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Haruchika Essentials Anime Complete Collection Blu-ray Review

8 min read
Music and mystery don't mingle quite as well as they should.

Music and mystery don’t mingle quite as well as they should.

What They Say:
Things look bleak for the school’s dwindling wind instrument club until childhood friends Haruta and Chika step in to save the day. When they aren’t trying to win the heart of the handsome club supervisor, they’re working hard to recruit more members. But every new musician presents them with a new mystery, so they’ll have to add junior detectives to their already impressive resumes.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only, a rare subtitled-only release from Funimation, in stereo and encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series works a familiar approach with it being largely dialogue oriented but the music moments give it some additional boosts along the way since they’re a bit richer and more engaging. The dialogue side is well handled with what it has to work with as there are some big moments of overacting but mostly just familiar and standard material. The opening and closing sequences make out well with the richer music and the score, in general, is pretty solid, though not terribly memorable.

Video:
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by P.A. Works, the show has a strong and distinctive look to it with the character designs and some really good detail given to the musical instruments side of it as well. The encoding works a good bitrate for it so that the colors come through in a bright and clean way with no breakup or noticeable gradients to be had. The visuals here definitely make out well with the space and encoding tools to bring this to life and fans of the show will enjoy just how appealing it looks from start to finish.

Packaging:
The Essentials collection version takes what we had before and puts it in a standard sized case without the DVDs and without the o-card. Which is unfortunate as the o-card really gave it all a bit more pop, which is needed with the somewhat subdued and not terribly vibrant cover that we get here with the bulk of the cast spread out around it. I do like that they basically add one more gray line below the formats along the top to denote it as an Essentials release as it’s a bit understated and doesn’t draw all your attention like some other priced-down lines have in the past. The back cover has some of the nice blocking elements from the show along the top and gives over a decent bit of space to the summary of the premise. The key visual of the two leads and their conductor/teacher here is nicely done as well. The extras are all clearly listed and we get a solid technical grid that lays out how both formats work in a clean and easy to read fashion. No show related inserts are included but the reverse side does give us some good additional artwork from the Japanese releases to enjoy, which I wasn’t sure would be included in a priced-down release.

Menu:
The menu for this release goes for the static image approach with a soft white done for most of the background. The left side is where we get the character visual artwork of the cast and that fades into the white of the rest of the menu. It’s minimal but it looks good because of the colors from the designs. The logo is kept to the right along the top with its colors and musical elements but there’s a lot of dead space below it until we get to the very basic navigation selections since this is a monolingual release. Everything loads quickly and is smooth to move around in both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.

Extras:
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the novels from Sei Hatsuno that began in 2008 and has five volumes out as of this writing, Haruchika is a twelve episode anime series that arrived in the winter 2016 season. Animated by P.A. Works with Masakazu Hashimoto at the helm, it offered up a lot of strong technical reasons that it should click and work well but ended up falling short – so much so that the streaming numbers couldn’t justify the costs of a dub. But it did fairly well in Japan on some level (not disc sales) because a live-action film was also put into production that came out earlier this year. The series is one that I have to image works better in novel form as a way of really getting into the characters and the arcs of their stories because the anime adaptation just doesn’t make any of them compelling.

The show focuses on the title characters of Chika and Haruta. The two were childhood friends that ended up in different schools along the way and are now reconnecting as they’re first years in high school. Chika’s time in middle school had her focusing on sports a whole lot but she realizes that she’s missed out on a lot of life by being so heavily involved in that. So she’s courses correcting here in high school by joining the Brass Club by taking on the flute. With this, she can see more of a traditional high school life with the potential for dating and activities that she was denied previously because of the intense sports schedule. The downside is that she’s never picked up an instrument before and is definitely at square one trying to move forward with this, especially since seemingly everyone else is far more competent at their respective instruments.

Haruta, for his part, doesn’t get quite as much attention in the setup of who he is at this point. While there are troubling issues at home that serves as some drive for him, what we really get out of him is that he’s basically a high school aged detective with some strong analytical skills. And that brings the show into some problem-solving moments throughout its run that keeps things moving with some sense of purpose. But it never feels compelling and is almost half-hearted because it doesn’t feel like it has any real meaning to it. Haruta definitely “suffers” under his friendship with Chika because she’s such a strong and dominant presence and he’s trying to keep things in a calmer place. Of course, most of the abuse comes from her directly but that’s a familiar running gag in general.

The show expands the cast nicely with several others in the Brass Club and they all get their stories told, including the music teacher/advisor with Kusakabe that has a pretty dark bit to his background. Most of the kids are largely forgettable though with just their basic personalities to work with and little beyond being types within a group. Miyoko’s got quirks that Haruta helps to solve in a kind of forceful way, the Chinese-American Maren has some heritage stuff that factors into things and is actually interesting but is played as a story of the week and little else. And then you get the minor of the minor characters with those like Akari and Kaiyu and the like that simply add a little more color to things.

The show works through the various familiar plots while on the larger journey of certain competitions and goal posts that must be hit. The early stuff has its moments, such as Haruta’s getting and digging into Maren’s side of things, but it also has some weak material such as an apparent intruder in the class that’s largely forgettable and simple mysteries that Haruta gets drawn into. Those just never really click well and it felt like they belong in another series entirely. Sometimes there are decent bits, such as when the gang heads to another school and has to figure out why a teacher took a voluntary suspension over some troubling things that one of the students involved in doing. The bit with the other teacher in this story was interesting in relation to the tattoo and just reminded me of how different some things are culturally.

In Summary:
Haruchika’s the kind of show that has some decent ideas behind it but they don’t click well in the same series. I had wondered, watching it again a few years after my first viewing, if things would change in how I thought of it but the supporting cast never really comes together in a meaningful way and I still felt frustrated with the dynamic between Haruta and Chika. There simply isn’t any real path that feels tangible here. I like the characters individually but their being in the Brass Club doesn’t really click well and the music side of it felt surprisingly weak, especially coming alongside shows like Sound! Euphonium and expectations from there. There are interesting elements to the show and Funimation put together a solid release that is sadly monolingual, but for fans of the show, they’ll have something that they can be glad that they own.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: February 12th, 2019
MSRP: $54.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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