Monday, 17 September 2012

Hyouka - Episode 22 (Completed)

Another week sees another favour asked of Houtarou by Chitanda, albeit this time what sounds like a deceptively simple one - holding an umbrella.

Of course, things are a little more involved than that, especially for our favourite energy conservationist - in fact, Oreki is asked to hold an umbrella for a parading Eru as she takes the part of the Empress in a traditional Japanese Doll Festival for her town, albeit one with "real-life" dolls.  Things only become even more complicated once Houtarou arrives to find a fair amount of panic and chaos amidst those preparing for the festival - a situation certainly not helped by his revelation that a bridge they are planning to use is closed for construction work.

Still, with some replanning and political shenanigas, the festival goes off without a hitch in spite of Oreki's fretting about not being able to see Chitanda properly in her current made-up state, and also about what such a long walk is going to do for his ability to conserve energy.  With the event over, thoughts turn briefly towards why the construction work which should have been postponed ended up going ahead and clashing with the festival, but this is but a trifle compared to the show's finale, which sees Chitanda pondering her inescapable future as a pivotal part of the town she grew up in despite its decline, and what she can do to improve the lot of its people.  It's a future that has a very clearly defined gap in it.... but does Oreki have the confidence to stand up and stake his claim to the gap that seems almost meant for him?

So ends a series that has been, rather appropriately given the frequent exclamations of a its lead female character, a curious affair.  Setting aside its visual beauty, there was something pleasing about the way much of Hyouka conducted itself - sedate to the point of being almost other-worldly, but with characters that did a lot to carry the series even when the weight of the story underneath those characters seemed too slight to support them.  It didn't always carry things off quite so well as I imagine it intended, occasionally either trying too hard or simply falling flat on account of a weaker than usual story, but by the end of it all I was more than sufficiently warmed up to the characters and setting to forgive the odd poor episode.

What that leaves us with is a show that feels very different (this isn't your typical mystery anime by any stretch of the imagination) while simultaneously proving to cater squarely to an existing audience within anime fandom (i.e. anyone with an interest in or enjoyment of slice-of-life high school shows) - as my early misgivings about the series evaporated I'd call Hyouka a victory for the most part, although it certainly isn't a series we'll be talking about for years to come; a perfect example of a good throw-away anime that you probably won't want to watch more once.

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