The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Revisiting The Haruhiism Time Capsule Project: A Retrospective

“The Internet is so big, so powerful and pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life.” —Andrew Brown

Today marks the ten-year anniversary of the Yahoo Time Capsule Project, which was announced in 2006 as a means of capturing a sample of digital during this time. Opened from October 10, 2006 to November 8, 2006, the project was an exercise in digital anthropology of a great scale; the original plans were to broadcast the time capsule’s contents via laser into space, with the intent of contacting extraterrestrial life. This event would have taken place in Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico, but concerned about the potential damage at a historical site, the event was moved. The world in 2006 was a rather different place: dual-core processors were commonplace, and NVIDIA had just released its GeForce 7 series of video cards. During 2006, NASA launched the New Horizons project, which aimed to put a satellite in Pluto’s orbit, and Pluto itself was reclassified as a dwarf planet. Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein was executed, and North Korea claimed to have successfully tested its first-ever atomic weapon. 2006 also saw the launch of Kyoto Animation’s anime adaptation of Nagaru Tanigawa’s The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi.

A smash hit by all definitions in Japan and overseas, The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi created an internet phenomenon and, a quasi-religion, “Haruhiism”, was spawned as a result of the title character’s popularity. The coincidental timing of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi‘s release with the Yahoo Time Capsule Project meant that there were some individuals who aimed to preserve their interests in The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi through this program. Embarking on a journey to submit images containing the Haruhiism logo to the time capsule under the “Faith” category (the others include “Love”, “Anger”, “Fun”, “Sorrow”, “Beauty”, “Past”, “Now”, “Hope”, and “You”), the initiative resulted in roughly a hundred images carrying the Haruhiism logo being successfully uploaded to Yahoo’s Time Capsule before the submission deadline closed (out of around a hundred seventy thousand total submissions). While the identity of the individual who masterminded this project has been lost to time in the ten years that followed, things have changed dramatically in the time that has passed; multi-core processors are the norm now, even in mobile devices, and NVIDIA released its Pascal line of GPUs. NASA launched its OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample mission, and the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in a referendum. Similarly, over the passage of time, The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi no longer commands the same familiarity it once did, and one wonders: when Yahoo’s Time Capsule is opened in 2020, will anyone still recall what Haruhi, much less Haruhiism, is?


  • I’ve known about the Haruhiism Time Capsule project for quite some time, although who initially started is something I cannot recall. This post was born out of a curiosity to determine whether or not the Haruhiism Time Capsule project captured as much interest as was claimed, and so, I set out to see for myself what sort of logistics would be involved in obtaining a hundred images for submission.

  • Thus, during a quiet Saturday back during the summer, I visited campus and took advantage of the quiet to put up the Haruhiism posters for photographing. It took around ninety minutes to capture twenty submission-ready images on my own, so I imagine that, with a small group of friends, it could conceivably be possible to reach the hundred image mark within a weekend. Despite the reach of the blog where this project was first proposed, I doubt that readers would have been motivated to contribute, so the numbers were attained by a few individuals taking a large number of photographs, rather than many viewers submitting one or two.

  • Because it was a summer morning, campus was (almost) completely deserted when I embarked on this small test. I visited some of the locales where my MCAT preparation courses happened, as well as the roof of the Arts Parkade, which bears a great deal of resemblance to the school rooftop in Madoka Magica. I note that I am not a believer of Haruhiism: most definitions state that Haruhiism is the belief that a single individual could be given corporeal form and walks amongst humanity as a god of sorts. Its followers support notions that “what will be will be”; that things happen because a Haruhi-like entity willed it and so, it should be accepted.

  • The irony here is that Haruhiism misses Nagaru Tanigawa’s actual message; he writes Kyon in as a normal being whose interactions with Haruhi cause her to reign back her schemes, scaling them back so they become more realistic to accomplish. Rather than the fatalist outlook that some Haruhiists support, the main theme in The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi is that ordinary folks have a much greater control of their environment than they might be aware of.

  • With the situation Yahoo is in, surrounding its data breach, one wonders if they will still open their time capsule as stipulated, in March 2020. With regard to Yahoo’s use of a laser to beam the time capsule’s contents into space, there are several problems posed: a laser pulse has a low probability of hitting a planet with intelligent life, and the probability of another civilisation using the same means of decoding information as we do is even lower. I’ve posted five of my favourite images from my experiment above; these would have certainly been accepted on first try (minus the fact that they are a crisp 1920 x 1080 rather than 1024 x 768), but below are fifteen other images taken over the course of a morning.

It is projected that when the capsule is opened in 2020, Haruhiism will be an enigma to even those who had submitted images to Yahoo. The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, while initially creating a large influx of excitement, failed to continue to gain momentum because the source material, in the form of light novels, simply failed to update. The anime itself was wildly successful on account of superior execution in animation and audio-visual elements, rather than any intrinsic strengths in the light novels’ narrative or characters. Consequently, once the novelty wore off, audiences merely directed their interests towards different series. This factor accounts for why The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan remains relatively unknown, as well as why future animated adaptations of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi are very unlikely. As for the individual who spearheaded the entire initiative to promote Haruhiism, their project does not appear to have been particularly worthwhile one in retrospect — Haruhi simply does not hold the same magic it once did, and I doubt that the folks using image boards over in Japan has any interest in revitalising the old videos of Hare Hare Yukai.

