Monday, June 4, 2012

Hyouka - 07

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Why do I get the feeling that every Hyou-ka planning meeting starts with “You know what would look really cool?”

So help me, I've really come to like this show a lot, but it’s devilishly hard to blog about.  It’s hard to even say why I like it, apart from the astonishing visuals.  Nothing much ever really happens, but it’s kind of fun.  Wait a minute – did I just describe teenage existence outside the classroom?  On a good day, anyway – and maybe that’s the secret here.  Maybe Hyou-ka has captured the idyll of a pleasantly misspent youth in a way that’s appealing, and that’s what keeps me involved.  It’s certainly not the mysteries, which – while they have the grace not to be head-on-desk stupid or illogical – are hardly riveting.  The enemy of youth is boredom, I suppose, and these are the sorts of things my friends and I used to fill the idle hours with.

You can’t ignore the visuals when talking about this show, because they’re a huge part of the appeal.  Any studio with enough money can throw it at an anime, giving it fluid animation and detailed backgrounds.  What KyoAni is doing here is art – it just happens to be lavishly expensive art.  The ladybug on the lock of Satoshi’s hair, the heartbreakingly intricate pine boughs, the steam, the dappled sunlight on Chitanda, the clever and very funny trickery to preserve Hotarou’s modesty – it’s a vital part of this series even more than it would be with most, because Hyou-ka is all about creating an atmosphere more than it is about plot or characters.  There’s a little Shinkai in this, in that what KyoAni is giving us here isn’t photo-realism – it’s “more real than real”, which is how I think of Shinkai.  I won’t put it at Shinkai’s level, but the artists here have an artist’s eye – they somehow see the Platonic essence of a ladybug or a tree, or a girl’s eyes, and show us that rather than a super-detailed painted photograph.

I can’t really tell you why I loved this episode – only that by the end of it I was smiling helplessly, completely wrapped up in it despite not really caring all that much about the dandelion fluff of a mystery (I was actually hoping the gang would go after the “Japanese Nessie”).  You knew KyoAni would do justice to the art in an onsen ep, and they certainly did.  We met some of Ibara’s cousins, including sisters Rie (Toyosaki Aki) and Kayo (Ogura Yui) who help out at the onsen ryokan Ibara’s family runs.  The mystery involves the possessive older sister, the bashful younger, and a wet yukata - but really, it’s just an excuse to get everyone wandering around the grounds, dipping into the baths and devouring yet more delicious-looking food.  I’m with Satoshi on this one – what’s the use in going to a hot springs if you don’t use the hot springs?  That’s how you spend your time if you’re smart.

Character-wise, it appears as if Hotarou is pretty much fallen for Chitanda now, to the point where his visions of her overheat him in the baths and he nearly passes out.  Hotarou’s slacker ideal has left seemingly little time for sexual desire – too much work - but he’s certainly thinking about it now.  There’s almost as much shipping going on with he and Satoshi, though - he may mean more than it appears when he says he doesn’t know what to do with a roomful of girls.  This is one of those buddy comedies where the contrast between the lead and his sidekick works pretty well, and the chemistry between Hotarou and Chitanda is proceeding acceptably.  To be honest, though, I don’t watch this show for the characters any more than I do for the mysteries – they just have to be (and are) pleasant enough not to detract from the overall experience.  Because it’s the overall experience that Hyou-ka is selling, no doubt about it – and so far, I’m buying.

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21 comments:

  1. To me, it is quite decent as a mystery show. The mysteries themselves may not be your usual murder case but I think they are appropriate considering the setting and leave plenty to think about while watching.

    Pasting something I wrote somewhere else:

    I think the producers leave plenty of "false leads" to reach wrong conclusions.

    For this episode, I though it was Satoshi and the older sister Rie playing a joke on everybody else. With Rie doing it for her little sister Zako, and Satoshi as a way to have Oreki showcase his deduction skills to amuse himself and everybody else.

    Clues:

    - The sister's were told not to spread the story. But Rie did anyway.
    - Satoshi wasn't present when the story was told. I thought that he was the shadow leaving the place at night. This was my biggest mistake because I assumed that Zako was present while they were telling the stories.
    - He stayed up late (setting up the shadow and all that).
    - Satoshi seemed to know his way around the area (as he took a hidden shortcut to the baths) and would have the knowledge to sneak into the building from a tall tree or something.
    - This would also imply that he has been at that inn before (being Ibara's friend and all that) and he was a good friend to Rie. Friends enough to ploy this big prank.
    - Kayo acting scared was because of her fear to ghost stories.
    - Satoshi acted annoyed at Houtarou when he said that he had a theory.
    - Rie putting her name on everything because she lived there while Zako did not. Zako maybe lived with some other relative because of family problems and was there visiting for the break (Expected this to be the "grim twist" to the mystery).
    - Rie would make the prank as a way to create memories with Zako or something bitter-sweet like that.

