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Hyouka Part 1 UK Blu-ray Anime Review

12 min read

Sometimes a series comes out which is just for you…

What They Say:
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 kindhearted and inquisitive girl with boundless curiosity and a knack for getting him caught up in all sorts of trouble.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio has a 2.0 release in English and a 2.0 in Japanese so of course a bit disappointed considering how much of a fan I became of the series – I watched the first disc in English and the second disc in Japanese to compare – in both languages I did have to raise the volume a little from my default settings, however, there were no other issues regarding sound quality, echoing, synching with subtitles, etc – the quality is high overall. The dub is also superb, and the atmosphere (the music is very mysterious when the scenes are worked out, verging on creepy at times – the murder filming springs to mind) added t the music makes the show feel more intense – just a shame we couldn’t get the full monty…

Video:
Similar with the audio, the video is set in full screen format via NTSC transfer to PAL format with the show combining animation and colour in a more traditional sense but with a rather unique look with some of the designs making the animation stand out (especially as whilst you can tell the computer animation, the combination of that and scenes like flashbacks and solutions make it flow very uniquely), with no real problems with the subtitles, the sound synching in either language, no pause lag or in general, it is a quality release, and one with no real effects in terms of CGI or anything, it is a lot more standard than normal and for a series like this, that is a good thing…

Packaging:
There was no packing for this test release, but for the Blu-Ray collector’s edition there is collectors’ packaging.

Menu:
The Blu-ray menu is surprisingly basic (even the font reminds me of just a standard word font almost copied and pasted!) we have our lovable cast of four, Houtarou, Eru, Satoshi and Mayaka on the way to school, with Houtarou looking disinterested whilst the others are smiling on the left hand side, the shows name on the top right, and the menu on the bottom right with the options Play All, Episodes, Setup and on the 2nd disc, extras. And like most Blu-rays it has popup menus during the show (bar extras). Whilst perfectly functional and no issues, it is rather basic and static for a Blu-Ray release, especially one which is (in my opinion) one of the better shows in terms of a release recently.

Extras:
We have the clean opening and ending as per tradition, but the only other extras are trailers for The Boy & The Beast, The Disappearance Of Haruhi Suzumiya, And You Thought There Is Never A Girl Online, and Steins Gate.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hyouka is one of those series that crept up because it was released not that recently (2012) but only got to a licence in the last year – with the manga also released in the same year and still ongoing, this is definitely one of these series that you need to take a chance on – similar to a series like Erased due to the mystery element and unique characterisation. Unlike Erased which focuses on a murder mystery, this is basically a ‘mystery of the day’ anime with some extending to a few episodes, whilst we focus on the lead character evolve without changing too much about himself. It is very subtle and yet we are very intrigued about how it happens, mainly because the mystery element hooks you in and you try and work them out along with the protagonists. Add that a nice secondary cast and some real surprises and a surprising amount of comedy and heart-warming moments, and you have a series that can catch you off guard in its quality.

You can probably guess I’m a fan of it, but is it for everyone?

We are introduced to our lead, Houtarou Oreki, a young man whose motto is literally ‘If I don’t have to do it, I won’t. If I have to do it, I’ll make it quick.’ He seems cold, callous, not interested in the world and seems to be content just lazing about and doing nothing. Despite this, he isn’t a complete loner and has friends, but is apparent that he is on the ‘going home’ club style of mentality.

That is until his sister, overseas, asks him to join the Classic Literature Club to stop it being disbanded as that was her baby back in high school. His sister seemingly being the one person he can’t disobey, he does and meet a beautiful girl named Eru Chitanda there. However this doesn’t fall for the ‘love at first sight’ cliché…instead we get a moment where the two are confused how she got into the room without a key as Houtarou had it…cue the mystery element as Houtarou’s mind works these mysteries out and Eru is totally captivated with him working it out….despite her high intelligence and rich background, she is very sweet, excitable…and a tad ditzy. It seems he wants to distance from her…yet at the same time drawn into the mysteries that she wants to focus on. Along with his friend Satoshi, it is clear that this might be the start of something that will break him out of his monotony….

