The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Otafest Answer: Discovering Fun and Camaraderie in Exploration Through The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

“If there’s really that many people in the world, then there had to be someone who wasn’t ordinary. There had to be someone who was living an interesting life. There just had to be. Why wasn’t I that person?” –Haruhi Suzumiya

Upon entering high school, Kyon’s dreams of living out a normal life are dashed when he meets the eccentric and seemingly-cold Haruhi Suzumiya, a girl known for her escapades during middle school and a bold introduction on the first day of class. Against his better judgement, he speaks with Haruhi and learns that she’s intent on finding aliens, time travellers and espers to have fun with. Haruhi takes Kyon’s suggestion to start her own club seriously and ends up building the SOS Brigade, hauling in fellow students Yuki Nagato, Mikuru Asahina and Itsuki Koizumi. Haruhi turns out to be far more energetic than Kyon anticipated, and he finds himself being hauled off on various odds and ends at her whim. Each of Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki separately approach Kyon and reveal that Haruhi is of note to the factions they represent, and that it is in everyone’s interest to keep Haruhi entertained. Thus, the SOS Brigade set off in search of mystery, from investigating the disappearance of a fellow student to solving a locked room mystery on a summer island, and also making the most of their youth, whether it be playing baseball, living life to the limits during the summer or putting a home-made film together for the cultural festival. While Kyon begrudgingly accompanies Haruhi, who seems constantly gripes about his lack of spirit, the two are actually perfect complements to one another: she is brimming with energy and life, with grand visions about what she wants from the world, and he is a pragmatist, trying to do what it takes to bring peace and quiet back into his world. Together, Kyon and Haruhi come to represent how polar opposites can fit one another so well; Haruhi brings colour and adventure into Kyon’s life, and Kyon finds ways of scaling back Haruhi’s dreams such that they can be realised to capture her fancy. The interplay between Kyon and Haruhi forms the heart of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, a light novel by Nagaru Tanigawa that was adapted into an anime by Kyoto Animation in 2006 and rebroadcast in 2009 with additional episodes as a part of the second season. During its run, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya proved wildly successful, and is counted as one of the most influential anime of the 2000s.

At the series’ beginning, Kyon resembles Bilbo Baggins, an average hobbit from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, who is content to live a quiet life of routine and comfort. This world is a monochrome one, unremarkable and familiar. Haruhi changes this completely, throwing Kyon’s world into one of adventure and exploration, driven by the unstoppable, manic Haruhi. Haruhi thus acts as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s catalyst for disruption: much as how Gandalf “persuades” Bilbo to accompany Thorin and his company to reconquer the Erebor from the clutches of the fire-drake Smaug. Reluctant to play his role as a burglar, Bilbo considers adventures as being “nasty things [that]…make you late for dinner”, but nonetheless finds himself rising to the occasion. Kyon feels similarly about Haruhi, with her zany schemes and desires disrupting the peace, but in spite of this, finds himself entangled in her yearnings for excitement: as it turns out, Kyon had been the one to set Haruhi down her path, first by convincing her to become a North High student and then in the present day, inspiring her to form the SOS Brigade. In this way, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya supposes that even in the most peace-loving of folk, there lies a drive for adventure, and that the right person in the right place, at the right time, can set in motion many unforeseeable events. For his troubles, Bilbo manages to help Thorin take Erebor back, visiting places as varied as Rivendell, Laketown and the mountains before coming face-to-face with Smaug himself. Similarly, Kyon is exposed to the very entities that Haruhi had been seeking out, being very nearly knifed by a rogue Ryouko Asakura before Yuki saves him, witnessing Itsuki battle the Celestials and travelling in time with Mikuru to set in motion the very events that lead to his adventures. Through the majestic and the perilous, both Kyon and Bilbo gain a considerable amount of life experience from their adventures that helps them to both appreciate the wider world beyond themselves, and further appreciate what they have as being irreplaceable, invaluable. The positives brought on by adventure are shown as vividly in Nagaru Tanigawa’s The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya as J.R.R. Tolkein had portrayed through The Hobbit, suggesting that extraordinary experiences drives people to be more open-minded and concurrently, grateful for their blessings. Among anime fans, this adventure would manifest as a desire to really share their enjoyment of their hobby with the wider world, in turn shaping anime conventions like Otafest in the years to come.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Admittedly, it feels a little strange to write about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya after finishing The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, but for completeness’ sake, I’ve decided to return and write about what was, in 2006, the biggest icon of the year. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya became a cultural phenomenon for anime fans both in and outside of Japan: the series’ success is largely owing to the fact that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has something for everyone: my best friend likens it to a buffet at one of the local places in town, which features a wide selection of everything from prime rib and snow crab to various Chinese-style stir-fry dishes, fried meats, seafood, noodles, rice and salads: at such buffets, one could pick anything of their choice and have an excellent time.

