While not perfectly told, Haruchika had the audacity to try and be different.
Haruchika never had the best execution, but it tackled issues that many anime would shy away from or would be ignorant enough to ignore. I don’t mean to begin this by diving into politics, but I think Haruchika may be the most liberal anime I’ve ever come across. Perhaps if I went through my list of watched titles I could come up with a few other contenders, but Haruchika seems to have that distinction going for it. Japan is a fairly isolated and conservative nation, so it’s rare to come across an anime like this that hones in on several issues that perhaps wouldn’t be uncommon in the western world, but is somewhat of an oddity in its own country. The first and most discussed issue it deals with is homosexuality. The first episode ends by revealing that Haruka is in fact gay (or bisexual, but probably gay) and in love with his teacher. That surprised not only Chika, but most of the audience, and the response wasn’t great. While the first episode lacked that extra something to hook you in, that twist is no doubt what turned many people away.
If that is the case, it’s unfortunate, because Haru’s affection was dealt with in a respectful manner – it was a part of his character, yet it never totally defined him. And most importantly, it never led to a controversial teacher/student relationship. It seemed clear to me that it never would, but some people seemed to think that’s the direction the series was going. Instead, it was only brought up when we were dealing with mysteries that involved Haru and his teacher, allowing him to show how much he cared for him. It came off as infatuation more than anything else, which was the best possible route. Haru is sure to never end up with the man he thinks he loves right now, but that’s a good thing. The fact that he was even attracted to another male character in the first place was rather revolutionary. People think having a gay character in a series means it MUST be yaoi. That’s obviously not the case. However, isn’t it interesting when a relatively unimportant okama character shows up and is played for cheap laughs? I lie, it’s not interesting at all – it’s annoying and hypocritical. Many people are only okay with a gay male characters in their anime if he’s a raging stereotype that we’re not supposed to take seriously, feel affection for, or root for, and instead exists for us to laugh at/with (but mainly at) them. So I have to give credit to Haruchika for having the balls to have a main character who is gay, and for P.A. Works for adapting such material.
Unfortunately, P.A. Works didn’t do as good a job as they perhaps could have done. There’s no denying this is their cheapest looking show to date; not even Chika’s rainbow eyes can save it. The notable exception to his would be episode 4, which had crisp art, smooth animation, and all round brilliant direction. Too bad it only lasted for one episode (which I think was the best episode) before things returned to normal. This cheap quality hurt Haruchika because the execution just wasn’t there. While the series focused mainly on the characters, their struggles, and the mysteries surrounding them, if the presentation had been stronger then it wouldn’t have felt so… limp. I never outright hated an episode, but I often found myself thinking how the scenes lacked the impact they deserved. The pacing wasn’t always the best either; sometimes the mysteries felt stretched thin or were too rushed. It’s difficult to say what they could have done to prevent that, but what we did get wasn’t always the best. In the end, it’s not totally unfair to compare it to Hibike! Euphonium and Hyouka. The similarities are clear; if those shows had a lovechild, it would be this. Unfortunately for Haruchika, those shows already did their respective halves of this series better.
However, I have to give credit to Haruchika for being ambitious. While Haru was a borderline genius who seemed to know (or figure out) every single detail and answer of every mystery, plenty of the stories themselves were interesting. This comes back to my point on Haruchika’s liberalness. Not only did we get Haru’s sexuality, but we explored various subject matters that are very rarely dealt with in a serious manner. Examples include: the effect of China’s one child policy, allowing for an episode dedicated to adoption and what it means to be a foreigner in Japan; focusing on a character who is deaf (or partially deaf) and her relationship with music; exploring the effects of a Vietnam war veteran who suffers from PTSD; a teenager phoning a radio show to talk about taking their own life; and a female teacher and student being indecently exposed by another female classmate.
So while Haruchika’s execution wasn’t up to par, the fact that it spent episodes focusing on these serious topics is praiseworthy in itself. In the end, I think that’s how I’ll remember Haruchika: it wasn’t the prettiest show, nor did it have the best mysteries, but it was a commendable series for tackling real issues upfront. For that reason, it’s never going to be a financial success, and we’re likely never going to get a sequel, but I’ll always have affection for Haruchika for having the audacity to try.