HaruChika – 04

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I decided to go out on a limb and watch one more episode of P.A. Work’s generally disappointing HaruChika, intrigued that we might find a chink in the perfect Haruta’s armor in the guise of his family. I did so knowing it could well be a trap that would lead me to keep watching, despite the fact I should have learned from Glasslip that the show isn’t really ever going to actually go anywhere, only tease.

And it was a trap. But while I’m still committed to dropping this, I didn’t dislike my final look. Once one gets used to the look of HaruChika, it really does show good command of animating characters and creating awkward situations for comedic effect. And I liked Haruta’s eldest sister,who’s far from the hell-beast Haruta made her out to be. In fact, her presence and his discomfort with it made Haruta a lot more tolerable.

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We learn that Haruta is only one of an entire family of talented people; Mimami is an architect (and a pretty nifty drifter in her Civic Type R), while his other two sisters are an illustrator and a chiropractor. So certainly there’s both pressure on him, the baby, to perform, as well as do whatever his three sisters want. I only have one little sister, so I can’t quite relate, but his discontent with his lot in life is at least more understandable now that I know he comes from a home practiclaly bursting with ability.

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In any case, when he was evicted from his old apartment, Haruta took to living with the chickens and being cared for by the animal club. This won’t do, so Minami is there to help him find a new apartment; Chika volunteers to help out (especially when she learns the alternative may be Haru staying at Kusakabe’s place), and drags Miyoko along. When the seemingly perfect place’s only flaw is that it might be haunted, Miyoko’s scaredy-cat side comes out, and it’s fun to watch Chika mess with her at every turn.

The thing is, an exploration into Haruta’s family suddenly turns into another very random mystery-of-the-week involving the recently deceased landlord’s nephew, who believes his prank-loving uncle left the house to him to cause him trouble: the tenants always complain about what sounds like a priest’s staff in the night, and the inheritance tax is more than he and his pregnant wife can afford.

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Haru ends up staying at Maren’s house (thanks to an assist by Miyoko that Chika praises her for…wait, wasn’t Chika terrorizing Miyoko all day?) and he puts all the clues that were laid out together. My first thoughts on hearing about the nature of the ghost sound, combined with the will written on the blueprints and mentioning “precious metals”, was that the walls were full of coins.

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Mind you, I’m not usually too skilled at solving mysteries before the show reveals them, but this was one of those instances, leaving me tapping my foot a bit, waiting along with Chika and the others for Haru to make yet another big show about what a frikkin’ genius he is. All Hail The Glorious, Perfect Haruta…(farting noise).

Now, I did enjoy details like 1982 being the year the 500-yen coin was first put into circulation, and that all the coins in the walls are 500-yen coins, as well as the warm, casual Christmas flavor that suffused the episode. As for Haru and Chika ending up in Kusakabe’s arms, lying on a pile of cash, well…that was just goofy, and a useful reminder that I need to step away from this show while I still can!

I do so with one final unsolicited, uninformed prediction: Haru and Chika will not be a couple by the end of the show. I know that’s not necessarily the point of the show, but c’mon now. I may check in on the last episode to see if I’m proven wrong.

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HaruChika – 03

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Haruta and Chika’s lame love triangle continues to be an ongoing problem with HaruChika. If it were a classmate they both loved, male or female, that would be one thing; the fact their object of affection is a teacher all but eliminates the possibility of anything actually going anywhere. It doesn’t help that said teacher is a walking snooze-fest. I simply ain’t buying what either the show or its two title leads are selling.

But hey, at least that triangle is only a peripheral element of the story. This week, the show once again focuses on a new character, Sei Maren, who doesn’t get off to a stirring start with an opening line like “Where is the step I should take to move forward?” Whoa there, Proust.

He also has a whole built-in story, with a Life Box he opens sometimes to stoke his angst! Haru, Chika, and Miyoko encounter him in drama club, looking lost (and not at all good at drama, as the leader Nagoe admits frankly).

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So this Sei guy has a personal problem, and people are worried about him (particularly Miyoko, randomly). So what does Haruta do? Write a play that will “make everyone happy.” Only Nagoe rips it up, and the drama club and brass band get into a little exchange of unfriendly words, resulting in a challenge that will be settled on the stage.

The subsequent dramatic “exit game”, in which Haru, Chika, and Miyoko square off against Nagoe, Sei, and their star actress Yaeko (who does a fair impression of Princess Mononoke), is actually the niftiest part of the episode. It has all six “actors” essentially straddling two different worlds, gradually adding to the complexity of their setting and situation in order to get one of their opponents’ actors to exit stage right.

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Of course, it ain’t perfect. Haruta shows yet another skill he’s good at – acting and improvisation, as well as being nigh telepathic about Sei’s personal concerns, not helping his annoying Gary Stu status. Many of his lines in the exit game are a little too on the nose, to the point of being cruel to Sei. But more than what he knows and probably shouldn’t, it’s just deeply troubling how meddling this guy is!

He’s such a busybody, interfering in others’ lives and being as coy and dramatic about it as he can, in this case literally. They also somehow stole Sei’s Life Box from the closet in his room! WTF? (Note: I don’t want to hear a rational explanation for this; it’s just silly.) And Sei’s feelings about abandonment are far too easily quelled by Haruta and Nagoe’s intrusive charade.

