The Character-Building of Yuki Nagato

The Haruhi series is a rather strange one, indeed. We were first presented to the anime, an adaptation of the light novel series of the same name, bouncing through the timeline, covering stories told in later as well as earlier chapters, released with no regard to order in the slightest, even purposely airing episodes out of chronological order. You would think that such a series would never catch on, especially in the states, but like the title lead herself, it is these quirks that make the series so enjoyable.

That said, a good number of the Haruhi fanbase was split when the unexpected second season of the series came rolling along. Taking everything the first season was known for and turning it on its head, episodes were aired in order, going out of their way to tell you every minute detail, rather than chucking everything at you in an unforgiving dump. The formula was re-done on the viewers, who were unsure what to believe in the series anymore, especially when the second season finale was followed up with a teaser for The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, an adaptation of the series’ fourth light novel.

From what I’ve heard around these here internets, Disappearance has been the most eagerly awaited story in the Haruhi series to be animated. From as early on as the first season’s end, fans were talking about how great it would be to get an adaptation of that light novel. Rumors were spread; fanart was passed off as real and vice versa… even from merely exploring the non-cesspool-like corners of the internet, I could tell that Disappearance was something people have been wanting for some time.

… but with the second season being what it was, would this movie even end up getting a second chance in the fan’s eyes?

Before I actually start my review of this movie, I should say that the version I was able to get my hands on was, to be put bluntly, ass-quality… as in “camera in the theater” ass-quality. And digging a bit more around the internets, it seems like this’ll be the only version we’ll be getting for a while. Then again, the movie was just recently released on DVD and the like, and an HQ version may already be in the works. Either way, just know that my thoughts on the film may be a bit warped, having seen it in its entirety in such quality… then again, my opinions my remain even after seeing it in HQ. Just know that that’s my background with this movie before making any judgments on my part.

So, as most fans already know, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya covers the story of Kyon when he wakes up one day to find that he lives in a world where Haruhi apparently doesn’t exist and is instead replaced by Ryoko Asakura, Yuki’s backup who tried to kill Kyon way back when.

Going off this basic synopsis alone, you can really tell that the movie relies a lot on the viewer having prior knowledge of the series (especially season two’s episodes)—something I’ve never really encountered with other anime movies until now. In that sense, the movie was very similar to the style of story-telling done in season two of the series, actually taking the bits and pieces that made up season one and trying to form an actual plot to things rather than a general synopsis umbrella. From what I’ve heard follows in later light novels, I don’t know of developing an “actual plot” for the series was the best of moves, but I guess you could only go so far with a show about nothing. I mean, Seinfeld only lasted like a handful of seasons, right?

Anyways, as Kyon fumbles his way through school, in an apparent Haruhi-withdrawal, he enters the SOS Brigade’s clubroom, only to find the sign outside the room clearly labeled as the Literature Club, and entering only to find Yuki Nagato, showing all the symptoms of your typical shy girl in an anime. Although this alternate Nagato is lacking in any memories of the world with Haruhi, Kyon sees her as his best bet in getting the world as he knows it back on track. It’s in these character interactions that the movie begins to show some signs of hope. The alternative Nagato, as timid as she is, is just so adorably relatable (er… not that I’m a timid Japanese school girl, myself, but uh…) that I would have actually preferred that the story be told from her perspective over Kyon’s, whose franticness in this new world and desperation to get back to the old one isn’t exactly the most endearing he’s been in the series.

Looking at the anime series in general, Kyon comes off as the sole dude in what you would assume to be a harem-genre series. Though from the bonkers status wackiness that goes on in the series, you don’t really get much of Kyon being shipped with anyone other than Haruhi, and the occasional Mikuru, which is used more for comedy than anything else. The movie takes things in a completely different direction, completely playing up the harem-genre aspects of the series in certain scenes, having him see every female lead as a romantic option in one way or another. You’d think this would come off as rather trite as well as unnecessary considering how Kyon’s got bigger worries to deal with outside of his love life, but it adds a new level to our main cast that we don’t normally see all that often and will more than likely play a bigger role as the series progresses. Personally, I’m rooting for Yuki, though how can you possible root for any of the other girls after seeing the film?

