives of their own in other episodes and seeming to overwhelm Houtarou (at least temporarily) in the process. I seem to recall reading at some point somewhere that he is one of these folks who has synesthesia, although I could be totally wrong, and its a bit of a bummer to see this drop off as the show progresses. The decline in references to Houtarou’s sister have also been disappointing, as well.
I also am a bit leery about the show’s whole “some people are talented, some aren’t” thing because I think often with these that there is a strong risk of it becoming “some people are talented, and they are better than those who aren’t”. I will not deny that some people are better at some things than others, but I don’t agree that this makes them more worthy than others.
And, finally, for my complaints about the show, that ED. Ugh. I find it, quite frankly, gross. I’ve seen a lot of fanservice-y EDs before, but this one totally skeeves me out.
Anyway, as I’m sure you can surmise, I really like Hyouka, and I am looking forward to the second half quite a bit.