What’s it about ?
A high school detective club.
Houtarou, our protagonist. He’s usually a partisan of minimum effort, but here he strong-armed by his sister (an alumni of this same high school) into reopening the “Classics Club”, which had no members left. He’s actually quite a clever guy once you get to know him (if you’re not rebuked by his unwillingness to do anything unnecessary).
Satoshi, his best friend for years. He’s very obviously the exposition guy, and relishes in it (calling himself with pride “a database of useless knowledge” at one point). He’s not above starting rumors on his own, either.
Chitanda, a girl they found in the clubroom, and who’s very interested in it. (And so, Houtarou immediately dumps the presidency onto her.) She’s fascinated by mundane mysteries, school urban legends and the like. She’s a bit gullible, to say the least.
Whatever the club is actually about (it apparently has something of a reputation), they never get around to going into any Classic Litterature in this episode ; instead they obsess over several of the most low-key and low-stakes mysteries I’ve ever witnessed. Although it’s mostly an excuse to showcase each character’s personality.
You can tell this is a Kyoto Animation production : the animation is wonderfully fluid, and there’s a marvellous attention to detail in the body language and the backgrounds ; every single walk-on extra feel like they have a personality and a story of their own. (Witness in the opening scene that dude desperately trying to do some homework in the deserted classroom and getting progressively more annoyed at Houtaru and Satoshi talking so loudly behind him !)
This isn’t the most visually creative show of the season (aside from that fun little “mystery of the door” sequence and the random fantasy scenes “demonstrating” Houtarou and Chitanda’s chemistry), but it certainly has the best production values by far. (Yes, better than Fate/Zero.)
I’m not a fan of the soundtrack yet, but I could see it grow on me.
In any other hands, this would have been a forgettable low-key mystery show. But the impressive care put into every single detail pays off at the end, when Houtarou gets to display some impressive sleuthing skills in a way that takes advantage of those details and is perfectly in line with his stated philosophy. And the solution to the “phantom club” mystery is a strong enough piece of writing to make me trust this is going somewhere. (I’m not spoiling it, because I loved getting surprised by it.) Also, I’m now sold on Houtarou (Yuuichi Nakamura is impeccable as always).
I’m definitely going to follow this one.