  • With the current circumstances, going to a buffet is not the wisest idea, but with some places opened, it is possible to enjoy cuisine from the local Cantonese restaurant – this past weekend, I enjoyed sweet-and-sour pork, golden crispy salted egg-yolk prawns, Chinese broccoli with satay beef and deep fried oysters as the summer solstice brought with it brilliant blue skies and warm weather suited for 10-kilometre walks. Right out of the gates, Kyon is the architect of his own fortune: despite his grumblings, he is directly responsible for inspiring Haruhi to create the SOS Brigade (full name “Spreading Excitement All Over the World with Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade”) and bringing about the curious characters that come to his life. This becomes a recurring theme in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, where Kyon sets in motion events that he appears to be dissatisfied with, but ends up going with it.

  • Haurhi’s brazen efforts to make the SOS Bridage a reality become most apparent when she extorts a new-model computer from the Computing Research Club. This particular moment was my first exposure to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: one of my friends had brought it in to the anime club and declared it to be one of the funniest moments he’d ever seen in an anime. My best friend immediately hopped on the series and found it immensely enjoyable, but I myself had been weary to watch The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, given that all I’d heard about it were the memes and comedy: at the time, I was just getting started on anime. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I’d entered university, that I decided to check the series out – I would do so shortly after wrapping up my second year and ended up finishing the series just before a vacation to the Eastern Seaboard in July.

  • Yuki is the first to reveal her station to Kyon: her explanations are prima facie far-fetched, and like Kyon, viewers cannot help but wonder if what Yuki’s saying has any merit. Yuki is voiced by Minori Chihara (Kaori Nakaseko of Hibike! Euphonium and Erica Brown from Violet Evergarden), while Tomokazu Sugita voices Kyon (Kanon‘s Yuuichi Aizawa). Stoic and reserved, Yuki fulfils the alien archetype that Haruhi seeks: she’s a member of an organisation known as Data Integration Thought Entity, who is interested in Haruhi for having created a “data explosion” that is supposed to accelerate humanity’s evolution. The precise nature of this data is never specified, although I will admit that its composition weighed on me even as I completed my courses on databases and data mining.

  • On the SOS Brigade’s first outing, Haruhi decides to draw lots to see how the groups are dispersed. On the first draw, Kyon ends up with Mikuru, a time traveller voiced by Yūko Gotō (Junko Kaname from Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Azur Lane‘s HMS Edinburgh). She explains that most of her duties are classified, and warns Kyon not to get too close to her. By the afternoon, Kyon ends up with Yuki and takes her to the local library. While Yuki only remarks she’s “moderately” into books, she practically drifts away to the nearest shelf in happiness. The library is modelled after Nishinomiya City Central Library, which, curiously enough, resembles the library in my area. I’ve not been to a library in quite some time: with the trends towards electronic media, libraries have become less well stocked, and I’ve taken to buying the books I enjoyed borrowing a decade ago.

  • At this point in time, Itsuki also joined the SOS Brigade and introduces himself as an esper. Kyon similarly has trouble believing the three, and still prefers to spend his days in peace, playing shogi and chess against Itsuki while enjoying the tea that Mikuru brews for them.  Kyon’s wish of the peaceful are satisfied by these ordinary days where nothing happens to the SOS Brigade, and while Haruhi occasionally livens things up by forcing Mikuru into various costumes, nothing out of the ordinary happens.

  • However, when classmate Asakura decides to murder Kyon to see Haruhi’s reaction, Yuki intervenes, and Kyon realises that Yuki wasn’t joking. Kyon is therefore thrust into an unbelievable situation, and is forced to accept that, given Yuki was telling the truth, Mikuru and Itsuki must also be telling the truth about their station. Kyon will go on an adventure with them that proves beyond any doubt that the aliens, time-travellers and espers Haruhi so wishes to meet, in fact, exist, and moreover, have all converged on Kyon.

  • The universal appeal of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya comes from the fact that the series presented a world where the extraordinary co-existed with the mundane. For most of its viewers, students at the time of airing, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya showed the possibility of adventure, and having a fulfilling high school experience, was a matter of perspective: Haruhi believes that if the fun things won’t come to her, then she’ll find a way to make things fun on her own. Anime fans were similarly inspired and began looking to make their world more entertaining: as Haruhi livened up Kyon’s world, Haruhi would also liven up the world of the anime’s viewers.

  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya would shape the anime convention experience as Lucky☆Star did after it: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s universal appeal meant that fans of all genres were brought together by the series. Regardless of whether or not one preferred slice-of-life, science fiction, philosophy or comedy, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had something for everyone, and this was universally expressed by the Hare Hare Yukai dance. The anime would perceptibly impact anime conventions for years to come, as hosts and attendees alike began expressing their enjoyment of their series in increasingly intricate and exciting ways.

