Kyoto Animation is one of the best known anime studios out there, they’ve produced some of my favorite anime and they are known for their amazing animation.
Most KyoAni series are known for being slice of life with some amazing visuals, which does putt off many viewers because they see it as boring and just pretty colors, while they ignore the unique way the visuals are used to progress the story and develop the characters, something I think is best demonstrated in the 2012 anime – Hyouka.
Story & Characters
Hyouka is a mystery show that follows the highschool life of Oreki Houtarou, a character that is rather dull and never wastes his energy when it is not needed, one day he meets a girl called Chitanda, the complete opposite of him and they start a club along with characters Mayaka and Satoshi.
During the story Oreki’s philosophy is put to the test by Chitanda, Hyouka focuses on a series of everyday mysteries. A lot of people have said the mysteries are boring and serve no purpose, while they miss that this is the point. The mysteries are daily questions we are faced with every day, but are ignored because we don’t care about them. Chitanda is different because she can’t stand this fact, his curiosity makes her want to solve them even if they are fairly trivial matters, and this is how Oreki uses his impressive deduction skills to solve these problems.
The way these mysteries are handled is great, you’re given just enough clues to figure them out by yourself without it being too obvious, the style they’re presented resembles classic detective novels, although the problems are much more simpler and are more believable for an everyday life story. While a real murder cases wouldn’t fit the shows tone, the scenarios can be surprisingly smart at times, and they never feel unnatural in quality. With everything said the true mystery actually lies in the characters themselves.
Chitanda’s thirst for understanding comes from how much she cares about people, she wants to make sense of the people that are involved in these problems, to find out why people do the things they do and how they affect each other.
Oreki through the plot begins to find his identity and grow comfortable with himself, while also finding a deep connection with Chitanda’s character.
Satoshi is the most emotionally reclusive character out of them all; he hides his strong dislike of himself behind a wall of cheerfulness and positivity hiding how hollow he is.
Mayaka is also the direct opposite of Satoshi, being secure of herself with a strong sense of responsibility, during the series she spends her time waiting for Satoshi to grow as a person and overcome his problems.
These characters are a really good portrayal of how hard it can be to grow up, but they eventually take their first steps to become better persons.
Though I do have some complains about the story, and those are the one off episodes, they have no build up and they just happen with nothing new being added. And of course like previously mentioned some can be put off the trying to make something simple interesting, and they can fail with that.
Animation & Sound
KyoAni delivers when it comes to animation with this show, my god is it pretty.
The visuals are actually too good for an anime series, especially near the end. The animation perfectly captures the emotions and tone of every scene, the moments when they explain the mysteries the show uses a kind of “experimental” visual style, which gives us a unique view of the problem at hand.
The anime likes to show us random angles of our characters, which are different from the norm, but are done in a way to highlight them.
The soundtrack is composed of remixed classical music, you hear pianos and flutes and in general everything is perfect for a mystery slice of life anime perfectly fitting the mood of a scene.
Hyouka is about understanding, not of the mysteries, but of yourself and those around you. This is a coming of age story about finding your identity, with some classical mystery aspects, everything fits perfectly to give us an amazingly told story, I can safely say Hyouka is KyoAni at its best.
While it might not be the most exciting thing for many people, it is definitely worth the watch, by the end it’s actually much more than what the synopsis says it is.
Alternative anime recommendations:
Kokoro Connect – first thing is the animation and character designs are very similar, even though the studios are different. It’s also about growing up and being comfortable with yourself, though it is a lot wilder than Hyouka with lots of supernatural aspects to it.
Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru – this one is also a mystery series, where the focus isn’t so much about murders but everyday life, and making the mundane interesting, where we see our characters grown through these problems. The visuals are also really good.
Mouryou no Hako – this is the darkest out of the three recommendations, but I can’t stress enough how good it is. It’s a murder mystery, albeit a stranger one, with a vast array of characters with unique personalities, it’s definitely able to make the mundane interesting, although in a much darker and bizarre way. The animation is one of the best out there and is done by Madhouse so you are guaranteed a good watch.