4 responses to “Revisiting The Haruhiism Time Capsule Project: A Retrospective

  1. cloudst12 October 12, 2016 at 09:59

    I watched the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in 2011 back when I got back into anime. I can fondly remember doing maths homework on one side while half-watching the series on my iPad on the other. Then, I remember Endless Eight…. It’s a funny story, I was doing maths while watching with my brother when I noticed that the gist of scenes was really similar. (Pool scene, restaurant scene, Kyon answering the phone). So, dropping my maths homework, I grabbed the iPad and clicked the next episode thinking it was some troll uploader. Guess what? Next episode the same thing. And again and again and again. Then, I checked the comments and okay, the loop ends at episode 28 (was it?).

    It was a really fun series to watch. And I have many fond memories in high school talking about the series with my friends. I’m a bit curious what is your favorite episode?

    For me, it’s the notorious “Someday in the Rain”. The boring episode. But if you stick around to the end, when Haruhi steals the umbrella, the music that plays (Haruhi no Omoi) and Haruhi’s face has a sort of magic to it. That moment is one the few I’ll remember about anime.

    Meanwhile, I think the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki didn’t command much hype. I remember watching an episode or 2 and then dropping the series (though I finished the manga). There is one particular arc that is worth mentioning but I think you’ll know about it too so I’d rather not spoil. What turned me off though was the change in art style, I kinda grew used to KyoAni’s style for Haruhi so, any change in art style really turned me off for any new series about these characters.

    I don’t know the status of the light novels. It’s probably discontinued. I check in with the wiki and lurk forums sometimes to find out but it seems that nothing new is happening. But I think, that’s fine too. Sometimes, works stay unfinished. So, as a viewer, we can be left to fill in the gaps too.

    I believe that it’s still somewhat popular in Japan. In fact, I think that you can still easily find Haruhi merchandise in Japan even today (though Love Live is mainly what’s there now). Although, it doesn’t command the hype it used to but such is the trend of things. Re:ZERO and Rem is this year’s hype.

    I saw that you’ve even been to Nishinomiya so, that’s pretty cool. (Did you go to Kobe?). I’ll probably visit there next time I’m in Osaka, though that may be some time in the future.

    About the Time Capsule, I always find it interesting how much the world can change in just 10 years? 10 years by no means a short period of time. But then again, we live at different “speeds”. Somehow, I’ve felt that these past couple of years have sped by too fast. This year especially. But it’s always fun to open a present. A time capsule is like that, a present, so, who knows what kind of gifts are inside. And gifts sometimes, are meaningful when they remind us of a time when we had more time, more fun and less responsibilities.



    • infinitezenith October 12, 2016 at 22:26

      In a rather curious coincidence, I also picked up The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi in the summer of 2011. I had just began my second summer as an undergraduate researcher and watched episodes after long days of writing Objective C code. I rolled through the final episodes while on a trip to New York and fondly recall watching The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi on my then-spanking-new iPad 2 at a friend’s place, having arrived for a BBQ and Halo Reach LAN party. I count the movie as my favourite instalment, and if that does not constitute an episode, then the third chronological episode, where Kyon takes Yuki to the public library, as well as “Someday in the Rain” would be my favourite. That growing closeness between Kyon and Haruhi was pleasant to watch.

      For The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, I immediately took a liking to the manga even though it was a run-of-the-mill love story, and the anime, I found to succeed in capturing the atmosphere the manga projected. I believe the manga volumes are done now, ending with Yuki and Kyon asking one another out. Ryōko, her task done, consents to move overseas, wrapping things up in a clean and rewarding, if somewhat clichė, manner.

      The light novels are officially on infinite hiatus, the same as Valve’s infamous Half-Life 3, although with due respect, I think that the latter will be released well before any new Haruhi light novels. I was not particularly fond of the light novels: in English, I felt that the writing style was a bit dry and even pretentious in some places (possibly arising from difficulties in translation), so I never finished past the fourth volume. Of course, if others enjoy the light novel, that’s perfectly fine 🙂

      For the time capsule, with a projected opening date in 2020, the world will be vastly different by then. I started this post to test how feasible it would be for one person to preserve Haruhiism and found my answer (possible for sure) and began wondering whether or not Haruhi would be remembered in 2020. It would be interesting if it did, although with the pace that anime moves, I wouldn’t be surprised if it did not. Thanks again for dropping by for the discussions; I should retire for the evening, so I apologise if I’ve missed anything on this reply.

      Liked by 1 person

      • cloudst12 October 12, 2016 at 23:36

        Well, it’s lunch time where I am. So, I’m writing this in my lunch break.

        I’m pretty sure that someone will remember Haruhi in 2020. Whenever you pull open “Bouken Desho Desho?” Or “God knows…” on YouTube, I’m sure there’s someone who would have recently commented. People don’t forget fond memories. It’s just that sometimes, it takes a bit of re-discovery.

        I never tried reading the Light Novels specifically. Maybe one or two chapters from Baka Tsuki previously and I found that Kyon’s sarcastic tone makes for a great narrative as it did in the anime. Alas, the LNs are as likely as Half-Life 3, so, there’s no helping that. (Should really go check on the author’s status)

        The movie was very good. I think that it’s one of the better anime movie’s you’ll find. And I’m sure the Box office agrees with me. (Though Kimi no Na Wa has smashed that out of the park). The moment I remember best in the movie is the final scene with Yuki.

        Haruhi is one of the landmark anime’s of the decade without a doubt. But much like how Code Geass has faded into obscurity. I’m afraid the March of time will continue.

        But in a way, it’s kinda good too. Because there’s still plenty of new things to read and enjoy. Sure, new doesn’t necessarily mean good. But, I think it means that there’ll be even more adventures ahead.

        Hope you have a good rest.

        Cheers from Malaysia.

        Liked by 2 people

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