“I’m bored” is up and by far, the most useless thing a person can possibly say. An old English teacher and personal hero of mine, Mr. Shakely (affectionately known as Shake-N-Bake), once told my class “if you’re bored, you’re boring,” and my God, few truer things have ever been spoken. Few things are truly as worthless as those words because it not only degrades what the person is referring to but also the person himself. For three years in a row statistics showed that ‘whatever’ reigned supreme as the most irritating word and for a good damn reason. Why? Because the feeling of boredom itself is complete bullshit, that’s why. At the very least, hatred is passion, heat, and emotive intensity, unlike boredom which, unlike apathy, is just a conscious effort to feel void. The reason I never drop anime no matter how infuriating is because there is always, always, something to feel and gain from it; hardly is something ever uninspiring.
Whenever I hear someone express how bored they are, I can’t help but roll my eyes because it’s like the person is a damn virus seeking to infect everyone in the room. It appalls me that people will listen to this crap; it’s bullshit, it really is. No matter what you believe about origins of life, just being alive is an amazing experience within itself. The world itself is vast and unexplored and most people have seen not even a single percent of it, and yet, people still protest their boredom as if they had something useful to say. For God’s sake, even your mind is an infinite spiral of complexity and thought that just goes on into an inward infinity. “If” is the middle of life, and “not knowing” is a fucking amazing feeling that everyone takes for granted, tens of times more brilliant than the dullness of crushing boredom.
But what does this load of my dribbling garbage have to do with Hyouka? Well…
Hyouka is, in several ways, a challenge. The anime not only tests its characters but also its viewers to fully experience and appreciate the wonders of everyday life. There are no perilous obstacles, no dangerous Sherlock Holmes-style fisticuffs battles, and hardly ever are there any serious consequences to failing to solve the mysteries presented. It’s understandable to see why opinions were split during the anime’s beginning, and even easier to see why several people ended up dropping it. But what Hyouka does give us is a worthy, difficult challenge towards approaching everyday life: to explore the small, inconsequential mysteries of the everyday that we oftentimes skip without care.
Hyouka is vastly different from most anime which depict the casual, everyday life of characters because it’s quite simply, a mystery series (I know that sounds bad, but stay with me here). More often than not, slice-of-life anime is far-flung from being an actual slice of everyday life because as the viewer, we see only their most important, personal moments (although that hardly impedes my enjoyment of the genre). Directors don’t choose to show us regular days; they choose to show us special, choice minutes with meaning. Their worlds can be idealized, their jobs can be extraordinary, and their personalities, while relatable, are in the end, fictitious and surreal. Slice-of-life has trouble capturing the essence of the everyday because no character, no matter how well-written, well-developed, or relatable they are, can never truly imitate the complexity of a human being.
Hyouka’s approach towards the everyday lives of the characters is special because it chooses not to focus on living life itself, but rather on the small mysteries and unknowns which we, the viewers, usually choose to ignore in our daily routines. The questions asked aren’t “Who dismembered [insert character] and fed him to [insert other character] during Christmas dinner?” but rather ones as casual as “Who took my chocolate?” or “Why is this guy wasting our time?” The mysteries are about the everyday, small events which we go through but hardly ever question as we go on with our days at school or work.
And at the same time, these mysteries are never boring, simplified, or slight: there’s a fierce complexity and incredible amount of craft behind each and every carefully built dilemma. They’re all bloody fantastic; way gripping than they ever should be. Instead of throwing up pretentious (take note that that’s a word I use very rarely), unfeeling crap like Kami-sama no Memochou, every mystery is extremely well-thought out and takes notable inspiration from famous mystery authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Christie. Every mystery, every “KININARIMASU!” is beyond solid, grounded with reason while taking no shortcuts because our “everyday life” is far more complex, more special than we even acknowledge.
Each mystery is a glimpse at what we miss out on when we fail to reach out and solve the mysteries which present themselves to us. Oreki Houtarou is who ties us into the threads of the show; the sloth who, despite having the ability to solve these mysteries, is hardly fascinated by his everyday life. Although he would never admit it, Oreki has many opportunities to go home and sleep off his day instead of feeding Chitanda’s ever-growing curiosity. But he doesn’t. And eventually, he comes to love it the feeling of finding something new throughout the day.
Hyouka is a challenge. It can be an arduous task to find something meaningful or interesting in the crimeless mysteries that life presents us, and it’s even harder to stave off boredom itself (as evidenced by those who dropped it). But searching for meaning amidst the everyday is an activity beyond rewarding. Intrigue is a far more powerful and serene feeling than the mindless blurs of ennui which can paint our lives.
- Edit: I’m not sure how I let this slip my mind, but there’s an extremely well-written, fascinating article about Hyouka as a study on detective fiction by AJtheFourth on Altair & Vega (it’s floating around there somewhere). A definite must read for fans and anyone curious or KININARIMASU about the show.