I have to hand it to Kyoto Animation for creating another great TV anime with very solid themes and consistently wondrous visuals. It is as classic as it is ornate and detailed, the only thing holding it back perhaps being the format of a TV show and an adaptation of Hyouka.
In some ways, my biggest problem regarding Kyoto Animation since back in their FMP days was the way they adopted light novels. It’s entirely too stiff. In Hyouka, things are not much better, but at least it is relatively resistant–perhaps even compatible–to a rigid adaptation. The direction is purposefully bipolar at times, to demonstrate the gap between reality and fancy. After all this is a story about a bunch of kids who continue to support the “classics club” and imagination is a core power in any story about that kind of achievements. That’s where Kyoani flexed its muscles–the power of anime.
I think that little translation about “classics club” back in episode 1 was a harbinger of things to come, in retrospect. Between that and how Hyouka is just really quaint, the show was doomed from the start to achieve any kind of deeper qualities, even if it’s not its fault completely.
But being quaint is okay. The show piled on thick for shippers and people who somehow think Hyouka has this great character development going on. I’m not really saying it isn’t–it’s just that it is possibly the least Japanese part of the story. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Japanese movie (live action or anime) where they actually have the character or actor speak out loud (even if it is in their mind) about their feelings. I mean verbalizing your feelings is so not Japanese as merguez and falafel are so not Japanese. They could be delicious nonetheless.
To end, the last episode was a great little thing that reminded me of K-ON’s finale, except for some reason it took a turn for the dramatic, once that mystery yields itself to the background interaction between Chitanda and Oreki. The detective act was all a shell game for youthful exurbrances; kids play because that’s what they do, not because there’s some deeper meaning in the games they play. Even Oreki’s lowest-energy-state of non-play is just a game. Even Chitanda’s phone calls to get permission to reroute the procession, all the acting she and Irisu go through, are more like a game than anything with actual significance. Ultimately that paints Hyouka as a story about dull detective stories, and not so much a dull detective story of its own.
Looking back, it bothers me slightly that I suffered through this mainly due to superficial reasons–the Kyoani animation muscles–but I guess I don’t regret it. At the very least, it’s coffee table-top material, and you can’t have too many of that in the realm of TV animation entertaining enough for adults.
Except, of course, when it isn’t. In that case Hyouka can double also as a sleep aid.
PS. Ibara is by far the best. She also ranks second on my Kayanon ranking. Second has to be Kouchi Ayako with a tight lead over Irisu. Speaking of manga club members, the vocaloid cosplay group is full of interesting voice actors. Only if I was M enough to enjoy fake bullying.