Hyouka: Final Review

Well, here we are. 6 months and 22 episodes later, Hyouka has finished its story. What originally began as a quirky attraction to everyday mysteries with uncommon explanations has turned into a full-fledged dual-personality trait shared between Houtatrou and Eru. It seems a day can’t go by without them delving into the unseen and uncontemplated to over explain the mundane events that lead to the otherwise unnoticed minutia surrounding us all the time. And Satoshi was there too, along with Mayaka.

Together, the four consist of the once-fledgling Classics Club, though they’re soon better known for Houtarou’s uncanny ability to logically work around any conundrum or puzzle. But the solutions become more complicated as it’s not just the clues Houtarou has to deal with. Also taking in the feelings and impressions of his friends, especially Eru, he has to continually break his edict of “energy conservation” to meet the compelling demands of Eru’s curiosity, while preserving her air of innocence and purity in what’s he’s found to be a newly interesting world.

Hyouka’s entire premise seems to throw many off, as a “mystery” series devoid of any actual consequence of action. All the “disappearances” are of easily replaceable items, such as tarot cards, kitchen utensils, or a copy, amongst hundreds, of the yearly anthology. Even the ghastly turn into stories of minor cover-ups under the cloak of night. Though Eru’s own past wove a story of grim victimization tied into the history of the Classics Club itself, the message behind each of Houtarou’s cases proved to be that there’s always more than meets the eye and connections always exist whether or not they’re seen.

You can spin “mystery” around Hyouka until Houtarou is blue in the face, but the real motive behind the story is the character development between Houtarou and Chitanda, and Satoshi and Mayaka. Though the latter seems to at least set itself up in the final episodes (I feel like Mayaka would understand if Satoshi would be honest with her about how scared he feels), Eru and Houtarou’s relationship seems to only begin to blossom in the final moments. My heart skipped a beat when he made the offer to Eru, and then it stopped altogether when it was merely his imagination. As much as I’d love to see the two continue to grow closer, I feel like Hyouka was wrapped up nicely. Enough to give me a taste of the what the characters will become, but not enough to feel like the story is entirely finished.

Final grade: 91
A solid A minus for KyoAni’s latest work. Though I agree sometimes the lack of actual consequence made the mysteries…inconsequential, Hyouka gave me an appreciation for the long, twisting stories surrounding the ordinary things filling our day-to-day lives. Animation was brilliant, as to be expected, but Eru’s eyes took character design to new level, in my opinion. Has good re-watch potential, but I’m definitely going to miss catching it week-to-week. Highly recommended for SoL fans looking to branch out into something a bit deeper, or mystery fans who want to become astounded at the mundane.

Hyouka – BeldenOtaku’s Photobucket


Hyouka 17: Expectations of a Blackmail Victim

Not surprisingly, Oreki had it figured out like 2 episodes ago and blackmailed the criminal to help sell anthologies. Satoshi seemed upset, but went along with the final act to help Tanabe Jirou, AKA “Juumonji”, pull off the “ko” theft even with so many spectators waiting for him show himself. A little chemistry latter and Jirou burns the theft in front of everyone, completing his prank/message and clearing out all but four remaining anthologies.

This mystery makes it obvious that Hyouka isn’t built to allow the viewer to solve mysteries before the characters, it’s meant to be about the characters. That being said, Hyouka didn’t leave out clues, it just didn’t cover trivial information that would’ve either tipped the viewer by making suspects too obvious, or bored them by burying the trivial information beneath more trivial information. Though I do think Jirou’s plan to send a message to an old manga partner was a bit far-fetched and had little to no chance of succeeding. Barring  straight up telling the person about this prank/mystery, I don’t see how a transferred student would pick up on it. Also, the related drama within the manga society really seemed forced toward the end, where the other members just decided that they’re going to eternally disagree and not get along. Makes all the events beforehand seem pointless if they’re just going to end it by acknowledging that they understand their differences, but choose to ignore that they do.

I don’t always solve mysteries, but when I do, I rig the ending by blackmailing the culprit.

So Oreki has to keep a secret from Eru now, since she’d probably get upset that such a mysterious mystery ended in such backhanded tactics. Oreki is going to have to either get Eru to forget about the Kanya Fest mystery (unheard of, thus far) or distract her with a new mystery to legitimately solve.
I’m a little disappointed that it wasn’t actually Oreki’s sister, but instead some irrelevant backstory.

