What They Say:
After joining his school’s Classic Lit Club, Hotaro Oreki meets a solid group of friends who have a knack for getting into all sorts of trouble. Their adventures continue as they start preparations for a big festival where they plan to promote the Classic Lit Club. However, they find themselves in the middle of a mystery that only they seem fit to solve.
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.
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 eleven episodes on this set are spread across two discs with nine on the first and two 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.
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 two leads together in school at Oreki’s desk that will bring back memories and nostalgia for some viewers with their past. 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 aren’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 several of the cast in their shrine outfits for the event that’s got some nice color to it.
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.
The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Hyouka during its original run in the summer of 2012 didn’t come back until the summer of 2013 for its back half and that must have been difficult for fans. I had finished off the first set a couple of months ago when it came out and just the three months between sets seemed endless for a show that I was already struggling with. The good news is that if you like what the first half offered you’ll like what you get here as it basically continues on with it. The bad news is that if you were struggling you’re not going to find much here that will draw you in more as it’s essentially more drawn-out mystery of a subpar nature with characters that simply didn’t click at any point in time.
So much so that even after watching it I’m hard pressed to say much about it. There are arcs to be sure with this set, such as the opening one that focuses on the festival that’s getting closer and all the preparations for it. This has some awkward moments early on with the anthology book getting over ordered by a significant number and the struggle to get a better venue but there’s little here that’s really new or engaging compared to any other number of festival episodes from other series. We do get things moving a bit more as there’s focus on a particular manga from the past that’s hardly known and seems to connect to other events but even this doesn’t land right, more a curiosity without a quick enough payoff to it to work. There are some interesting things we do get within the school aspect of the series, but they lack any real weight or motivation even meaning in the long run to feel like they were worth telling.
THe new year period has the group heading to the shrine to do their thing and participate and there are some nice moments there but it all kind of devolves a bit when Eru and Oreki end up locked inside a storage area and are unable to get out. She won’t him damage the walls to get out and they have to come up with a cunning plan to try and get someone to notice them dropping something outside of there, which will be taken back to the main area where someone else will realize it. This kind of frustrated me to a large degree because we get passersby walking along within a couple of feet of where they push out Eru’s handkerchief to pick it up – but instead of calling out to them or anyone else a bit further away they just wait quietly. There’s an in-show reason to be sure but it just doesn’t work.
The last two episodes move us through different areas but with the main intent of moving things along a bit more for our two leads, not that I’ve grown to really know or care about either of them. The Valentine’s Day episode is everything you can think of when it comes to homemade chocolates, missed opportunities, and misunderstandings, just on a smaller and calmer scale. The last episode is a touch more interesting as it focuses on the Hina Doll Festival and Oreki gets involved in helping out with that, which is good as the parade route has a problem and there’s that to deal with. It does put the two together more toward the end as their lives seemingly feel like they’re taking different paths but they also seem closer. Which makes sense within the context of this show but just left me frustrated.
Hyouka is well put together in a technical sense as the animation is engaging and well done with some great detail and a color palette that certainly is strong in setting a mood and atmosphere. I’m definitely a fan of how it looks and how much it leaned into the darker brown shadings here and other earthy tones. But with the back half of the series it basically reinforced that this show didn’t click for me. I had nothing to really connect with in terms of our two leads as both just felt bland and uninteresting, to the point where Oreki’s expression felt like how I must have looked while watching it. Marathoning it over the course of a day didn’t’ help either in giving me a better look at the narrate threads. I’m definitely glad the show made it’s way over for the fans who’ve wanted this for a long time and can now have it and that Funimation went the distance to give it a dub as the cast does have some fun with it. Hyouka simply isn’t for me but for those who are it’s a welcome release.
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: September 26th, 2017
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.