“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Following Yuki’s near-accident, the tone in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan takes a sudden (and for the anime-first viewers, completely unexpected) twist. This new Yuki (bearing all of the familiar mannerisms of the Yuki from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi) attempts to piece together her other self’s feelings for Kyon, all the while realising that she herself is developing for Kyon, as well. As she and Kyon spend time more together, she worries that her eventual fading will nullify her feelings, and summons the courage to put these feelings into words for Kyon. After successfully doing so, the old Yuki returns, leaving Kyon conflicted in addressing his own feelings for Yuki, even as summer means Tanabata and visiting the beach with Haruhi and company, whose presence does much to shift the The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan’s back to its upbeat atmosphere in comparison to the more contemplative mood during the previous arc.
Up until now, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan has been an easy-going series driven forwards by comedy. The dynamics between Kyon and Yuki demonstrate an uncommonly strong bond between the two individuals, especially considering the presence of Ryouko, Haruhi, Mikuru and Tsuruya. Thus, when the Yuki possessing extraordinary reasoning abilities appears and tries to make light of her other self’s feelings for Kyon, she demonstrates the turbulence that arises from any efforts to rationalise love. Ultimately, she too falls for Kyon, and experiences melancholy upon learning that her presence will eventually be displaced by that of the original Yuki’s. Through a masterful use of visual elements (especially the colours associated with the rainy season, and Haruhi’s absence), The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan conveys this internal chaos within Yuki clear to the viewers to give them an idea of how she feels about all of this. The impact of this arc then becomes two-fold: in the short term, it becomes abundantly clear that Yuki definitely has feelings for Kyon and is struggling constantly to articulate them, and in the long term, the Melancholy incarnation of Yuki forces Kyon to re-evaluate his own feelings for Yuki. Does he consider her a friend, or is there more to this relationship? Such a reflective, quiet arc was certainly seen as unexpected for numerous viewers, and although these individuals were once adamant in believing that The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan would be little more than a curiosity, the execution in this arc and its build-up via the earlier arcs suddenly have turned them around: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan suddenly can indeed stand of its own merits to tell a different story than The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, but at the same time, includes enough elements to evoke memories of the latter.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan gives Yuki’s condition as “temporary dysmnesia caused by a strong shock”. Dysmnesia is a memory impairment, and the doctor suggests that the shock of the near-accident has caused Yuki’s mind to become disordered, manifesting as the Melancholy-era Yuki. One of our readers suggested that Yuki’s condition is described as trauma-induced dissociation, although it is clear that this “new” Yuki is not so much dissociated from her surroundings, as she is trying to make sense of it.
- In conjunction with the memories that the new Yuki continues to recall, it becomes clear that Yuki’s memories became scrambled after the incident. Spending time with Kyon helps her to realise how much he means to her, and over time, the neural pathways within her brain restore her memories of Kyon. These returning memories are the clearest indicator that Yuki is unlikely to be suffering from depersonalisation or dissociation.
- I’ve spoken with some of my friends, medical doctors in-training, and they concur that, without additional information about the patient in question, trauma-induced dysmnesia is the most appropriate diagonsis for Yuki’s condition. Consequently, discussions are closed regarding the precise medical condition Yuki experiences (my friends are busy with their electives at present, and having them come here to debate on a fictional character’s condition is not a good use of their time).
- As of late, I’ve been to more bookstores than I have the library. The entirety of episode twelve is spent at the library as Kyon studies for finals, and it is here that Yuki begins to wonder about her current personality’s fate as the original Yuki reawakens, as well as her own growing feelings for Kyon. While strange, the Nishinomiya-shi Central Library bears a great deal of similarity in layout to my local branch library in terms of layout.
- After attending an outdoor book fair, Yuki fully realises she’s in love with Kyon, having spent the past two episodes trying to rationalise out the unusual feelings that the “other” Yuki and herself have regarding him. This exercise, though touching, illustrates that even someone with an ordered and logical thinking pattern as “Melancholy” Yuki is unable to explain how love works. She learns that love cannot be understood or reasoned with, merely that it just happens.
- Even the stoic Yuki of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi is not insusceptible to blushing upon hearing Ryouko put into words her own feelings. The soundtrack during the Disappearance episodes is at its finest; through the use of strings and piano, the music perfectly captures the emotional tenor of this arc, and as such, I look greatly forwards to its release. So far, no release date has been announced yet.
- Yuki soon comes to the realisation that as her current self’s personality becomes increasingly similar to that of the old Yuki, they will eventually merge at some point. Out of concern for Ryouko, she does not tell the latter this, but does consent to spend some time with Ryouko before this occurs.
- The “Melancholy” Yuki’s final act is to confess her love to Kyon via phone. So sudden and unexpected this is, that Kyon races out to meet her face-to-face, but when he arrives, the old Yuki is back. The “Melancholy” Yuki’s courage to clearly express her feelings is the culmination of her experiences over the past few episodes, and while some may see the end of this arc as the end of the strongest plotline in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan yet, the consequences of this Yuki’s actions end up being quite far reaching.
