HaruChika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru Review

This is review number three hundred and fifty seven. This anime is part of the Winter 2016 lineup. I promised to review six anime from this season, and this is my second one. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called HaruChika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru or just HaruChika. It’s a twelve episode anime about a girl trying to play the flute, but she actually doesn’t play it. It’s a confusing show, so let’s just read on.

Story

Chika Homura enters high school with one goal in mind. She wants to play the flute and join the brass band. She believes this’ll give her a feminine image after dedicating her middle school life to volleyball. There is a problem though. There are only five members of the brass band, and one of them is a childhood friend of hers. They’re reunited after ten years, and they’re now in the same club making music together. Actually, they solve mysteries as a duo instead.

Taking the Pants Off

This is the first PA Works show I reviewed in a long while. I am missing a lot of things I actually grew to hate back when I was watching anime in insane amounts back in 2013. I’m in vacation now, and I’m catching up on a lot of shows to balance my lack of activity in the past months. The last PA Works I watched is Nagi no Asukara, and I was actually so badly burned by that show that I lost motivation in reviewing it. The drafts are still in my laptop, and I don’t think I’ll finish it anytime soon considering I already forgot key points about the show. Anyways, HaruChika is a really promising anime and it’s about a music club that solves mysteries. It looks convoluted as hell but, to my surprise, this is actually a novel adapted anime. By my own rules, I consider novels to be one of the best mediums anime can work with. They lead to great stuff and even greater anime experiences. Unfortunately, HaruChika is one of the bad ones. This damn show didn’t feel like a novel. It was paced erratically, and it lacked focus. Novel adapted shows swim in a bowl of tasty exposition, and HaruChika actually felt like it has no idea how to properly tell whatever the hell it wants to tell. In the end, I consider HaruChika not a novel anime, but an O. Screenplay. Maybe PA Works got an idea from the novel, but they clearly didn’t faithfully follow it. It’s like BroCon, believe it or not, being a novel first and an otome game second. You can no longer consider it a novel anime, because it’s basically turned into sh*t now. This happened in HaruChika as well. It has potential to be an entertaining show, but it tried to do too much. It tried to make two genres, which do not play well, forced to be together. The result is a heartless show with no focus and no decent anime experience to give to viewers. It’s a bland adventure, and a far cry from the tasty bowl that you’re supposed to be getting. Studios botching a novel adaptation should be arrested, seriously.

This anime is about a lowly brass band trying to get enough members so they can join this orchestra competition. They need thirty members, and they currently only have five members overall. The show follows two childhood friends as they try to recruit skilled musicians into their club, but it’s not that straight forward. Most of them join only after the duo can solve various mysteries that are plaguing the potential members. In a sense, this anime is like Hibiki Euphonium crossing over with Hyouka. Yes, two KyoAni shows seemingly being copied by PA Works. They do this a lot, and I don’t really understand why. Their best shows are something KyoAni can never do, but they seem to be convinced that they need to follow what KyoAni is doing. This anime feels familiar though, because it has a lot of Tari Tari’s elements in it. The best thing about Tari Tari is that the story is centered in school life, but the adults are very much part of the story. This creates a grounded setting for the story making the characters a lot more dynamic. KyoAni relies on youthful moeblobs to act in their show, but PA Works achieves a level of respectability when half the cast are serious adults with their own problems. Despite the older crowd though, the idea of a happy school is still achieved. PA Works knows how to make a really wonderful school setting. They did this effortlessly with Tari Tari and Nagi no Asukara. We have convincing school kids experiencing their unique school life. This is something HaruChika achieved with ease as well, and I was honestly hoping the show can pull off its overly ambitious story.

