“It is nice finding that place where you can just go and relax.” —Moises Arias
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan has been something that’s been greatly anticipated for quite some time (since June 2013, if we’re keeping score), and with the first episode now out, it’s time to see whether or not The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan acts as a meaningful spin-off to the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise. This first episode deals with Yuki’s desire to do more club activities, and with Christmas approaching, she wishes to pull all the stops and have a celebration in their school’s clubroom with a turkey. The turkey proves to be a challenge, since no one in the shopping district sells them, and Tsuruya offers to give them a turkey if they consent to a contest with Mikuru; this soon devolves into a direct contest between Ryouko and Tsuruya. Later, Ryouko manages to obtain permission to use the clubroom for their party, and Yuki recalls how she’d first met Kyon. With the first of sixteen episodes done, it’s quite clear that The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is not meant to evoke the same sense of grandeur that The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi did. Instead, this alternate universe presents a much more nostalgic, almost wistful environment that provides a pleasantly different pacing compared to the previous series in the franchise. Without any of the supernatural and science-fiction elements that made The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi so popular, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan appears to be aiming to present a more low-key, cathartic anime for those whose curiosities were piqued by The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi.
While it’s still quite early to make a judgement, the first episode was very faithful to the manga series of the same name: I’ve been following The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan closely for quite some time, and its story about the awkward and tender relationship between Kyon and Yuki was remarkably heartwarming. The first episode captures glimpses of this, and although it may prima facie appear that nothing has happened, the manga does pick up and tie things together with a solid story. The anime so far seems to be adapting half a volume per episode, and eight volumes of the manga have been released, so assuming that The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan‘s anime maintains a similar level of consistency with the manga, the series will be able to traverse all eight volumes when it concludes in late June. Thus, while some viewers have already expressed that this may be a dull series compared to The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi if all it does is focus on Nagato’s eccentricities, the story will pick up by the sixth episode or so: it’s not going to be slow-paced slice-of-life all the way to the end, and some of the more comical elements, coupled with a slightly more serious arc will likely make an appearance. Consequently, those unfamiliar with the manga have little need to worry that “fluffiness and self-referential humour” are all that is going to comprise The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I’ve been watching anime for upwards of eight years now, and have done anime reviews for at least six of those eight years. However, I’ve never actually done a review for an anime where I had a priori knowledge because of the source manga. For The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, I’m as caught up in the manga as can be, and the first episode’s been very faithful to the manga.
- Satelight’s approach provides a more minimalistic environment compared to how Kyoto Animation handled things. To put that in perspective, it’s the difference between low and ultra settings in a shooter. With this being said, the reduced details in the environment do not stop The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan from projecting the nostalgic feeling that the manga was able to convey.
- The music in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is par for the course with the middle ground for what I was hoping to hear and what I was likely to hear: there are gentle classical songs for the more tender moments, and more typical pieces befitting of the light-hearted mood in a romance-comedy.
- Elements from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan made their way into The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, including the increased presence of deformation, reliance on gag visuals and the casual disregard for physics. This is not an anime to be taken seriously, and
- It’s almost been a year-and-a-half since the announcement was actually made in December 2013: when I first learnt about this anime, I predicted quite correctly that it would be a spring 2015 release. At the time, spring 2015 seemed a very long time into the future, and I would never have predicted that any of the stuff that happened in the past year would jhappen.
- The most stabbing that Ryouko does in this universe is restricted to dinner preparation. She hums Hare Hare Yukai, the ending song for the first season. The song itself wasn’t particularly unique, but apparently, the dance was quite catchy for most and spread like a wildfire in terms of popularity. I prefer the orchestral version in The String Concert of Suzumiya Haruhi.
- It’s quite nice that Yuki’s apartment retains a very familiar design, with things like the kotatsu, potted plant and stereo system being retained. However, compared to the design patterns in The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, Yuki’s apartment features less exaggerated angles, warmer lighting, and wider windows to give the impression that this is an simple, yet inviting home reflective of this Yuki’s personality.
- While Satelight may not have Kyoto Animation’s talent for creating detailed environments, their particular style and the resulting minimalist environments presents the advantage of shifting the focus onto the characters: anime with highly life-like worlds fully immerse their viewers and illustrate that their characters are very much a part of their world, which in turn demands better world building, something that Suzumiya Haruhi excelled at.
- Conversely, by de-emphasising the setting, Nagato Yuki-chan attempts to steer the viewer’s attention to the characters themselves, allowing for Kyon and Yuki’s growing relationship to be followed. Unlike the manga, where Kyon sees a little less of Yuki after Ryouko tries to tug off her shirt, the anime pushes the envelope a little further: this subtly changes the context behind Kyon’s decision, suggesting that in this adaptation, Kyon retains more of his sharp tongue compared to the manga.
