Hyouka 1 ~ I’m Curious!
April 23, 2012
Hyouka is a new series for the Spring 2012 season. In a season that is already loaded with very promising works, it is almost difficult to believe a work that is this anticipated is just beginning. Hyouka is being produced by the [in]famous Kyoto Animation studio. KyoAni is famous for their abundant talent in creating gorgeous animation, but they have tended to focus on moe shows, and thus their brand is polarizing. Hyouka is supposed to have elements of Mystery, but do KyoAni have what it takes to deliver a real Mystery? Are they destined to turn Hyouka into a moe-infused school life show?
The incredible skill of the animators is evident right from the beginning, as the protagonist, Houtarou Oreki, walks past a crowd of club enthusiasts. Often a scene like this is handled by panning over a still shot. Perhaps there will be minimal animation of the foreground character in front of a still background. This is because animating crowd scenes is hard and expensive. KyoAni goes in the exact opposite direction. Take a look at the boy holding the signboard.
He tries getting Houtarou’s attention, gives up, sees his next mark and directs his energy there. And there is action all around him. This is detailed animation of an irrelevant background character. Why? It turns out that our main character has a philosophy of “conserving energy”. Here the protagonist, normally the subject, is contrasted with the extreme amount of youthful energy shown by everyone else. Even background conversations by nameless fellow students are animated with a larger degree of action and realism than many shows put into animations of the main characters.
Despite his preference, Houtarou is forced into joining the Classic Literature club. The clubroom itself is another marvel. It is full of all kinds of items and has realistic natural lighting. Houtarou also meets Eru Chitanda there, a girl who has joined the Classical Literature club “for personal reasons”. Eru obviously gets excited by mysteries, and she has a way of entangling Houtarou in her efforts to solve the mystery.
The central tension of the show (at least so far) is that Houtarou doesn’t want to get involved in anything, but he can’t help but try to satisfy Eru’s curiosity. The first two mysteries in this first episode were on a small scale, but that is to be expected in an opening episode. Honestly the mystery aspect seems more intrinsic to the nature of the series than I was afraid it would turn out to be.
The third character we have been introduced to is Satoshi, who likes to tell embellished stories and poke fun at his friend Houtarou. All three characters were decent. None seemed simplistic or stale stereotypes. I particularly liked Satoshi, though. He seems a real pot-stirrer. Eru is largely a blank slate at this point, but her intense curiosity is endearing.
I can’t help but wonder how this one will turn out. For the moment it seems to be another great addition to an already strong season.