The puzzle is a fitting motif for Haruchika.
Let’s dispense with the first thing out of hand – forget about mass opinion when it comes to judging HaruChika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru. If it hadn’t sealed its own fate there with the last 30 seconds of the premiere, the fan reaction to that premiere generally seemed to be a massive exercise in missing the point. And of course by its nature it’s doomed to be compared to two Kyoto Animation series with which it in fact has relatively little in common, and we all know that is not a fanbase that’s moderate in their feelings for their favorite studio.
So then, one has to judge Haruchika strictly by how one reacts to it. And I must admit, as I did with this director’s Tari Tari I find myself liking this series more than I can explain in strictly rational terms. There are flaws here, certainly, and this week’s plot involving oboist Narushima Miyoko (Chisuga Haruka) and her deceased younger brother strode dangerously close to emotional manipulation. But for me at least it worked, because I genuinely felt something when it was resolved.
Haruta was probably destined to be a divisive character even if he wasn’t gay, because he’s the engine that drives everything in the story (at least so far). Yes, he is way smarter than a normal person – but then, some people actually are really smart. It does happen. I don’t think he’s a Marty Stu and I don’t think he’s any more unrealistically smart than, say, Oreki Houtarou (last time I bring that show up, I promise). I think Haruta is actually kind of interesting – plain-spoken to the point of bluntness, emotionally guarded. I also noticed this week that as played by Saito Souma he sounds eerily like a Hanae Natsuki character – which makes me wonder if there might have been more behind the casting of Hanae as the teacher, after all.
I also don’t think Haruta is guilty of the charge levied against him by many viewers this week – namely, that he selfishly toyed with Narushima’s broken heart in order to get her to join the club. I’m firmly of the belief that once Haruta knew the story behind the all-white Rubik’s Cube, he genuinely wanted to break Satoshi’s code for her sake – to try and free her from the prison she’d erected around herself. I won’t deny a certain level of hokiness in the resolution, but I thought it had a bit of poetry too.
As to Chika, there are some problems there. To this point she’s basically a shallow, comic foil for Haruta, and I think if the show is to work she does have to become something closer to a co-lead. But that said, I like the dynamic of their relationship – osananajimi who are both interested in the same person. I like the fact that Haruta’s sexuality is a non-issue, something that’s dealt with (including by Chika) in a totally matter-of-fact way. And I think there is a decent non-romantic chemistry between them, a genuine affection borne of familiarity. In fact I like a lot of things about Haruchika, and in the end the show connects with me – at least for now – and that’s enough to keep me around.