Studio: Kyoto Animation
Publisher: Kadokawa Shoten
Genre: Mystery, School, Slice of Life
Release: S1 (2012), OVA (2013)
Hyouka: A modern slice-of-life anime that brands itself with the western mystery genre, mostly citing references from the all-time works of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie.
Hyouka (lit. meaning ice cream), is the name of the anthology published yearly by the Classic Literature club in which the protagonists are members of. Although not a hardcore mystery piece where a morbid crime is committed and the detectives are imposed with life-threatening situations, it still delivers an equal dose of mindfuck for those who love solving anomalies using impeccable logic and reasoning.
Oreki Houtarou is the personification of a ‘gray life’ as stated by his best friend Satoshi Fukube. He never wants to do any extracurriculars and always aims to conserve his energy to the best of his abilities. His lifelong motto is “If I don’t have to do it, I won’t. If I have to, I’ll make it quick.”
Though said motto can be bypassed if it’s a request coming from his big sister abroad (whom he looks up to). Satoshi was really surprised when Oreki said he was going to join the Classic Literature Club- after all, it was a plead from big sis who was a member before. If he didn’t join, then the club would have shut down for good.
After getting the room key in the faculty, he meets Chitanda Eru already inside the clubroom.
Thus the first mystery presents itself– the door was locked when Oreki got to the clubroom, but Chitanda was already inside. Also, Oreki had the only key to the room. So how did this happen?
The door was open when Chitanda got there, and she just locked the door after she got in, right? The former theory is correct, but the latter is not. Why? Fukube mentions that all the doors in the school can only be locked by keys from both the inside or outside. The plot thickens.
Already wasting too much energy in this pointless endeavor, Oreki decides to go home.
Chitanda then gives her look of curiosity with equally sparkling violet eyes. This would be Oreki’s cue in this newly-opened chapter of ‘rose-colored’ life of his that he has no choice but to satisfy Chitanda’s curiosity even though it means wasting his well-reserved pool of physical and mental energy.
Captivated by Chitanda’s persistence in wanting to solve the mystery, Oreki decided to give it some thought. Of course he figured it out in the end with the help of his trusty database, Satoshi. Thankfully, I won’t spoil it for you here. Here is his signature eureka pose instead:
After the ordeal, Oreki eventually joined the Classics Club thanks to Chitanda and Satoshi. I should also mention that the visuals in the anime can be sometimes stunning, fresh and creative in a couple of ways, especially when it’s problem-solving time. Here is the scene where Oreki was surprised and enticed by Chitanda using visual metaphors. It’s not that he didn’t want to escape. He couldn’t.
There are a total of 11 arcs in this 22-episode anime, spanning to around one to five each. My most favorite would be the ‘Why Didn’t She Ask EBA‘ arc, episodes 8-11. It’s about a sophomore class doing an independent film but the project falls short after the scriptwriter went on hiatus, leaving the class with an unfinished script. Notoriously known for his detective skills, Oreki and the Classics club were assigned to solve how the original scriptwriter intended the mystery film to end, with only using the incomplete film and script as their reference.
Besides solving mysteries, the spotlight would sometimes shift to the characters’ personal problems and internal conflicts to promote character depth and variation. For example, Oreki sometimes doubts his character of wanting a gray life after meeting Chitanda, since deep down he knows solving mysteries gives him a sense of fulfillment. Satoshi, usually obsessed in his endeavors when in middle school, decides now to obsess over being not obsessed in anything because of a certain incident. He then meets a person he likes, who also likes him a lot, but he’s afraid to regress by obsessing over that person.
Anyway, if you’re the kind who likes a good mental exercise, Hyouka is recommended!