Haruchika – Haruta & Chika
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Haruchika – Haruta & Chika ?
The most rewarding episodes of HaruChika are those that manage to move the regular plot forward along with the mystery-of-the-week. Usually it's a quieter interpersonal drama, focused on the core feelings and struggles of our cast. This week, we get a much bigger push forward for everyone: the band competition! The brass band club is ready to prove itself in the B group, and they're not the only ones.
Both Chika and Haruta have recently sustained injuries. Chika's was due to a daring rescue of a little boy from a tall apartment building, and Haruta got his from an ordeal with a cat. When Haruta goes missing—and Chika disappears in search of him—she runs across a reporter, wondering if he's there to hear about her ordeal. He does want to talk to her, but not about that. No, he wants to find out from the students themselves about the teacher they love so much, Mr. Kusakabe.
Leading up to that moment, we get lots of fun rapport between the club members, deepening what we've previously learned about them. Narushima becomes the keeper of the club when Haruta and Chika are off on their weekly adventure, and Serizawa hovers around the edges, advising them while avoiding actually joining in. We even see the bond between Kaiyu and Serizawa that we've only been told about before, with each of them referring to the other by first names. It's not much, but it's a nice reminder that Haruchika cares about the rest of its characters, even when it's taking time to develop its main duo and their weekly mysteries. It also reminds us that past stories are still important, and the development the cast got in their initial episodes still matters.
In the main tale, Haruta and Chika are once again roped into solving a mystery. Haruta rescues Chika from the nosy reporter bugging her about Kusakabe's abilities as a teacher and the school's chances for advancing in their division. But Haruta brings with him a huge dog—a Tibetan mastiff, to be more specific. Along with being enormous, this breed is also valuable, which leads to the new problem: two people are claiming to be its owner, and Haruta and Chika have to figure out who's right. In return, the reporter promises to leave them alone to chase this new story.
This mystery was simple, but that was precisely what made it enjoyable. For one thing, it made it much easier to follow Haruta's thought patterns. While Haruchika's mysteries all make sense in the end, it can be hard to believe sometimes how easily Haruta finds and pieces together all the different clues. This time, there are few and obvious enough pieces of evidence that the audience could more easily see themselves figuring it out too, instead of just letting Haruta's apparent genius speak for what feels like enormous coincidences. The biggest stretch is that having the word "pie" on the dog's collar would so quickly lead Haruta to come up with the combination 3.14, but that's not a large leap (anybody who had just learned that in math class could make that connection). It was also relatively easy to predict early on that the innocent little girl would have little motive for lying about owning a dog, and she likely didn't even know how much money he was worth. Plus, her adversary was acting shady from the beginning. As usual, everything ends on an emotional high note: the dog was the girl's mother's gift to her when she was denied custody in her divorce, and the collar contains a clue for how to locate her.
What really made this week's mystery work for me though, was the larger story behind it. The clock was ticking, and the show kept flashing back to the rest of the band members to remind us of this. As a former high school band geek, I remember well that tense feeling in the last rehearsal before you go on stage, and I felt like the tension was palpable as we watched Haruta and Chika rush to solve their mystery and return to school in time. While the mystery itself may have been less difficult than previous weeks, the race-against-the-clock more than makes up for it with extra tension.
The most significant thing about this episode going forward is what it dangles in terms of ongoing drama. We only saw the tip of the iceberg with Kusakabe's past, and it's clear that we're going to learn more about it before the finale. Haruchika has increasingly focused on him in the last several episodes, first with his sudden illness and now this. There are bigger revelations about him waiting in the wings, and Haruchika is slowly building to those while still giving us the episodic capers we've come to appreciate about this show. It's an approach that's paying off, because I can't wait to find out the full conclusion.
Haruchika is still full of problems, especially in the animation department. It was especially off-model this week, messing up characters' faces in group shots where they were the focus. Still, it's hard for me to worry too much when its core story just keeps getting stronger. If Haruchika's animation was a dealbreaker for you, you've likely checked out long before this episode. If you're still here, clearly something about the story makes up for it—and this episode offers more of the story's heart, giving us another great puzzle while continuing to move everyone's arcs forward.
Haruchika – Haruta & Chika is currently streaming on Funimation.
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