Review/discussion about: HaruChika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun suru
One of the very first crushes I ever had was on my fourth-grade teacher.
Let’s call her Ms. C. While I wouldn’t say it was love, my ten-year-old self certainly liked her. She was pretty, funny, and smart. I had had female teachers in the past, but they were either too old or lacked an attractive personality. Maybe that was part of the reason why I liked Ms. C; she was not like the other teachers who taught me before.
But when I discovered that Ms. C was actually Mrs. C, my crush ended.
HaruChika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun suru features students who have stronger feelings for their own teacher. AndHaruChika also gets similarly crushed.
Despite the band and music within, HaruChika is not about music whatsoever. The final episode showing only half of their big performance (the first half is nothing but credits) indicates this well enough. Instead, the music is merely a catalyst for the group (more specifically Haruta and Chika) to get involved in the various mysteries that pop up.
And there are a lot. One mystery per episode to be exact. Mysteries about Rubik’s cubes. Mysteries about haunted houses. Mysteries about colors. (Yes, almost all of the mysteries have nothing to do with music, too).
Although it may be more accurate to call them “mysteries” rather than mysteries. Some don’t have much to them like the friend’s aunt’s lover and their teacher’s trip. Some come together strangely, like the giant dog’s owner and the gem finders.
Most of them also suffer at the hands of the one-mystery-per-episode format. Such a format does not give the mysteries a chance to linger enough for the audience to think through the solutions. Instead, Haruta almost always takes the lead, solving them each time and in roughly the same manner.
While a couple of the mysteries are admittedly interesting – that Rubik’s cube one and the braille message come to mind – what every mystery falls prey to is the missed drama. Once again, the singular format is not enough time for these different dramatic moments to build the necessary tension and emotion. As such, when the show does have a character crying, screaming, or otherwise reacting, the audience cannot connect with the situation since the anime never gave them that chance.
Besides the episodic material, the anime also includes an overarching plot involving Kusakabe, their teacher. Allusions to this mystery – why he decided to quit being a conductor despite being the best in the world – form early on. Yet, once the other mysteries and the drama take over, the anime mostly forgets about the direction. It does get addressed near the end, but the reveal and the outcome are likewise lacking impact.
Focusing on just the ending, it is nice for its realistic outcome. The band not only chooses to enter a lower division than what they originally wanted to try, but they also take third place. It puts into perspective their musical ability (as a group) and makes sense given that the band was shoddily put together over the course of a whole season. But, to reiterate, the anime is by no means a music one, so, once again, the feelings that are supposed to be attached to their bittersweet defeat do not stick.
Of course, the reuse of a sincere-moment-cut-off-abruptly joke does not help this ending. Same goes for the anime’s lack of a strong thematic presence. And not to mention that the comedy and romance are either repetitive in their presentation (Chika kicking Haruta) or go nowhere despite the implied feelings between some of the characters (Miyoko and Maren are the biggest culprits).
The anime also has other topics that it introduces but never openly explores. The biggest examples being the taboo relationship between a student and a teacher and the disparity between those who are skilled and those who are not. To be fair, the anime never intended to take these topics seriously (the student-to-teacher feelings were the basis for comedy and the disparity meant little since the music did too). Still, having those ideas around and not capitalizing on them when they have some importance to the tale does not make too much sense.
Altogether, the narrative is confused. It’s lost. It’s too disjointed for its own well-being.
While HaruChika avoids trouble with actual animation, the art continues the downward trend.
More specifically, the anime simply does not have a very interesting setting. The high school Haruta and Chika find themselves in seems to only contain a band room and a side room because those appear to be the only spots in the building. Outside of the school, many of the mysteries take place in homes or other constrained areas that lack creativity. Not many landscapes and not many shots of the group playing their instruments (besides the eye-catches between Part A and Part B of the episodes) further highlight the boring art.
At the minimum, the instruments have the detail necessary to make them more than just brass tubes and wooden sticks. But, considering that the anime is not a music anime, the nice-looking instruments do not bring support.
