Childhood friends are the worst, huh?
HaruChika is about a pair of teenagers (the titular Haruta and Chika), their high school’s tiny brass band, and fairly harmless mysteries of the sort that doesn’t have someone demanding to know why the police department is consulting with a thirteen year old. Perhaps most accurately, HaruChika is about the high school life of it’s leads, as we begin with the two as third years about to go on-stage for a concert before zipping back in time to their very beginning of high school. Chika starts off as a freshman with a desire to reform her image, having given up volleyball in favor of what she sees as the more effeminate flute. Haruta plays french horn and it is in the brass band club that she runs across him after not having seen him in nine years. The mystery ensues with a message in red paint on a blackboard, written in musical notation. Their club advisor, Kusakabe-sensei, intends to simply erase it, but HaruChika just can’t stop thinking about it!
Oh, do I feel conflicted about this show! On the one hand, its got so much of the trademark P.A. Works that bores me senseless, paired with a ton of the tedious stuff from high school club shows in general that leaves me grinding my teeth. Struggling club? Check. Characters who delight in informing someone that they haven’t changed at all? Check. Boy who is so totes smarter than the silly girl lead and is happy to rub it in her face? You got it! And as funny as it can be to watch Chika try to fake her new persona, only to either let the mask slip to the audience or to be stymied by her basic underlying personality, it is dismaying that she’d give up something she worked so hard at because she wants to be cute and to be able to date. I can relate to her feelings, as I, too, wanted to be cute and to date in high school but had a personality and interests that tended to work against that (well, and I was partly closeted, which didn’t really help)! So, I get it, Chika, but it’s still a little upsetting, the ways in which girls try to contort themselves for social expectations. At least she doesn’t seem to regret her choice, though.
But! On the other hand… oh, Haruta, you are high school me in ways that are a bit mortifying to reflect back on. AND THE SPOILERS BEGIN.
Ohhh, Haruta. You were so obnoxious for much of this episode, from your know-it-all-ism to your insistence that Chika hasn’t changed (it is true that she seems not to have, but to repeatedly call attention to it when she clearly hates it when you do is nasty) to your tendency toward smug superiority… what a pain in the ass! But that you were the true culprit of the message, and that you staged it as a mystery for you to solve even as you were the one who started it all… It’s a really tortured sequence of events and I was guilty of doing something like that in high school. I didn’t go so far as to break into the school overnight and use red paint to code my love in cipher, but I did create a mystery involving the expression of a same-sex crush and then act like I was solving it. Given that, I cringed a lot watching Haruta act out his role, and it seemed like the underlying truth had to have been so obvious, as if it was under spotlight and with sirens. (And I think Kusakabe-sensei had figured it out completely.)
It was this, then, that decided it for me – I will endure despite the irritants on full display. I also figure, after years of me bemoaning the lack of gay male characters in these non-BL high school shows who are just, y’know, gay, and that’s not what defines their character. Granted, I have to have some faith that Haruta IS gay and it won’t be whisked under the rug of “high schoolers have confusing feelings!” in the future as he is carefully paired off heterosexually and all queerness is written off as a mistake of youth.
I also found it endearing to watch both these kids trying so hard to get sensei’s attention and be attractive to him. I do not at all want student-teacher end, which seems unlikely anyway, but watching them beam happily at Kusakabe-sensei, it’s cute.
All in all, not a terribly strong opening episode, even if some aspects really worked for me. In a fuller season, given the spoiler aspect of Haruta, I could see this being something I pushed myself onward for a couple more episodes before it inevitably got dropped by inactivity on my part. In such a light season, it’s a much easier commitment.