Without fail, every season seems to bring a couple of novel adaptations that have no relation to or lend themselves all that well to anime whatsoever, but always a joy to see. Part of me is thankful for this since it gives a glimpse into works I would otherwise come into contact with let alone be able to read, yet the other part of me also wonders if it is even remotely close to the source material or having the original authors vision in mind. In the case of P.A Works adaptation of Sei Hatsuno’s Haruchika (Haru and Chika alternatively), I would like to believe that the anime represents Hatsuno’s brainchild unfettered, then again, not if it’s insipid as this turned out to be.
Title: Haruchika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru
Studio: P.A Works
Haruta and Chika are members of their high school wind instrument club that is on the verge of being shutdown because there are only four members. The two are childhood friends that got split up, but reunited nine years later and they spend their days studying and also trying to recruit new members. When a mysterious event occurs within their school, they band together in order to solve the mystery.
For those reading the outline for the series and hoping for another impassioned story of youth culminating in solving mysteries and mainly, struggling to recruit and put together a component school band to compete in the prefectural tournament (think Sound Euphonium), then Haruchika is not the series for your high school competition fix. Yes, while it is true that Haru and Chika both want to take their team to the nationals and usually come across perspective members or those related to them in some manner every other episode, all this is just a means to an end for the actual mysteries to take place and cover different avenues in a loose episodic fashion. As formulaic and by the numbers as this approach is to leading the narrative, it really isn’t objectionable aside from the inorganic way the duo and the rest of the music club seem to happen across whatever “problem of the week” is most convenient. During the initial episodes the events work themselves into the story quite tidily and with some sense of coherence, but as the series progresses – down a rather seemingly ambiguous and aimless path, the nature and way the cases are presented feel more like filler written in by the directorial staff than anything else. To be fair, most titles that adopt the tangential narrative really don’t need to follow any sort of definitive story and feel like filler regardless, but in the case of Haruchika when looking at some of the cases, they simply don’t work all that well or amount too much.
Before I begin to get into negatives, I will say that comparable to Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation, I do like how most of the cases focus on the human element – those left behind by loved ones shackled to past and trying to break free in order to move forward. It doesn’t hit the same emotional crescendos that Sakurako or even Death Parade can, but still serves it purposes and works as a nice parallel with the victims being able to forward so can the Wind Instrument Club toward their end goal thanks to Haru and Chika’s busybody sleuthing. And where the Wind Instrument Club does have its noticeable members throwing in their two-cents worth in various episodes to help out, it is Haru and Chika that (thankfully as main characters should) have enough competence and something resembling personality to keep the show from sinking off into utter boredom. Playing off the opposites attract theme: Haru is the insightful one (a la Sherlock) that lets his brain do the work, and Chika has good heart and usually lets her mouth do…too much talking without thinking. The only association between the two are old childhood friends and the fact both have an infatuation with their music instructor. It’s a relationship that is good for comedic chemistry, and has its moments when it works, but wish that aspect was more frequent. Having some type of tolerance and love for these elements, when it comes down to the actually “mysteries”, they can only be described as reasonable, but too long-winded to follow and overall unsatisfying.
Being appreciative that the outlandish nature does contribute to the variety and not always related the band getting more members, I do feel that the scope of the scenarios do get too tangled in its own niceties to have the desired result. Again, while each episode does usually center around some sort of theme and presented in a self-reflective fashion in order to develop the victim’s personality and what they are trying to come to grips with, the means of getting to the “solution” is what that makes the scenarios so unsatisfying. This usually involves Haru plucking away at the depths of deductive reasoning to make an assertion based off several Bohemian examples that may or may not be helpful only to use the clues last moment to tie it all together. This is certainly not a bad way to engage audience and provide clarification since both The Perfect Insider and Hyouka used similar means as way to highlight different key points, but in this title, it just feels way too complicated for no reason at all other than the writer to do some cerebral flexing. Again, nothing wrong with the approach, yet a very easy way to lose a few audience members, especially when most of the scenarios just turn out to be unremarkable in the first place and don’t exactly lead to gratifying results. At any rate, much like life, I can get behind the idea of not all of the cases coming to a clear-cut and straightforward answer for the victims or even Haru and Chika based on the findings making the bittersweet resolutions nuanced.
Knowing that I can always count on P.A Works for visual flair, the animation and artwork is unsurprisingly charming. The character designs (especially in the case of Chika) and background work is nothing to write home about, but they do at least aid in establishing the series tone as well as accentuate a few key details that do end up being relevant as far as the detective side of things go. As far as the music is concerned, Shiro Hamaguchi provides a very rudimentary arrangement of tracks, yet all fit in perfectly with the tone just like the visuals. I wish I could applaud the opening theme with the same admiration, however, I can’t get behind the tempo and vocals as much as I can with the ending theme performed by ChouCho. It’s just something about the piano and the milky-like vocals that is just so relaxing, especially after finishing an episode.
If I came off as too critical and your heart is dead set on it, then by all means, give Haruchika a try. Even though I primarily advise against for the lackluster and roundabout way of developing the scenarios that will probably lull you to tears (not the good kind), they do at least provide a nice look into the altruistic and empathetic side of human beings – again, something very few works of mystery fiction attempts or does with tact. It’s not enough to endorse watching it, but far from being objectionable or mediocre. Not sure if I will ever get around to giving the light novels a try or even particularly interested in doing so, but I can say that I do have renewed vigor to get back into reading more mystery fiction again. That’s a sliver lining in all of this, right?
Pros: Avant-garde approach to dissecting the mysteries is interesting, most scenarios are emotionally compelling and, nice chemistry between the main cast.
Cons: Most of the scenarios feel way too involved for the simplicity or just dull, inorganic discovery of cases in later episodes begin to feel tedious, secondary characters feel underutilized.