Building a robotic explorer for the competition.

Building a robotic rover for the Comeback Competition.

Episode 57 of Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyodai) saw the team working on their entry in the Comeback Competition. Up to now the Comeback arc has focussed mostly on the personal challenges confronting Nanba and his fellow astronaut candidates (in particular Pico, the unhelpful engineer adviser that was assigned to their team). This episode, however, provided a narrative in which the team confronted technical challenges and overcame them with engineering solutions. The result was entertaining and atypical for the anime-viewing experience. While this series has provided some very good episodes that focussed on personal challenges (the self-doubt someone can face when they make a mid-life career change, for example), I am particularly glad that we got an episode out of it that tackled this sort of objective obstacle.

In fact I would go so far as to say that this episode was the sort of thing I was hoping to get out of Robotics;Notes, but never did. SpaceBros has proven that a robotics competition can provide a compelling narrative without resorting to secret organizations, unreal technology, mysterious powers and so forth. We should have more shows like this, in which a group of people peacefully resolve a challenge. The process by which people act as a team to solve a problem can be an interesting story, and it still offers the opportunity for characterization, humor, setting, and so forth. Another recent show that made the process by which a group of people reasoned towards a solution the substance of the narrative was Hyouka. More of this please!

The finished autonomous rover; she's a beauty!

The finished autonomous rover; she’s a beauty!

Chitanda and Oreki in an intense moment from Hyouka.

Chitanda and Oreki in an intense moment from Hyouka.

The Spring 2013 season is in full swing, and I have enjoyed watching first episodes as usual. As usual some shows are utter rubbish, but it can be fun watching an episode to see how bad it turned. And as usual I have been watching some older shows as well, including a rewatch of Hyouka. I’ve written about Hyouka on multiple occasions before, so I don’t want to rehash that, but I must point out that the series stands up to a re-watch because of four factors: 1) the amazng job KyoAni did on animation, 2) a group of characters that were all quite interesting and endearing, 3) some unusual plot lines, and 4) a nicely detailed setting.

Of these factors, I hadn’t given much thought to Hyouka’s setting on my initial watch. The series is set in the small village of Kamiyama (“Spirit Mountain”) nestled in amongst several national parks. The remote setting adds an interesting element to the series, because episodes examine things like Shinto practices from an insider perspective.

I have enjoyed watching some of the new series, such as Red Data Girl, and Chihayafuru continues to impress, but re-watching Hyouka was far from wasted effort.

This series receives Satoshi’s silly saturn suit seal of approval.

For me, Hyouka is the undisputed series of Summer 2012. I am enjoying a couple of other shows, but this is a series that really feels like it is raising the bar. It has been obvious from before the series aired that it would be visually excellent, and even that turned out to be an understatement, but what I really find impressive is the way Hyouka is succeeding with character development and its exploration of the Mystery genre. Add back in the unrivaled animation abilities of production company KyoAni, and you have one of the greatest shows of 2012 at the very least.

This post is mostly a reaction to the third arc of the series (episodes 12 – 17), but my interest here is less the events, and more the bigger picture.

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Intense contrast as the storm clouds part.

Episode 5 ends Hyouka‘s initial arc. I was extremely pleased with the way everything came together in the end. Nevertheless this is yet another post about how great this series looks.

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“It was not a heroic tale in any way.”

I seem to have gotten a different impression from Hyouka episode 4 than I have seen floating through the aniblogiverse. To jump straight to my conclusion: I think Oreki intentionally misled everyone for his own selfish reasons.

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That awkward moment when you realize you already drank the last sip of coffee.

Hyouka continues to impress visually. KyoAni truly defines the top tier of animation production quality. The great news is that episode 3 of Hyouka gives us some solid development on the over-arching mystery behind the episodic mysteries of the first two episodes. The characters also have grown on me.

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What happens when KyoAni tries their hand at the Mystery genre? We're about to find out.

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?

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