25 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Scamp /

The Failed Fan of Haruhi Suzumiya

This post is meant as a continuation of The Multiple Misfires of Haruhi Suzumiya, written back at the end of October. I highly recommend you read that post before you start this one.

Endless Eight. It was a fascinating time to be in anime fandom. Watching frustrated forums and bored bloggers as each episode rolled out, waiting for this accursed arc to end. It was certainly amusing to watch, or more accurately, not to watch. But the amusement I had was detached from the actual show itself. Any emotional connection I might have got with the franchise was killed there and then. I didn’t care what happened in Haruhi anymore. I was an outsider. Even as I watched the Sighs arc, it more out of obligation than anything. The episodes weren’t particularly good and, apart from that minor moment of genius where a cat disproved the entire concept of human speech, left no impression on me whatsoever.

YouTube Preview Image

Oh why not. This video still makes me grin.

There’s still another chapter in the anime of Haruhi Suzumiya out there at the moment. The movie. The fabled arc. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. First there was the shoddy camrip, only watched by the most devout of Haruhi-ites. Those who genuinely liked Endless Eight. Those who could be shown a video of Haruhi staring at the screen for half an hour and still call it a masterpiece. I was inclined to ignore reports hailing in from those sources, but more reports and reviews started filing in. As Haruhi was shown at conventions and eventually hit the fansub scene, everyone was going crazy over how great this movie was. Again though, these were those already faithfully converted to Haruhi-ism. The real test was could it convert a non fan like myself.

I gave this movie every opportunity to convert me. I waited for a decent 720p version that could be played on my laptop. I watched it at home where I had decent speakers. I sat in a damn comfy chair, a pre-requisite if you’re going to watch a 2 and a half hour long movie. I even made myself popcorn. Heck, for added special value I paused the movie at the end of the rooftop scene with Nagato so I could stand outside the back door to watch the New Years fireworks. I’ll admit that, even a non Haruhi fan like myself found something special in that. But could it convert me to a Haruhi fan?

Short answer: No

Long answer: The movie was flawed. The two and a half hour length did play in the back of my mind quite a lot, especially when they spent far too much time padding out scenes. The first 20 minutes or so felt like I was watching another one of those Haruhi fillers from the first season. The second half of the movie was merely a rehash of Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody. The way the movie was set up far too clearly for another season seriously bugged me. It was done in such an unoriginal manner too. It felt like the creators had simply run out of ideas and were rehashing old ones to the point that even Kyon was becoming plot savvy and reciting his lines he knew he’d have to say later on.

That said, the section from the half hour mark to the hour and a half mark was amazing. Kyon wandering around town, frightened and frustrated; the way the movie captured that was remarkable. The movie’s padding was much more clearly on display during this segment, but here it added to the inherent feeling of unease that Kyon was feeling. It seems odd to praise Kyon pacing around a table in a movie that was already way too long, but I was completely sucked in by the atmosphere. The entire way that alternate world was concluded in the computer room was brilliant as well, with the reunion and the creepy contrast between robot Yuki and moe Yuki. Yeah, count me amongst the ones who liked moe Yuki. I never particularly cared for her character in the TV series, but the contrast in personality added to the unease of the situation Kyon found himself in.

But no, it didn’t convert me. It retrospect, I don’t think it was possible. I was ripe for conversion directly after Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody, but Endless Eight killed that possibility. The movie certainly had its spark of brilliance in the middle section, and was probably the best thing the entire franchise produced, but was bogged down by its other failures enough so I wasn’t converted. There’s certainly brilliance in the Haruhi franchise. From episode 0 to Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody to Kyon pacing around a table, there’s certainly signs in here that there’s a series I could have loved. If the stars had aligned, I certainly believed I could have been a fan. I’m not though, and the tragedy is that the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise only has itself to blame.

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  1. Posted January 30, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    “The way the movie was set up far too clearly for another sea­son ser­i­ously bugged me.”

    This movie is adapted from the fourth in a series of nine (soon to be ten) and counting light novels – unless they wanted to significantly change the original text and somehow wrap up everything involved with that in a two and a half hour movie, it was always going to be open-ended!

