First Impressions – Haruchika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru

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I think people are talking about the wrong things with this series, but I guess that’s to be expected.

Even though it galls me to lead with it, there’s really no point in going anywhere with Haruchika until I acknowledge what happened at the end of the episode.  Yes, the main character was revealed to be gay – or at least bi.  And yes, that character is a boy, which sets loose the hornets nest amongst a largely hypocritical and homophobic anime fandom.  And yes, I think that is important – though if that were all this episode had to make it notable I’d have dropped the series already.

What would really make me happy is if what we saw here was no big deal – which would be the case if Kamijou Haruta (a very good Saitou Souma) were a girl like his childhood friend and co-lead Homura Chika (Sarah Emi Bridcutt).  But he’s not, and the simple fact that there are literally almost no examples in the past decade or more where anime have featured a gay male lead that weren’t straight BL series or cases where the characters was played as a buffoon for laughs makes this a pretty big deal.  Frankly, it should concern us more that anything that the love triangle in this series involves a 26 year-old teacher and two tenth-graders – but that hasn’t stopped the peanut gallery from roaring in outrage at having a gay guy in their anime.  “Dammit – we hate gay stuff!  Why can’t this be more like Hibike?”

That brings us to another major topic of conversation, which is the superficial similarity of Haruchika to Kyoto Animation’s recent Hibike! Euphonium – another high school band show – and another KyoAni series, the mystery-themed Hyouka.  I won’t deny that on some level Haruchika seems like an amalgam of those two shows at least thematically, but I think it too is rather missing the point.

Forget Hibike and Hyouka – the show Haruchika really resembles is another P.A. Works series, Tari Tari.  And that makes sense as they share a director, Hashimoto Masakazu.  Tari Tari wasn’t a great show and I don’t get the sense this will be either, but it had an easy charm to it that took its time winning you over rather than knocking you for a loop right out of the gate.  One thing I really liked about Tari Tari is that it didn’t try too hard most of the time – it had a relaxed gait, and so does Haruchika.  There are times when Chika’s kawaii factor is vamped up too much, but apart from that there’s an easygoing manner to this premiere that I rather liked.

A novel (not light novel) adaptation, it seems the story Haruchika is going to be telling is that of a high school brass band club (critically short-handed) and the mysteries they end up solving (which seem likely to be more often Hyouka-like rather than matters of life and death).  The sensei in charge is Kusakabe Shinjirou (P.A. Works favorite Hanae Natsuki), who’s the object of both the first mystery and of both protagonists’ crush.  To his credit there’s no evidence Kusakabe reciprocates the feelings of either of his would-be suitors, but their infatuation with him is certain to be a major plot point.  I don’t disagree with those who’ve noted that Hanae is an odd bit of casting here – perhaps it’s merely a function of the fact that this is so different from his usual diminutive adolescent roles (Haru would have been more in his usual zone). but the voice somehow doesn’t fit the character for me.  I can be won over, but it hasn’t happened yet.

I’m not going to say this premiere was any sort of masterpiece, but it did mostly win me over even before the bombshell at the end.  Chika can be a bit much to take, but I appreciate that Haruta seems to be nothing like a caricature – he’s neat, smart and not especially rough around the edges (as opposed to tomboy Chika) but a dignified presence, and that’s really refreshing.  The look is pretty much classic P.A. Works soft Impressionism, with beautiful characters and backgrounds – it could never be mistaken for another studio.  There’s a lot to like here even without that element that makes Haruchika almost unique, but having that as a part of the series gives us one more reason to hope it will be successful.

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12 comments

  1. A

    Good read but can't help to hate the end. Will drop this instantly. I don't like Yuri stuff nor Yaoi. sadly. This isn't what i expected so.

    To potential watchers, good start for the anime. But not my cup of tea.

  2. w

    You’ll regret it. The show is just make that aspect as background to tie Haruta and Chika. The two of them is the real pairing in this show.

  3. S

    This is going to sound strange, but I was really put off by Haruta up until the moment he revealed he was gay/bi. Before then, he had shown zero charisma with the other main, their interactions were tired and predictable. He showed no genuine emotions and the way he solved the mystery was really boring and off-putting for me.

    And then he revealed he actually had emotions, and a love interest. Pretty neat and interesting, I guess. But not enough.

    I loved Hyouka and enjoyed Hibike a lot. But Tari Tari was really an annoying and boring series for me and this feels more of the same. Add to that some regurging of the themes from two former series and you got a pretty shitty stew going.