In the first episode alone, I think you can already see the problems of the anime. It features a dying brass band trying to power up and become great again. We have an amateur flutist (this word sounds weird, um, flute player?) determined to be a great musician through sheer willpower alone. She has this incredible chemistry with a skilled guy that plays the French horn. The show seems to be going the music club route. This means that we’ll see a lot of practice, people feeling vulnerable since they aren’t great players and a whole lot of passionate people doing what they love and, in turn, inspires the audience to grab a musical instrument as well. It’s a wonderful premise, and it’s playful one as well the moment you see Haruta and Chika interact. They are just adorable, and this just spells boundless potential for the anime. After all, it’s a novel anime. This medium knows how to build sincerity and heartfelt ideals, so the passion of the musicians can be easily delivered if the show plays its cards right. Unfortunately, this anime isn’t just a music club anime, but it’s also a mystery drama. In the first episode, Haruta plays detective trying to solve a message left in their club room written in red paint. The mystery is solid, but the delivery is absolutely shoddy. For the viewers, there’s really nothing to do except watch Haruta solve the puzzle on his own. If you’ve ever watched a mystery anime, then the appeal is letting the audience in on the puzzle. You give them a chance to solve it as well. Any new information the characters obtain is something the audience can reflect on as well. You give the audience a chance to feel defeated and confused before you let your character prove how much of a dumbass the audience really is.  The solving process involves the audience, and it’s not a good mystery if the characters can just go “Aha, I have solved it” before the audience can join in. This is a sign of a bad mystery anime, and HaruChika unfortunately has this trait.

This anime has three plot points, and they’re all pretty much laid out in the first episode. The first plot point is the mystery drama, the second plot point is the music club and the third plot point is Haruta and Chika’s relationship. I ordered them in how they were featured in the anime. As you can see, the mystery drama is given more focus than anything else. This is a bit weird, because the characters are supposed to be displaying their passion for music first. It doesn’t feel right to see a French horn player trying to be a detective, because that’s how you defined him first. He’s a French horn player, so play your damn French horn. Why are you wasting precious time solving a mystery? Anyways, the mystery is a mix of both good and bad. It’s bad because the mystery is rushed. The key elements of the mystery is ignored, and it’s basically just a bunch of characters acting like assh*les. I can’t be convinced to like a mystery anime when the French horn player suddenly realizes three paintings of the same elephant is actually a PTSD experience of a Vietnam soldier. I mean, how? He’s literally introduced as a guy that just blows on a horn, and suddenly he’s smart enough to connect two unrelated dots together? The mystery is bad, but the detective is also pretty horrible. The characters really make the mystery special, and I’ve seen a bunch of variations of them to know the HaruChika combo sucks. You can go Detective Conan and have one character shed light on a mystery when the conditions for the mystery are introduced first. I mean, a kid revealed that a microphone is poisoned and the anime goes the length to actually prove that. He points out the evidence that makes the audience go “sh*t, how did he notice that?” and that’s the beauty of a mystery anime. You need the audience engaged through your perceptive detective. You can also go the bumbling route though by having a novice screw up her deductions to represent the audience’s own, and then you’ll have the genius explain how wrong she is. I’m talking about anime like Ghost Hunt or Spiral, an obscure anime with an annoying opening song. HaruChika actually has the latter. Haruta is smart and Chika is a novice, so you can have Chika think normally while Haruta can go off tangent. That makes sense. Unfortunately, you need tons of exposition for this and the anime can’t achieve this because Haruta is also a f*cking French horn player (a French hornist? Ok, this one is just wrong). You can’t give the characters all the answers while keeping the audience in the dark. Stick to playing the gawddamn French horn.

The mystery is good though, because the topics are pretty unique. We have the Vietnam War discussed with a good emphasis on the mistreatment of Japanese people during this crisis. We have mysteries dealing about death, unrequited love and even revenge. The topics are all pretty adult, and PA Works made it work with its natural ability to make adults and students interact naturally with each other. So the loli character will have someone suffering from PTSD, and it’s really well done. It’s fun to watch, because the mysteries are pretty personal as well. The show tackles how estranged relationships are often the product of two people encountering a falling out over simple matters. The mysteries are used to fix the relationships though, because it’s often too late for the two characters to actually make up in real life. They leave mysteries behinds for the other person, and the mysteries are actually more than just a French hornist solving a rubick’s cube. It’s a lot more personal, but let me stop you right there. I like the setup, but I hate the execution. Keep in mind that the first plot point is a mystery drama, and emphasis is on the drama. I like how the mysteries can be personal, but the show goes overboard by forcing a dramatic story out of it. It doesn’t have to be, but we need the estranged relationships to actually create a ham fisted element for the anime. The characters realizing the other person, who is often dead, is apologizing to them doesn’t need to be sad or crying when the mystery is solved. Adding a dramatic element really just become clutter in the story. Instead of focusing on the juicy exposition needed to make the mystery work, it’s often dedicated to making the characters sad. I get it though, because PA Works is playing by their strengths. They can’t be patient with the mystery, so they make up for it by making heartfelt moments out of it. The problem is that they are really forced, and I still can’t get over the fact that the French hornist is prioritizing this first than actually playing his French horn.

