Haruchika – Haruta & Chika
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Haruchika – Haruta & Chika ?
It looks like the brass band club isn't done adding new members after all! In episode 6, Haruchika returns to form, with yet another mystery about an aspiring musician who joins the club by the end. The difference is that clarinetist Naoko Serizawa has been practicing in secret with the group for some time. Of course, that doesn't mean it will be any easier to actually get her to join the club.
We open on Chika describing to Haruta what sounds like a really contrived, paranoid mystery to the rest of us. She goes to get the room key in the morning and finds it missing. Chika runs to the room and sees it empty, but before she returns, the key is back in its place. To Haruta—and probably the rest of the audience—this sounds like nothing. As he suggests, it's probably just a member of the club who left the room before Chika got there. However, the members soon discover that a clarinet is missing from its case. Could it be the mysterious clarinetist who plays along with the group when they practice outside?
This seems like a relatively easy mystery to solve. They already have Serizawa's name, so they just have to track her down and talk her into joining. Naturally, there's a catch: Serizawa is actually aiming to become a professional musician. She's already way above the level of anyone in the brass-band club. She's "hardcore" against joining for this reason—one of the more realistic aspects of this show's depiction of high school band so far. I was in a school orchestra with a large range in ability levels, and I knew quite a few people who still took private lessons and prepared for auditions on their own instead, because they didn't see the point in joining the orchestra class when it was so far beneath them. Plenty of areas have competitive, audition-only youth symphonies or bands for this reason. If the same is true in Japan, Serizawa does not have much reason for joining the brass band club to get ensemble experience.
That would be the most logical explanation, but there's much more to the picture. Serizawa is suddenly doing poorly in school; she has to take make-up exams over the break. The clarinet in the case was broken, so she had it fixed herself, even though she has no interest in the club. She also gets frazzled whenever the choir club begins practicing and often misses the beginnings of sentences in conversation. Haruta wonders if she lost something in the club room, which is why she keeps loitering there when she hopes no one's around. Fixing the clarinet would also give the club a reason to help her without making her "indebted" to them.
However, it's not Haruta, but Chika who pieces the mystery together this time. All of these incidents have one common thread: trouble with hearing. Serizawa's grades have dropped because she can't hear the teacher, and she needs a quiet place to hear even ordinary conversation—hence her confusion when the choir club practices. The thing she lost in the room is a hearing aid, which the club manages to find after Chika attempts a heart-to-heart with their new clarinetist friend. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite go as planned.
I like Serizawa already. There isn't a lot of variety within the personalities of the club; other than Haruta and Chika's frenemy bickering, everyone is pretty unfailingly nice. Even those who had rougher edges at first, like Narushima, got them sanded off after they became cast regulars. Serizawa is outright stuck-up and prickly. I don't know if it's because she's rich and spoiled or because of her greater talent in music, but she's standoffish even to Chika's attempts at warmth and compassion. It's not a nice personality in a real person, but it's refreshing in a fictional character. I can't wait to see how she shakes up the cast dynamic.
Of course, it's difficult to tell if she will actually be coming back. It would be a betrayal of Serizawa's prickly personality to suddenly have a change of heart and decide to join the club. I also appreciate that the show didn't suggest that her hearing loss would prevent Serizawa from reaching her professional dreams. (Beethoven composed some of his greatest works, like the Ninth Symphony, after he was near totally deaf.) Still, there's the promise of future episodes. As Chika pointed out, Serizawa did say she can't join them now--implying she could in the future. It's the perfect opportunity for Haruta, Chika and the rest of the gang to work on their pitch. She also seems interested in helping the club in other ways, with her suggestion that they compete in "class B" this year before trying for A next time. Serizawa even dangles the promise of bringing in her percussionist friend who "needs to come back to school," a character we've seen in the promotional artwork and opening theme.
No matter how pedestrian Haruchika's "mysteries" are, they're always difficult to predict. The clues the show dangles about Serizawa's hearing loss are not the ones you'd expect and could just as easily lead down another path. Before Chika revealed the truth, I thought Serizawa had some weird former relationship with the choir club. (It doesn't help that the soundtrack makes their exercises sound really eerie.) This could be tied into trouble at home, which would also tie in with her academic troubles—that's the sort of conclusion we've seen time and time again on this show. And yet, when the pieces all fell into place and the real conclusion surfaced, it still worked perfectly. Haruchika may not have the most exciting writing, but it is excellent at constructing its weekly mysteries. You can tell that the novels' original author is experienced in his genre of choice.
This week's episode of Haruchika didn't set the world on fire, but it was still one of the more promising installments. It carefully avoided a number of potential pitfalls, introduced a fun new character, and set the stage for more exciting things to come. Haruta and Chika's relationship continues to develop well, as they continue to bicker over their mutual love interest. Perhaps the middle-schooler's misinterpretation last week really was just that. If Haruchika could simply improve its animation, it still might not be a great show; it can languish a little when it moves away from mysteries into its main cast's ongoing drama. As it is, it remains a pleasant little weekly diversion. As it stands, even with its aesthetic problems, I'm still eager to see more as it further expands its cast.
Haruchika – Haruta & Chika is currently streaming on Funimation.
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