Why Hyouka Sucks (But I’m Watching It Anyway)

Hyouka is a great many things – it is pretty, it is pretentious, it is trying very hard to be Haruhi 2.0. But I would not ever say that it is interesting. What else can you expect when the lead character’s primary motivation is a… very strict interpretation of the law of conservation of energy? Though the characters do have a sort of chemistry with each other, something about all of it feels artificial. And yet I keep watching it.

It’s about a boy (Oreki), and his friend (… does he have a name?), and the girl he doesn’t realize is his love interest (Chitanda). Together, they fight crime– I mean, they solve mysteries. Really, really silly mysteries. The story had to start somewhere, I guess, but it is more than a little difficult to care about the outcome when there is nothing at stake. At all. Okay, they just spent ten minutes figuring out what was up with that damned book. So what?

The closest thing to motivation I can discern is Oreki’s previously mentioned – but as yet nebulous – attraction to the perennially curious Chitanda girl. I guess you could consider her affection to be a sort of “stake,” in that Oreki’s solving mysteries amuses her, or something. But considering Oreki has yet to even realize that he cares about her like that, it should hardly count.

Which I suppose brings me to Chitanda herself, and how she is more boring than Clannad‘s Nagisa. Damning words, I know, but there you go. Her whole schtick is that… she’s curious. Well. Good for you. There was this neat little shot in the first episode, right after she and Oreki first met, where Oreki imagines her hair growing out like weeds and entangling him. All very symbolic and whatnot. Serious stuff. But it doesn’t really make sense, as Chitanda lacks any sort of engrossing characteristics. (She’s no Haruhi, is what I’m saying.)

Or maybe I’m thinking too hard about this and Oreki just has shit taste in women. That’ll have to do, I guess, since I can’t seem to bother dropping the damned show yet. Because Oreki is just too damned moe.

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  1. Posted May 10, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I pretty much agree with everything you said :)

  2. DarkFireBlade25
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Maybe Chitanda’s high class princess-y charms is a Japanese thing :/ just cultural discrepancy.

  3. Posted May 10, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    I may be blogging Hyouka, and I do love it to death, but I still agree with much of what you said – especially the stuff about Chitanda.

    Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference. I can’t stand Fate/Zero, but I have to admit that it’s well produced and animated and written and all that stuff. But I just don’t like watching that sort of magic-action anime. (Which is strange, because I enjoyed Kara no Kyoukai.)

    It’s the same with Hyouka. I understand that people are looking for the next great mystery anime, and everything after Death Note fell short. So they might get a little excited once they hear KyoAni is working on a new mystery anime. But Hyouka isn’t primarily a mystery anime. It’s slice-of-life.

    And of course that’s a whole new can of worms, since a lot of people don’t think slice-of-life ought to exist in the first place.

    • Chronolynx
      Posted May 10, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

      I probably would be more willing to engage Hyouka as a slice of life show if the characters were more… engaging, I guess. The banter between Oreki and what’s-his-name is about as close as it gets to that for me, but even that gets tedious after awhile. There’s too much calculation behind everything that’s said or done for me to take it seriously as slice of life. But like I said, I’ll keep watching it anyway, for some reason.

      • Posted May 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

        But what is slice-of-life? Is it supposed to be a realistic depiction of real life, or an idealized depiction of real life?

        I actually find the Houtarou-Satoshi banter to be rather forced. But apart from the exaggerated manner in which Houtarou apparently perceives the world, I find his calculations to be rather realistic. God knows I’ve done quite a bit of calculation myself over the appropriate method to resolving inane conversations, much less mysteries – with much less success, of course.

        • Chronolynx
          Posted May 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

          Ah, now there is a question, except I disagree with your proposed choices. Either is fine with me, really, so long as there is some feeling of earnestness behind everything, which I suppose is a bit laughable a notion in such a profit-driven industry, but there you go. Every single thing about Hyouka seems so very cold and distant, when I’d much prefer my slice of life to be warm and… “engaging,” I think I said, earlier.

          So while his calculations and all that may very well be realistic, that alone does not make it slice of life, in my opinion.

          • Posted May 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

            … I was about to post a really long comment, then I realized that it’d probably be better off as an editorial.

            But suffice to say I think genres should be subject to criteria that can be objectively measured:

            Ghosts, demons -> Supernatural.
            Relationships -> Romance.
            Robots -> Mecha.
            Realism -> Slice-of-life.

            Earnestness, being subject to human interpretation, shouldn’t be used to define a genre.

          • Chronolynx
            Posted May 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

            Whereas for me, genre is all about interpretation. I’m not saying that Hyouka isn’t slice of life, only that I cannot interpret it as such. Or, rather, it does the show no benefit for me to look at it from that perspective. But it does for you, so ~opinions~.

