Since the beginning of the 2011 anime season, there has been a notable influx of series labeled under the mystery genre. Starting with Gosick in the Winter (and Spring) of that season, UN-GO in the Fall, and now with the currently airing Hyouka—it’s definitely an intriguing trend, especially for someone who grew up loving to read mysteries. And you know what’s even more interesting? How each series gives the genre its own special twist to give viewers an enjoyable experience. At least, it was for me. So today, I’ll talk little about each of the aforementioned series, what twist they made to the genre, and why they’re all worth watching.
- Taking place in the 1920′s in a fictional European country, Gosick gives the mystery genre a bit of an old fashioned charm. The main “detective” is a Victorique, a gal confined to Saint Marguerite Academy due to certain circumstances… mostly related to her past and her uncanny ability to “bring together the pieces of chaos”. It’s not quite a special ability per se, as it’s something that relies on the use of pure logic and what details are currently known at the time… but there are some instances where it kind of is. As such, there’s also a bit of supernatural element attached to everything as well, but not anywhere near the point where the series turns into something totally unrealistic. In fact, realism plays a pretty large part in the mysteries involved.
- But note also that Gosick is no one trick pony. Rather just just giving viewers mystery after mystery, it also manages to weave in some romance as well. Indeed, I wouldn’t hesitate to say the development behind the romance between our two main characters: the detective Victorique and the newly transferred Kajou Kazuya, was one of the more masterfully executed ones in recent history. And well, it’s worth a watch just for that element alone, if not just for the mysteries.
- Did I mention that there’s also a great set of OP/ED themes to set the stage as well? Check out the two ED’s here (both by Lisa Komine): Resuscitated Hope and Unity. Don’t worry about spoilers in the vids, as there are none.
- Set in a near future Tokyo, UN-GO’s take on the mystery genre is a very interesting mixture to say the least. The structure of the series itself involves multiple arcs involving a particular mystery. So in that context, it’s a pretty straight forward per se… up until you see how the series itself is presented. I mean, it’s just something you need to see for yourself to understand… watching this series… it’s a lot like watching one of those detective dramas you see on TV, except with a genuine air of intrigue and mystery, highlighted by a very cinematic/movie-isque feel to it all.
- In the end, you can’t help but feel you’re caught up in some kind of movie production of some sort… and it’s something that just combines amazingly well with the complex story lines behind the mysteries and our detective Yuuki Shinjuurou to create an amazingly layered show that’ll wow you with the revelations behind each mystery and the world itself.
- As for how the mysteries are solved, UN-GO also kicks convention to the curb a bit by adding supernatural elements to the story. Don’t worry though, it’s far from omnipotent and still requires that our detective risk his hide to find out enough about the case in order to utilize this supernatural trump card… who comes in the form of a girl named Inga. Without spoiling too much about her past (which is elaborated on in the prequel special: UN-GO episode:0 Inga-Ron), let’s just say she has an ability where she’s can force a person to answer one question truthfully. Yes, it sounds like it’s a bit of a cheat in a way… but it works out because Yuuki only really utilizes this trump card to confirm suspicions he’s already settled on after investigating himself. In addition, it’s something that allows the story to weave more intricate, complex plotlines that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
- Really, there’s just so much layers behind this show that it’s something that just leaves you feeling amazed by the time all’s said and done. To top it off, it also gives you interesting philosophical questions to ponder as well, such as the value of the truth and whether or not ignorance is a bliss… a question to which you’ll find your answer wavering from episode to episode as you see Yuuki solve his mysteries and his contact with fellow rival detective Rinroku Kaishou.
- Notably, well known Bones is behind the animation, lending this show some pretty amazing animation, considering how different the style is from their normal shows. School Food Punishment (“How to go“) and LAMA (“Fantasy“) also add a great OP/ED theme respectively… and well, at this point, it sure seems like if there’s one thing all these mysteries have in common, it’s their ability to put in some great themes to highlight the experience. Once again, there aren’t any spoilers in the corresponding vids.
- And finally, here we are at Hyouka, the most recent of the mystery genre animations. Another adaptation, Hyouka’s twist on the genre, as well as its charm, involves the fact that it doesn’t try to tackle grandiose mysteries. Rather, Hyouka’s focus is on the little things, everyday mysteries that occur throughout the day, throughout your life. They’re admittedly small things, like wondering why a door was closed when it couldn’t have been or finding out the history behind a club’s anthology… but it’s very intriguing nonetheless. Why? Because the show demonstrates how things can change dramatically based on your perspective, how even small things you overlook can play a big part in an overall scheme, how even the most seemingly tedious thing can be much, much more.
- Notably, Hyouka’s also one of those mysteries that are character driven, and it sports an a great cast of characters to do it with. Granted, the main cast is full of people that seem like your average high schoolers, but let me just say that the way they interact… how they go about finding and solving the small mysteries they find from time to time… they’re elements that would make many shows jealous of how well this show has it down. The dynamic between the main detective in Houtarou and the main heroine in Chitanda is one of the best ones I’ve seen in a while… and their interactions with the other members of the Classics Club, while not as awesome, are still almost equally as fun to watch.
- Granted, because it focuses on smaller things compared to other mystery counterparts… I’ll admit this is a series that’ll probably be more of a hit and miss compared to the other two I’ve mentioned above. I know some people prefer series revolving around more… “interesting” mysteries like murders and what not… so if you fit under this category, you probably won’t find the mystery fulfillment you’re looking for here. But for everyone else, especially those on the fence, I reckon you won’t regret at least taking a look at the first few episodes.