- The lines in the anime follow quite closely with the manga, although hearing the original voice actors deliver them adds a bit of a depth to the anime that even the manga itself can’t capture. I make a mention of Minori Chihara’s performance later on, but to summarise it right here, it’s different, but quite fitting for this series, depicting a more childish Yuki.
- The shopping district also makes a return: this is where Haruhi bought the props and equipment she needed for her movie back in The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. It’s been almost four years since I bolted through The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi to watch The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, and in that time, so much has happened. In the spirit of summer 2011, I am planning on going back and watching everything again, just for old times’ sake.
- This here scene is an excellent case study of the minimalist backgrounds in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: the plates in the shop in the background appears to be a texture rather than a prop, and the characters do seem to pop out a little more, although careful use of colouring ensures that they’re shaded to match the lighting in the environment. This fine balance allows the viewer’s eye to be drawn to the characters as they converse.
- Ryouko’s relationship with Yuki in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is depicted as being quite similar to that shared by a mother and daughter: Ryouko is quick to critique and help Yuki, also knowing exactly how to get Yuki to reveal the truth without too much effort. Because of their roles in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, I’m going to have to get good at spelling all of the character’s names.
- Mikuru and Tsuruya make a return in this first episode: they’re not even given introductions because the anime assumes viewers to already be familiar with The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, but for the newcomers, Mikuru is a soft-spoken girl and Tsuruya her best friend. Both largely retain their personalities from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, and for one reason or another, have a Mikuru fan-club that Kyon unknowingly became a part of.
- Suzumiya Haruhi‘s universe is remarkably complex, far more so with the light novels compared to the anime, featuring numerous characters and story arcs. Technically, the light novels are not even finished yet; Nagaru Tanigawa has created a series that is very difficult to both continue and end owing to the complexity of the stories. Consequently, the latest volumes were released back in 2011 that left the conclusion as an open ending, and was released four years after The Dissociation of Suzumiya Haruhi.
- With due respect, a more complex story is not necessarily better: The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi‘s popularity did not stem from the light novels themselves, but rather, through Kyoto Animation’s adaptation of it, which featured exceptional production, animation, voice-acting and music. This breathed a new dimension into the world that Nagaru created, and while the animated adaptation was quite good, the complexity in Nagaru’s original novels means that future adaptations are quite unlikely.
- The dynamics between Tsuruya and Ryouko are incredibly amusing to watch, their competitions end in a stalemate, and the two agree to compete again in the future. I look forwards to seeing their interactions in future episodes: the art style in the manga made it quite difficult to tell the two apart in earlier volumes, but Puyo’s since fine-tuned the character designs in the latest volumes, and of course, in the anime, Tsuruya and Ryouko’s hair colours allow them to be instantly differentiated from one another.
- Back in their clubroom, Yuki’s plans for their Christmas party become quite grandiose: she wonders if a dress and multi-layer cake will be possible. Apparently, I’m not in the minority of individuals who have really enjoyed this first episode as it is, which is an encouraging sign. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the purists who view any spin-off as being sacrilegious to Suzumiya Haruhi: some have even compared The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan to Endless Eight, but ultimately, neither should have a bearing on whether or not I will enjoy this.
- For those wondering why I have chose to omit mention of Haruhi herself from this discussion, the justification is that this first episode’s focus is on Yuki, so at the very least, talk on the first episode should focus on this series’ lead characters. Haruhi will make an appearance later on and play a larger role: Aya Hirano will be returning to provide Haruhi’s voice, and despite all of the controversies surrounding her, having her reprise her role as Haruhi was a proper decision.
- That’s pretty much it for this talk: I’ll be blogging about The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan in four episode-intervals, given that this series is set to run for sixteen episodes. For brevity’s sake, future posts will refer to The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan simply as Nagato Yuki-chan. As for what’s upcoming, there will be the odd post or two before the after-three talks for Hello! Kiniro Mosaic, OreGairu Zoku and Hibike Euphonium coming out near the April’s end.
Even though I’ve been reading the manga since it came out, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan‘s animated adaptation still presented some surprises to me, especially with regard to how Minori Chihara delivers Yuki’s lines. The voice cast from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi reprise all of their roles, and while most of the other characters still feel as they did in The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, Yuki’s voice sounds younger. This higher pitch that suggests that The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan‘s Yuki is a touch less shy, more naïve and perhaps, cuter than even Yuki’s The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi‘s incarnation. It’s a little strange, but does not feel at all out of place in this universe. Moving forwards, the next episode will deal with the Christmas party itself. After one episode, between the atmospherics, the characters and the music, this has been quite consistent with what one might reasonably expected from the animated adaptation of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. It’s no blockbuster with enough references Freud to make a philosophy major blush, and it won’t promote discussions of the implications of Haruhi as a physical god, but this relaxed, gentle atmosphere, and the presence of comedy interspersed with the more tender moments between Kyon and Yuki will be sufficient a reason for watching this anime.