“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.