I found quite a bit to like in my second look at Hyouka; more on that later but I’m particularly fond so far of the cultural festival story. It’s a standard element in just about any anime set in a school, which is roughly 117% of contemporary anime series, but rarely is the immersion as effective as it is in Hyouka. I know it’s still anime, but I feel like I might have some clue of what it’s like to be at one for the first time in millions of these episodes.
It’s all filtered through the lenses of our characters, with the most variety coming from Chitanda’s harrowing journey across the school that proves the ultimate test of her crippling ADD.
Part of the magic that Takemoto and KyoAni create here involves a constant Foley track of school festival atmosphere, which in my estimation is probably one of the cheaper and more effective ways to help things along as it requires no animation. In one scene, Chitanda stops briefly and listens to a song resonating through the halls. For some readers it might not be apparent, but for anyone whose parents pumped oldies at all hours (I mean the real oldies, not the 70s rock of Jojo) or for any readers over 50 (are you out there?), the melody was unmistakable.
To Japanese fans, this 1961 mega-hit of Kayoukyoku (Showa era vocal pop, basically) style by Kyu Sakamoto is known as “Ue wo Muite Arukou,” but to English-speaking audiences it’ll always be “Sukiyaki.” These days we might recognize the cultural insensitivity of renaming a sad tune roughly titled “I Look Up When I Walk” into one called “A Tasty Hot Pot” (maybe; see Bill O’Reilly’s reaction to “Gangnam Style”). But back in the day when Japan was still taking its first steps into the wider cultural world as its economy boomed, Sakamoto’s catchy, emotional ditty was an exotic novelty to ignorant westerners who’d likely still never had sushi. “Sukiyaki” is still the only Japanese song to even reach number one on the Billboard pop charts in the US, where it stayed for 3 weeks.
Sadly, Kyu Sakamoto is part of another record: he was aboard Japan Airlines Flight 123 in 1985, which was the deadliest single-aircraft plane crash in history.
All this has very little to do with Hyouka, but I find little touches like that to be interesting. I also wonder which of those little touches will kneecap the licensing of any given anime series. Either way, I enjoyed the piss out of Hyouka and maybe there’s another post in that.