Another quirk of the anime series in general is how it lives up to its title of being rather melancholic at times. Outside of all the bizarre adventures the SOS Brigade goes through, you begin to realize that it’s all due to the melancholy of the characters, who ponder just what their existence in the world means, whether it be in the form of off-colored flashbacks, gloomy piano background music, or extended pan-shots of the eerie night sky. The movie does do a good job of reflecting the same mood when necessary, showing scenes you would find at any high school, such as frantically taking notes in a class where the teacher erases the chalkboard much too often, or the downtime during lunch when you’re begging your friend to give some last-minute pointers in preparation of being called on in class next period. These small bits of mundane do a good job of accompanying the overlying theme to the series, though it could be arguable that too much of it was used in the first half of the movie.

Clocking in at two hours and forty minutes, the movie not only suffers from length, but is also rather unbalanced, with its initial set up as well as conclusion being a bit laggy. It may be due to me having read the light novel a while back, but some scenes that try their hardest to build up a plot twist just end up falling flat on their face half the time, forcing me to minimize the screen while I check my email or check my twitter feed. Some may say the length is to make up for the majority of season two’s suckiness, but I just say that the same story could have been told in significantly less time.

As a whole, I feel as if The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is at an awkward spot between the first and second seasons of the anime in terms of viewability. There are their shares of endearing moments, but they seem to balance out alongside the huge amounts of time spent either not doing anything in particular or doing something incredibly predictable. Something that should also be noted is what Kyon is expected to do following the conclusion of the film. Without spoiling anything, it felt like such a last-second tack-on that was incredibly underplayed. Then again, I guess it wouldn’t be Haruhi if the significant weren’t underplayed and vice-versa.

… a mixed bag overall, though here’s to hoping that was the movie’s LQ video quality talking.

The Rise and Fall (and Possible Rise Again) of Haruhi Suzumiya

December 18th: a time to celebrate the holidays; one week before Christmas; and quite the significant date for any SOS Brigade member out there.

Yep, kids, it’s that time of the year again, when good ol’ Kyoto Animation spiffs up the official website of anime The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya with some word on their latest work—in this case, the upcoming film The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. Last year we were only given a teaser trailer in the form of a still image of character Yuki Nagato, but this year, we’ve finally been treated to something along the lines of an actual trailer.

Now, for the uninitiated, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya isn’t your everyday sort of anime—the fact that it’s based off of a light novel series of the same name should be hint enough of that. Trying to explain what the series is about without giving anything away is more impossible than licking your elbow, so I’ll just stop there and say that for those who haven’t seen the series yet, definitely give it a looksie.

Though as much praise as the series gets, there is another side of the series that fans tend to shy away from. Yes, it looks like even successful anime titles aren’t immune when it comes to things like black sheep. Back when the series aired in 2006, the episodes were aired out of order intentionally, making for quite the interesting move in an industry that’s primarily known for its soap-opera-esque “each episode must be seen in order” style of storytelling. Combine that with excellent writing, making even the original novels pale in comparison, and you’ve got the makings for a hit anime, right there. Though, given how the series was aired, not much was left for fans to expect a following season for the series, and at best there were radio drama CDs and videogames to fill in the void left by the anime’s ending.

Enter 2009—a time for change not just in terms of world leaders, but for the series as well. Not only did the series get back on the air in Japan (apparently, reruns are a rare thing over yonder), but they aired 1) in order and 2) alongside new episodes. Normally, this is when one would insert the cheers and applause from the fanbase, but something seemed a bit off about this new airing of the series. For one, the episodes were being shown in sequential order—completely the opposite of the show’s original airing. As for the new episodes, well… while the first new episode was good enough, other ones seemed to fall flat. In a nutshell, in terms of new episodes, fans were welcome to one good episode followed by eight of what was literally the same episode and finished off with five episodes explaining something that everyone already grew to accept already. I guess if I had to compare it to something, I would say the fans’ reactions to Haruhi 2009 was similar to Naruto fans’ reactions to Sasuke—you’re either of the party that absolutely adores it, or you absolutely hate it; ain’t no middleground here, folks!

So, with a trailer finally up for the first official Haruhi movie, covering what I’ve constantly heard as the best part of the light novels, one must wonder if the boys down at Kyoto Animation are prepping their dinner tables for dessert or disaster (cue Keri Hilson song)?

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