Friday, 22 May 2009

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya - Season 2 - Episode 1 (aka Episode 8)

In case you've been trapped under a rock for the past twenty-four hours or so, and that rock has somehow blocked all Internet access and crushed your cell phone beneath its immense weight, allow me to be the first to tell you that Haruhi Suzumiya is back, back, back!!! In keeping with the typical kind of KyoAni and Kadokawa craziness when it comes to this franchise, a brand spanking new episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the current rerun of the original series on Japanese TV. In fairness, this all makes sense as this brand new episode, Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody, actually takes its rightful place in the show's chronological order, although this means that we'll be returning to old episodes for a while again before any new Haruhi goodness comes our way.

Anyway, this particular episode has us join Haruhi and company on Tanabata, an occasion which Haruhi herself appears to have thought far too much about, calculating how long it would take the wishes which are typically made as part of this celebration to reach their respective Gods and using that as a basis for any wishes made. This state of affairs also seems to be most unsatisfactory to her, putting Haruhi into one of her legendary states of depression.

If only she knew of Mikuru Asahina's ability to travel through time... An ability that she has the need to show Kyon on this occasion, jumping back exactly three years in time with him. While present day Asahina seems to have little clue as to what's going on here (soon falling asleep in the process), furure Asahina knows exactly what is required, and before we know it present day Kyon is face to face with past Haruhi as she prepares to embark on creating her school ground signeage that was explained way back, right at the beginning of the story.

From here on in, the episode develops exactly the kind of mindfuck propensity that you'd expect from this series, as Kyon's interactions with Haruhi in this time appear to change her future, while Yuki Nagato's need to help Kyon and Mikuru return to their own time is equally mind-bending.

When a massive franchise like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya makes a big and much-hyper comeback like this, there's always a danger that it will fail to live up to that hype. At the risk of sounding like I've been swept away by the current wave of excitement, this new episode of the series doesn't disappoint at all after a slightly slow start - If anything, it's an utterly brilliant episode that not only fits into the chronology of the original series well but adds a lot to it into the bargain. I recently wrote a review for UK Anime of the original The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya light novel in which I posited that the concept of the franchise is of more important and interest than its (arguably quite shallow) characterisation, and I'd like to think that this episode proves the point I'm trying to make. Beyond the inevitable "moe elements" there's nothing hugely innovative or deep about Yuki, Mikuru or Haruhi, or even Kyon (however much I love his deadpan delivery), but once the actual story and the ideas behind it get moving it soon becomes utterly compelling. So it is with Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody, and so I find myself waiting impatiently for the next dose of new Haruhi to land upon our screens.


hashi said...

Hmm. I really loved this episode, and I'm not sure if i agree with your idea that the characters aren't very special or not. I know of no character like Haruhi that combines such aggressiveness and bullheaded blindness with that amazing hint of sadness that always comes through for me. She seems such a tragic figure, in some way.

And I think Kyon's delivery is not all he has: what he says brings out his jaundiced view of life, as well as his acceptance of people's faults.

Moe is far from all this show has in terms of characters, it seems to me. I can't help feeling some depth there. or maybe I'm just getting carried away, lol.

CH Makoto said...

I'm afraid I must agree with hashi. I think Haruhi is the closest anyone has come to bottling Katherine Hepburn and then some. Very seldom has anime characterization ever approached the best of Hollywood actors, but Haruhi makes the grade. I know that will dismiss me as simply a Haruhist. I can live with that.

Add in Kyon's longsuffering, but not stupid character and your on-the-make comments of the depth of the plotline and KyotoAni has, imo, made a series that's going to be an anime classic.

As strong as "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" is, I have to admit that nothing has yet come to the level of say, Casablanca, however shows with writing and characters like this give me hope that someday it will happen.

Rick said...

Dude, you DO know that Suzumiya Haruhi is based on the Light Novels by Nagaru Tanigawa, right?

You seem to speak as if you believe that the script for the next season of the show had to be thought of. Well, guess what, it's written already! Since more than 3 years ago!

This is the very reason why Haruhi has so many fans (especially in Japan). Because there are some scenes that we've "seen" in the novels, like the two Asahina-sans, the MAKING of Asahina Mikuru's adventures... Nagato's personality evolving... and we want to see those scenes animated. With colors.

Do I have to mention the plethora of Yuki fans dying to see Nagato sharing her feelings for the first time? Oh, I'm telling you. You'll hear A LOT from Nagato this new season!!

Michael said...

I loved this new installment, especially as it was so unexpected. This is actually a great ploy by KyoAni to not have such rushed deadlines for each week, by interspersing the episodes in the re-run as they fit in. This way, they get more time to work on each episode, and this one definitely shows. It looks gorgeously polished and shiny.

As they are already a fair way through the repeats, it won't leave them too much time to animate the rest, but if they started on scheedule for a normal production, it should still leave them extra time to make each episode look better than your standard weekly fare.

Really looking forward to the new adventures.

Hanners said...

Rick, not sure if your opening comment is directed at me, but seeing as I mentioned the light novels in my original post I'm assuming not. ;)

I might be being a bit harsh regarding characterisation in Haruhi's case, but to me she is largely a tsundere character above all else which isn't all that innovation, although I'll happily admit that Aya Hirano has wrung every ounce out of the character as a voice actress, she really has done a top-notch job. Besides, nobody else seems to agree with my feelings about this show's characters anyway, so I'm something of a lone sole shouting into a strong wind anyway. ;p

Anonymous said...

I am going to throw my 1/8 figure of Nagato if they don't release another new epoisode soon ._.

Michael said...

Haruhi isn't the tsundere of the series, Kyon is. I though everyone knew that?

Rin said...

I love how you did not mention Itsuki's name in the list of those lacking innovation and depth. If this was intentional, I agree.

nubia_1991 said...

hmm....i didn;t really like the second seson and i was womdering if the secon is way better?