Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations
I think many of my fellow OWLS members would agree that August is one of the more important months we have done here. As you probably already know if you have read any of the other members posts thus far, this month is a dedication to Kyoto Animation and those who lost their lives in the recent attack on the studio’s first building. Here is the specific theme for this month:
Kyoto Animation. We all have that one anime we enjoyed from Kyoto Animation. Whether it is pain or joy, Kyoto Animation has brought to life stories that can touch our emotions. For the month of August, we will be honoring Kyoto Animation and all it has done for art, storytelling, and popular culture by discussing some of our favorite Kyoto Animation series. We will discuss what we love about these series and what they taught us.
On July 18th of this year, Japan experienced one of the worst terrorist attacks in its history since World War 2. A man carrying gasoline into Studio one of Kyoto Animation poured said gasoline onto the floor of the building’s entrance. He then immediately ignited the the gasoline and ran off, only to be caught after running a few hundred feet away. The result: In total, 35 people lost their lives and many more were injured. In the wake of this horrific attack, the members of OWLS thought it appropriate to talk about our favorite works from the beloved KyoAni, and the effects those shows have had on us. So, for an unfortunate and tragic reason, I will be discussing Hyouka.
Hyouka is a mystery series that tells the story of Houtaro Oreki, a newly crowned high-schooler who has vowed to ignore the rose-colored life of high school romance in favor of an energy-conservation motto, in which he vows “If I don’t have to do something I won’t, and If I do have to, I’ll do it quickly.” However, this motto begins to show some cracks almost immediately when Houtaro’s sister asks him to join the classics club at his high school. It is while visiting the clubroom where he meets the girl who creates these cracks, Eru Chitanda, whose very presence seems to disrupt his entire world-view. From there, Houtaru continues to solve the many mysteries that cross the club’s path.
The series is definitely one of Kyoto Animations more underappreciated works but is one that is worth talking about, largely because of what it represents. As the channel Replay Value has explained in their great work on dissecting the series, Hyouka’s core conflict revolves around Houtaro, but not just him. It is a show that primarily focuses on the transformation of Houtaro from a dark introvert with a gray-colored world-view all the way to the end where he finally caves, giving into the rose-colored world he thought he would never want.
Chitanda is the other half of Houtaro’s transformation, and largely the catalyst of it. When the two first meet inside the club room, it is immediately obvious that she has a large effect on him, a kind of love at first sight scenario. In what is probably the series most memorable moment, Houtaro’s vision of Chitanda becomes distorted, seeing her hair wrap around him, approaching him so that the only thing he can see is her. It is from this point that the only thing Chitanda has to do to get Houtaro to do something is say, “I’m curious,” and he immediately jumps to solve whatever the new mystery is.
While the Classics Club itself is what initially unites most of the main cast, the mysteries in Hyouka are what serve to bring both Houtaro and Chitanda, as well as his friends Satoshi and Mayaka, together. Each new mystery is both unique in its problem, but also in its solution, which makes it always worth following them to the end worth. They range from small in scale, like in the first episode where the group tries to figure out how the door to the club room gets locked with Chitanda still in it, to the much larger, like figuring out the ending to an amateur mystery film done by class 2-F. However, despite being interesting enough mysteries on their own, it is the members of the Classics Club that elevate those mysteries to being something much more special.
Each of the characters in Hyouka brings something unique in their personality. Houtaro serves as the main detective of the group, often using his incredible deductive reasoning skills to solve mysteries within a matter of minutes. However, he is also a somewhat more awkward person, and also does not much care for social interaction. Chitanda is somewhat his opposite. She is always cheerful and ready to explore whatever the world throws her way. Satoshi, Houtaro’s best friend, has an uncanny ability to pull knowledge from a seemingly endless pool inside his head, and Mayaka is the one ready to control the group.
However, out of all the things that I have mentioned so far that make Hyouka what it is, there is one thing in particular that makes the show a personal favorite of mine: The relationship between Houtaro and Chitanda. For me, these two represent a sort of awakening that I had while in high school, not unlike Houtaro’s, that signaled a huge change. At first, I was socially awkward and did not much like interacting with others. I had a similar energy conservation policy. Despite my initial attitude, though, I learned over time that other people are not so bad, and slowly but surely I managed to come out of my shell. I also had a similar romantic experience, where I had sort of met this person on the first day and was immediately interested. I never got beyond friends with this person, but, to be honest, I do not mind. The time I spent with them was good, even if we do not talk anymore.
I know it might seem like a shallow connection at best, but for me, Hyouka is another show that made me reflect on who I am and where exactly I am going. It is a show that ultimately forces people to confront themselves, and in doing so find out just how passionate they really are. I think something similar could also be said of Kyoto Animation.
Thank you all so much for reading, and goodbye, for now, friendos!