This anime is actually a bit stupid. At the start of the episodes, the characters would gather at the club room to practice. Something would come up though, and the practice is replaced by the mystery. Focusing on that, the entire episode would be about the French hornist solving the mystery. This is all good but, as soon as the credit rolls, the story still continues. In one episode, the characters are practicing minutes before they perform on stage. The episode shifted focus on French hornist solving the mystery about a dog though, and it ends with the mystery solve. The next episode would open with the brass band celebrating the f*cking contest they just won. For no reason, we witnessed them practiced and then win a competition without the audience seeing anything that resembles a music club performing. Even K-on delivers on its promise of a gawd damn music club. As you can see, the second plot point is so badly glossed over that it’s practically ignored. It’s nonexistent, but it still progresses. I’m guessing the novel also meant to use the club theme as a backdrop for the mystery, but why go through all that nonsense? Why not just have a straight up mystery club? They never really have any meaningful practice, and they barely play their instruments. There is a ton of potential about stories of frustrated musicians that the story fails to acknowledge. I recently saw Whiplash, where the psychologist from Law and Order made me sh*t my pants, and it basically captured a really wonderful story of passion. It’s self-destructive passion, but that’s the kind of emotional pull a music club can accomplish if you properly develop this element. I never understood why they chose to have the mystery drama prominently featured instead. Things get a lot worse from here though, because this anime has one annoying trait to it.

Short sighted storytelling. It’s when an anime doesn’t have an overall story to present, so the episodes are basically standalone. One episode could be about a girl hung up on her brother’s death, the next featuring a girl asking the French hornist to solve a puzzle for him, and the next might feature a house full of coins. There’s no cohesion to the story, and this adds to the overall bad experience you’ll have with this anime. Anything can happen, and that’s because the individual episodes are given more focus while the overall story is left to just die there. It does have a big story to tie it all together though. Remember, the club is consisted of only five members and Chika seeks out to find more musicians. With the short sighted storytelling, the anime can introduce anyone to the story without any prior buildup. How about a deaf girl that plays clarinet? Sure, why the hell not? A radio DJ that happens to play drums? Yeah, throw him in there. An adopted chinese boy whose parents are jazz artists? Yup, he’ll do. How about a black guy that only speaks English that can play the tambourine? Ok, that done doesn’t exist but the anime can make it happen because that’s how directionless it is. It somehow fails to mention all of these talented individuals from the get go. Instead of just randomly introducing them in the episode they debut in, wouldn’t it make sense if someone from the gawd damn club took the time to say “hey, this school has talented musicians but they don’t want to play with this band.” This’ll at least give the audience an idea where the story is headed, and Chika’s persistent personality can be used as she aggressively tries to make them join. You can gradually introduce their mystery drama problems, and you can also focus on the passionate musician angle of the second plot point. This can all f*cking work, but it looks like PA Works got overwhelmed by its own clusterf*ck. I think it tried to adapt too much chapters of the novel, and it ultimately ruined the anime. This isn’t new for PA Works though. Hey, remember Red Data Girl? Did you like it? If you do, then f*ck you because this anime is as convoluted as that wonderful mess.