We are also introduced to a girl named Mayaka, who has an interesting relationship with both boys – Houtarou she is clearly annoyed by with his lazy attitude whilst Houtarou could care less and just intentionally or not likes pressing her buttons, whilst Satoshi they are bickering childhood friends with a potential spark as well – Satoshi himself being the very nice guy who acts shocked when Houtarou does any effort (his reaction to him joining the Literature Club was hilarious) but you can tell this is going to be our four-band ‘Mystery Gang’. The initially plot however is basically from Houtarou’s sister asking to find the anthologies back from the Classic Literature Club and Eru wanting to make one for the upcoming Culture Festival. This ties in together as Eru reveals something about her uncle and a mystery about his last words which had an effect on her…which actually ties into the anthologies and even the shows name in what can only be called absolute genius. With his sister’s help, Houtarou manages to find more anthologies in other rooms (manages to figure out one member was smoking and managed to subtle blackmail him in a bit of magnificent bastardry) we discover the first anthology is still missing and each of the cast provide their theories and Houtarou can’t figure it out…but then combines all three theories of Eru, Satoshi and Mayaka and figures it out that Eru’s uncle was expelled for not wanting to cut the Culture Festival, but then speaks to the school librarian Yoko, to fill in the blanks of his theory as she was there with Eru’s uncle. The conclusion is the name of the anthologies and what Hyouka really means leading to why Eru was so upset by those words in her past…for an anime which isn’t really plot heavy and focuses on an episode of the day, this arc was surprisingly deep and intelligent and I applaud how well it transited into anime.

After that, we don’t get an arc for a while, instead some funny yet intelligent discussion of the Seven Deadly Sins (all stemming from an argument between Mayaka and Satoshi for what apparently missing a date), why Eru got angry at a teacher (which even Eru and Houtarou can’t figure out), a hot spring episode that isn’t focused on fanservice but instead of Eru’s wish for a sibing (and telling ghost stories which leads to another couple of mysteries, one ghost related, one about Mayaka’s cousins) before we get to the other arc of this set, the movie arc. This introduces us to probably the one other character which feels important aside from the main four, a girl named Fuyumi Irisu, also known as ‘The Empress’ who is taking over writing a script for a murder mystery. Learning about Houtarou from Eru, he agrees to listen to the other members of the film on trying to figure out what the author wanted and what the answer is to who the murderer is…

So after listening to each of the cast members, the four members of the Literature Club all give their theories before Fuyumi asks Houtarou to solve the mystery his way in a way which compliments him. He goes to school in the holidays (surprising Satoshi a ton) and eventually works out a solution which works…mostly. Whilst most people agree with the ending, Mayaka at the end mentions a detail he forgot (which explains why the prop master didn’t like the ending), then Satoshi and Eru also point out things which either didn’t make sense or they didn’t like, realising that whilst Houtarou made an ending that made sense, it wasn’t what the original script writer wanted. He begins to think and trying to evaluate what he thought combined with what the writer wanted, realising that Fuyumi actually buttered him up and made him do her dirty work, leading to an actual confrontation showcasing he can get angry as not just him, but all the cast as well. This makes Fuyumi a brilliant manipulator (though she gets some minor come-uppance when the writer messages her about it and he clearly wasn’t happy leading to their conversation getting cut off) leading to the final scene with Eru where he works out he didn’t want a murder at all which Eru is happy with…

Oh, and there’s a swimsuit episode. ^^ Actually, again, the fanservice isn’t very high but it does showcase that Houtarou is not only coming out of his shell (actually taking a part time job) but he is clearly interested in Eru – whether because of her inquisitive nature combined with her good looks he is in his own way getting a little flustered around her. I’m not sure if this is a show that needs romance but the hints are there (and even this ep does have a mystery element to it as well) and considering how much I’m enjoying their banter, I still welcome it.

