Now as a firm member of the Classic Literature Club, Hotaro Oreki has become closely acquainted with a group of people who both share his interest in solving mysteries and have a habit of getting into trouble. As they complete their anthology based on a past incarnation of the club, the school festival is looming, where they have a prime chance of promoting the club. But a whole new, bigger mystery arrives…a mystery that has had repercussions on some of the other clubs at their school, with the culprit possibly hiding right under their very nose. It seems only Hotaro, Eru, Satoshi and Mayaka can solve this and bring peace to the school.
Hyouka aired with 22 episodes between April and September 2012. Produced by Kyoto Animation (Haruhi Suzumiya, Sound! Euphonium, A Silent Voice) and directed by Yasuhiro Takemoto (The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Amagi Brilliant Park), Hyouka is the adaptation of the first novel in the Classic Literature Club novel series by Honobu Yonezawa. Carrying on from where Part 1 left off (released in December – see my review of Part 1 here), the four members of the Classic Literature Club have a whole new series of mysteries around school to solve, all of which ultimately revolve around one single mystery that involves several other clubs in the school, from the Light Music Club and Quiz Research Club, right down to the club Mayaka used to be devoted to before joining the Classic Literature Club, the Manga Club.
Their anthology is complete, and ready to be printed for the upcoming school festival, where they must set up their own stall and promote the club. This in of itself is a difficult task; both Satoshi and Mayaka have commitments for other clubs across the school and so it is left to Eru to force a smile out of Hotaro to big up the club. But just as they are getting started with the festival, items from school clubs begin to go missing, with strange clues and messages left in their place…kitchen utensils from the Cookery Club, stones from the Go Club, items from the Light Music Club…how are these thefts connected, and why during the school festival, of all times? As we watch Hotaro, Eru, Satoshi and Mayaka figure this out, we get more and more fascinated by the mystery, more engrossed in the story, and become more eager to discover whodunnit.
The first half of Hyouka gave us a lot of character background: Hotaro was the guy who didn’t like wasting time or energy, Satoshi was the cocky ‘human database’, Mayaka was that cynical girl in class, while Eru was the sheltered rich girl who was desperate to know more about the world around her. We saw less of Mayaka in the first half, and so it’s good to see Mayaka’s character improve and develop more in this second half of the show. One notable shining moment is when she tries to defend her corner after some infighting at the Manga Club she used to be a close member of. Also, towards the end of the show, we begin to see that Satoshi is taking less interest in Mayaka, which angers her as she sees his sudden disinterest as something that was there the whole time, and this change of heart brings her mood down, making her as vulnerable as she was when she left the Manga Club to join the Classic Literature Club. Mayaka’s time in the club had made her a more confident and outspoken person, and she doesn’t want to go back to her shy and introverted self.
Meanwhile, the relationship between Hotaro and Eru also develops into something rather fascinating; they are on that fine line between trusting confidant and boyfriend/girlfriend. Of course, neither one of them are willing to admit that they have feelings for each other, but by the time Eru’s village festival approaches, we notice that Hotaro’s personality has changed dramatically from that tired and unexciting person from episode 1. By the time the show ends, Hotaro decides to become more involved with the club, and gets more passionate in conversations. He even chooses to side with Mayaka when he learns that Satoshi is giving her the cold shoulder; something he would never normally do.
While I didn’t have much to say about the English dub that featured in Part 1, I can say that the English voices have improved a little as time has gone by. I began to warm to Madeleine Morris’ voice more; her rendition of Eru sounds much less generic than what I heard in Part 1. I am still very unsure whether casting Dallas Reid for Satoshi was a wise decision though. In the second half of Hyouka, Satoshi’s personality changes from someone very playful to someone a lot more cocky and too sure of himself, and while Reid’s rendition of Satoshi didn’t sound quite as natural in Part 1, it just doesn’t really feel right in Part 2. I praised Jill Harris’ Mayaka in Part 1, and I continue to praise her, especially as Mayaka comes out of her shell in the second half of the show. Just as Ai Kayano (Mayaka’s Japanese voice) shines, we hear Harris treat Mayaka with the same level of care and consideration. The second opening theme (which is featured in this release) is “Unfinished Stride” by Saori Kodama, and the second ending theme is “Mystery Surrounding You” by Satomi Sato and Ai Kayano.
I think it’s great to see Hyouka finally see the release it deserves in the West, after so long. Part 2 compliments Part 1 by taking the four and telling a whole new story, whilst keeping nearly everything we saw in Part 1. Hotaro is still as cynical as we remember, and Eru is still that sheltered rich girl desperate to know more about the world. I believe the English dub has improved a little (despite still being unsure about Satoshi), but regardless of this, the original Japanese version is so much better. Of course, if you already own Part 1 and loved it, then it’s pretty much a no-brainer that this should be your next purchase.
The second half of Hyouka enhances the story that began in the first half, with the four completing the anthology. Hotaro, Eru, Satoshi and Mayaka are eager to impress the school and show their fellow classmates that their detective skills are a force to be reckoned with. While I’m still undecided about the English dub as a whole, I praise both of Mayaka’s voice actresses. Getting this should be an easy decision for those who already loved Part 1, and if you haven’t discovered Hyouka yet, why not?