Hyouka – BeldenOtaku’s Photobucket

Hyouka 15-16: Textbook Crimes

Juumoji continues to strike in an order outlined similarly in A.B.C. Murders, as Houtarou was able to figure out after the Classics Club becomes fully involved in the school-sweeping scandal. The clues don’t exactly add up and all this suspense is making me think Hyouka is about to drop some purposefully underwhelming conclusion (like Houtarou’s sister planned it all or it was a stunt to set up the Classics Club so they could sell more anthologies). Everything Houtarou gets just seems to have so serendipitously appeared, like the manga he got from his sister which referenced to a Christy mystery which is also the same manga Mayaka was going to show to other members of the Manga Society but couldn’t find at home. I can’t shake this feeling that Houtarou’s sister is behind all of this…but I have no theory as to how except that she planned and committed EVERYTHING.

It’s a bit far-fetched that she’d be behind it all, but I can’t really reach another conclusion. But that may just mean the plot is doing a good job not hinting the conclusion. If it were so simple, it wouldn’t be fun, right? I just wish this wasn’t such a convoluted situation. Why would someone start the thefts to begin with? Why would they adhere to a pattern? Why would they break the pattern (or have they actually followed it but not how Houtarou thinks)? They skipped “ku” and went straight to a theft from “ke” (the Light Music Club). I do think there’s already been a “ku” theft, but it’s as-of-yet unrealized. The thefts are definitely set up so the thief can be caught, almost like he/she wants to be caught. If they were just randomly stealing items, why leave a note? Why leave a name that reveals your pattern? And with the school whipped up into a frenzy, why continue? This is definitely a crime spree with a purpose in mind, and the purpose seems to revolve around the Classics Club…or at least that’s what the general theory seems to be.

Though the pressing mystery is a big plot point, I can’t let it overshadow the, admittedly, confusing tensions running through the Manga Society. Mayaka is at odds with other club members, and the rivalry takes an ugly turn when a small dab of brush water becomes a soaking in the middle of a busy festival booth. If the mystery ties back into the stress in the manga club, I certainly can’t see it coming. But I really want whatever these girls have against Mayaka to be resolved, it’s hard to watch sometimes…

Hyouka – BeldenOtaku’s Photobucket

Hyouka 13-14: Cooking with Fire

Houtarou for the win, giving Mayaka the crucial ingredient in the cooking contest, landing the Classics Club plenty of publicity. But out of personal victory, comes the (hopefully) final straw leading the club to investigate the mysteriously “borrowed” items across campus, the latest being what was to be the Classics Club’s ladle, replaced with a note promising its return. Maybe solving such a public mystery will get the club publicity for their anthology.

The cooking contest had more suspense than I anticipated, and I was hanging on the outcome. Watching from the edge of my seat as Mayaka was in a frenzy to try and finish strong for the club after missing the first ten minutes of her round was exhilarating. Then to see Oreki throw out the 7 minute save, the product of a few lucky trades no less, was amazing. Probably the first time Hyouka has gotten me this excited outside of an unsolved mystery. Although I’m not surprised Chitanda was such a skilled cook, when she was sitting in the second chair, that’s where I considered most of the potential for the Classics Club to be in the cooking contest. But Mayaka surprised me a bit, pulling off something so random using so few odd ingredients was very interesting.

The anthologies still haven’t moved enough and the publicity doesn’t seem to be spreading through Kanya Fest as much as Satoshi would’ve hoped. Like I said earlier, solving a high-profile mystery like the “Jumonji” thefts might give them the spotlight to move more anthologies. I also wonder if “Jumonji” is supposed to be a reference to the story about a magic board game (had a movie with Robin Williams) and is more kanji wordplay. Or I’m completely off and will be happily surprised when Oreki blows my mind with the true meaning.

Hyouka – BeldenOtaku’s Photobucket

Hyouka 11.5-12: What was the point of the pool, again? Oh well, anthologies…

Fun in the low quality sun (hence no pics) before the Kanya Fest where the Classics Club tries to sell some anthologies, and by “some”, I mean 300. I don’t see why the Executive Committee president didn’t move heaven and earth when Chitanda asked for help, she certainly is able to get Houtarou going (now we know it’s not just her eyes that are magic *wink wink*). But by Houtarou’s expressive sighs and Chitanda’s distractions, I think they’re all having fun. I’m still rather confused about the “punk” who needed the broken pen Houtarou’s sister gave him…maybe that leads to something later on, he did get a backstage pass to the fashion show (for whatever that’s worth).

I honestly can’t discern any plot points other than the conclusive nature of the festival and the sale of the anthology. It all just seems like idling the character stories to get an event underway…but then again, you never should see good plot points coming. From a Houtarou-like perspective, half a dozen small clues have been dropped, but they don’t seem to line up or point to any definitive conclusion. I have no theories or foresights, but this episode was still enjoyable to see the culmination of the club’s work coming to fruition, along with all the little side ventures the members are getting into.