The third plot point is about Haruta and Chika. They have an adorable relationship, but they seem to be interested in their music teacher. I think the anime also hinted that Haruta might be gay, but it’s never really explained clearly. They just both like the same dude, and they’ll make sure they get more time with him than the other. This plot point is actually the least focused on, and it didn’t really develop properly. There’s this angle where the music teacher is actually a great conductor, and this would’ve played well with the passionate musician appeal of the second half. Unfortunately, this requires build up and the short sighted storytelling guarantees that it doesn’t happen. It was awkward, because you want to like the teacher but he’s too boring to really care for. He has the same intuitive mind as Haruta, but it’s never really properly explained. I think Haruta and Chika were supposed to bond a lot more with this one shared element. I’m guessing they were supposed to develop feelings for each other, and this makes sense because they somehow got into a cute groove at the second half. They somehow act like a couple without them noticing it, and I bet it would’ve started with their shared mutual obsession for the bland music teacher. I could imagine the romance being as cute as Chuunibyou if properly executed, because they’d be all shy once they realized they have feelings for one another. They have good chemistry, but it gets too intense for both of them. I like it a lot, and it’s a shame the story never really acknowledge its importance.

The characters are all bad aside from our two main characters. Haruta and Chika are cute characters, and they have a wonderful chemistry together. By themselves though, I think Chika is really the only interesting character. I think she’s the main character in the novel, so her personality might be interesting by default. As for the French hornist, his detective personality is just dull and he feels more like Chika’s sidekick even though they’re supposed to be on equal footing. Chika’s appeal is so great that Haruta pales in comparison. I would love to see them together though. Something about a brave woman and a hinted gay character just sounds appealing to me. The moments they’re together is actually the only highlight in the show for me. Another prominent character is the music teacher, and he is bland as hell. He sounds interesting given that he threw away a chance at stardom and then returns to be a music teacher, but his entire arc is really mishandled by the anime. His sad story is part of the passionate second plot point, but it never really develops. The show tries to feature the teacher’s story in the last two episodes though, and it just didn’t work. They even teased a second season, but I’m pretty sure it won’t happen. I’m sure the teacher’s story is sad, like the rest of the forced drama, but it was just badly presented. Someone died in his story, but they never revealed who and why we should care. If the f*cking studio that gave us Angel Beats can’t f*cking do a good drama, then expect the show to be bad.

The side characters are the most disappointing aspect of this anime. The band members they tried to help with their own mystery drama stories were rebellious and distant people at first. The moment they joined the band though, they were soon relegated to a specific stereotype. They somehow reverted to one dimensional character after being presented as decently interesting ones. Talks of death, anger, denial, and sadness somehow didn’t matter because the brass band needed a quiet type, a timid type, the tsundere, the energetic loli, and a bunch of handsome bland characters. I mean, really, what the hell happened? The anime grew the club to twenty five members, and you barely felt their presence. There weren’t any long practices that require that many and it’s a big shame. We could’ve focused on the band becoming a solid unit for the second plot point, and yet any attempt at practice is immediately replaced with the French hornist solving a mystery. This ultimately blew up in the show’s face when the ending required a high quality animation featuring the f*cking band playing a long song, and yet the moment lacked any special meaning to it. So you’re planning on ending the anime with the second plot point, and even attempt to tease another season with it, but you purposely left it under developed and boring. That makes sense, right?

This is why I think this anime is an O. Screenplay, because it tried to do too much. The mystery drama is rushed and unconvincing, the music club theme is dull and intentionally ignored and the awesome duo is lost in a sea of clutter. O. Screenplay loves this kind of beautiful cluterf*ck, and PA Works did a good job at…um….keeping up the tradition of delivering bad O. Screenplay anime. I would like to read the novel though, because it somehow managed to balance two clashing plot points and had enough time to work on the characters. I understand it had many volumes, but I bet the bowl of tasty exposition is just amazing in the novel. The anime arrogantly tried to cover a lot of the novel, and it actually cut a lot of the exposition. I even hear that the first story in the book wasn’t covered by the anime. I think they intentionally left it out, because PA Works is taking creative liberties with this anime. It’s like when the anime introduced an original character in Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai. I have to say though that I miss PA Works. This is a studio that learns from its past, and they apply it to their next anime. I remember the huge effect of Uchouten Kazoku to Nagi no Asakura, and I appreciate how PA Works really tried to embrace the concepts they’re presenting. They suck at execution, but they’ll get better at it soon enough. If JC Staff can change, then I’m sure a studio actually trying to can do it as well. They still make the same mistakes that plague them though, and they always try to be KyoAni which doesn’t make sense. KyoAni is a lazy studio, and PA Works can do so much better. If it thinks that it always needs to be like KyoAni then all their progress will be for naught. They’ll always be that studio that is like KyoAni, and not their own entity. I’m hopeful they’ll change though, and I hope soon because I really want the tables turned. I want KyoAni to follow PA Works’ footsteps next. Masakazu Hashimoto directed this anime, and he sucks. He learned nothing from Tari Tari, and he didn’t understand the thing he is adapting. I think he did try to make an O. Screenplay, and it just failed hard. He’s a pretty green director as well, and I actually want directors to suck consistently at first because they do learn from it. I’m sure, just like PA Works, this director can give us some magic if he tried harder so please try harder.