  • It turns out that Haruhi’s desire to stand out and be unique stemmed from attending a baseball game, where she was but one in a crowd of fifty thousand and saw for herself how large the world was. From there on out, Haruhi realised the mundane nature of her world and sought to make it unique: that she shared these thoughts with Kyon this early on suggests that she sees him differently than everyone else. Haruhi and Kyon never become a couple in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but even early on, it becomes apparent that the two complement the other very well.

  • Mikuru somewhat resembles CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa in appearance; coming a full year before CLANNAD, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya would come to influence many of the design choices in CLANNAD, from the use of lighting and colour, to camera placement and framing to convey specific moods. Throughout the series, Kyon expresses his fondness for Mikuru, and after an incident where Haruhi obtained a pile of photographs of Mikuru, Kyon decides to quietly archive the folder instead. Mikuru notices the folder and becomes curious, but before anything else goes down, Haruhi arrives.

  • When Itsuki shows Kyon his esper powers, he remarks that his duty, along with others like him, is to contain “closed space” and “celestials”, monstrous beings that mirror Haruhi’s frustrations with the real world. It turns out that Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki had foreseen a time where Haruhi would attempt to rebuild the world: one evening, Kyon awakens to find himself with Haruhi, on the deserted school grounds in closed space. Haruhi is enthralled to see a sight so unusual, but Kyon, recalling advice from Yuki and Mikuru, decides to kiss Haruhi. The next morning, he and Haruhi both turns out to have had the same nightmare. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya excels at suggesting some of the more outrageous events in the series can be explained away, leaving it ambiguous as to whether or not something really happened.

  • For The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s fans, the Japanese festival, Tanabata, is of special significance: the real festival is a celebration of the meeting of deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, and Haruhi sees it as a time to make her wishes known to the respective corresponding stars, Vega and Altair. Despite the community’s decision to celebrate Tanabata alongside Haruhi, I’ve noticed that no one’s ever offered an explanation of why Tanabata is so important to the storyline of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: most discussions only can agree the significance of Tanabata as the time when Haruhi and Kyon meet for the first time.

  • The anime community of 2006 didn’t have me around, though: the reason why Tanigawa chose Tanabata as the time for Haruhi’s meeting with Kyon is deliberately to mirror the legend that drives Tanabata: there is a certain romance in two deities that cannot meet except under specific conditions, and the custom of wish-writing indicates that Kyon and Haruhi are meant to be parallels of Hikoboshi and Orihime. Tanigawa’s focus on Tanabata three years ago, then, is to show that, for better or worse, people can be connected by circumstances that appear beyond comprehension.

  • Because of Kyon’s frequent references to historical figures and the series’ enjoyment of technical jargon, a small subset of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s fans felt the series to be a philosophical masterpiece. Kyon only mentions these in the passing to compare his situation to an equivalent, and most of the philosophical or historical elements have no impact on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s theme, so it is not strictly necessary to have an extensive background on these disciplines to enjoy the show. The inclusion of such elements into The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and the attendant impact it had on the more academically-minded fans (or perhaps, those who want to flex their smarts) meant that these viewers were right at home with the show, alongside mystery, comedy, science-fiction and slice-of-life fans.

  • While the SOS Brigade is more often seen going on fabulous adventures rather than finding and solving mysteries, there are several cases where Haruhi is met with a mystery to solve; one Emiri Kimidori arrives one day, seeking the SOS Brigade’s help in locating her boyfriend, the Computing Research club’s president, who has been missing for a while. Emiri only makes this appearance in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but in the original novels, she is in the same faction as Yuki.

  • As it turns out, the president’s disappearance is attributed to the irregularities accumulating in the SOS Brigade’s website; Haruhi’s subconsciously imparted unusual properties on it, causing those who visit to be whisked away into a parallel dimension. After Haruhi leaves, the remainder of the SOS Brigade get to work and save the president, after which Yuki modifies Haruhi’s logo to prevent future trouble and explains that Haruhi’s abilities can create troublesome events.

  • Itsuki and his Agency view Haruhi as a god of sorts, being able to freely create and destroy the known universe at will. In order to keep Haruhi entertained during the summer, he and his colleagues prepare a special event for Haruhi, which entails travelling to a remote island and staging a murder mystery here. When The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had been airing, Itsuki’s revelation that Haruhi might’ve been a god given human form resulted in the creation of a pseudo-religion known as “Haruhiism”, of which the core tenant is to have fun and accept things as they are, since they are the “will” of Haruhi.