Finally, new ED is new…and it’s fun to see the group Sherlock-style. Houtarou makes for quite the despondent criminal, kinda odd with such a spunky-looking sidekick like Satoshi. But I’m sure Chitanda-Holmes and Mayaka-Watson can track down the lethargic ne’er-do-well and his hyperactive goon.

Hyouka – BeldenOtaku’s Photobucket

Hyouka 10-11: An Unforeseen Mystery Wrapped Around an Unfinished Mystery

In true Houtarou fashion, his deduction comes in a sudden flash of brilliance. The reason there was no possible way for any of the other students to have been the killer…was because it was the viewer himself. The POV of the camera committed the crime…but our brilliant detetctive…was wrong?! The rope Hongou called for was never used, and come to think of it, why didn’t Irisu just ask Hongou herself about the conclusion? These were all things that the others had picked up on throughout the Classic Club’s investigation, but never fully considered until the finished movie left them with unusual misgivings.

To be honest, I was really bored with this mystery until Houtarou reached his albeit false conclusion. I thought it was brilliant and completely unsuspected, a marvelous twist to the expertly crafted mystery by Hongou. My interest turned into a compulsion to continue watching as one-by-one the other members told Oreki about their problems with the final film, each poking larger holes in Houtarou’s deduction. It was Irisu’s plan all along to have someone else finish the unfinished movie, and using the Classic’s Club was just the altered plan after none of the class’s top theories would fly, but even with a finished movie, Oreki couldn’t wrap his head around the still mysterious circumstances which led Irisu to go to such measures.

She could’ve easily just asked Hongou as to the ending of the story, unless something grave had happened. But it turns out that the shy writer just didn’t want to confront the class about her aversion to the story’s outcome. She much preferred mysteries where everyone lived, and didn’t seem to have the stomach for the rest of the class’s call for mass murder. Caring for the poor girl, Irisu had her play sick, and let the class finish the movie, which, as we saw, they were most definitely not up to the task.

These two episodes nearly solidify Hyouka’s theme: the growth and development of Oreki Houtarou from a lethargic, energy-conserver, to a proactive person who uses his talents to help others see past themselves and reach truer conclusions. Or at least that’s my take on it and how I think Oreki’s sister sees it, as she seems to be so generously positioning a lot of the pieces in her brother’s high school life.

The next episode seems to certain around the Culture Festival, which should be a callback to the Anthology the Classics Club was working on and which helped to prompt the investigation into Chitanda’s uncle’s strange history regarding the Club and the Culture festival years ago. Maybe they’ll pick back up on that and investigate his disappearance in India, or, even better, what the hell is going on with Oreki’s sister (also in India), and why she’s been pulling strings behind the scenes since he started high school and was forcefully asked to join the Classics Club in the first place.

Hyouka – BeldenOtaku’s Photobucket

Hyouka 9: You mean Houtarou hasn’t solved it yet?

Well, this is odd, much like the mystery of Eru’s uncle, the mysterious mystery movie mystery is going into its third episode. Even after hearing the three “amateurs” from the class present their theories, all the Classics Club really has are 3 theories that don’t work and several bases that can’t be ignored. Things like an undisturbed window entrance, the locked door, and restricted planning are just about the only concrete ideas other than the writer’s complete adherence to a perfect mystery setup and conclusion. Although, I like Eru’s approach to the problem, get drunk, it seemed like her magical eyes went haywire before she passed out, perhaps this means something…or maybe it was just fun to watch Eru get plastered. I’m leaning toward the latter.

Following feal87‘s theory, there’s a sense that the class may be using the Classics Club to test out their mystery.  It seems like a simple task to just ask the writer about it, I mean, they did say that she assured the class that all the clues were there. So why bring Houtarou and the rest into this? It’s looking more and more less like filler, and more like an annoying arc. Maybe if someone actually died, then it’d get interesting. At least then there’d probably be more drive to solve the damn thing.

Concerning Hyouka’s overall theme, I can’t quite decide if it’s simply the story of a mystery-solving Classics Club, the high school life and growth of an adolescent male, or if the main focus at the end will be Houtarou and Eru finally getting together. While it certainly seems to contain all three, one should certainly be the major, in my opinion. Eru’s “interest” didn’t seem to hold a lot of enthusiasm, and while Houtarou noticed, he didn’t seem to have much interest in her interest. So now I’m wondering about the third theme and just how relevant it will be at the end of the story. I mean, Houtarou and Eru HAVE to end up together…dont’ they?

Hyouka – BeldenOtaku’s Photobucket