Review: Hyouka

Hyou-ka: You can’t escape

What exactly was I getting myself into watching this show. I was expecting dime a dozen only to receive beauty and wit in one of the nicest surprises I’ve seen in a while. …god what a horrible betrayal of expectations.

Hyouka presents us with Houtaro Oreki, an energy saving lazy high-schooler with natural intelligence. Pushed into saving the dying Classics Club by his older sister, Oreki’s minimalistic lifestyle starts to crumble thanks to the whims of the other club members; old best friend Satoshi Fukube, Mayaka Ibara, and the ever curious Eru Chitanda. Thanks to Chitanda’s curiosity, the group end up solving mundane everyday mysteries with Oreki’s big noggin’.

See what I mean dime a dozen? ANOTHER SCHOOL CLUB ANIME: NOW WITH BORING MYSTERIES. OH JOY.

There is so much more beneath the surface and appearances.

So what we have here is a niche show that takes a curious spin on slice of life with mysteries, indulging itself in a suitably laid back and lackadaisical approach, one which it pulls off with grace. Hyouka rarely stumbles into territory where it drags on despite it’s slow pace, instead adopting a sense of lax intrigue which typically works well. I have to admit, that alone places the show in a category rarely seen, and personally, I’m a fan. It’s a fresh taste, and at it’s best, is jaw smackingly delicious. It doesn’t reach that high all too often sadly, but even on it’s normal days, it’s just wholly enjoyable.

Because when you get down to it, Hyouka is about teenagers who feel surprisingly real for anime standards. What’s kind of remarkable in that aspect is that most of development is done in a subtle manner, really unlike what I’m used to in anime like this. Treatment of typical coming of age issues, such as realizing others may have more natural talent than yourself, are treated with care along the full length of the series.

Hyouka does not hold your hand or forcefully drag you to the deeper end of the pool. The viewer can always calmly submerse themselves into what makes the show and it’s characters tick, and it feels great to have a show that simply let’s you understand the characters through their actions. They have a sense of being more than just 2D traits. All four of the main cast have distinguishable characters arcs which we can see develop au naturel, no lengthy awkward speeches to make sure the audience gets it. Makes for a fulfilling journey from start to end

And let’s get back to the surface qualities, because the show is actually, on a technical level, gorgeous. The atmosphere Hyouka creates is one its strongest suites, from scenery to creative “cinematography” and visuals oozing their pretty selves out of the screen. It’s luscious in all ways of the word, and the production values definitely show. The detail put into the animation is, well, really REALLY detailed. It’s eye candy plain and simple. It is the best.

As a whole, Hyouka is a testament what can be done with patience and slow painstaking care. The slow can be kind of painful, yes, but it always carried itself with charm and the sheer power of it’s atmosphere. So even in it’s laziest times, I could never truly call it dull – I was having fun. When it comes down to it, Hyouka captures a part of the teenage years and runs with it to its wits end. A real surprise for me, and something unique of its own.

    

    

Hyouka Series Finale Deducive Wrap-Up Episodes 19-22

There’s nothing in particular I wish to express on episodes 19 and 20 (other than that Oreki looks adorable wrecking things with a shovel), as they are standard Hyouka one-off episodes and there’s nothing I want to say about them that I wouldn’t include or rather spend talking about the latter two episodes.

So I won’t.

Shortcuts are a beautiful thing

But 21.

Man 21.

They just got the friggin’ drop on us.

D-day hit and I wasn’t even all up writing about this motherload.

The final episodes have been all about follow-up to what’s been set-up all show long. The furthering of a certain relationship, the inherent difficulties and intricacies for the externally inept Oreki and almost too emotionally in-tune Chitanda. And as much as this is addressed, we jump gears to what I’ve been waiting for since the whatever parade festa thing ended. We get the whole rigamarole with an episode as rich as Valentines should rightly be.

Satoshi and Mayaka are incredibly similar people on the down low. Their passions drive them to be the best, yet they face some very real road blocks. The more straightforward of the two, Mayaka, teared up at the face of talent during Kanya Fest, showing true that she takes what she does seriously. Even now in romance she does much of the same, refusing to give up at the face of rejection (says a lot about her “chemistry” with the apathetic Oreki).

When Mayaka represents one who continues to exert her obsessions, Satoshi has given up trying to be more. He’s taken a step back to enjoy a happy life without aiming high, a change from his once obsessive self who refused to lose. He lapsed back to his middle school self when he tried to best Oreki during Kanya Fest, but that only served to further cement his reluctance to grab hold of an interest. This all as the genuinely super nice and smart guy that he is.

