I’ve complained before about the fact that people focus so heavily on genre. Personally, I tend to believe that a show’s genre doesn’t matter much. Let’s be honest here, the most popular shows aren’t from the most popular genres. People love Eva without liking mecha. People love K-On without liking slice-of-life. People love Hunter x Hunter without liking battle shounen. People enjoy shows that go against their tastes in genre all the time. I’ve experienced this before and my recent rewatch of Hyouka has confirmed my ideas on this topic.
I don’t really like mysteries. The main intrigue of a mystery is solving the puzzle, something I’m not that interested in when it comes to fiction. At least, not if it’s going to be solved for me. Sure, I might be a bit curious about who the killer is, but that can’t drive interest for me. Solving puzzles is fun when I actually have to do it, but mysteries eventually solve them anyway, making it pointless to try. I don’t know if I’ll ever enjoy a piece of fiction that focuses primarily on its mystery, as such a thing is just not my idea of a good time.
And yet, Hyouka is one of the most captivating shows I’ve ever watched. Hyouka constantly grabs my attention, drawing my eyes to the screen at all times. Now, it’s not exactly the mysteries that draw me to Hyouka, but they don’t bore me. That in itself is an accomplishment, since I usually can’t stand shows with any focus on them. Hyouka spends almost every episode on some mystery or another, and I still love watching it.
I can be made to care more about mysteries when characters are interested in them. Of course, that wouldn’t be the case if the characters were uninteresting. Fortunately, Hyouka manages to craft great characters through its run. It then uses the mysteries to drive their development and expose them further. When I know that I’ll learn more about Oreki or Satoshi from the ongoing mystery, I get more invested.
There’s plenty of things in Hyouka that make it worth watching, and the mysteries contribute to all of those things. Chitanda and Oreki’s romance is driven by Chitanda’s interest in the mysteries, and without them, it would fall apart. We see Satoshi’s jealousy and worse character traits as he fails to solve the School Festival mystery and as he creates one himself on Valentine’s Day. And we see as Oreki gradually opens up to doing things, putting himself into the mysteries in a way he didn’t at the show’s start. The show’s mysteries feel inseparable from these moments, and yet at the same time, they feel nothing like the many mysteries I hate.
And that just speaks to how much genre doesn’t matter. When it comes to anime, mystery is probably the genre I have the least interest in. Sure, harems might be worse shows on average, but at least they have ways of appealing to me. Mysteries just do nothing for me at all. And yet I love this one, which goes to show why premises and genre can be ignored. What really matters is just whether or not a show is good. Occasionally you run across shows that you can tell you won’t get into based off of premise alone. That’s fine, and it’s bound to happen sometimes. But most of the time, you can’t rule something out with just a synopsis.
Of course, not every show has the luck of Hyouka. It started out with great writing already, and it had the blessing of being animated by KyoAni. That KyoAni production really matters, as it was the stellar direction and character animation that really sold me on the show, so I understand that not every show would have this effect. I’m sure I would’ve liked Hyouka from another studio, but it wouldn’t be nearly as good. Just as a brief example, the final episode wherein Oreki finally gains a rose-coloured life only works because of its visuals. But again, that just goes to show that more matters than genre. In this case, the staff is worth looking at, as it is in all cases.
Hyouka is perhaps my favorite romance anime and one of my favorite drama anime, despite technically fitting neither of those genres. Good shows have lots of points of appeal, points that extend far beyond what you see if you check its page on MAL. Never give up a show without watching it just because you dislike its genre. If I had, I never would’ve ended up watching Hyouka.