The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Haruchika: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy – the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation.” —Eric Hoffer

After three episodes, Haruchika presented itself as to pertain to how Haruta’s penchent for solving mysteries aids their high school’s band in reaching a shared dream of performing at the national competitions. The band’s drive to recruit new members continues after Miyoko and Maren join: after Haruta solves a mystery pertaining to a seemingly haunted house and secures accommodations, he turns his efforts towards determining the root cause of the troubles that haunt Akari, Naoko and Kaiyū; while Naoko initially refuses to join, the others agree, and the concert band club’s numbers reach a steady state, enough for them to begin competing. While they are unable to win the coveted gold and secure bronze, Haruta and Chika realise that they’ve formed a reasonably tightly-knit group of friends ready to take on whatever challenges await them in their next years as high school students. One of the elements that were remarked to be a weakness after three episodes was Chika’s seemingly minimal contribution to the solving of mysteries, but it turns out that her role’s importance, though subtle, is nontrivial: despite appearing of limited relevance, Chika’s thoughts occasionally act as the spark that helps Haruta reach a conclusion, and similarly, her energetic personality continues to drive the concert band’s members forwards even during more difficult moments: both Naoko and Haruta allude to this during the finale. Overall, Haruchika incorporates several unique elements into its narrative; through Haruta and Chika’s respective feelings towards Shinjirō, they are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to help the concert band out, and in doing so, recruit new members via a novel means. While Haruchika appears to be doing too much at once (and this occasionally shows, as the episodes seem to jump over different time frames), the end product, though somewhat rough around the edges, nonetheless remains modestly worth watching for detailing the journey of how a raggedy-ass concert band matures into a concert band that performs reasonably well at competitions.

It might be three months since the first episode was released, but this has not stopped discussions from asserting that Haruta’s homosexuality is significant, nor has it impeded claims that Haruchika comes across as a weak amalgamation between Hibike! Euphonium and Hyouka. The first claim is dispelled with the counterargument that Haruta’s feelings towards Shinjirō are subtle rather than explicit. His infrequent mentions of Shinjirō (such as feeling uneasy if not seeing him at least once a day) and generally not bringing up Shinjirō unless necessary makes his precise feelings ambiguous; this allows focus to be directed towards Haruchika‘s main narrative. Because Haruta’s feeling never result in anything beyond his motivation towards solving a particular episode’s mystery, it’s sufficient to say that Haruchika never meant to explore what might be a contentious subject to quite the same lengths that some audience members imagined. The case against Haruchika‘s similarities to Hibike! Euphonium and Hyouka, on the other hand, will be more difficult to argue against. There is a persistent misconception that any anime featuring a concert band with a suave instructor must necessarily be compared to Hibike! Euphonium, and similarly, that any anime dealing with everyday mysteries must necessarily be compared to Hyouka. The end result is the belief that Haruchika must be the inferior product that only does what is done in Hibike! Euphonium and Hyouka half way. However, even ignoring the fact that Haruchika predates Hibike! Euphonium by five years, it becomes apparent that comparing Haruchika and Hibike! Euphonium is akin to comparing an assault rifle against a carbine (the former has a longer barrel and range, at the expense of mobility). Whereas Hibike! Euphonium is about the drive for self-improvement and overcoming differences within a team to perform well, Haruchika is predominantly about how music connects individuals with different backgrounds together (a minor departure from the theme I presented during the after-three discussion).

Screenshots and Commentary 

  • So, here I am, mostly recovered from being ill with two different things at once, back to doing what I do in my spare time: writing about shows I watch. This is the typical post-season review, featuring twenty screenshots, and it has not escaped notice that Picasa, my image host, is altering the way things are done. This could adversely affect the way I embed images into posts, so my goal will be to figure out how to cleanly embed images before the old system is discontinued.

  • After the third episode, the fourth deals with Haruta in need of new accommodations for reasons I cannot recall off the top of my head. With Chika and the others, he finds a fantastic bargain with the now-clichéd caveat: the apartment is apparently haunted, and so, it’s onto Haruta and Chika to get to the bottom of things.

  • It turns out the “ghosts” are five yen coins packed away into the house itself. The episode was titled “Vernacular Modernism”, a phrase coined by Miriam Hasen to describe classical cinema’s relevance in the contemporary period and has little in common with the episode’s theme of vernacular architecture, a form of architecture where constructions are built with local characteristics in mind by individuals with no formal background in architecture.