Failing to understand the complexity of Satoshi’s dysfunction, Oreki maladjusted self plays another interesting parallel. Even stated in the episode where Satoshi wishes to stay in his personal comfort bubble, Oreki has for the length of Hyouka been diligently dragged out of his. His confrontation of many social interactions and the growing understanding of them is in mirror to Satoshi’s apparent desire to simplify everything. Having conveyed all that, Satoshi isn’t at the level of detachment which he’s aiming for. While he wishes to live his happy-go-lucky life, Mayaka is somebody he does truly hold dearly. But she at the same time represents his previous obsessive nature; the fear of lapsing back to his old self is a very real one.

This episode is really kind of a gateway to talking about the entire series as a whole, setting the characters on theatrical display. It’s the long term buildup of the acts before given payoff of the greatest kind, and even if we know not of how Satoshi and Mayaka will continue their relationship, it’s spectacular conclusion to our time with them. I’d say I couldn’t be more satisfied with this, but then episode 22 exists as well.

In the same stride as the previous, but shifting our focus back on Oreki and Chitanda, episode 22 gives us the bitter sweet ending I guess we could all predict. And the beauty lies in the execution. I feel somewhat dense admitting this, but it took me a moment to realize exactly what made this episode work beyond just the regular Hyouka A-game. And “surprisingly” enough, the answer might lie in Chitanda.

Oreki, as we all once knew him, was the low energy zero effort sort of guy. But this changed as Chitanda entered his life, slowly pulling Oreki out of that tiny comfort zone bubble of his. But with these last few episodes, I realize, that dynamic may have just changed a little. Oreki’s bubble has already grown vastly beyond what it once was, and while Oreki is still growing, his bubble grows less and less. So next logical step? Chitanda starts pulling him into her bubble.

Well, okay, that ain’t some massive revelation or anything, but it’s a clear arc you can see the two have gone through. We’ve known Oreki all this time, and we understand who he is. His expanding boundaries have been a central topic throughout, and his view can be best scene thanks to Chitanda, who from the start was simply Miss Curiosity. But as Oreki has expanded his view, we’ve seen and understood more and more of Chitanda, episode 20 already pushing us more into her world and with this final episode, we probably have a clearer view of her than ever. And that’s why this final episode works so well.

Probably.

Pokemon: Best Wishes 2! Episodes 8 & 9

Satoshi, Iris and Shootie! The Final Battles!
&
The Junior Cup, Site of Partings and Encounters!

With the battle royal continuing, it’s time for some more of Iris and her rather special Dragonite as she goes up against Satoshi in the final semi final event. In that sense, it’s essentially obidence and well trained verses powerful and carefree…or so it appears, as Dragonite starts off the battle by listening to all of Iris’s commands and unleashing it’s powerful Ice Beam and Flamethrower attacks at range to keep Satoshi’s Krokorok on the defensive. It really was a great battle to watch, as both sides appeared to be evenly matched, with the strange revelation of Dragonite suddenly listening to Iris…and as Satoshi looks like he’s loosing, Krokorok evolves into Krookodile to turn the match around, landing a powerful Dragon Claw on Dragonite.

However, Dragonite’s true insolent nature comes up after it gets brutally pounded, doing whatever it wants and pounding the stage with it’s attacks…allowing Satoshi and Krookodile to take advantage of the chaos and finish the match. With Iris all down and beaten up, it takes an intervention from Shirona to cheer her up and tell her what’s really going on with Dragonite. I have a feeling that a trip to the Dragon Village is coming up, but enough of that…it’s time for Shootie to face Satoshi.

I don’t think that the tension in that final match worked very well. It was OBVIOUS just how large the difference between Serperior and Pignite was from the very beginning. It’s like a level 70 against a level 40, there’s a world of difference between them…and Satoshi was never going to beat Shootie.I have very mixed feelings about that, but I suppose it was best that Shootie was going to win in the end. Now the big thing is going to be if Adeku can teach Shootie a lesson, or if Shootie’s going to win and best the champion of Unova in a battle.

The battle of Adeku and Shootie continues into the second episode, and as Bouffalant’s Sap Sipper renders Solarbeam and Frenzy Plant useless, Adeku shows just why he’s the best, finishing the battle in one shot with Head Charge. It’s such an interesting style of battling that Adeku has, and even Shootie accepts that. It’s just a shame that he got thrashed so quickly and easily. One emotional lecture from Adeku later and everyone happily sets off on their journey, with everyone looking forward to meeting again, and Shootie’s arrogance also shattered and his personality defrosted. However…it’s not long until a new trainer and his Riolu appears, completly infatuated with the Pikachu. As Kotetsu, the newcomer with his Riolu arrives with the intention to participate in the Junior Cup, it’s pretty clear that the innocently stupid kid is going to be a new character this time around.

