I grew up with two elder siblings in a home with a single television. This means that more often than not, I was watching shows at their mercy. Naturally, that meant a popular cartoon in my household was whatever iteration of Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. was airing at the time. There’s just about that dynamic of friends coming together to solve mysteries that worked so well; it kept us kids hooked. It’s probably also why I ended up liking anime such as Hyouka.
Hyouka is such a refreshing take on the high school suspense genre. While there isn’t anything hidden or fantastical in its strange occurrences, like in The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya, it still keeps you engaged till the very last scene. It’s genuinely a slice-of-life parading as a mystery, and honestly, I don’t mind that. Sometimes, all you need for a good anime is likable characters and a solid story, which Hyouka delivers on.
That doesn’t mean the plot itself isn’t immersive because it is. While being surface level with its suspense, what Hyouka does best is bring in the whimsical element through its character interactions and, most importantly, its subtlety. It doesn’t have to be flashy for its quirks to stand out. This is something I have started appreciating in high school anime in general; the ability to have nuance in their premise is very underrated. It prides itself on bringing intrigue to the mundane.
Hyouka builds itself upon the curiosity of youth. It intertwines its plot with the character’s natural thirst for adventure in a life that is mostly ruled by grades and presenting themselves as adults. But in the end, they are still just growing. And it’s in that growth that they seek more. Combine this unique premise with gorgeous animation from powerhouse Kyoto Animation, and you might just have an underrated gem. If that sounds like your thing, keep on reading!
The Premise: Local Teens Join The Literature Club, Stay For The Mystery!
Houtarou Oreki is a cynical fresh man at Kamiyama High School who is just trying to coast through this absolutely arduous time in his life. That is until his bold genius of an older sister forces him to join the nearly defunct Classic Literature Club so that it wouldn’t be dissolved by the school administration.
Luckily, Tomoe Oreki’s plan wasn’t needed to save the club, considering Oreki’s classmate, Eru Chitanda, decided to join before him. But something about Chitanda made him hesitate, her upbeat but curious nature intriguing him to the point where he ended up joining the club out of his own volition. Thus, bringing the total number of the Classics Club to 4 members.
Now Oreki, alongside his friends Satoshi Fukube and Mayaka Ibar, follows Chitanda’s insatiable curiosity wherever it may take him. All the while trying to unravel the small yet fascinating mysteries that they encounter on their way.
The Breakdown: Suspense And School Life Sim Collide In This Beautiful Anime.
This is a hidden gem of a show. Its entire pull lies with its extremely charismatic characters and how they transform the mundane into something so fantastical and mysterious. Nothing is too little for these rapscallions, and, in that process, they discover things about themselves too.
Remember the Scooby Doo reference? That is actually what Hyouka reminds me of. It’s that buddy gang dynamic where they stumble into strange predicaments through sheer curiosity and then navigate their way to a solution. It’s so subtle, that the stories themselves aren’t overtly complicated or rival Sherlock Holmes’s level of mystery. But they are fun and engaging in a way that makes their obscurity special. Even if the dynamic of Chitanda finding the case, with Oreki being the deductive genius to solve them, is somewhat formulaic, it ends up working in favor of the show.
It makes you think, despite its simple tropes. Each mystery has you invested in its turn out, simply the characters themselves are so immersed in them. You’re following Chitanda where her curiosity takes her, but that doesn’t mean the other characters are lost in the background. They sincerely believe in what they are doing, and it’s plain fun.
Add to this KyoAni’s consistent animation style, which elevates the plainest of scenes into the gorgeous and flourishing territory, and a soundtrack that fits the tone of the anime perfectly. Hyouka simply works.
The Verdict: Quench Your Curiosity With Hyouka!
As a huge fan of coming-of-age stories mixed with an ulterior plot line, like Clannad, I have to say that Hyouka is most definitely worth the watch. Its mystery element is secondary to its characters, yes, but that is a good thing. Even the simplest of subplots is made interesting because of how charming the characters are here.
If you like antics in high school with a little bit of suspense, Hyouka is an excellent show to pick up.