  • Akari Gotō joins the concert band’s ranks after speaking with Haruta and Chika. Chika seems quite fond of cuddling with people and is typically only violent with Haruta. I’ve heard from unverified claims that Chika’s unique eye design stem from descriptions of her in the light novel, and that their vivid colouration is an indicator of youth more than anything else.

  • Elephant’s breath is generally referred to as a colour with RGB values 205, 195, 183, corresponding with the hex code #CDC3B7. It’s a gentler shade of grey, but like the episode title before it, has little to do with the actual events of the episode itself: it turns out that Akari’s grandfather was conscripted into the Vietnam War and witnessed firsthand the application of Agent Orange, a defoliant that had horrific impact on individuals exposed to it.

  • As a result of the Vietnam War, Akari’s grandfather suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. During the conference I attended two weeks back, one of the keynote speakers presented a talk where virtual reality was used as part of a therapeutic programme to help PTSD patients out, and was reported to be quite successful.

  • While I regard Haruchika has having below-average artwork in comparison with P.A. Works’ other titles (especially Tari Tari, which set the bar for what I’ve come to expect from them), on the whole, it is acceptable, and there are some places where world reflections and environment lighting are used to  give scenes a more tangible feel.

  • Chika seems to enjoy cuddling with the various female members of the band and is quite persistent in trying to get Naoko Seriwaza, a first year clarinet player, to join their concert band. While Naoko’s story begins with a cold open, the context for this is not adequately addressed, fading into oblivion.

  • It turns out that Naoko is losing her hearing, coinciding with her decline in academic performance, and while Chika eventually warms Naoko up to the others, she does not join the concert bands as others did previously, instead, making a request to help bring one of her friends back to school.

  • Twenty screenshots means I don’t have very much space to work with, so I’ve no images of Kaiyū Hiyama, a percussionist and radio show host. What I do have instead is an image of Haruta being wasted by Chika after the latter hears of the former’s thoughts during said radio show.

  • As Haruchika progresses, it becomes clear that the mysteries act as catalysts that bring different parts of the concert band together, and similar to how the concert band is a rag-tag bunch, the story itself is similarly ragged; it appears to be illustrating what the adapters consider to be the more mission-critical elements and incorporating them together.

  • Thus, while the end result is that Haruchika winds up being interesting to watch for both how the mysteries unfold and what the overall impacts this has on Haruta and Chika’s goals, the lack of intermediate events gives the impression that events are hacked together. Like Angel Beats!Haruchika might have done better to be adapted as a two-cour anime, where additional time could show characters develop more naturally.

  • Some mysteries, such as Naoko’s aunt’s first love and another high school’s instructor woes, appear to have limited bearing on the concert band itself. They act as interesting commentaries on things like cults and yakuza associations, but without more time to explore these stories beyond the scope of an episode, their overall impacts to Haruchika are minimal.

  • The main aspect in Haruchika that I disliked after three episodes was how Haruta reached his solutions with disconnected pieces of information. Later episodes had Chika provide some commentary of her own, which aids audiences somewhat in predicting where the solution might be, but for the most part, mysteries largely remain contrived. My best guess is that the mysteries are vague intentionally because they’re not intended for the viewers to figure out.

  • It appears that many of the mysteries presented in Haruchika are what would be called “sob stories” in that they are excessively sentimental with respect to their manner of presentation. The sheer number of them surrounding the concert band’s more capable members exceeds the limit for what can be considered credible, although the earlier stories are portrayed quite well. The page quote stems from some of the reactions I’ve seen to Haruchika: in my case, I came in with no expectations and was merely interested to see how the so-called “poor man’s Hibike! Euphonium” would play out.

  • Ultimately, Haruchika is going to be a polarising anime, with some individuals enjoying that P.A. Works managed to capture enough of what the light novels were going after to present a story about how Haruta and Chika use their deductive prowess to recruit band members and realise their dreams for having Shinjirō conduct at a prestigious locale, while others find that the unique combination of music and mystery means that Haruchika can do neither element justice.

  • The finale deals with Shinjirō mulling over an offer to conduct for an orchestra, and here, it’s briefly revealed that someone close to Shinjirō had passed away on the day of his performance years ago, accounting for why he was unavailable that day and why he eventually took on a teacher’s career. Explained in too little detail, it’s yet another instance of Haruchika falling short because of time constraints.

  • For twenty screenshots, I only have one of the final performance during the competition, roughly corresponding to the quantity of music there was throughout Haruchika. The actual background music itself for Haruchika wasn’t something I noticed, which is strange considering my usual tendencies towards listening for said music: the soundtrack is set for release on April 6.