Actual animation fares better most of the time. Something as simple as Kaiyuu hitting his drumsticks on his shoulders or twirling them around while waiting show the attention to detail here. Other actions, like Chika rushing forward to follow Haruta’s lead or Akari evading her pursuers, further demonstrate the nice animation levels. Combined with some fluid hair and eye movements, this area is one of HaruChika’s strongest.
The character designs, however, bring back more issues. Besides Chika’s eyes – the purple, yellow, and soft pink coalesce into prettiness – the designs are rather boring. Haruta’s blonde banana-peel hair and lack of facial expressions makes him too plain. Kusakabe’s defining feature is his glasses, not much else. And Naoko’s green, medium-length hair and slightly slanted blue eyes do not mix well together.
Their lackluster school outfits – solid color on top (usually white) and solid color on bottom (usually blue) – do not help either. Miyoko’s design, though, may be an argument in the anime’s favor. Her silver hair with braided tail, yellow-framed glasses, and leg-long black stockings make her attractive.
But one nice design out of the numerous ones provided does not make amends.
The cast of HaruChika also have a lot of trouble. In fact, it is quite difficult to discuss the vast majority of them for two reasons: no staying power and a weak foundation.
First, staying power. The rigid episodic format once again impedes on the anime. Every episode introduces at least two, sometimes three, brand new characters. At worst, they appear for that specific episode and fail to do much else afterwards. At best, they have a small cameo later on that impacts the proceedings so minimally that their reappearance matters not. I.e., characters do not stay around long enough to feel meaningful.
For example, one of Haruta’s older sisters shows up to help him out of his housing slump, providing in the process a glimpse into Haruta’s character. But after he discovers the haunted house’s treasure, she promptly disappears for the rest of the anime. Another example is the head of the theater club. He has one other background scene later on used for a one-off comedy bit.
Some of these characters are technically vital to both the mysteries and the band at hand. Akari, the girl who asks about “elephant’s breath,” shows up in episode five, but, following her mystery, she only makes a few comments here and there despite taking part in the group. The same happens for Maren but to an even worse degree. He has his (literal) time in the spotlight in episode three, and, from then on, his contributions are minimal.
This drop-off even happens to Miyoko. At first, it appears as though Miyoko will be Chika’s best friend. Miyoko hangs out with the duo, she goes along for the ride with some of the mysteries, and she has some extra scenes herself. But she, more or less, gets replaced by Naoko once she gets introduced. Effectively, Miyoko gets removed almost entirely from the picture.
Second, weak foundation. Many of the characters are given a backstory to work off of. The anime usually has these flashbacks occur at the start of the given episode in order to provide some context to the characters. For instance, Naoko sharpened her musical ability to the extreme because she wanted to make a name for herself.
In essence, the foundation is weak. Said weakness comes from a two-fold problem. One, the backstory is very minimal. They are usually no more than a minute long, providing only a sliver of information. And two, the backstories have little impact on the characters themselves. As in, beyond the initial showing, the flashbacks do not mean a whole lot in the long run.
Naoko has been brought up twice now, and rightly so – she is easily the strongest character that HaruChika has to offer. Unlike the rest of the cast (minus Haruta and Chika), she gets more than one episode to flesh out her character. Known for her uncanny musical abilities, she apparently does not join the school’s band because she is literally too good for them.
But recently, she has been in need of help. Her grades have worsened, and she has become more distant from her friends. Naturally, Chika tries to figure out why. Naoko is reluctant to speak with anyone about the matter at first, but she later reveals her problem: a loss of hearing.
Her dilemma is one of the only music-related in the anime, and, similar to the ending, her (original) outcome is realistic. She does not join the band despite the group helping her find her hearing aid and creating walky-talky cups. After Haruta and Chika also help out Naoko’s aunt, Naoko changes her tune a bit and decides to help Chika train in the flute to return the favor for her newfound friend.