  • Haruhiism is not a religion that is officially recognised, to the disappointment of the series’ most ardent of fans, although that did not stop them from celebrating the series. The most prominent example of the community’s devotion lay in what would become known as “The Haruhiism Time Capsule Project”, which aimed to submit images to Yahoo’s 2006 Time Capsule Project. This was ultimately a failure, as the time capsule was never reopened per Yahoo’s original terms. While Haruhiism captured the fancy of many, Itsuki believes that this is simply the views that the Agency shares, and that others see Haruhi differently. It exemplifies The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s appeal in that it was able to accommodate so many viewpoints even in-universe, and as such, Haruhi fans were free to interpret the show however they saw fit. Because there are so many ways to enjoy the series, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s appeal would ultimately lie with the exceptional execution that Kyoto Animation had poured into bringing the series to life.

  • From my perspective, it was ultimately Kyoto Animation’s excellence that made The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya such a success: Tanigawa’s light novels remain unfinished to this day the same way Half-Life 3 is unfinished, a consequence of the fact that once Kyon and Haruhi established the thematic elements, the series only needed to continue explore the universe further; themes and character growth stagnated, which could have made it difficult to create a satisfying conclusion. Indeed, following The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, there’s been no continuation of the series in an animated format: Kyoto Animation believes the series has done its job in promoting the light novels and closing off on a satisfying note, as Kyon’s shown to have accepted a world with Haruhi in it.

  • While The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’s first season was a universally-praised smash hit, the second season made decisions that saw a cooler reception. The infamous Endless Eight arc, consisting of eight episodes portraying a two-week span of summer vacation, marked the first time Kyoto Animation had ever been at the centre of a controversy; many fans of the series and studio expressed their disgust and disappointment with such a decision. More vehement fans boycotted the studio and destroyed their merchandise in protest during Endless Eight’s run; the second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was further compounded by complaints that Haruhi resembled K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa, diminishing some viewers’ enjoyment of the series.

  • While The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya showed how a series could bring the anime community together, Endless Eight highlighted the worst excesses of the same community. Detractors of the arc called Kyoto Animation “lazy” and “unoriginal”, amongst other things that are not quite as presentable. The reality is that Kyoto Animation has always been at the cutting edge of conveying emotions through animation, and each episode in the Endless Eight series actually features subtle differences, being animated completely from scratch. The point of pushing viewers through two months of the same story was to really drive home to viewers the sense of hopelessness that Yuki experiences in this time: the weariness she develops as a result of recalling each and every second of the two weeks through the 15532 iterations, would set in motion the events of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.

  • In the end, Kyon ends up breaking the loop by convincing Haruhi that his summer can’t finish until he’s done the homework he’s put off. This turns out to be what breaks the loop, and a similar concept would later be applied to Aobuta when Sakuta briefly dates Tomoe and she ends up falling in love with him, wishing their time together would never end. Aobuta, having a shorter runtime and lacking Kyoto Animation’s experimental mindset, would execute its loop differently to avoid the same negativity that befell Kyoto Animation. While Endless Eight remains contentious to this day, I find the reactions surrounding Kyoto Animation’s decision to be disproportionate and callow.

  • Once Endless Eight is done, the next arc deals with the SOS Brigade making an independent film for their school’s culture festival after Haruhi and Kyon’s class do a measly survey. By this point in time, the SOS Brigade’s Club Room has become populated with clutter from their various activities: various costumes Haruhi forces Mikuru to year, appliances for preparing tea, and various board games. The SOS Brigade’s film would put Kyon’s patience with Haruhi to the ultimate test.

  • The sort of energy that Haruhi projects when she’s happy brings to mind the atmosphere surrounding an anime convention like Otafest, and for most anime fans, anime conventions represent a chance to be immersed in an environment where their interests are celebrated. On a typical day, the average anime fan partakes in their hobby on their own, so events like Otafest, in bringing fans together, have a very uplifting feeling. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya reveals that Haruhi is perhaps a bit of an otaku herself, being quite versed in the moé aesthetic. To most anime fans, Haruhi’s appeal lies in the fact that she’s always on the hunt for something fun to do, bringing excitement into wherever she goes.

  • By portraying how a familiar world could nonetheless be exciting, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya would raise the bar for series set in the real world and have an impact on numerous series in years upcoming. At the time, series like Death NoteCode GeassErgo ProxyNegima! and Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple were counted as some of the most enjoyable series of the day. The anime club of my old secondary school certainly seemed to think so, as well; we used to watch these shows during lunch hour. In these early days, I was mildly interested in these series, and it was mainly my best friend’s interest in Gundam 00 that sent me down the path of being an anime fan. In subsequent years, my preferences would diverge wildly from what most of my friends enjoyed: as my second year of university ended, I became very fond of slice-of-life series for their cathartic effects.

