Ice Cream: Not a dessert anymore

This is not about Ice cream. In fact this article is nothing about food. This article is actually about an anime. Hyouka, which is translated to ‘ice cream’.

Hyouka-Title

Hyouka  or Hyoka is a 2012 anime based on the first of a teen mystery novel series called the Classic Literature Club Mysteries by writer Honobu Yonezawa. Yes this anime, instead of being based off the traditional manga source material, is based on a novel.

The anime follows Hotaro Oreki who is forced to join the mysterious Classic Literature or Classics club in school by his older sister. He is soon joined in the almost dead club by Chitanda Eru, Satoshi Fukube and Mayaka Ibara. And surrounded by a group of faithful, if annoying at times, friends, Hotaro begins his club activities.

When the anime started, that is during the first episode or so, I found a lot of parallels between this anime and Oregairu, an anime I talked about earlier. Both feature misanthropic and disinterested teenage boys who are forced to join an extracurricular activity. But by the end of the first episode though, the two anime seemed quite different.

hyouka-08-mayaka-chitanda-satoshi-houtarou-classics_club
Left to right: Mayaka, Chitanda, Satoshi and Hotaro.

 

Hyouka, while seemingly about the club activities our members get involved, isn’t actually so. In fact, Hyouka would be better classified as mystery because that’s what Hotaro and his three friends end up doing. Solving school mysteries. In each episode, the four friends encounter a puzzling mystery, and as puzzling it is, and they attempt to solve it. But this kind of storyline wouldn’t result in an eyecatching anime if there wasn’t any catch. So what’s the catch?

Hotaro Oreki.

Living a life along his Energy Conservation belief, Hotaro is gifted with a remarkable, almost genius intellect which allows him to analyze problems and solve them far more quickly and efficiently than anyone else can do. More often than not, the other three simply serve as sounding boards for his ideas and at other times, simply provide him with the clues of the mystery. This is not to say the other three aren’t smart. In fact, each of them posseses keen analytical skills, as showcased in the anthology mystery but only Hotaro is what we call ‘gifted’. And that’s all the anime is.  A homage, if you will, to Hotaro Oreki’s marvelous aptitude for mystery solving.  Which ends up being rather a shallow plot actually.

But the amazing writing more than makes up for it. Each character is filled with a self-awareness that I’ve only ever seen in a handful of anime before. And each mystery is profoundly befuddling, especially the penultimate mystery, perplexing both the viewers and the characters right until the very moment Hotaro Oreki, our quasi-Sherlock Holmes jumps up, raises up and answers the question.

One might expect that giving a 17 year old teenager a Sherlockian intellect would make said 17 year old boastful, annoying, over-confident and filled with hubris. On the contrary though, Hotaro is a deeply flawed character. He is socialy inept, bumbling through social niceties in innocent simplicity and it’s this flaw which makes him both the butt of the other characters’ jokes and the most endearing character on the show.

The animation is beautiful. Combining both hand drawn animation and CGI, the landscapes, the backgrounds, the character animation beautiful. Accompanying this is a soundtrack that’s largely unobtrusive, just filling in the spaces between the plot and animation to immerse the viewers in the experience. Of course one point in the anime where the soundtrack jumps out is during the penultimate mystery. The mystery is an actual murder mystery and the music is suspenseful and deep, somber and long, heightening the urgency and the literal creepiness of the entire arc.

Hyouka was a great anime to watch. It’s easy to pickup but extremely difficult to put down. Filled with a great cast of characters, a mesmerizing plot line and some beautiful aesthetics, Hyouka will only leave you wanting more. Now let’s all wait for the 2nd season.

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