    This film was never going to convert people who didn’t like the show in the first place, if anything it’s the exact opposite – playing to the strengths of the original series while sticking rigidly to its source material.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 30, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      It was too blatant though. Right at the climax of the movie they solve the problem by slamming a sequel hook in your face with the finesse of a skydiving elephant. It’s one thing to be open-ended, another thing entirely to solve a massive plot point with a sequel hook

      • Posted January 30, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        Sure, it’s a hook into future novels (and either a clumsy or a delightfully sadistic one depending on your view of the franchise), but in terms of this movie in isolation it has no real impact – the immediate problem would have been resolved had that not happened anyway, so really all it does is add a little frisson of unexpected drama that it proceeds to tie up pretty quickly.

        It’s not like this film needs another series to reach a satisfactory conclusion, that was well and truly covered and wrapped up within its own confines.

  2. luffyluffy
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    This movie took me about 5 hours to finish.

    I watched about half an hour, then paused to eat dinner, then watched another half an hour, then my girlfriend decided to have a 2 hour long conversation with me that concluded with: “FINE! LOVE THAT STUPID MOVIE MORE THAN ME!”

    I own all four Haruhi books currently translated, and I will say, Disappearance was meh to me.

    • hikaru
      Posted January 31, 2011 at 1:47 am | Permalink

      I own all four Haruhi books too, and when I first read through Disappearance I was also like ‘meh’. However it’s grown on me after my second read and is probably my second favourite out of the current four so far.

      I wouldn’t really consider myself a Haruhi-ite. But I do like Kyon and Yuki the best outta all the characters.

  3. Posted January 30, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    I never really watched the anime, I only read the books. So, when endless eight came, I was glad that I never watched it.
    Also, the way Koizumi presents his theories in the light novel is really well done. Delicious Koizumi. My mom once asked me, why some lines are red underlined.


  4. Posted January 30, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    I liked this movie. No out-of-order-episodes gimmickry and no endless-eight gimmickry. Very low on the gimmickry in general. It stuck to Kyon and the sci-fi/mystery, the two things about the show I always liked. Does it make me like the other stuff more? Hell no.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 31, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      The gimickry is probably the best part of the Haruhi franchise. I didn’t like the first season that much because I watched it in chronological order and missed that piece of gimickry. Endless Eight didn’t work, but whatev’. The movie’s best part was the gimick of having endless pacing and silence. The sci-fi part was boring and rehashed.

      Gimickry FTW

  5. Posted January 30, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    I would have liked the movie if Kyon had SHUT HIS FACE and stopped narrating every little thing incessantly.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 31, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      Kinda hard to like the franchise in general if that’s your main complaint =|

      • Posted February 3, 2011 at 2:07 am | Permalink

        It’s my main complaint so I only ever sat through the first series. I will not waste my time with this movie or anything else related to the series heh

  6. Thrashy
    Posted January 31, 2011 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    Haruhi was one of those “you just had to be there” moments. It was the first show I picked up as it was airing in Japan, right on the heels of a sudden rediscovery of anime facilitated by my new college friends’ considerable archives, and I ate it up. After the show’s first run ended, I devoured the fan translations of the light novels. When the official US DVD release was announced, I made noises more suited to a teenage Twilight fangirl than a 6’3″ viking lookalike.

    But part of the excitement was that this was something the whole world of anime fandom was experiencing together, one week at a time. If Love Hina was where the digitally-distributed fansubbing phenomenon began, Haruhi was its climactic moment, where a whole international subculture came together and shared in the sustained mutual experience. (If this sounds like hyperbole, it’s probably because I’m listening to the Star Trek soundtrack :) In the time since, the only shows that have come close to that, in my mind, are Gurren Lagann and (to a lesser extent) Bakemonogatari.

