Hyouka is, if you’re under a rock, the latest adaptation of a trashy kids’ novel into an anime, by perennial favorite studio Kyoto Animation and their hardworking director-san Yasuhiro “Not Yamakan” Takemoto. Kyoto is of course the logical choice for this cartoon because it covers some familiar ground for them: A disused clubroom with a worthless club, a hard-charging sleeve-dragging leader with a desire for a life more interesting, a protagonist with an even stronger desire for a life less interesting, sweets and treats eaten after school, the dude-pair of Nakamura and Sakaguchi, and perhaps an element of mystery.
I say “perhaps” because of course the mysteries thus far have been contrived by the protagonist to keep the girl occupied because otherwise she bothers him too much — or, as the case may be, because he likes her but is afraid to admit it.
Which might sound familiar to you as well.
The problem is, in two episodes I have yet to see any of the charm of Haruhi’s wacky SOS-dan. Bossy and arrogant and cartoonishly clueless as she was, Haruhi the character created interesting things around her. Likewise, as much as Kyon resembled any other boring insert-kun on the surface, his sarcastic running commentary and almost prescient awareness made him a pleasure to watch. So far, Oreki’s laziness and apathy borders on antagonistically jerky, even mean, in his interaction with the non-Haruhi Eru Chitanda.
I’m thinking the last scene of the second episode, in which the pair meet in a cafe. His snide comment of “What is this? A confession?” was pretty rough. I couldn’t help but think, what if it were? I would hope he’d feel like quite the asshole. So far, not an incredibly likable character, but worse — he’s just not an interesting character. You don’t have to be a good guy to be well-written or fun to watch, but Char he’s not.
As Keima would say, I can see the ending. Or at least, I think I can. I’m not sure what the newsbomb Chitanda’s about to drop might be, but I fully expect that before too long, one of these contrived home-brewed mysteries is going to backfire in more ways that just attaching Chitanda to Oreki’s sleeve. He’s going to have to solve a real mystery. That doesn’t make me Sherlock Holmes by any means (that’s what my unquenchable lust for cocaine is for), but I just don’t predict any major curveballs here. I could be proven joyfully wrong, though, and welcome the thought.
After all, regardless of the Haruhi-lite trappings and the admittedly astounding visuals (I mean, it looks really good), this is the same old story of a lazy lout with no ambition who is troubled by that greatest of all anime inconveniences, the attentions of a cute girl.