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.