  4. Bob from Accounting
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    I have to admit that Hyouka has been pretty dull. But I’ve managed to find enjoyment in it. The third episode was better than the others, I guess. Mainly because Houtarou decided to activate BOSS MODE.

  5. eternia
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    Now, now.
    While I think FZ is the best of currently airing anime,
    I love slice of life too.
    Air, Kanon, Clannad, they are my favorite anime.
    But Hyouka just doesn’t work for me.

    What is the reason?

    First. I hate the characters.
    Oreki has too many self-narrations, he keeps going on and on how he wants to conserve energy. Yet, his action contradicts that?! Just leave that girl alone and get on with life?! Find another girl who would love to conserve energy too, dude! The girl has nothing good on her anyway, other than mysterious sparkling eyes
    Second. The mystery is too low level.
    Oh, I don’t demand god of death. I don’t demand deus ex machina. I don’t demand murder case or serial killer. Even though it will be nice if they were to appear in this anime. Can’t they solve a more meaningful mystery? Who cares if you got locked in? I wonder if they have never heard of something called spare key. Who cares if some girls borrow a thick book every week? Who cares about what your uncle said to you long time ago? Who cares about what a middle schooler did half a century ago?

    It would be better if they help catching bullies / pranksters / blackmailer. It would be better if they help a kitten from top of tree, help a granny cross a street, find people’s missing pet. It would be better if they catch stalker or underwear thief.

    The stupid trio keep praising Oreki as some kind of genius and detective while the cases he has solved are totally useless to any living being. Other than the girl Chitanda. *sigh*

    • Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      I agree with this whole-heartedly. OMG I GOT LOCKED IN! (and then released before I even realized it.) WE MUST GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS

  6. Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I have very little to add, I said a lot of the same stuff, although I evoked Haruhi perhaps too much. The stakes are pretty much nonexistent in these mysteries, and the whole uncle business is a Maeda-level contrivance. I can’t even fathom the idea that the writer couldn’t think of a better setup to bring the characters together and teach us whatever valuable lesson we’re supposed to learn, but I guess maybe all the stuff they say about light novels is true.

  7. Boboglobins
    Posted May 12, 2012 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    I personally love how low-level it is, instead of massive life or death situation it manages to (in my opinion) make these meaningless things interesting and makes you as curious as Chitanda, this paired with the good visuals during explanations make the show very impressive.

    • Chronolynx
      Posted May 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      It is an interesting premise (in a way), but as I explained above the slice of life elements really do not work for me, which removes a considerable percentage of potential enjoyment I might get from the show. All that’s left are mundane mysteries and… moe boys. Which apparently is the bare minimum to keep me interested.

  8. Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t say it sucks outright (except to troll KyoAni fans). What I would say is that it’s eminently mediocre. Who gives a shit if KyoAni can afford to animate BG characters walking around? The story is boring. And I’m so tired of the “retard moe” trend.

    • Chronolynx
      Posted May 14, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      I suppose whether it “sucks” depends on where you draw the line between that and mediocre. Boring story + characters I don’t care about = it sucks. But that’s just me.

  9. Posted May 14, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    I hate Chitanda. Given the low standard set by the average female protagonist, she isn’t thaaat bad, but Hyouka could have been so much better if they had put an ounce of effort into her.

    I actually didn’t really think of Hyouka as either slice of life or mystery. I guess I just sort of ignored its genre for some reason.

    I actually enjoyed the low-key “mysteries”, they sort of made the anime feel closer to home, I guess? Well, that’s probably just another way of saying it felt more slice of life-like, but that seems strange given what I said earlier. Oh well.

    It’s about a boy (Oreki), and his friend (… does he have a name?), and the girl he doesn’t realize is his love interest (Chitanda)

    I disagree. I think Oreki knew right from the first episode that he has a crush on Chitanda. All of his actions are done with her in mind and I am pretty sure he knows that he is just trying to impress her.

    Either is fine with me, really, so long as there is some feeling of earnestness behind everything

    I refer to this as “heart”. And well, I guess you are sort of right about that. I am not ready to fall into this cynical view just yet, but I can see it happening and I can see why you would think that way.

    Now, contrast Hyouka with Acchi Kocchi ( a pure slice of life anime). Kocchi has a lot of flaws (some boring jokes, stupid hime, etc…), but it has a lot of heart.

    It does look like Hyouka is going to improve, so, I am hopeful. :P

    tl:dr: I am really enjoying Hyouka, but it’s probably because I have become a Houtaro fanboy.

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