  • Haruhi’s movie lacks a script and theme, being a mish-mash of random moments held together by Mikuru. Without any clear direction of where she’s going, Haruhi’s film offers insight into her world, where things simply happen as they happen. Kyon ends up being the “everything” for the movie, handling everything from filming to editing. Things quickly take a turn for the dangerous when Haruhi subconsciously allows for Mikuru to fire a coherent, amplified stream of photons from here contact during filming. Yuki steps in to save Kyon from being lobotomised.

  • Unaware of what’s going on, Haruhi shrugs off the improvised scenes and decides to change the combat sequences out for romance. This arc is when the nature of Haruhi’s power manifests the most strongly, and although she only makes minor changes to the world, fans have conjectured that Haruhi could square off against other beings like Devil Homura or Thanos. A great many of these “versus” battles, however, depend on what are colloquially referred to as “feats” (i.e. quantifiable displays of a character’s abilities) in order to work. Haruhi’s powers are, in this case, more similar to Gandalf’s in that most of them are abstract and not shown at their fullest.

  • I’ve found that there are a surprising number of parallels between The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings: both series deal with an every-man who is thrust into adventure and finds that they wear their duties well, powerful beings whose abilities are abstract, and a world that is familiar, yet not quite our own. This is what motivates my comparison between Kyon and Bilbo Baggins. Here, Tsuruya laughs at the thought of needing to chuck Mikuru into putrid pond water for filming.  Tsuruya is Mikuru’s best friend, and makes an appearance: energetic and easygoing, Tsuruya finds most everything funny. Her family is said to have ties with Itsuki’s agency and despite being quite air-headed, is aware of Haruhi’s nature, actively choosing not to disclose this to Kyon and the others.

  • The filming of The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina was not without its tensions, and things reach a boiling point after Haruhi spikes Mikuru’s drink and asks her to kiss Itsuki. Pushed beyond endurance, Kyon prepares to strike Haruhi, feeling that if he doesn’t discipline her now, she’ll continue to be unaware of the consequences of her actions and cause trouble for herself, as well as those around her. This moment marks a turning point in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya; up until now, Kyon had always kept Haruhi in check by speaking with her. Haruhi herself is surprised by this, having believed that Kyon would always be there for her, and in the aftermath, filming for that day comes to a halt. Itsuki pulls Kyon aside and reminds him of his responsibility to Haruhi.

  • When Kyon hears Taniguchi bad-mouthing Haruhi’s independent film, he expresses annoyance. In actuality, Kyon here has heard someone voicing his own doubts, and realises just how immature the complaints sound. He comes around and feels that Haruhi should be commended for at least having taken the initiative to do something for the culture festival; just to spite the naysayers, Kyon aims to see the film through. However, since their disagreement from earlier, Kyon must first reconcile with Haruhi. It’s a tense few moments, but when Kyon does apologise and resolves to make the film a success, Haruhi’s spirits immediately are rekindled.

  • With the strange events continuing, such as cherry trees coming into full bloom during the summer, Kyon struggles to determine how to nudge Haruhi into restoring the world to normal. After a conversation with Itsuki, Kyon appears to have found the answer: he asks Haruhi to put a disclaimer at the end of the movie. Filming finishes without too much difficulty, and Kyon spends the night editing the clips together with Haruhi. Despite falling asleep during editing, Kyon wakes up to find the movie finished. It was quite rewarding to see the SOS Brigade’s project reach completion; Kyon’s role in things is a constant reminder that his sarcasm and griping manner notwithstanding, he genuinely does care about Haruhi and enjoys the adventures she brings into his life.

  • While The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya itself shows that the filming process was evidently a difficult one, especially for Mikuru and Kyon, the end result is unexpectedly good. Subtle details shown in the movie itself, which aired as a part of the first season, are present, and despite how turbulent the filming was, the resultant was of a strong quality. The movie itself shows Kyoto Animation’s excellent craft even at this point on: for me, they began to develop their current style as a result of learnings from both Kanon and The Melancholy of Haruhi SuzumiyaThrilled at how the movie turned out, Haruhi declares the project well done: while Kyon is exasperated, from a third party perspective, I consider the film to be every bit as good as Haruhi feels it to be.

  • North High’s Culture Festival finally comes to, and Kyon spends the day exploring: after visiting Mikuru and Tsuruya’s yakisoba stand, he checks out various displays, including Yuki and Itsuki, before crashing at the gym, where various bands are performing. Kyon is shocked to see Haruhi on stage performing: Aya Hirano ends up emceeing for the concert and sings “God Knows”, as well as “Lost my Music”. Of the two songs, I’m particularly fond of “Lost my Music” – its lyrics mirror Haruhi’s feelings for Kyon. The culture festival represented a chance to see a different side of Haruhi, and it is here that I found my answer for the questions I had surrounding Otafest.