Hyouka is definitely one of these series that is a bit niche and not everyone reading this will like this – the episode of the day nature with a few mini arcs all focusing on some mystery isn’t everyone’s cup of tea obviously, and considering the mystery element is mostly mundane things it isn’t like heavily focus on one plot like say Erased. What this show does instead is bringing these mysteries in conjunction with these characters and especially Houtarou and Eru, in breaking them out as characters and how they develop as people.

This is why Houtarou is one of my favourite male leads in anime full stop and I’ve only seen half of the series. He is clearly sardonic, quick witted, a bit on the anti-hero nature, yet also has moments of kindness, adorkable nature, cares for his friends (in his own way) and does develop as a person through his interactions with his three friends. This is actually emphasised in the one fanservice episode in the swimsuits because the fact he keeps stealing glances at Eru shows she is a girl she can’t leave alone…whether it is because of her nature of wanting to know all the mysteries or because she is simply, sweet, beautiful and nice girl. He is able to blackmail people through deduction, yet says he doesn’t want to do effort. He tries little physical effort, yet thinks what’s wrong with him when his mind wanders about Eru. He seems apathetic and lazy, yet makes the most effort of everyone when a mystery comes around. Add to that the fire and ice dynamic he has with Satoshi and Mayaka, it gives him a great contrast between four different characters, who all become friends as well.

His intelligence combined with being distant with people is what brings characters like Satoshi and Eru into his face (literally at some times, the two don’t really have a concept such as personal space ^^) and are a great dynamic for his character. Mayaka as well is interesting because she seems to hold contempt for him almost like wasting his potential, yet will still work with him and gets along with him in his own way. Add to that his subtle development which is best demonstrated in the movie mini-arc – where it is even commented if he is capable of anger (and emotions in general) and yet when The Empress admits that she was subtly manipulating him, he does snap, you wonder if this was actually possible pre-joining the club and meeting someone like Eru…

Eru as well helps as the other main character – she is rich, and actually quite intelligent yet she feels like this ditzy girl who is so inquisitive – heck, she kind of has a catchphrase of her own which is simply “I’m curious! I can’t stop thinking about it!” when something catches her eye and she doesn’t understand it. This is why the duo of her and Houtarou works and doesn’t become annoying as Eru could easily have slipped into a nagging or over bearing character and Houtarou at first even thinks of her like this, but there is much more to her as she is a sweetheart, has an excellent memory, yet her naivety comes off as adorable rather than annoying due to the mix of characters she is with. The relationship between her and Houtarou helps stretch out the series in terms of pure character development combined with the solving mysteries part, making it very enjoyable to watch as a character driven anime as well.

I won’t lie and say this is for everyone – with it being an episode of the day style anime plus the mystery element being more just everyday stuff than something more overarching like a true murder mystery like Erased is, outside of the character development it feels like a series that definitely is understanding that it took a while to licence and if there was enough interest in it. However, in terms of a personal show, it is near flawless in terms of the character interaction, the mystery element, the calculations, it even has a good deal of comedy and potentially even romance as well, a lot of elements into a well thought show. Don’t expect huge action or huge plot, just let Hyouka draw you in as a show and take it from there…

In Summary:

Hyouka is one of these series that you really need to get into and understand. It isn’t fast paced, it isn’t action heavy, it isn’t even plot heavy – all it has is a core group of 4 characters who go through adventures in the form of mysteries. But that in itself is the core appeal – the cast are great (Houtarou and Eru in particular), the mystery element is very intelligent and you are trying to work it out as best along with the cast, and whilst the episode of the day formula may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the show is incredibly engaging once you get into it – combined with the character development, it adds to the watchability and whilst a hard sell, is a show I’d definitely recommend.

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

Released By: Anime Limited / Funimation
Release Date: December 4th, 2017
MSRP: £39.99
Running Time: 275 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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