I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one, I think that Haruchika was the most disappointing show of the season. I had such high hopes for this show, rarely are the romance-mystery genres combined effectively so I was very excited to see how P.A Works tackles the unconventional hybrid. The most important show they’ve done in this context is Another – their only other mystery show. In my eyes, we got an episodic show where the mysteries were so hit and miss you were gambling between a solid 8/10 show or a borderline 5/10 show.
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I honestly expected this show to rival Boku Machi for the title of “Best show of Winter 2016”. The previews suggested engaging characters who each contribute their own personality to seemingly insolvable mysteries to result in the growth of their school brass band. I do agree with those statements, but once again it’s the show’s inconsistency that means I can only support this with a half statement. There are episodes where this is prominent and those episodes are interesting and engaging but there are so many others (including the very first episode) where I can’t seriously say that. I hate that I can’t sing this show’s praises, I really do, because I anticipated this show more than Boku Machi and Phantom World. I just never felt connected to any of the characters or that any of them were developed enough to a point where they were relatable.
Despite that, I do think that the dynamic between the show’s two main protagonists served its purpose. Although they were both after the same love interest, it was never presented in an irritating way or in such a way that either of them would become considerably unlike-able. Although I really disliked Haruta’s character as a whole, Haruta’s interest in Kusakabe felt justified and on multiple occasions it was shown that this boy genuinely cares for his teacher and isn’t just blindly in love with him. Now we get to Chika, to me it never felt like Chika really had anything to present other than “I love my teacher”, “I don’t understand” or “Haruta got in the way again”. I wouldn’t mind this for most characters, there’s often an airhead character in a romance show, but to have your audience relate mostly to what is essentially the less intelligent protagonist isn’t a good move. Often the solutions to the mysteries are so convoluted and, quite frankly, ridiculous that the audience don’t keep up with Haruta’s thought processes. Can you think of anyone else who can’t keep up with Haruta? In short, the show presents Chika as a relateable character, and then proceeds to insult and make fun of her which in turn feels like the show mocking the audience because they didn’t know you could paint a rubiks cube.
Continuing with the mysteries, I am so conflicted on how to discuss the mystery element of this show. It just feels half-arsed and uninspired. I honestly believe that if this show just stuck to its guns and focused itself around the brass band club elements and the romance between characters, it would’ve worked better for a few reasons.
One: Nobody would care, Haruchika had so much hype built around it that even if the show ended up being the 8/10 show people expected, it would still received a beating. Making a mystery-romance anime is bound to turn heads because it’s such an uncommon combination we’re used to seeing. The hybrid is so hit and miss, this show was a miss.
Two: ALL of the characters would feel fleshed out and actually alive in the brass band. I get that a band like this needs to have a lot of people, more than you can present in a 12 episode run time, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that so many of the clear supporting cast felt like filler. The only support character I felt was interesting was Serizawa and that’s me clutching at straws.
Three: P.A Works has proved on multiple occasions that they can juggle multiple characters in one show and make them all feel different and memorable. Look at shows like Angel Beats, Charlotte, Nagi no Asukara and Shirobako, they’re all great examples of how to correctly present a variety of characters in various run times.
On another note, the show felt way too formulaic and predictable – and when a mystery show becomes predictable that’s not a good sign.
You can boil down every episode down to this:
Character has a problem, Haruta solves it, Character joins the band.
The show simply repeats this formula for about 10 episodes, then they remove the last part for the last two episodes for more “Haruta fawning over Kusakabe” time. This kind of repetitive structure works for simple shows who know they’re only gag shows (Kitakubu Katsudou Kiroku is a fantastic example of this), but it doesn’t work when the main part of the show should be that you don’t know what to expect. Take a video game perspective, if you knew how every puzzle in the Professor Layton games ended – regardless of the method of solving it – then you wouldn’t play it.
Overall, I really wanted to like this show, but I felt engaged in only the drama club episode and I laughed at the final joke in the bus where they decide the new club president. Obviously it has the nice looking visuals you expect from P.A Works but nothing else you would expect from such an experienced studio is there. It really is a sub par show at best, if you want a good slice-of-life show central to a high school brass band atmosphere, I recommend Hibike Euphonium (it’s a bit yuri though so be warned).