- Ryouko is simultaneously overjoyed and disheartened that the original Yuki is back. By this point in time, the difference in how Minori Chihara delivers the different Yuki’s lines makes sense, and as such, the Disappearance Yuki’s voice no longer feels like an unnecessary change.
- The original Yuki is encouraged to gather the courage and let Kyon knows how she feels about him. This marks the end of the series’ namesake arc, and once Disappearance comes to an end, the atmosphere returns quickly to its original form.
- Things have been quiet and contemplative with just Yuki, Ryouko and Kyon around. An entire series based around them would likely be dull, but Haruhi, Tsuruya and Mikuru’s coming-and-goings allow the mood to be balanced quite neatly: the series isn’t excessively emotional or theatrical, instead, striking a balance that allows audiences to appreciate both the excitement accompanying Haruhi and Tsuruya, and the quiet life that Ryouko and Yuki enjoy.
- However, Haruhi’s return alone does not mean the status quo is restored: Kyon now feels a little more hesitant around Yuki, and his coming to terms with his own feelings for Yuki forms the basis for the last arc that will be presented before The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan draws to a close.
- Tanabata is a celebration of the meeting of two deities in Japanese culture, and in The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, is significant because this is the time where Kyon first meets Haruhi, who knows him as “Jon Smith”. This sets in motion the events of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, where Haruhi’s quest for all things unusual begins. While Kyon is hesitant to help her, he had in fact unwittingly invoked Haruhi’s interest in the extraordinary.
- On the other hand, in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Tanabata serves to ease viewers back into the usual flow of things. It’s a clever call-back to the events from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, although strictly from a personal perspective, how The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan handles its story more favourably, and events proceed very logically. In short, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan seems to demonstrate that The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi became such a phenomenon because of its character dynamics rather than the supernatural and science-fiction elements.
- References to The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi abound here, and Haruhi confronts Kyon about his distance with Yuki, wondering if he remembers helping her write her message during the Tanabata of three years ago. When Kyon does not recall, her disappointment appears to suggest that she also holds feelings for Kyon to a limited degree. However, Haruhi is also a very practical individual, and encourages Kyon to keep trying where Yuki is concerned.
- Episode fifteen of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan opens at the beach and invokes memories of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi‘s second season, which followed the Tanabata episode with Endless Eight. This event is so infamous that fans elsewhere are still salty (read: “bitter”) about it, despite the six years that have passed since then. I’m not quite sure if there’s any reason to look at Endless Eight with such vitriol: it’s just anime, is it not?
- The fifteenth episode sees Kyon and the others visit a beach, then partake in a “test of courage”. During this trip, Itsuki remarks that one of his friends were involved in a murder mystery on a private island that went out of hand, to the point of involving law enforcement, and that such a thing might be perfect for Haruhi. It’s a direct call-back to the Remote Island Syndrome arc, but as an aside, those unfamiliar with The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi won’t be missing out on too much.
- This scenario is a classic trope/cliché in most anime: extenuating circumstances (here, Kyon’s sister kicking him into Yuki) lead the male lead to end up in a compromising position over the female lead. With the series very nearly over, I definitely believe that Satelight’s been improving in their craft: outside of Nishinomiya, the locations, colours and lighting have become increasingly vivid and detailed in comparison to that in the earlier episodes.
- Kyon gets the short end of the stick and is forced to carry everyone’s baggage after Tsuruya decides to do a “test of courage”. They leave behind the beach and travel into the mountains. Satelight’s progress with respect to artwork and animation quality cleverly reflects on Yuki’s own growing confidence and independence.
- It turns out that the “ghosts” were actually fireflies, and Mikuru fainted upon assuming they were ignis fatuus (will-o’-the-whisp). The fifteenth episode draws to a close with Kyon and Yuki holding hands, and now that Yuki’s confessed her feelings to Kyon in a manner of speaking, the finale will deal with Kyon doing the same during the summer festival. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan‘s been a fantastic journey so far, and I look forwards to seeing how Satelight wraps their adaptation up in the coming week.
Fifteen episodes have covered the first four volumes completely and around half of the fifth volume. Given that volume five introduces yet another new character into the mix as Kyon and Yuki begin their second year of high school, it’s logical that the finale will conclude under the oft-mentioned fireworks during the summer festival. The fact that the manga is still on-going leaves open the possibility that The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan will get a continuation. However, before this happens, there’s still the finale itself: it will be interesting to see how the anime chooses to wrap up what is presumably The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan‘s first season. I’ll swing by to do a full reflection once the finale has aired, and the main topic of this discussion will be how successful Satelight’s adaptation has captured the atmospherics and mood within the manga itself.