    It’s not surprising, then, that Haruhi wouldn’t mean as much to somebody watching the series after that moment had passed. Absent all its cultural entourage, it’s still a good series (at least the first half, anyway), but the atmosphere that made the show what it is to many of us just isn’t there anymore. What you’re left with is a few hours of very serviceable comedic drama, but that’s not much compared to the three-and-a-half months of confusion, fun, wild speculation, and Hare-Hare-Yukai-dances that the fandom went through at the time. It’d be kinda like marathoning Lost now and trying to figure out what that big deal in 2004 was all about.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 31, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      That implies that Haruhi is not going to age well at all if the main thing is ‘you had to be there’. People are still enthralled by Evangelion, even 16 years later. Does that mean Haruhi will disappear into obscurity 10-15 years down the line? Maybe not obscurity, but perhaps lack the longevity that Evangelion or Bebop has?

      • Thrashy
        Posted January 31, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        That’s another thing — *nothing* ages well in the Internet era. Everybody remembers Star Wars, because in the late 70’s and 80’s pop culture moved slowly enough for it to sink in. Even people who’ve never seen the movies know, for instance, who Darth Vader is, what a Death Star is, etc.

        The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, though arguably as epic in scope and initial impact, is largely forgotten. If the movies had come out even ten years earlier, they might have had as lasting an effect, but by the mid-00’s, they simply didn’t have time to settle. IMO there will never be another Evangelion or Bebop for the same reason — everybody’s on to the next thing too quickly.

      • Scamp
        Posted February 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        I dunno what sort of short term memory folk you’re talking to, but I still hear more than enough people talk about Hobbit feet. LOTR hasn’t got quite the exposure that Star Wars has, but it has more exposure than the likes of Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park. I think we’re too early into the days of the internet to make the same judgement, but I don’t think the days of a show having that much impact are gone

  7. Posted January 31, 2011 at 2:40 am | Permalink

    Being a major Haruhi fan myself, I can’t agree with everything you’ve said about the series, but I’m glad you’re willing to give it a chance and have pointed out the things you do like about it. It shouldn’t be expected that everyone who watches it has to automatically become a fan =) Those of us who have read the novels know that the story gets more exciting. I hope when these later novel stories eventually get animated you’ll enjoy them.

  8. Posted January 31, 2011 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    I stopped being a Haruhi fan after reading Sigh. The Disappearance movie didn’t convert me back… I thought the cinematography was excellent, but many parts of the movie dragged out too long for me and overall the story itself wasn’t all that amazing.

    I think story-wise, the manga actually does it better.

    • Posted January 31, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      … I love your icon.

      • Posted February 1, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        Lol… it’s ancient.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 31, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      I own the first Haruhi manga. I read a chapter or two. Got bored. Went back to watching anime

      • Posted January 31, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        Read the Light Novel! *shot*

      • Posted February 1, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        I’m only comparing the Disappearance arc… but that was book 8 I think, and guess you haven’t got there.

        There’s a couple of Haruhi manga out there so I hope you got the right one…

  9. Posted February 1, 2011 at 3:43 am | Permalink

    *shrug* I liked the movie, though considering that I like the Haruhi franchise to begin with, that doesn’t say too much. Personally I loved the lead in to Haruhi’s disappearance, considering just how well it ended up juxtaposing with how empty the world seemed when she did disappear. But I can see why you might not like the 2nd half of the movie. There was a rather rapid shift in pacing and storytelling, so it might have been a bit too jarring and boring.

    Ah well, we’re past the prime years of Haruhi anyway and into a new age where we have a rather different view on anime. Not surprised that Haruhi has lost some of its luster.

  10. fathomlessblue
    Posted February 1, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m a recent convert to the Haruhi franchise, and personality thought “The Disappearance…” was excellent.

    Saying that, although I didn’t think there was any unnecessary padding, the movie was far too long for one sitting. I would have much preferred it in a different format, say 7-8 ova episodes.

    I’ve actually admired/enjoyed the odd/ballsy choices of the series, even Endless Eight (just don’t ask me to watch it again!). I guess the big thing that puts me off the show isn’t the material itself, but rather the reverence some of the more zealous fanbase heap upon it. It simply isn’t that good a show to deserve such praise. It would probably make it in my top 20 anime, but anything more than that is just being willfully ignorant of the series shortcomings.

    Posted February 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    I love this anime.
    I really do.
    I watched the first season, enjoyed it.
    Sucked it in.
    And then I closed forever that “book”.
    Never watched anything related to Haruhi Suzumiya past the first season.
    In this way I guess I spared my love for this anime.

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