First Impressions: Hyouka

The first episode of Hyouka aired on April 14th. Being a Kyoto Animation project, nobody wondered whether it was going to be good or bad. There was a promotional video which introduced the four main characters and gave the viewers a taste of the visual bliss that is KyoAni. It also hinted at some romance between the main characters and towards the end summarized the main plot – Hyouka is an anime series about a classic literature club, the members of which are to investigate a 33-years-old case aided by hints from a collection of works by former members of the said club. Apart from the PV, KyoAni also released beautiful character profiles and several backgrounds.

If you can’t wait for the next episode to air, you may be interested in the original work, that the anime is adapted from. It’s a 5-volume novel by Yonezawa Honobu from the year 2001.

Although I am sure anybody reading this has already seen the first episode and therefore a summary is rather superfluous, I will still recount several scenes throughout the post.

The episode starts with the main character, Oreki Houtarou (note: all names are in the “last name, then given name” format), arriving at his new school. The sakura trees are in full bloom, their heart-shaped leaves flutter through the air and our hero explains his attitude toward extracurricular activities with a serious face. He is the kind of person, who doesn’t want to get involved. As a self-proclaimed energy-saver, meaning he won’t do more than he has to, he doesn’t want to join a club, but on the orders of his older sister he joins the classic literature club. From the PV we already have an inkling of his

Very soon into the episode we encounter another of the four main characters. The eloquent classmate of Houtarou’s, Fukube Satoshi, has been with him since middle school and consequently knows him very well. You could say he balances Houtarou out with his cheerful attitude and constant chatter. Regrettably upon introducing Satoshi the staff got their first minus in my notepad. The conversation between the two boys goes approximately like this:

Houtarou: “You sure can run your mouth.”

Satoshi: “Did you only just notice? We’ve known each other since middle school, right?”

Satoshi’s second sentence hit me like a brick at full speed. It just screams “We are introducing a character, look! They’ve known each other since middle school! Did you hear that?!” Simply said, it sounded unnatural.

Fast-forwarding a little we meet Chitanda Eru. That’s the black-haired, purple-eyed beauty. She’s very inquisitive and when something sparks her interest, she exclaims “私気になります!” (“I’m curious!”), her pretty eyes light up and she becomes hyperactive. I must admit that I have quite a problem with the voicing of Chitanda-san. For some reason I expected her voice to be smoother, perhaps even a bit deeper. My ears bleed every time she says something with that raspy high-pitched voice. The seiyuu, Satou Satomi, also voiced Ritsu from K-ON! among others and I’ve never had a problem with her voice. Does anybody feel the same?

The fourth main character is a girl named Ibara Mayaka, but she doesn’t appear in the first episode. Since the three high school students we met are very different in both looks and personality, they almost seem flat. I sincerely hope this is not the case and that they’ll gain some depth as soon as possible. Either way they all seem likable.

As I already mentioned, visually anything by KyoAni is pure bliss. Except for that one awful CG scene. I know mostly all animation is CG nowadays, but I would appreciate it not being so painfully obvious. Being a mainly visual person, I really don’t mind Bach playing in the background as I can barely hear that (not to mention recognize it), but a full on CG scene… In case, you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s the scene when Houtarou comes into the club room, sees Chitanda-san and the camera closes on her while turning around a bit.

Those who expected an exciting detective story will be let down – so far the ‘mysteries’ are about explaining everyday situations logically. In essence it’s a slice-of-life anime with little action, but a lot of chatter, emotions and interpretation.

One last question: Do Houtarou’s explanations sound believable to you?

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