Hyouka – 22 (Fin)

Chitanda recruits Oreki to hold an umbrella above her in her shrine’s live doll procession where she will be the Empress. On the way Oreki notices a bridge that will shortly be closed for construction. While there, the subject of the bridge comes up, and when another bridge is suggested, it puts everyone off. Chitanda summons Oreki and he tells her what’s happened. She tells him to tell the same idea who called to block the original bridge – someone who’s a budding photographer who thought the procession would look better on the new route, which sported out-of-season cherry blossoms. As the sun sets, Chitanda explains that she wanted to show Oreki her place: the place she’ll always return to, and the place she’ll be responsible for. Oreki thinks of saying something romantic, but hesitates.

Will they? Won’t they? They won’t. That’s Hyouka in a nutshell. Good night!

Sorry, that was perhaps too concise…especially when describing a show with such subtlety and nuance. And few series we’ve seen have made us care so much about a couple, even while knowing they don’t have a chance in hell of getting anywhere on the romantic front. While it seems both of them wanted to say something to one another numerous times, the words never come out. We’re even teased at the end, with Oreki imagining he’ll take on the business side of her farming occupation, considering she wants to focus on the farming part. But when his chance comes – and he knows it’s his chance – he just doesn’t take it. We understand it would be a little cheesy for the series to wrap with such a…proposal, especially considering Oreki has never discussed anything with Chitanda about wanting to share his heart or his life with her.

But throughout the series she’s given off a soulmatey vibe. And after all, just because nothing happens here doesn’t mean it never will – it’s up in the air (and no, we don’t expect they’re saving the answer for an OVA or film.) Viewers are either optimistic about their chances or not. Instead, the series parts with one last little mystery, lots of Oreki hanging out in an unfamiliar place with strange customs and ways of speaking (though he comports himself well enough), a confirmation that things with Satoshi and Ibara are “normal”, and of course, the procession, an achingly beautiful sequence that’s literally a blur for Oreki. And in the end, while there were no “I love yous”, Chitanda did want to share something very special with Oreki: another side of her life. So, you know, it isn’t like she detests the guy.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Hyouka – 01

Oreki Houtarou is a passive high schooler who isn’t interested in sports, socializing, or studying, but merely getting through school with a minimum of exertion. When his abroad sister makes him join the dying Classic Literature Club, he meets the extremely friendly and curious Chitanda Eru, who convinces Houtarou to stick with the club with her charms after solving two mysteries together, one real, one faked. Houtarou’s friend Fukube Satoshi also joins.

Hyouka is the final piece of our Spring 2012 picture. It’s a KyoAni series directed by Takemoto Yasuhiro, who also directed Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu, one of our favorite films period, anime or not; and his touch is evident here. Fist of all, the quality of the animation and attention to detail are first-rate; this is perhaps the best-looking series of the Spring. Hyouka is also conspicuous in its overall calm, quiet, natural atmosphere. This is a world that looks and feels very real. Hyouka’s protagonist Houtarou is not immediately likeable, however. He’s a noncommital, unmotivated misanthrope, and his friend Fukube is a bit of an annoying smartass.

They spend most of the episode conversing with one another, which gets a little tedious. Who we did like quite a bit was the warm and genial Chitanda Eru, the antithesis of Houtarou; her bright energy nicely balances his apathy. Still, he wasn’t able to say no to her, so maybe he’s in for a change of heart vis-a-vis interacting with people. We will say we like the very surreal moments from Houtarou’s point-of-view, the kid clearly has a vivid imagination beneath his droll, Kyon-like exterior. This is yet another school club anime, but we can’t dismiss something that looks this good; we’ll be sticking with it.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Car Cameos: As the end credits roll by Houtarou and Satoshi walk home from school, many cars and vans drive by in the background: a Honda Vamos, Zest, and Acty Van, a Mitsubishi Colt, a Toyota Sienta and Vitz, and others.