Hyouka’s Mediocrity Breaks My Heart

Hyouka's Mediocrity Breaks My Heart

There are few things I love as much as a good mystery. Whether I’m reading a book, playing a game, or watching a show, I get giddy at the prospect of cracking a good case.

And there are few animation studios I admire as much as KyoAni. They’re this Japanese studio that blends gorgeous palettes, fluid movement, and cinematic camera angles to create shows that are a visual delight. I don’t enjoy every show they work on, but I always like to look at them.

When I heard KyoAni would be adapting a series of mystery novels, I was over the moon. I wasn’t at all dissuaded when I learned the books were about a high school literature club, or that the mysteries they solved were fairly ordinary. I’ve never had the opportunity to solve an actual murder, but I piece together inane puzzles all the time. This had the potential to be a mystery series I could relate to.

But it wound up being completely lackluster, and that breaks my heart.

The trouble with Hyouka is that I like everything about it, but it never gets good. It’s always on the verge of becoming interesting, but fails to push itself any further. It does the work necessary for intriguing character arcs, but it doesn’t bother to build on what it’s created. Over the course of 23 episodes, it never once strives to be anything other than a show that’s content to mire in its own mediocrity.

I watch a lot of anime, which means I watch a lot of second-rate anime. It comes with the territory, and for the most part, I’m pretty okay with that. Sometimes, I don’t need more than badass fight scenes or giant robots or whatever else I happen to be in the mood for.

But Hyouka is too good to get away with that. It has everything going for it — a high budget, a solid premise, and a strong team of writers — and still isn’t better than so-so. It’s got a beautiful color palette, but the show itself is colorless from start to finish.

I never expected Hyouka would be extraordinary, but I did expect it to be entertaining, and I’m bummed it wasn’t.

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