Haruchika – Haruta & Chika
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Haruchika – Haruta & Chika ?
There were many moments in this latest installment of Haruchika that reminded me of last year's Your Lie in April, and that's not something I ever expected to say. While Haruchika is a music show in the most basic sense, its focus usually lies elsewhere. Band practices and competitions are the trigger for, not the purpose of, most of Haruta and Chika's investigations. They tend to be about other things, whether that's an old man's artistic memories of Vietnam or a little girl's relationship with her dog. The music is the dressing, not the core. That makes this week's mystery a notable shift in dynamic.
"Valley of Eden" is all about music, the characters' histories and relationships with it, and what they can embrace going forward. It calls back to Serizawa's focus episode many times, as she plays a large role here, and our focus character has a similar dilemma to hers. That would make sense, not just because of the greater music-related focus of the mystery, but because they both mark important points in Haruchika's chronology. Serizawa's introduction gave us a character who would continue to advise our heroes and make meaningful contributions to the plot for weeks to come. In this episode, we set up the beginning of the show's endgame.
The endgame will focus on Kusakabe. (The preview hints at a Haruta confession next week.) It starts out this week by introducing a key figure from his past with her own mysterious dilemma for the kids to solve. Makoto Yamanobe is a famous name in the world of Haruchika: her family makes an esteemed line of pianos. The mystery is one of the show's red herrings: we believe it will be about a missing key to a priceless Bösendorfer piano, but it's about Makoto's personal relationship with the music instead, and the Bösendorfer issue is resolved in a quick scene late in the episode after most of us have forgotten it.
Makoto is an old friend of Kusakabe who was also a prodigy who later walked away from music. Her resentment toward his decision to leave his conducting position suggests her reasons are markedly different, and Kusakabe's story is left dangling to be resolved hopefully in the next episode. Makoto still keeps music in her life through playing a melodica—specifically, an Italian model she calls a "clavietta"—but her career in piano is over, even though she had a very promising future. She's the only person her grandfather told of the location of the Bösendorfer's key, but she recalls being disowned by her musical family for disappointing them. Kusakabe notes that her grandfather had a reputation for brutal honesty, and she suffered for being his "sole ally."
She discovers the students eavesdropping, but Makoto isn't upset and promises not to tell Kusakabe. As the group worries over the mystery of the missing key, Makoto takes the opportunity to give some sage advice to Serizawa. She has heard about Serizawa's deafness and how she persists in a musical career despite this. Makoto tells her to make sure that she's choosing this path for the right reasons. It's because she loves music and finds in it something words cannot express. This is where the connection to Your Lie in April and so many other music anime comes in: the tension between the "technician" doing it for family or fame vs. the "performer" doing music because they love it. Makoto insists that professional musicians need to be the latter, because the music business is tough. It will let you down when you least expect it. You have to know why you're willing to go through it if you take the hard road.
Makoto knows this because of the real mystery of the episode: why she quit. Like Serizawa, it was due to a disability. She started going blind and lost the ability to read music as a result. As she recovered, many people told her in the hospital that she could find a way to continue playing with her disability—which, as famous blind musicians like Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder have shown us, is more than true. However, she listened instead to Kusakabe and her grandfather, the only people who told Makoto that she should quit. The implication, of course, is that Makoto was that first type of musician. Her heart wasn't in it. She was doing it because it was what her family expected of her, and as her recollections reveal, that relationship was already strained. Makoto's warning to Serizawa is that she needs to make sure that if she keeps going, she's willing to weather the challenges her disability will give her. She needs to make sure this is worth it. For Makoto, melodica is more fun than piano ever was.
This casts Makoto's frustration at Kusakabe quitting conducting in a new light. It's not because he didn't have the "good reason" that she did, but probably because of his relationship to music. Perhaps Makoto always saw Kusakabe as one of those people who was motivated by a deep love of music and drive to succeed in the music business, and that's why his decision to suddenly drop a booming career leaves her crestfallen. By introducing this fascinating character from his past, Haruchika has perfectly set up the finale to Kusakabe's story. After learning so much about Makoto and seeing how she reacted to Kusakabe's great mystery, we can't help but wait with bated breath to see the other shoe drop.
Previous weeks of Haruchika were excellent at building tension within the kids' group dynamics. In one that pulls the focus away from the main teen characters (with the exception of Serizawa's part in Makoto's story), Haruchika demonstrates that its character writing is just as strong with characters we don't know as well. This episode is an exciting prelude to an increasingly promising finale. After all this, who isn't eager to find out the dirty details of Kusakabe's past—not to mention the results of Haruta's confession? Everything is coming to a head, and episode 11 did a masterful job of putting those pieces in motion.
Haruchika – Haruta & Chika is currently streaming on Funimation.
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