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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Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – 10

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After scouting out the site of the last ruin this 11-episode show has time for, Juugo arrives home with the brown sugar pudding Nanana requested, and is relieved she hasn’t disappeared permanently, but she is clearly hurt by his refusal to tell her why he needs to clear the ruin in such a hurry. You can really feel the melancholy in this scene; Juugo is just as upset he can’t tell her as she is he’s keeping secrets.

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It’s not as if she considers this the Ultimate betrayal or anything, but her disappointment and weariness is apparent. As for the ruins themselves, at first I was on the fence about whether the set-up quite topped the “Rigid Foam Maze” six eps back, but I decided it did after considering its complexity. First of all, finding it involves careful study of the mall’s plan and observation of its inhabitants.

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When Juugo finally finds the entrance and goes in with Tensai, Isshin, and Yuu, things get even more interesting, but not until Tensai goes “Aha!” and explains it to less brilliant parties present. The Golden Ratio, Fibonacci Sequence, and 13-sign Zodiac all play a role in cluing in the adventurer on where and when to move. Ultimately it takes Juugo’s brawn supporting Tensai’s brains to reach the chest several stories underground, another sign these two make sense as a romantic pair, if they dared to go there.

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Once there, the chest itself has a puzzle lock that looked to me like some kind of terrestrial or celestial map. Tensai starts to solve it in her head, and a good thing she doesn’t open it too soon, because Ikusaba Hiiyo crashes the party (Kagetora and Daruku were watching the entrance, but there was only so much they could do) Hiiyo’s first weapons are insults, possibly meant to get everyone mad enough to make a mistake, but it’s he who ends up regretting not taking them all out quick and quiet.

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The insults motivate Juugo to want to kick Hiiyo’s ass purely because he pisses him off, not out of a sense of duty to anyone. This may be a little thing, but is consistent with his desire to walk his own path by his own code, not one laid out by his father. Yuu is pissed off too, but neither she nor Juugo can score a hit on him; not until Isshin of all people steps forward and actually does something to deserve Yuu’s worship.

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Armed with Nanana’s “mimic glasses”, he’s able to fight at Hiiyo’s level and know which shadows he’ll emerge from. He also uses Hiiyo’s poor opinion of him to his advantage, opening himself up just long enough to get him to throw a punch he can’t stop, then duck in time for Yuu to deliver a very satisfying knockout blow, which is repeated for emphasis.

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So…Good team effort! Hiiyo has been put in his place, so now all they need to do is grab the treasure and be on their OH RIGHT, he’s got other tricks up his sleeve. I expected Tensai and/or Isshin to check him for other treasures on his person, but Juugo approached the dangerous wounded animal first, with his guard down, and got a collapsed lung for his trouble.

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Stray Observations:

  • That last scene last week where Nanana suddenly disappeared turned out to be a total red herring.
  • Kagetora and Daruku’s general uselessness this week was a sign of mild character bloat. Still, the former’s full body bandage, with just eyes and a couple hairs showing, is a funny sight gag.
  • Yuu and Tensai seem awfully touchy about Juugo possibly looking up their skirts. Then don’t wear skirts to a treasure hunt! Rock slacks, like Yukihime!
  • The whole scene with Juugo carrying Tensai as she navigates was great stuff. He even got her detective hat back!
  • Again the episode cuts to Nanana playing a game that mimics the situation of the others; in this case, fighting an annoyingly tough boss. I know the feeling…