Having caught up to this one, I can sum up my feelings in three words: Boring to Not. The first episode nearly put me to sleep, and maybe it did. Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for an anime like this, or perhaps I just wasn't seeing what it was trying to do. Regardless, while I thought it was pretty to look at, I was hesitant to continue.
After episodes two and three I realized that this was going to be one of those "mystery" anime, something I have not had a lot of love for in the past. Most mystery anime tend to be poorly done for basically one of two extreme reasons: they're either really childish and easily solved or not done right so that the audience CAN solve the mystery before the revelation. To give you the extremes, Detective Conan on the first end, GOSICK on the other. I tried to enjoy Conan and just couldn't. It was somehow even worse than Encyclopedia Brown novels, to me. GOSICK refused to show us the clues necessary to reach Victorique's level of awareness, and thus it came off way too Mary Sueish for me. Thankfully GOSICK had other shit going for it.
Hyouka seems to be somewhere in the middle, and not necessarily because of the show's fault. In this case, my understanding of Japanese culturalisms and history has prevented me from seeing what Oreki sees on occasion, but not in all cases. The mystery of the uptight newspaper dude I had figured out fairly quickly, though I admit I didn't think smoking was involved. I actually thought drugs. That's my American cynicism getting in the way. The fourth episode's mystery is more what I mean.
I am not that aware of the cultural and societal struggles of the Japanese 1960s. I know there was some shit that went down, and some very interesting things happened, but I'm just not on the level to know everything. It is interesting how closely Japanese society and American society mirror each other in history. For two cases in point, the civil war that led to the Meiji Restoration came not long after the American Civil War would lead to reconstruction; and the 1960s were turbulent times for both countries socially, especially amongst students and college campuses rebelling against the establishment.
Anyway, the lack of necessary details prevented me from coming to this conclusion, and so I found the episode both fascinating as a curiosity and as a history lesson. This is one of the few mystery shows where I've leaned forward intently, betraying my desire to focus on the details of what is being said and shown, and wishing I had a tub of popcorn with me. This was a good time.
There's still more to be had, too. They don't really know everything, and in fact I would guess that they don't actually know anything. At least not anything important to the grand mystery of what Chitanda's uncle actually went through. I have theories, but without evidence they're just that. It's funny to me. The way the show presents information and has multiple persons bring up points of view reminds me heavily of these threads and how, when we get into a show, we toss out our own theories and thoughts while trying to figure out what's going to happen next (often times with dismal failure).
So, in short, Hyouka has gone from dull to interesting in four episodes, which is good, and the reason I give all anime at least three episodes to show me what they've got. Another winner for the 3 ep rule.