Naoko acts as a nice supporting character. She says to the band what Kusakabe won’t. She does, indeed, improve Chika’s playing. She hangs out with them instead of resigning herself to lonely silence. While these moments are arguably minute, her character arc still completes itself at the end of the season where she finally decides to join the band. And with that, she demonstrates her strong friendship and proves why she is the best character HaruChika has to offer.
As for Haruta and Chika, the main characters of this show, they are nowhere near the level that Naoko is at.
They have the same backstory beginning as some of the other characters; they grew up together as friends. Haruta has always been calm and reserved. Chika has always been energetic and loud. And when the two find themselves rivals in love, they could not be a more perfect pairing for each other.
These details are all in the first couple of episodes. Afterwards, Haruta and Chika are relegated to their respective straight-man, funny-girl roles as they embark on the different mysteries. Chika does improve in the flute, and the group does acknowledge that she was the glue that held them all together, but she does not do much besides be happy.
Haruta does even less. He solves the mysteries; that’s it.
Kusakabe, their teacher and band instructor, has similar problems when it comes to character exploration, but, at this point, he the last blemish on an otherwise scarred cast.
The opening track of HaruChika relies a lot on its vocalists. The main female singer does quite well with holding notes and reaching different ranges, and the background male singer supports her without taking away her power. Listening to the arrangement itself, it is a combination of optimism and triumph that goes along with the anime, making it at least a well-crafted piece.
The ending track approaches with more reserve. The singer begins with few instruments, using her vocal skills to carry the piece. At the halfway point, the actual arrangement arrives, and the singer’s rhyming and note-holding help to make the track a better song than it otherwise should be.
Surprisingly, the best part of the music are the tidbits played between Part A and Part B of each episode. The choice of instrument always changed, and, for some of them, the sound of pressing (like on the oboe or flute) could be heard, adding a certain degree of authenticity. They were a small but welcome addition.
Listening to the rest of the original soundtrack, it has quite a few tracks. Many of them follow the same leitmotif started by “Chika no Theme” (and including the final performance), creating many lighthearted tunes despite the more dramatic tone of the show. “Todoka Nai Omoi no Katachi” is one of many tracks that goes melancholic with its soft and simple composition. And “Saguriai.Ukagai Au” makes mystery with a distinct and constant background sound-effect.
The tracks of the OST can sound a bit too similar at times, meaning variety is not its strong suit, but they do fit the music-related anime well enough.
Voice-acting performances have no notable performances, save for one: Maren’s father’s English when some change was accidentally dropped. The attempt was neither awful nor well-done, but it was hilarious to hear.
I didn’t particularly like this one.
Much of my dislike came from the low-resonating drama. Miyoko crying about her brother’s gift did not get to me. Akari learning the truth about her grandfather’s PTSD made sense, but I did not find myself invested in the outcome. I was not moved by the band failing to achieve the goals they had set for themselves.
In fact, what moved me more was the picture of the band steadily gaining more members over the course of the season. Knowing that their efforts were at least paying off in some capacity made me at least marginally happy to see.
The only real entertainment that I found fun was Haruta and Chika’s relationship. I liked how they clashed but never with malice. Haruta teased Chika about her daftness, and Chika’s kicking-Haruta gag after each of his “insults” made me smile no matter how repetitive it got. While I would have more than welcomed a romance between them, having them be best friends and nothing more because they could never be lovers (based on their tastes) made for a quirky and silly connection.
Sadly, their friendship was not enough to keep the anime from hitting the wrong keys.
HaruChika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun suru has some nice musical parts despite not actually being a music-centric anime. Even so, the story is not engaging. The art is boring. The characters are forgotten about. And the entertainment is low. A crushing loss.
Story: Terrible, lame mysteries, weak drama, and next to no thematic presence
Animation: Bad, boring artistic direction and character designs, but nice actual animation
Characters: Bad, only Naoko manages to be a worthwhile character, and, even then, just barely
Sound: Fine, okay OP, good ED, okay OST, below average VA performances
Enjoyment: Bad, nothing else but Haruta and Chika’s relationship was fun
Final Score: 2/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3