    I was quickly proven wrong about everything including the usual Hyouka "grim twist" but these leads where all there and I feel that the show encourages you to try and use your brain to work around these silly mysteries.

    It deserves better praise for that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, it didn't do a good enough job in my case - that possibility never crossed my mind! It seems out of character for Satoshi, I think.

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    2. I thought that the younger sister had made room 7 her own private fort to get away from her sister.I missed the yukata part all together.

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    3. Guys, it's Rie and Kayo, not Rie and Zako. I don't think I've ever heard any Japanese name their daughter "Zako" as it means "trash" or something like that. :)

      Delete
  2. My favorite mystery anime was Ghost Hunt. The characters were simple and entertaining to watch both in horror and comedy. The arc system worked well and the team solved a number of supernatural mysteries.

    I don't think Hyouka will go that way. Just as it announced itself, it really is just a light mystery anime involving youthful adolescents.

    My gripes with certain characters still exists but at this point I've gotten use to it enough to stand them.

    This episode's mystery was also a step up compared to last week and since it analyzed the sibling relationship, had a nice touch as well.

    I hope that more of the stand alone mysteries follow this routine.

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  3. Ah dam. They had to do it. I was happy to see realistic art week after week but they had to spoil it with Chitanda's face brightening up (whiten) twice when excited. Usually KyoAni does it with a "through Houtarou's eyes" or somethign else. Now it is too much. A girl's face can become excited but it cant go that white so suddenly. So much for realistic imagery and art.
    Enzo, did you miss the part where Chitanda visited Houtarou after he fainted in the bath?
    Even with a yukata covering her neck line, houtarou had to turn and cover himself. Male yukata does little to cover standings of the male variety. Especially when donning western underwear. (Fundoshi handles that)

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  4. No, I didn't miss it. You can only take so many screencaps, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Says the guardian of LiA. Certainty there is no limit. You are the creator, amender and commissioner of the rules.
      You could have pointed it out usIbg words though. It's an easier indication than fainting in the baths.

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  5. '' Hotarou’s slacker ideal has left seemingly little time for sexual desire – too much work - but he’s certainly thinking about it now.''

    *Picture of Hotarou eating some cherries*

    Subtle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, I was hoping to get some love for that.

      Delete
    2. As I'm sure Eru had been waiting for some as well. Oh Hotarou, when a girl wants you to taste some of her cherries, she's usually talking about the forbidden sort of fruits ... Mmmm ...

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  6. LOL at the passing out on too much sexual desires. Houtaru is obviously head over heels for Chitanda. I wonder how long it will take for him to confess, knowing his slacker attitude.

    I think the mysteries aren't really meant to be grand. It's just that in our youth, something sparks our minds and we have this inkling to find out everything about it. Curiosity is evident, after all they are still in high school. I just like the way they present it.

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  7. Oreki should grow a mustache. Then he can call himself Mundane P.I. Not sure if Ferraris are his thing, though.

    Joking aside, I'm actually enjoying this series moderately. Yes, moderately, in a non tiring, energy-conserving way.

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  8. I loved when Chitanda said that she finds it tiring to be angry.

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  9. Also, just to point out, Satoshi knows an AWFUL lot about yukata fashion. Just sayin'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He's a database!

      Besides - guys wear yukatas too, so I don't think there's anything implied there.

      Delete
    2. Well, he -is- in the sewing club...

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  10. Kyo-Ani is the master of subtle understatement. They've upped the shipping levels for Houtarou and Chitanda from the novels in a way that it didn't feel wrong at all.

    Toyosaki Aki is in her full Yui mode this week, while Ogura Yui continues to be pigeonholed into cute loli little-sister roles. lol

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  11. Besides the Houtarou x Chitanda shipping, Kyo-Ani seems to be poking fun at the Houtarou x Satoshi BL innuendo as well, with Houtarou waking up at near-kissing distance with Satoshi's face. lol

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think a lot of the appeal for Hyouka is that it actually feels far more "real" than most series set in high school. While Houtarou is pretty much just a stand in for Mycroft Holmes set in a visual world with a lot of "hyper-realism" to it, it's pretty much just high school students killing time... in the way high school students actually do.

    The series feels pretty similar to my experiences in Newspaper in high school, for about 80% of the time, this just happens to have some basic mysteries. They're not really shooting for anything world-changing for the mysteries. They're just random stories.

    And, this is kind of hard to write about. It's a bit like Redline, where the story is actually quite simple, but you really just need to take it in and enjoy how the visuals help tell the story. It's not "style for the sake of style"; it's a style (slightly different each episode) to serve the very simple stories they're telling. It's just very different from what we normally get.

    ReplyDelete