Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu (Retro Review)

Originally posted 19 Dec 2010 – We’ve been fans of Haruhi Suzumiya from the first episode of the original series back in 2006, and have remained fans ever since. She’s certainly a polarizing character most will either find charming or unbelievably annoying. The same goes with the Suzumiya franchise. It’s spawned dozens of imitations since it first aired. We even sat through the infamous “Endless Eight” arc, in which the producers had the audacity to recreate the very same tortured feeling of repetition that Kyon felt. Call us masochists, but we relished every excruciating, suspense-building episode (well, mostly).

One of the things we love about the series is the infinite possibilities that come from Haruhi’s apparently limitless power. A simple visual metaphor in the original series OP 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, sprawling, two-and-three-quarter-hour film met that potential…and surpassed it in ways we couldn’t have predicted.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the production values rule. This film was a masterpiece of light and color. It breathed life into its characters and settings by employing peerless care and attention to detail. Whatever this film cost, 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 badass. On some levels this film even surpassees Ghibli in rendering its utterly beautiful yet believable world.

As for the story, in the best tradition of the franchise, it weaves a tangled, complex tale, 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 SOS 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. It’s a world she thought Kyon would 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 new, normal world Yuki made for him?

At times, this seems like a choice for Kyon 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, normal human Yuki with whom he could have had a normal romantic relationship. 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! This is a long and engrossing film, but we almost can’t wait to see it again soon (We have. It still rocks.) We’ll simply close by saying this wasn’t simply an excellent Haruhi Suzumiya film, or anime film; it was an excellent film, full stop, and an instant favorite of ours. If Kyoto Animation wants to make another Haruhi anime series in the near future, we certainly won’t stop them.

Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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3 thoughts on “Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu (Retro Review)”

  1. Great comments on the Haruhi movie! I’ve been a huge fan of the franchise since 2007 and I even saw the movie four times in California theaters :) Anyway, you brought up a lot of good points as to why it’s a masterpiece of a film. I too hope that KyoAni will make more Haruhi anime in the future.

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