After finally deciding to give Hyouka a shot, I have to say that is an extremely well done series. Its ability to take relatively mundane things in a very mundane and tired setting riveting is something I haven’t seen done this well in a long time. As an added bonus, the series is able to create organic drama based on character interactions which is just as rare, and welcome antidote to the drivel of Kokoro Connect, which takes the opposite approach. While I could continue lumping endless praise on this series, I won’t. Instead, I’m going to focus on the portrayal of one character during one Hyouka – Ibara Mayaka.
Too often in anime, we see characters chastised, questioned, or otherwise questioning their appreciation of all things Otaku. Then again, too many times we have seen anime fans in anime portrayed as single minded individuals with no other discernible purpose or depth. In fact, it has almost become a standard trope in many harem comedies to have on character obsessed with all things hailing from Akihabara. While anime occasionally addresses these stereotypes, as it has in Genshiken, Hyouka took it a step further than any other anime I have seen.
First, Ibara’s fandom (in this case manga) was presented with almost zero fanfare, and almost as a matter of fact. She did not get hysterical about the subject matter, nor did anyone deride her for cosplaying (though she was hesitant to use that term herself). Yet, that isn’t even what makes this arc’s portrayal of her character so great. Instead, it is how her story line was able to mirror other story lines going on at the time. Her understanding that some people stand in the shadows of others was identical to how Fukube came to his own realization. Without commenting on the theme of the arc, it showed that many people face the same adversity and the same problems, no matter what circle they are in or their interests.
And that folks, the unstated understanding, in addition to the mysteries, characterization, and Chitanda’s unquestionable charm, is what makes Hyouka great.