  • Ultimately, with its setup, Haruchika would have presented a much more credible, cohesive story to audiences if more time was available to explore the different sub-stories and their relevance to the main narrative. However, for what was depicted in the twelve episodes, Haruchika manages to be modestly entertaining over its run, and for this reason, I have a seemingly contradictory set of recommendations. While open-minded viewers may enjoy Haruchika, most viewers will find it to be unremarkable at best (or disappointing at worst).

  • Because I have a propensity to lose my main point amidst other remarks, I’ll summarise my thoughts as follows: I enjoyed Haruchika, and find that the anime might not be for all audiences, being best suited for individuals looking for something a little different and won’t mind the somewhat eccentric progression. This marks the end of a post that was somewhat difficult to write for, and I finally finish two of winter offerings that I’ve been actively following. Besides Dagashi Kashi and Hai to Gensō no Grimgar (plus Musaigen no Phantom World) accumulating in full on my backlog, I’ve gotten requests to check out Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, but before any of that, I’m looking to finish Anthem of the Heart soon. This means between everything else, my days will be packed, and that’s not a bad thing.

Ultimately, whether or not I would recommend Haruchika would depend on whom I am speaking with. For open-minded individuals looking for something different or the most die-hard of P.A. Works fans, Haruchika earns a weak recommendation: the narrative is reasonably engaging, and despite Haruchika falling quite short of P.A. Works’ usual visual fidelity, it is tolerable provided that the mysteries were enough to lead me to wonder, at the minimum, how they would become resolved. Moreover, Haruchika certainly cannot be compared Glasslip in that the former at minimum, has some coherence. Conversely, for individuals who’ve seen some of the better anime out there, I would not recommend Haruchika: it’s not a great anime, and the jumps in the narrative can come across as incohesive, enough to break the flow of things for some. On the whole, I am quite willing to skate over shortcomings in the anime provided that the narrative is (somewhat) credible, and consequently, do not assess anime as rigourously as most reviewers. So, whether or not Haruchika is enjoyable will largely depend on the reader’s own personal preferences (of which there is not a right or wrong way to do things), and I presently fall in the first category in that I found entertaining elements in Haruchika. Given P.A. Works’ modus operandi, I imagine that an anime sequel is highly unlikely, and moving forwards, it appears that there is a live-action film that will premiere somewhere in 2017, likely acting as a reimagined telling of the light novel’s story.

4 responses to “Haruchika: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

  1. Edward April 7, 2016 at 03:07

    What I enjoyed about the mysteries presented in Haruchika was that, for the most part, they revolved around a character’s perception of the situation they were facing rather than someone’s evil intention. To some extent, I feel like the mysteries were lessons in learning to see things from another person’s point of view when they cannot express it clearly. The mysteries for Miyoko, Maren and Akari were created because of perceptions they held about family members, and solving the mysteries changed their perceptions such that their hurt feelings turned into appreciation. A couple of mysteries involved a character who could be called “evil” – the cameraman with the infrared camera and the false owner of the dog. However, Haruta and Chika were not tasked with finding the cameraman, but with learning why the teacher was not revealing the cameraman’s identity, so that particular mystery was still driven by the characters wanting to understand the teacher. As for the false owner, he seemed necessary to be a red herring in the mystery he appeared in. One mystery that stood apart was the mystery of the missing key involving Makoto and her grandfather because its resolution did not offer a new perspective on Makoto’s grandfather, and instead reinforced his personality.

    Like

    • infinitezenith April 7, 2016 at 19:40

      This is a highly insightful response as to why you enjoyed Haruchika, so excellent work here🙂 All of this ultimately returns to my main remark about Haruchika: that it could have spent a few more episodes to create more meaningful connections with each of the characters whose mysteries were being presented.

      I never got the impression that the mysteries involving the cameraman or false dog owner were those involving an innately evil character: while both perpetrators are easily seen as selfish and possibly immoral, I personally feel that true evil is the willingness to carry out a particular course of action in full knowledge that said actions will result in harm to other individuals. They were interesting breaks in the pace of the mysteries.

      Like

      • Edward April 11, 2016 at 01:44

        Hmm, it looks like I used “evil” too loosely. I meant the mysteries didn’t rely on the presence of a bad guy or antagonist for Haruta and Chika to find or prove guilty.

        As you point out, more episodes would have allowed the characters to be explored further, and I would have liked that.

        Like

        • infinitezenith April 12, 2016 at 19:50

          The lack of a solid antagonist helped Haruchika retain focus on Haruta and Chika; I’m tempted to say that dealing with someone with malicious or selfish intent, willing to put anyone of the cast in harm’s way, could have destabilised things😛

          Like

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