Houtarou tries to live his life as 'energy-efficient' as possible: he doesn't do anything he doesn't have to, and what he has to do, he does quickly. Afterwards, he just goes back to reading a book. A so-called 'colourful' school-life is not for him. He is pretty smart in reaching conclusions, though -- I guess you have to be if you don't want to do anything unneccessary.
When he enters highschool, his sister forces him to join the Classics Club. She is an alumnus of the club, and since all the members graduated, the club is in danger of being disbanded. Houtarou agrees to join, thinking he'll be the only member so that it won't interfere with his lazy lifestyle. But when he enters the club room, he finds Eru there. Eru is the daughter of an old farming family, who always gets good grades. She turns out to be a 'curiosity monster', and when she can't stop thinking about something, she gets Houtarou to help her find the truth!
So begins Hyouka, a highschool mystery series. Don't expect the traditional sleuthing: there are no murders or (serious) thefts, but the investigations focus on things like "What happened to Eru's uncle 45 years ago, when he was expelled from school, and what is the relation with the Classics Club?" or "Who is pranking all the clubs during the Culture Festival?" Most of the information is already given by the time Houtarou starts deducting, and so you can play along at home. Most of the mysteries are quite complex pieces of work.
What we really liked about this series is that it doesn't focus solely on the mysteries. The characters play a central role as well, and the mysteries are things they are actively interested in. There are episodes that give a lot of character development, with a 'small' mystery tacked on at the end that's solved in five minutes. But that's not a problem: balancing character stories with mysteries is a tricky act to pull off, and Hyouka does pull it off. By the end of the series, we knew all characters by name -- and that doesn't happen that often...
There was not a single episode that wasn't interesting. For a 22-episode series, that's quite a feat to pull off. Couple that with the excellent animation that highlights the myriad of small mannerisms that the characters have and the nice voice acting, and you have a winner. We were sad it was over, and I really hope there will be another season for this series. I'll be sure to watch it!
I'll give it a 9 -- it's exactly the kind of series that interests us.