Sight and Sound

The manga design is created by Namaniku ATK, and he is known for his cute yet sexy design. I think he did the design for Arpeggio of the Blue Steel, and he just excels at great eye candy characters. HaruChika is no different. I do love how he tried to blend his style with the typical PA Works design. When I first saw the characters, I actually thought Mel Kishida designed it. It’s actually by Namaniku ATK, and I only accepted that fact after I realized that the facial design is his. The blushes on the cheeks and the skin complexion are a PA Works preference though. I am amazed at how simple the designs are, because Namaniku loves big bold sexy designs. He is working with what the novel provided, but I’m surprised he can restrain his pervy style. The designs only scream out in the eyes and the wacky hair design. The uniforms are pretty plain, and they don’t really stand out that much. The instruments are actually better designed than the characters. The detail works on the instruments are amazing, and it looks so graceful when a character handles them. From delicate flutes to giant pieces like a piano, the little details are nicely represented. Coupled by the animation, the instruments really do shine wonderfully in the show.

The animation is pretty great. PA Works is known for great animation, and HaruChika is no different from their usual style. The simple scenes of characters talking are nicely presented, and the way they play their instruments are absolutely wonderful to watch. It’s graceful, but also intricately detailed that you’re just caught up in watching them play. The animation absolutely shines whenever Haruta and Chika are interacting. Chika is energetic, and she always kicks Haruta. He would fall down, and the entire sequence is actually the most detailed animation in the entire show. There aren’t a lot of characters practicing, so the next best thing in terms of animation is Chika’s energetic personality. She loves to jump, run and just yell which the animation nicely presented. Aside from the animation, the background work is also pretty amazing. I believe they used a real place here, and they did a great job of capturing the laidback mood of the place. Seeing the characters interact in the beautiful background is a great plus when you watch this anime.

haru15

The anime’s OP is “Niji wo Ametara” by fhána. I love this song, and this proves once again that bad shows often have the best soundtrack. It’s a very uplifting song about doing your best and aiming for the top. It has a really catchy arrangement, and fhana’s voice is amazing. She sings with conviction that I always watch the OP. I often skip it, but the song is too awesome to skip. The OP sequence features the characters actually playing music. Soak it all in, because they do more music here than in the actual series. It’s stupid, but the animation is amazing and the character design shines here as well. I noticed the jaw of the characters, and I find them lovely. I’m sorry that I’m being weird.  The anime’s ED is “Kuusou Triangle” by ChouCho. This is a really upbeat pop song about two people in love. The lyrics are so vibrant as it asks them to take the plunge, and figure out the problems later on. Again, amazing voice by the singer and the beat of the song is catchy as well. The ED sequence simply features Haruta and Chika hinting at love, but it looks like a typical ED scene of the characters just acting cute.

Overall Score

5/10 “Convoluted, bland and boring. It’s a bad novel adaptation and an embarrassing mystery anime altogether.”

This show had great potential, but they really mishandled this adaptation. The mystery drama clashed and overpowered the music club theme. The characters are forced to be dramatic yet they revert to one dimensional character afterward. The duo of Chika and Haruta is nice, but it’s something the mystery drama overpowered as well. There’s a great way to balance all these great things, but clearly PA Works doesn’t know how to do that. If you like mystery anime then avoid this one. This show is boring in regards to that. If you like music club themed anime then avoid this as well, because they did a bad job at convincing us Chika can actually play a flute even after supposed twelve episodes worth of practice. So, yeah. Aside from the soundtrack and the animation, which got this anime a higher score than it actually deserves, this show is really a big bust. I do not recommend it.

Thoughts~

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