As for Miyoko’s apparent feelings for the guy, well, she must see something I don’t, which is to say she sees…something, period.

Haruta also didn’t have to keep Chika in the dark…but of course he did, because he’s a jerk! So when Chika kicks him and sends him careening to the earth, it’s highly satisfying. I LOL’d. It’s like she’s kicking the little twerp not just for her own sake, or for Sei’s, but for all of us.

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HaruChika – 02

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There are elements of HaruChika that I enjoy: the character design (particularly the eyes); the playful sibling-like interactions of Haruta and Chika; and in the case of this week, some legitimate emotional resonance towards the climax, as the tiny band attempts to recruit talented oboist Narushima Miyoko, who flat-out refuses.

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That’s where my reservations about HaruChika start to rear their ugly head. Only a week removed from the revelation that Haru and Chika are in a love triangle with their band instructor Kusakabe, practically nothing more about that plot point is explored, aside from the two perking up like meerkats every time Kusakabe enters the room.

I’m not saying the triangle should be the focus of every week, but it was disorienting to have a brand new character’s story (compelling and cathartic as it turned out to be), totally dominate only the second episode of the show, when we’ve just barely gotten to know the titular characters. Heck, we don’t even know why Chika likes Kusakabe enough to justify her as a legitimate vertex in a love triangle; at least Haruta gave something of an explanation last week.

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Another problematic element of HaruChika? The mysteries, and in particular how they’re solved. Sure, it’s all well and good to eliminate abnormalities in all sensory inputs (the strange smell tipped Haruta off to the idea of painted sides on the Rubik’s Cube).

But two weeks in Haruta has been pigeonholed into two very narrow spaces: his apparent infatuation with Kusakabe, and his vast knowledge of…well, whatever knowledge is needed to solve the mystery of the week.

As in all of the knowledge. And as with last week, he made a point to delay the reveal of his findings until such as time as it would deliver the biggest dramatic punch. It feels a bit like the writers trying to hide behind Haruta’s intellect and vanity.

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There’s also an element of pushiness and intrusion into the life of someone who didn’t ask for such intrusion that left a bad taste in my mouth, despite the ends mostly justifying the means. I’m as happy as Chika that Miyo decides to play the oboe again, but they had to put her through the wringer in order to get her to that point.

Who is Haruta to say it’s time for her to stop grieving and move on? Who are Haru and Chika to use Miyo’s middle school friend to infiltrate Miyo’s house against her express wishes to be left alone? I’ll tell ya who: they’re people who put their brass band’s regional eligibility above the privacy of their classmates.

“Haruta knows best” was a key takeaway. He may, and it all worked out, but it can be a little unseemly at times, whether he’s opening a wound that gets him slapped around by Miyo, or sneaking in a dig against Chika at almost every opportunity.

Next week’s preview hints at another member being recruited—they have a lot to go before they can compete in earnest—but while there may be another intricate mystery involved in bringing that new member into the fold, I fear it will be another instance of neglecting a love triangle that requires further development sooner rather than later for me to stay engaged.

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HaruChika – 01 (First Impressions)

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After a cold open that shows how far the characters we haven’t met yet have come, we start back at the beginning with Homura Chika‘s first day at Shimizu High, wanting to re-invent herself into a refined, maidenly “cute girl” by taking up the flute, complete with pink case.

Immediately she starts to run into a few problems, like her “uncouth” sneezing, and the fact the volleyball team is stalking her, hoping to recruit her. But she’s been down that road, and wants to spend her youth another way. She also has crazy colorful eyes.

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Her third and perhaps most problematic roadblock to her reinvention (besides the fact she isn’t really the person she’s trying to be) is her unexpected reunion with her former neighbor and childhood friend, Kamijou Haruta.

On first glance, Chika describes Haruta in very feminine terms (an early clue to the show’s romantic structure), but more importantly, knows exactly who she really is and is quick to note how little she’s changed since nine years ago, when she used to put pro-wrestling moves on him, eat his snacks, etc.

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Chika is a true beginning flutist in the scant five-member (including her) brass band, but everyone sees…something in her and welcome her. They’re also dealing with a minor mystery: a message written in musical notation on the chalkboard with red paint.

Haruta, perhaps taking belated revenge for all of Chika’s past terrorizing, seems to lord his superior musical and historical knowledge and detective skills over her, as well as admonish her for failing to carefully mind her surroundings. What we have here are two very different people who know each other very well and feel comfortable around one another, even after all this time.

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That brings us to the ending twist: despite the title, Haruta and Chika may not be the central romantic item in this show; rather, they’re only two parts of a love triangle, with both Haruta and Chika liking Kusakabe Shinjirou, the brass band’s conductor.

Gay main characters in anime are very rare indeed, but I’m very bit as intrigued as my shippier half is disappointed by this change of romantic perspective. To its credit the show doesn’t waste any time revealing this twist, insinuating that holding one’s breath for Haru X Chika all season probably won’t be a profitable enterprise.

All in all, a solid first episode. I’m less enthused with Kusakabe and the gimmicky twins, and the first mystery, while novel from a technical standpoint, was a bit dull, but Chika is a very fun and vibrant female lead, and Haru is an excellent foil. A “Fine”, then, sounds about right.

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