  • The reason why Otafest retains its distinct atmosphere, even a decade after Michelle Ruff and Todd Haberkorn’s attendance as special guests, lies largely in the impact The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had on the anime community. In particular, Haruhi’s energy and enthusiasm has come to symbolise the very positivity that fans go towards expressing love for their hobby. Further to this, I imagine that a handful of people also fancy finding the SOS Brigade in their life amidst this positivity: whether it is something brimming with life, dependably present or adorable to a fault, this would be someone special who really brings colour to their world, complementing their existence and giving it a higher purpose.

  • When the band members come to thank Haruhi for having helped out, Haruhi is uncharacteristically quiet and greets their appreciation with a hesitant smile. Her mood, however, grows reserved, and Kyon is quick to deduce that Haruhi was so used to doing things for herself that she’d become quite unaccustomed to meeting a situation where someone was grateful for her help. In the aftermath, Haruhi explains that after hearing their story, she felt duty-bound to help out, hating the thought of seeing the band’s efforts go to waste. This growth shows another side to Haruhi and shows that during the course of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (especially following the filming of their movie), she’s also matured.

  • After Kyon finds Haruhi resting outside, she wonders what’s his deal and throws grass at him, only for the wind to carry it back into her face resulting in an adorable moment. The culture festival gives viewers a chance to see a side of Haruhi that is rarely presented; and it was here that it becomes apparent that Haruhi and Kyon could be a couple. One element in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya that I’ve not mentioned until now is the soundtrack: the incidental music to the TV series was never released as standalone albums, but instead, were packaged with special CDs. With pieces for conveying atmospheres ranging from everyday to extraordinary, from mysterious to wistful, the soundtrack to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya complements the series nicely. The music in the series is best captured in The Symphony of Haruhi Suzumiya, in whcih the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra really brings to life series’ grandeur and scale through music.

  • Towards the endgame, the SOS Brigade accept a challenge from the Computing Research club with new hardware as the bet: having been humiliated by Haruhi earlier, their president decides to take back their machine. The wager: if SOS Brigade can beat them in a game they’d created, the Computing Research Club will give them new laptops, otherwise, they will get to retrieve the machine Haruhi had relieved them of. Initially, the match goes poorly, but once Yuki discovers the Computing Research club is cheating, she injects code into the server that levels out the playing field, allowing the SOS Bridage to mount a comeback. Seeing how happy Yuki was prompts Kyon to allow Yuki to spend time with the Computing Research club. At Tango-Victor-Tango, the site’s users once asserted that Yuki is using syntactically correct C code and her incantations in the anime are complex SQL commands. Some time ago, I did a post demonstrating that the former is not entirely true, and in the anime, Yuki’s speech is not of any known language: the light novels use only primitive SQL queries (no table joining is done, for instance) rather than the complex ones as Tango-Victor-Tango asserts.

  • The final episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a breather episode original to the anime. It bridges the gap between the series and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, and is a relaxing depiction of what the typical day in the SOS Brigade is like when there are no major adventures going on. Kyon picks up a new space heater, plays games with Itsuki and eventually falls asleep. He awakens to find a pair of cardigans draped over his shoulders: Haruhi and Yuki are implied to have left them, hinting at the feelings that both have for him. While with Haruhi, it’s evident, it would be a bit of a surprise. The developing emotions Yuki has sets in motion the events of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and also motivates the spin-off series, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. I stand amongst the minority of people who enjoyed the latter.

  • As winter begins setting in, Haruhi and Kyon share an umbrella while walking home together: Haruhi is feeling particularly playful and in good spirits. Overall, having revisited The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, it becomes clear that while the series may no longer be as well-remembered as it was a decade ago, Kyoto Animation’s superb adaptation of it has left a considerable impact on anime in general; The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s standing point was being able to appeal to all manners of audience, and even now, there are few anime that have such a broad impact on the anime community, in such a positive manner. This brings my post on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to a close: I deliberately chose to time the post for today because it is of a special significance for one of my friends. However, today also marks the beginning of Apple’s WWDC 2020: the most exciting updates for me lie with MacOS Big Sur, which is set to feature a substantial update to the UI, as well as iOS 14, which introduces a Windows Phone-style live tiles UI to the home screen.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s success and appeal came from a unique combination of having a fantasy world accommodating exciting adventures melded with a more familiar world that allow for calmer moments of self-discovery, a cast of unique and memorable characters whose interactions with one another simultaneously brought about humour and a compelling narrative, combined with Kyoto Animation’s excellence in animation, artwork and aural elements. From life lessons to philosophical quandaries, from visually impressive sequences to catchy music, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had something for everyone in the anime community: the series was universally acclaimed, being praised on almost all fronts, and this stems from the fact that the anime hit enough of the right notes with enough of the readers, all of whom were brought together by Haruhi’s boldness, Kyon’s sardonic wit, and an equally interesting cast that served to build the universe out, drive comedic moments forward and explain just enough of what Kyon was experiencing to keep viewers guessing without frustrating them. Combined with the rather audacious claim that Haruhi was a god, and the infamous Hare Hare Yukai dance, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya immediately took off, capturing the interest of anime fans broad backgrounds and unifying them in a shared love for the series, rather similarly to how Haruhi brought together Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki along with Kyon to brighten things up considerably. This sense of commonality is nowhere more apparent than amongst the fans of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: shortly after the series aired, the internet became flooded with unending memes from the anime, and the Hare Hare Yukai dance became a staple at anime conventions, summarising the entire energy and atmosphere of a gathering of people united by a shared interest in a few minutes of music and choreography. Few series have done so much to bring anime fans together so effectively, and it is in the synergy between all of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s elements that created such a positive outcome for fans. Far more than the novels themselves, Kyoto Animation’s masterful execution of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya left a massive impact on the anime community and would come to play a non-trivial role in cementing Kyoto Animation’s reputation as a top-tier anime studio with a commendable dedication to quality.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, The Implications of Choice and Messages of Appreciation for the Decade’s Final Christmas