  4. R

    Enzo. You are blowing stuff out of proporsion and spending a good portion of this review insulting a minority of people who aren't even that loud. The show is mostly getting panned simply for not delivering an EP1 that met the PAWorks usual premieres.

  5. Not that I wouldn't be better off ignoring discussions of this series for obvious reasons, but I'm not and you're wrong – they're very loud and not nearly as small a minority as they should be.

  6. R

    This really depends on where you're looking but I assure you Enzou is correct for many of the big forums/sites. These people are LOUD and drowning out a lot of the actual discussion we'd like to have. I've had my own discussion about the whole teacher-student relationship and why that's the euuuugh part derailed and seen others about the actual character interaction/pacing/plot derailed as well. It's actually hindering people's ability to talk about the actual show.

    Also, disliking an audience's response to a situation is not the same as insulting them. I'd say this part of the audience is better at insulting anyone who disagrees wth them than Enzou is to them

  7. s

    the visuals are a bit weak for a P.A works production..that's the first thing i noticed going into this series. The positives are haruta's and chika's friendship and the little twist at the end but the way the narrative plays out throughtout the ep doesnt really do much for me: chika going on and on about being a cute girl took away from scenes. From a narrative standpoint, it doesnt make sense for her to want to be that way when we can clearly see that her schoolmates dont have an opinion of her that says otherwise; it takes me out the story. There are no stakes or passion to her wanting to be a "cute girl". I understand the show wanted to ease its viewers into its premise and i love when stories take the time to do that, but the road to easing the viewer has to be littered with small bits of info that reveal the layers of the narrative and intrigue the audience; there was almost no intrigue or passion in this ep. The music is not as well portrayed either as in other series like hibike; hopefully the mysteries are a bit more organic instead of seeming like the series is trying to fill its quota for its genre. We'll see; all in all, not a bad ep….just nothing that really sticks out except for the end, but i dont really get riled up about stuff like that unless it truly impacts the character arcs in the story so yea.

    So far id say musaigen had the best first ep (which was just ok in my book) this winter series out of the 3 shows ive watched. Winter is off to a not so exciting start, however musaigen was at least fun to watch. Musaigen is an easy show to understand what the appeal is with its good animation,lush color palette, and fantastical setting. It's generic and plays it relatively safe (which disappoints me), however it doesnt make any real blunders (aside from getting a bit exposition happy, which it pokes itself for doing but im not going to give it a pass just for that) and captures exactly what the show wants to be: fun and entertaining. The series is always moving at a quick but reasoning clip which is necessary for a series that isnt going to have much going for it in terms of substance. Stride is too bland in its execution so far and haruchika needs a bit more focus in order before it can be good; it was kinda ok but time will tell

  8. G

    I actually liked this 1st episode and have a soft spot for music animes (like Hibike!Euphonium which I loved) so I will continue watching this series and hopefully enjoying it.

  9. R

    Ah, this triangle. Brings me back to the SakuraxYukitoxSyaoran triangle from early Cardcaptor Sakura episodes. I wouldn't mind seeing this going in a similar direction.
    Shipping aside, I think I liked this first episode better than I did Hibike!. My main gripe with that show was that Kumiko really rubbed me off the wrong way early in the show, and it took me quite some episodes to moderately warm up to her. I think part of the reason was the way she acted towards her childood friend. In this show, even though the two did annoy each other at times (Mostly Haruta towards Chika), I still got the feeling the two were friends, and kinda enjoyed their back and forth. HaruChika wins this round based on characters.

  10. K

    You're not being fair with Kumiko. She treated Shuishi like that because he cut ties with her using a stupid reason like "people would get the wrong idea" for it. In her place I wouldn't have talked to him ever again.

    Now, on the episode I do agree that the highlight of the episode, at least for me, was Chika and Haru relationship. I don't give a damn about he being gay or bi, so the "twist" at the end did nothing for me beyond a "cool, I guess."

  11. R

    I'll probably need to rewatch it then, because that's not the idea I got when I saw the show.

  12. P

    It's a shame Haruta's reveal at the end is getting so much flack. That felt like the best part of the of the episode for me. The mistery was weak, Chika isn't very likeable so far and the animation could be better given P.A. Works' past history. While I doubt the teacher is going to notice any of them, I'm actually rooting for Haruta because it feels like he knows Kusakabe. Chika knows him for a day and is already in love? Meh.

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