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Hyouka Part 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

Hyouka Collection 2Beautifully dull.

What They Say:
A worthy addition to any animation fan’s collection, Hyouka is a stunning masterwork that spins a charming tale of high school romance and mystery. After disenchanted student Hotaro Oreki joins his school’s Classic Literature Club, he meets Eru Chitanda, a kind-hearted and inquisitive girl with boundless curiosity and a knack for getting him caught up in all sorts of trouble.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track alongside the English language dub, both of which are in stereo and encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is very much a dialogue driven piece with a few very small moments here and there where it goes a bit bigger but not by much. That leaves the mix in a simpler place as it doesn’t have much to work with as even things like placement and moving characters across the screen isn’t all that much here as a lot of what we get is sitting around talking. Some of the more creative pieces get a little extra attention such as the recordings and the like, but it’s fairly straightforward material that doesn’t stand out all that much in general. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes on this set are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Kyoto Animation, the show has many of the trademark appealing design elements that the studio is known for when it comes to school based material. There’s a more earthy tone to this one with the color choices but it still has a real appeal when it comes to the quality of the tones and design while the strong encode just makes it stand out all the more. The animation isn’t something that works really busy sequences but that allows most of the movement to look very good with some fluid motions that come across beautifully here. Detail is strong, the character designs come through wonderfully, and the overall work just hits a certain sweet spot thanks to how well it’s put together in the encoding.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the four discs on hinges for the two formats. The front cover has a good image of the four main characters together in their uniforms as they’re making their way outside of the school and with the photographic style background, the whole thing has a nice almost sepia toned aspect to it that gives it a nostalgic feeling. The logo is something that just doesn’t work for me as it doesn’t fit/blend well with what’s here but it’s kept small enough so as to not be a problem. The back cover carries over the framing design in a good way as it holds the summary of the premise and we also get some character artwork along the right that’s cute. The rest is filled with the usual small shots from the show and a clean and easy to read accurate technical grid that we always appreciated. While there isn’t any inserts included with this release we do get a reversible cover where the left side has the episode breakdown by number and title while the right has a more casual street clothes version of the cast.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is a static piece that works the cover elements into the mix here with the layout of it along the left with the character artwork, replicating off of the front cover for the first disc in fact, while the navigation and logo are to the right. These are kept simple and it works well, though I think the logo is one of the worst pieces to come out in the last few years in Japan as it’s just kind of ugly. Everything is pretty simple but easy to use here with clean and functional navigation that works well both as a pop-up menu during playback and as the top level menu for getting around.

Extras:
The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the novel by Honobu Yonezawa from 2001 that got turned into a manga in 2012 that’s still ongoing with twelve volumes, Hyouka is a twenty-two episode anime series and OVA that was originally aired throughout 2012. The series was animated by Kyoto Animation with Yasuhito Takemoto directing based on the scripts by Shoji Gatoh which generated a lot of interest. Sadly, due to reasons, the show ended up being unlicensed/unreleased for years up until now while most Kyoto Animation properties are considered hot properties with quick licenses. So, with it not available for years and I don’t believe it was streamed either, there’s definitely anticipation, curiosity, and some level of hype to it.

Unfortunately, Hyouka in the first half where we get eleven episodes plus the OVA ends up being more of a beautifully dull experience. So much so that our lead character looks so bored and disinterested that it can make the viewer feel that way as well. The series focuses on high school students at the Kamiyama in Gifu. The primary focus is on Hotaro Oreki, a young man who looks to keep things as simple and uninvolved as possible, which gives reason for his bored look as he’s just practically slouching through life. He dislikes expending energy but he also has a gift in that he’s truly something when it comes to mysteries and deducting information to make good leaps of logic and tie things together. With his high school career, he’s interested in just getting through it and uninvolved in clubs and everything else. That changes when his older sister, who is off traveling the world, asks him to join the classic lit club that she was once a part of. It’s about to shut down without any members and he only agrees because he’ll be the only one in it.

Naturally, that doesn’t happen as it turns out a girl named Chitanda is in the club room and it doesn’t take long before his casual friend Fukube joins up as well just for the heck of it. Add in another girl named Ibara and we’ve got our minimum and that brings us a good bit of the usual and far too familiar club dynamic. This aspect of it isn’t bad per se because it’s something we’ve seen in many shows. Chitanda’s the curious type whose nature keeps them finding out things while Fukube is kind of playful and prodding, bringing some positive vibes to it all. Ibara’s a little off and not quite a full part of the group quickly but she has her own passions that come into the mix and knowing where this goes you also know that she’s going to end up getting involved with Fukube because pairings always happen in these things.

What the show wants to focus on are mysteries that the characters have to unravel, which isn’t something by nature I’m opposed to. We get a taste of it from the start when Oreki has to figure out how Chitanda ended up in a locked classroom and that makes it clear how the deductions will go here. As it progresses we get a couple of other arcs but they’re just so drawn out that it’s very easy to lose interest in it even while marathoning it. The main arc toward the end here involves a movie that some past students filmed about a locked room mystery and murder that they’re trying to solve for someone and it’s just so slow going and poked at from different angles that it doesn’t have any tension or real reason for being done other than Oreki being unable to leave a mystery alone. And when the reveal of why they were pushed to figure out the mystery was revealed toward the end it just left me rolling my eyes all the more.

The initial mystery here is one that doesn’t even resonate after finishing the set as it made no real impact. It focuses on Chitanda’s uncle and something that he said when she was young but it mostly relates to the anthology book that was produced for the previous classic lit club that was known as the Hyouka book. This has its own little mysteries in it but there’s just nothing compelling about it because it’s drawn out in a slow way. There’s a kind of focus on character material here but it’s more about building up their various traits and skills that will be used going forward rather than fleshing them out as characters proper. But it’s basically not a good thing when your first main arc and mystery are just so lifeless. We get a good feel for the style and intent of the show in the first episode but it really cements it here. It’s one where I do really like the animation and designs but it just has a kind of oppressive feeling that keeps me at more than arm’s length and that combined with the disinterest of the lead impacts it even more.

In Summary:
Kyoto Animation delivers when it comes to the visuals of this property as it really does create a mood and atmosphere that’s distinctive. When we get lighter scenes, such as the pool segment of the OVA at the end here, you realize just how much of the school material and other pieces are so washed out in color that it impacts things. I like the technical aspects of this production but the story and characters simply did not engage me in the slightest and you felt like you wouldn’t want to hang out with most of them, at least when they’re around Oreki because he’s just such an absolute downer. And that kind of aloofness is just off-putting and really made a difference in how difficult it was to try and connect with this show. And that’s not even talking about the uninteresting mysteries that are a slow plodding effort themselves. For fans of the show they’re getting better than expected here just in it being licensed and released but also in getting a dub, so there’s a lot to be happy about. It just may not be what those who haven’t seen it are expecting from Kyoto Animation.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: July 4th, 2017
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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