The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya – Film Review

I’ve been a fan of Haruhi Suzumiya from the first episode of the original series back in 2006, and I haven’t stopped being one since. She’s a polarizing character some find either unbelievably charming or unbelievably annoying. The same goes with the Suzumiya franchise. Lord knows there have been dozens of anime that imitate it since it took that world by storm. I even sat through the infamous “Endless Eight” arc (call it my completionist side), in which the producers had the audacity to recreate the very same tortured feeling of repetition that Kyon felt. Call me a masochist, but I relished every excrutiating, suspense-building episode.

One of the things I love about the series was the infinite possibilities that come from Haruhi’s apparently limitless power. A visual metaphor in the original opening says it all: the camera zooms into Haruhi’s eye and the entire universe unfolds within it. That’s the potential of this series: anything can happen to Kyon, an otherwise ordinary student with no powers in an otherwise normal school in an otherwise normal city. This epic, two-and-three-quarter-hour film met that potential…and surpassed it in ways I could not have predicted.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the production values. This film was simply a masterpiece both of light and color and in breathing life into the characters and settings by employing peerless care and attention to detail. I didn’t look into the budget for this film, but it was frankly worth every penny. From the soaring orchestral arrangements of familiar musical motifs, to portrayal of such mundane actions as applying double-stick tape or walking home at night and having headlamps cast upon you, this film simply looked and sounded bad-ass. Not to step on toes, but on some levels this film even surpasses Ghibli in rendering an utterly beautiful yet believable world.

As for the story, in the best tradition of the franchise, it weaves a tangled tale of unprecedented complexity, as Kyon travels across time and space, having somehow fallen out of his own. As the title suggests, Haruhi is nowhere to be found…at first. But the twists and turns the plot takes as Kyon desperately searches for someone who understands him, and the epic quest to set things right in the world – and indeed, discover what constitutes ‘right’ for Kyon, make for a satisfyingly addictive cinematic experience.

The film essentially boiled down to a choice Kyon – not Haruhi – has to make; a choice made possible by Yuki Nagano, who after living with humans so long, has reached the point where systemic “errors” cause “anomalous behavior” Read: she’s developing emotions for her brigade-mates, slowly but surely, and decided to act upon Kyon’s outward attitude towards the world he lives in. He seems weary of all the supernatural experiences, the danger, and the hassle of dealing with Haruhi.

So Yuki remakes the world; a stable world where both she and Haruhi are powerless, and there are neither time travelers nor espers to be found. A world  Kyon seemed like he’d prefer…and a world where Yuki herself would be a normal girl with feelings for him. Naturally, upon finding himself suddenly in this world, he wigs out…at first. This is where the choice comes in: will he admit he actually likes being with Haruhi and enduring her schemes, or live a quiet, safe life devoid of anything fantastical in the world Yuki made?

At times, this seems like a choice between Haruhi and the ‘new’ Yuki. After much hand-wringing, he chooses the original world, not because it was the logical choice, but it was what he really wanted. Thus, he rejects the new, human Yuki with whom he could have had a normal romantic relationship with. Even so, his later pledge to original Yuki – that he’d fight just as fiercely to get her back if anything ever happened to her – showed that his affections aren’t limited to Haruhi, or Asahina, but to Yuki too.

Well, that’s enough rambling for now. Frankly, I’m still reeling from the experience. This is a long and engrossing film, but I almost can’t wait to see it again soon. I’ll simply close by saying this wasn’t simply an excellent Haruhi Suzumiya film; it was an excellent film, full stop; I immediately count it amongst my favorites. And if Kyoto Animation wants to make another Haruhi anime series in the near future, I certainly won’t stop them. Rating: 4