One new show (Hyouka) and a few twos and threes

Here’s one of the last new shows to join the season: Hyouka, about a high school boy named Houtarou who’s quite happy with his “low-power” life, never doing anything beyond what is required, and getting it done quickly. A downer of a guy, actually. He’s forced by his sister to join the school’s Classical Lit Club. There he meets a cute girl named Chitanda, and together with annoying sidekick Satoshi, solve a small mystery or two. That’s it. Heh, no it isn’t.

What other studio would animate an unimportant scene so vividly?

It took me less than thirty seconds to recognize this series as a Kyoto Animation show. Just look at the picture above: everyone is moving, bodies waving back and forth, mouths opening, heads turning, while Houtarou walks past them. Other studios would skimp, animate part of it, have some people not move at all. And while Hyouka does have scenes where people aren’t moving, it’s usually because the characters are, er, not moving. KyoAni rarely skimps. And this gives their shows an energy that enhances the effect on the viewer. Combine it with great source material and you get things like Haruhi. And it makes you want to watch episodes with, shall we say, less to work with, such as the Key trilogy, K-ON!, even Nichijou.

Chitanda from Houtarou's view ... Okay KyoAni, you can stop now. I give up.

But will the stories in Hyouka live up to the animation? Hard to say after one episode. You think it’s going to work one way and then it goes another. I described Satoshi as “annoying,” but episode one he lobs two or three insight-bombs in Houtarou’s direction. I hear about the abusive older sister who forces Houtarou to join the Classical Lit Club and I expected certain scenes, but she doesn’t even show up. And we have Houtarou himself. At one point he invents a mystery because he doesn’t want to walk all the way to another classroom to solve a real one, yet doing so took some time and effort, so why did he bother? I’m afraid I didn’t quite understand Satoshi’s rationale for that one. He’s obviously smitten with Chitanda, but he’s already going to spend time with her … This show, about solving mysteries, is something of a mystery itself. All the better. It would take a lot for me to stop watching a show that behaves like this.

One more thing. When Houtarou first enters the clubroom, did anyone else half-expect to find Yuki there, reading?

Eureka Seven Ao 2 … I’m frankly a little confused about who’s working for who. We have the Okinawan government, the Japanese, some other guys, I think, not to mention Generation Bleu. We get a lot of infodump as well, Okinawa’s independent now, something about 1940’s South America, and god knows what Generation Bleu is up to. They’re all very interested in that Mark 1 even though they can’t get it to work. Every group is working against each other, not a good thing when you common enemy is currently blasting the hell out of Okinawa. And I haven’t even gotten to the personal and spiritual stuff, like Naru’s dreams, Eureka flashbacks, the resentment some people have toward Eureka …

The inevitable newbie-in-the-cockpit scene.

So let’s concentrate on the things that really matter. In true anime fashion, Ao, carrying the wristband/key, flies out of the crashing flying car straight toward his goal. Ridiculous, but this is a show where such coincidences are not only taken for granted but sort of expected. Next there comes the cockpit scene and the “Eureka … Welcome Home” message to give us a thrill of resonance. And next the scenes where Ao figures out how to operate the craft while the Secret is trying to blow him up. You probably predicted all these moments, but, again, you don’t care. Not in a sequel to Eureka.

The action sequences are great fun but a lot left me scratching my head. Ao inadvertently leads the Secret to the scrub coral, which I’m told is akin to mixing matter with antimatter. He starts fighting back right there, so that the Secret is blasting away at the coral, yet there’s no cataclysm, well, there’s a big explosion, but that’s the Secret blowing up. Next, Fleur, a Generation Bleu pilot, is chatting him up. She should be apprehending him or something, right? Next, she’s gone and Ao is wandering Okinawan roads home. Er, what happened there? Never explained. But we do catch up on the story and learn that now EVERYBODY is looking for Ao. Naturally the only one that finds him is Naru. Well, I’m willing to forgive this franchise for little things. The mysteries and intrigues have deepened a little. For the most part everything in this show is progressing as it should.

I like Nabeshima already.

Medaka Box 3 looks like a two-story episode but the second story doesn’t finish, so it’s a 1.5 story episode, I guess. The complete story was barely worth doing. Some thugs want to take down Medaka and so Zenkichi beats the leader up, saying he’s trying to be someone who can protect Medaka. Zenkichi’s proven himself to be pretty formidable but I think this goal of his might be unattainable. The second story is more interesting, as the judo club president Nabeshima cons Zenkichi into having a duel with a guy named Akune, who’s been jealous of Akune since middle school. A lot of things seemed to happen in middle school that we didn’t get to see. Akune seems destined to be a regular, if his appearance in the OP and the introductory card suggest are any indication. I rather like Nabeshima, myself. Alas, they run out of time and so the actual duel will take place next week. They could have just tossed out that first story and completed this second one.

Kore wa Zombie etc sets a personal standard for random behavior. We start with a serious discussion between Sera and Saras with questions about morality and personal responsibility, and that’s why Saras loves Ayumu’s butt. That settled, we get attempts to repair Mystletrain which cause a lot of pain, mostly to Ayumu, but isn’t it cute how hard Haruna and Eu work on it? Turns out that’s not the episode’s focus either, as we find ourselves watching various people try and train Yuki to be Saras’ backup dancer at her next concert, bringing a lot of people near their deaths. Oh, and there’s a bit of story right at the end, but it’s more or less the same thing we saw LAST episode, so god knows when they’ll actually get to it.

I should point out that Panda is actually asleep.

A pretty good episode of Polar Bear’s Cafe this week. The slow comic timing works better, or maybe it’s just that more of the jokes are good. While you figure out what’s going to happen in the first story pretty quickly, the bits where Polar Bear tries to visit the polar bear pavilion was pretty good. Not to mention the seals. In the second story all the zoo animals sit around and gripe about how people see them. For the record, I, for one, think llamas are actually cute. Oh, this is probably the only anime season to have two sloths in it.

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