“Of course it was fun, and I loved every minute of it! Don’t go asking me stupid questions that are so obvious! You’d have to be crazy to think it wasn’t fun! Only the biggest idiot in the world would say it wasn’t fun if they were asked! They’d be thirty times more dense than Haruhi! Aliens, time travellers, and ESP? One’s enough, but I got to hang out with all three! Then there’s Haruhi, who’s got the craziest power of them all! And then there’s all these other mysterious powers sprinkled all over the place! How could I not find all this stuff fun? Ask me as many times as you want and my answer won’t change! Of course I do…I guess that’s it. The other way is definitely better. Having a world like this just doesn’t feel right.” –Kyon

In week leading up to Christmas, Haruhi plans a hot pot party for the SOS Brigade. However, when Kyon wakes up on December 18, he finds that his reality has been altered: besides Haruhi and Itsuki’s noticeable absence, Ryōko’s reappearance and Mikuru failing to recognise him, there is no SOS Brigade in this world. Yuki is an ordinary girl who is in the literature club, and besides Kyon, no one appears to know anything about the sudden, unexpected transition. While weighing his options in the former SOS Brigade club room and spending time with the alternate Yuki, Kyon finds a clue in the form of a bookmark, which informs him that he is to gather keys, critical personnel to unlock a special program. During this time, Kyon comes to know the alternate Yuki better; she’s rather happy Kyon’s joined the literature club. When Taniguchi informs Kyon that Haruhi attends the prestigious high school, Kyon sets off to find her. The alternate Haruhi is less-than-pleased to see him, but he reveals that he is “John Smith”. Haruhi’s anger and confusion turns to excitement, and Itsuki postulates that Kyon’s timeline must have diverged on December 18. Haruhi, now convinced by Kyon’s explanation, decides to gather up the former members of the SOS Bridage, and with everyone present, Kyon executes the program Yuki had left him. Upon running this program, Kyon returns to the Tanabata three years previously, where he meets the older Mikuru and past Yuki, who informs him that he must find the individual who triggered the change in the world and inject them with a special program. Returning to the present, Kyon realises that the culprit is none other than Yuki herself: having grown to love Kyon in her own way, she used Haruhi’s abilities to create an alternate reality and give Kyon a fair choice: an ordinary world where he would spend his future with her, or a disruptive but interesting world with Haruhi. Kyon chooses his original world, feeling that the adventure and excitement far outweighs his annoyance with Haruhi and her boundless energy. He prepares to hit Yuki with the program, but ends up stabbed by Ryōko. Kyon is ultimately rescued by his future self, Yuki and Mikuru: his world fades to black, and he awakens in a hospital. Itsuki is present and states that he’d fallen down the steps at school. Later that evening, he meets Yuki on the hospital’s veranda, and reassures her that if the Data Integration Thought Entity should seek to punish her, he can influence Haruhi to blink them out of existence. Kyon is discharged from hospital, and despite knowing he will now have to return back in time to save himself, he will first enjoy and make the most of Haruhi’s hot pot party with her and the others.

