Tuesday, January 12, 2016

First Slice: Haruchika: Haruta & Chika Ep. 1

Let's begin the coverage of this season's slice-of-life shows with a show that sounds like Sound! Euphonium mixed with Hyouka but feels more like Tari Tari.

I should start by saying that as far as slice-of-life goes, this season is kind of weird. Looking at only the previews, I could only find two shows at least 12 minutes per episode that were definitively full slice-of-life, and this was not one of them. Then again, it was pretty hard to make of what this show would actually be like from preview information. Would it focus more on the band part? Would it be more about solving gruesome murder mysteries? Or would the mysteries be of the more mundane sort like in Hyouka?

As it turns out, the "mystery" of the first episode, if you can even call it that, is so mundane it makes Hyouka seem like a thriller. All it is is a cipher in musical notes made in ominous-looking red paint (clearly, the school ran out of all the other colors). With some basic knowledge of musical notation, which the show outright gives you, the solution is, if not obvious, at least very simple. The solution to the "mystery" is that is was just a love letter made by a graduating student (who clearly needed a better choice of paint color).

Honestly, the mystery was the least interesting part of the episode. Far more interesting are the characters and their interactions with each other. Chika is a pretty simple girl; she used to play volleyball but after getting tired of the practices, she decided to take up the flute after being inspired by watching Sound! Euphonium a high school band competition. In addition, she seems set on making her high school debut as your standard cute high school girl. However, she runs into her childhood friend Haruta for the first time in years, and the latter immediately proceeds to break that image by reminding her of how much of a tomboy she was as a kid. The banter between the two is fun and definitely gives you the sense that the two are close friends.

The "band" itself turns out to be more of a chamber ensemble with only a handful of students and their instruments, rather than a full band, which also helps distinguish this show from Euphonium. (Chika, for her part, is amusingly inept at playing the flute, which should be expected considering she is a complete beginner.) There's currently not too much to say about the other band members, as their characters aren't too developed yet, though we know that Chika definitely has a thing for the band director/advisor (clearly just your average high school crush, though). Hopefully, as the show adds a couple more members, it can also develop these other members to make them more interesting.
All this makes this show feel less like the Sound! Euphonium/Hyouka mashup I thought this would be and more like a previous classic P.A. Works slice-of-life show, Tari Tari. Both shows feature a startup music group and focus on the character stories within, and they even have the same director. Tari Tari was a very likable show although it did not blow me away, and I have a feeling HaruChika will be much like the same. At the very least, I am glad to have it bolster an otherwise fairly meager selection of slice-of-life shows this season.

I suppose, though, that it is time to address the elephant in the room: the revelation at the end that Haruta, the main male character, is also in love with the male band advisor/director. While there are some Christian anime viewers who will be bothered by this aspect, and who probably think that I should be bothered by it too, honestly, it is not really a big deal to me. I have already gone over why I think yuri shows can be good viewing for Christians, as well as having watched at least two full-on yuri shows, and while I have not really watched too many shows involving gay male characters, I think the arguments made in my yuri post apply to (non-hentai) yaoi as well. Not that I believe either Haruta's or Chika's crush will amount to anything; the whole aspect is probably just meant to capture the infatuation high schoolers can develop for their teachers, whatever their orientation may be. It's definitely amusing to have these opposite-gender childhood friends actually be love rivals, and helps make their relationship more interesting, even if it means this show probably won't be the next great childhood friend romance. But hey, it sure is nice not having to worry about whether the two of them will end up together or not, and just enjoy their friendship for what it is.

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