However, that’s not everything for this episode. As Hikari reveals that she’s leaving soon for a new journey and a new contest, there’s time for one final battle between Satoshi and Hikari, the companion from Sinnoh. However, Shirona calls the battle as a draw and calls both of them equals, which is pretty interesting. I wonder if Iris will become that strong by the end of this season, and match Satoshi’s strength perfectly. With Hikari departed and Kotetsu appearing at the last minute, completely mistaken about everything for the Unova league, it’s off to go see the new Water typed gym leader with Kotestu, bringing what’s been the best battling sequence of episodes to an end.

Pokemon Best Wishes! Episode 10

A Rival Battle for Club Champ!

Summary:Ash meets Shooti and harasses him for a battle.

Alex:I swear, who comes up with these names for Pokemon? What kind of name is Pururururururururiru? @_@ Anyway, the title says everything about this episode. Satoshi annoys the hell out of Shooti and gets a battle, and gets utterly thrashed. By a pigeon. The first Ash-centred episode of the series is completely boring and pretty much a waste of time, unless you like one sided battles where the main character looses.

So then, lets use this post to complain about how useless Satoshi is. Imagine what this series would be without him.It would have two mains who actually have a brain and are interesting…it wouldn’t have the annoying cheese which will undoubtly show up sooner or later…it would have a cooler Team Rocket since they didn’t go crazy over Pikachu…and we’d avoid episodes like these.Siiigh…ohwell.

Pokemon Best Wishes! Episode 9

The Bloom is on Axew

Summary:Iris’s backstory! And Axew gets kidnapped by a mutant centipede

Alex:I never said it before, but man, the graphics and animation budget on this show gives it some really cool style. Anyway, 9 episodes in, and we get a little backstory on Iris. This episode is basicly about Iris and her Axew and where she came from and that lot. I was pretty surprised to be honest, she’s got one of the most powerful Pokemon in Unova, and it hates her. Iris is some sort of a prodigy picked by the Matriarch of her hometown to go on a journey to learn the truth behind Pokemon…I think. I did have to rewatch that scene several times to get it, though.

I have to admit, Iris was pretty much among what i’d consider useless characters, but now that it’s been made clear that she’s not a copy of a previous companion, and she’s a dragon prodigy…it’s enough to redeem her. Provided that now she’s proven that she can’t battle to save her life (look at poor Dento having to make Pansage shoot a miserable excuse for Seed Gun just to battle Axew).

Pokemon Best Wishes! Episode 8

Saving Darmanitan from the Bell

Alex: Ya know, this was actually a really nice episode. I have to admit that I browsed through a bunch of screenshots of this episode, since the subs are so slow for Pokemon, and I wasn’t really expecting anything. It turned out to be a really pleasent episode about how Pokemon and People work together in harmony to protect whats important to them.

So the story was basic;In a town, there’s an old clock tower. The Pokemon which live inside there were trying to keep the clock tower from letting the bell fall, because it would damage the tower and the apartments below.The Pokemon in charge was using its power to keep the bell floating in the air, whilst the little ones gathered food for it so that it wouldn’t get weak and unable to keep holding the bell.

It really helped to show people what Unova was- a clash of modern x old, and a world where people and Pokemon work and live together in harmony. In the background of this episode, Team Rocket got a little airtime, too, as whatever big master plan they’re working on goes to the next step as they secretly obtain a secret package using a cafe as communication. Very James Bond, I must say.

Pokemon Best Wishes! Episode 7

Snivy Plays Hard to Catch!


Alex:So in what would otherwise be a completely boring post about a filler episode where Satoshi gets obsessed over kidnapping this poor Snivy which only wanted a little bit of food, lets talk about Dento and Iris instead. For a Pokemon series, Dento’s such a bishie. But sadly, he just fell into the Brock hole this episode in where he pulled an entire kitchen out of nowhere and started cooking food which came from nowhere. I’ll admit that he is a slightly more interesting character than Brock…if only for the fact that he has eyes.Iris is a remotely interesting character as in she doesn’t fit any clichéd character archetypes  because she’s tsundere, hyper, overly friendly to everyone when she feels like it, and a complete know-it-all.Kinda like the creators had no idea what they wanted Iris to be so just made her a little bit of everything, but i’m not gonna complain. It could be much much worse.

But anyway, is Satoshi a complete idiot or is he just acting? SMUGLEAF DOESN’T GET CAUGHT BY JUST ANYONE YO.Especially when your feeling weird and throw Poke Ball’s at it from the middle of nowhere without even weakening it…wat. It was interesting for a filler if only for the fact that it made it very clear why Snivy is an internet meme of its own already.