The best show of the season is over. And by season, I mean both of the cours that it was airing through.
I could write two or three paragraphs eloquently praising the animation quality, but screw that, you already know that Hyouka is gorgeous. In fact, I kind of have the feeling that this attribute of the show is starting to turn into some sort of passive agressive insult, with people implying or outright stating that it is nothing more than pretty visuals.
But that’s far from being true. Sure, KyoAni’s animation skill was needed to make it visually interesting, for example a J.C. Staff adaptation would have been incredibly bland, but that isn’t the original plot’s fault. Hyouka has many positive attributes, deep characters, clever mysteries, and a well-presented overarching theme, but it was very obviously intended to be a literary work. It needed the little details, symbolisms, atmospheric touches, body language and facial expressions, perfectly outlining the already existing details of the setting, that only KyoAni could provide in the Anime industry.
It’s also a good proof of how worthless our “first episode impressions” posts can be. Along with Kokoro Connect, both shows were seen at first almost exclusively in terms of “looks like K-on LOL”, and “Predictable character archetypes, LOL”, then episodes later, both series proceeded to have some of the most in-depth psychological analyses and character development in any anime over the past years. Yes, Houtarou is an audience surrogate, but only as much as any point-of-view protagonist is an audience surrogate. Beyond that, he also managed to be a unique character in his own right, instead of just a condescending parody of the target audience.
One of my primary ways to define a great story, is that it is something that I can’ stop thinking about after it ends. What happened next? What could have happened differently? What was going on with the others? I’m so curious!
Hyouka is a great example of that, one of the few since I started following anime episodically. For that, it gets a 9/10 from me, and gets into my top 15, only below the quadrumvirate of Haruhi, FLCL, Death Note, and Legend of The Galactic Heroes.
If anyone would ask anime recommendations with the intent of getting into the current anime fandom, Hyouka would be one of my first default recommendations (assuming that no special genre interest is mentioned). It has everything that makes anime anime: High school clubs, cultural festival, tsundere, moe, unspoken love interests, giant sparkling eyes, cherry blossoms… and it’s all done well. This is what even the most average, mundane, genre-conforming anime could be, if at the very least it would be well-written, well-animated, and well-acted.
Nothing groundbreaking, just a beautiful story.