The theatrical adaptation of the fourth volume of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya light novels ended up being a veritable masterpiece, an order of magnitude more engaging and meaningful than was present within the first two seasons. The reason for this is because The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s main narrative, contrasting the experimental, unorthodox execution of the regular series that emphasised fun and adventure over a central theme, possessed a clear and unexpectedly moving challenge for Kyon. Throughout the TV series, Kyon is presented as being exasperated, impatient with Haruhi and her antics, wishing nothing more than to live an ordinary life. However, when his world is suddenly wrested from him, the colourlessness of this new world forces him to re-evaluate what Haruhi means to him. By seeing a world without Haruhi, Kyon now has seen both sides of the coin, and with it, is able to make a choice: he ultimately chooses the bookmark (representing his old world) over the club application form (representing a world where he’d never met Haruhi early on), and in doing so, shows to viewers that in spite of all his complaints and gripes about being roped into some random adventure or misadventure with Haruhi, he’s also come to enjoy the attendant experiences that he spends with everyone. The decision, as Kyon puts it, is obvious: a world with Haruhi and the SOS Brigade is much more exciting to live in, and while the downs hit harder, the ups are more exhilarating and more rewarding, as well. The film therefore suggest that one’s choices are their own, to be made only when one is sufficiently informed of the different outcomes of a given decision, and in having Kyon electing to continue his adventures with Haruhi and the SOS Brigade, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya subtly suggests that it is preferable to live a life of excitement and seek adventure even if suffering or pain may accompany it, since the resultant experience leaves one all the stronger for it.

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya could have been set any time of the year, but instead, the week leading up to Christmas is selected for the story’s timeframe. Christmas is traditionally a time of celebration and togetherness: a time when people would put the brakes on their everyday routines and gear up to spend time with those important to them. In Japan, Christmas is also celebrated similarly to Valentine’s Day. By dropping Kyon into an alternate reality close to Christmas, Kyon is now doubly stressed from his experiences: in a time where people begin to wind down, Kyon frantically searches for a solution to his predicament. By prompting Kyon to figure out his situation prior to Christmas and Haruhi’s hot pot party increases the urgency in the film, captivating audiences to follow Kyon. Besides compelling viewers to keep up, setting the film close to Christmas also has one other critical effect on its message. Kyon’s search for the answers, even as he spends time in this parallel universe, leads him to appreciate his old life. The contrast between the new world where Haruhi’s presence is diminished, versus the world where Haruhi dominates, makes evident the idea that individuals may not always appreciate what they have until it is gone. This is the theme in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya; despite the simplicity of the message, the film elegantly captures it into a very vivid portrayal that transforms into a story of self-discovery and appreciation of what one has. The choice to set this during Christmas, then, drives the notion that Christmas is also a time of gratitude, and of counting one’s blessings. Although Kyon may be reluctant to openly admit it, he very much enjoys Haruhi and the SOS Brigade’s company in spite of the wild adventures they’ve pushed him through. There are subtle parallels between The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in that both Scrooge and Kyon, through a series of supernatural encounters, are given a new perspective on life and thus, come out more appreciative and grateful for what they have.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya released, I was just finishing up my second year of my undergraduate program and had gone through the likes of K-On! and Lucky Star, having had my curiosity piqued by Kyoto Animation’s work, I decided to give The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi a go despite my initial reservations: I normally don’t watch a series on the basis of community reception alone, but a classmate of mine had a keen interest in K-On!Lucky Star and The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, so I decided to check it out and see what all of the commotion was about.

  • The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya opens with Haruhi planning the SOS Brigade’s Christmas party, which immediately re-establishes the tone: while Kyon is typically exasperated by Haruhi’s grandiose (and often unfeasible) plans, he does his best to accommodate a scaled-down version that satisfies Haruhi’s wishes while at once being somewhat plausible to put together. This dynamic between Kyon and Haruhi was the driving force throughout much of the TV series, and seeing it return in the film’s opening serves to remind viewers of what Kyon thinks of Haruhi and her antics on a typical day.

  • Thus, having made my way through the TV series, I finally reached the movie. At this point in the summer, I was a few weeks into building an agent-based flow model with the in-house game engine and had settled into my work, so in the late afternoons, after my hours had ended, I would watch anime on an iPad before heading home. This was back when the second generation iPad had released, and while said iPad would become my workhorse throughout my undergraduate programme, it started its journey as a tablet for anime.

  • I admit that I was not a fan of Haruhi when the series came out. Over ten years after The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi was released to the world, the countless internet memes remain stale and jejune, but Haruhi’s high-energy and bossy personality has grown on me quite a bit – she brings joy into the mundane, and while she may not always be aware of it, is the cause of many of the TV series’ supernatural phenomenon.

  • When Kyon returns to school the next day, he finds his would completely changed: the shock of it causes Kyon to act irrationally, in a panic. His reaction is quite understandable considering how dramatic the changes are, and his reaction is actually far more reserved than would be expected of someone who was dropped into an alternate dimension. Although Kyon is initially disoriented, his rational mind soon kicks in, and he decides to see if there are any constants in this new world that carried over from his old world. This decision sets in motion the events of Kyon’s return to his old world.

  • The highlight in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is the human Yuki: unlike the incarnation of Yuki we’d seen so far, Yuki in the alternate world is simply a shy girl who loves books, and initially is rather overwhelmed by Kyon’s forcefulness. Once the initial shock of Kyon bursting into the club room wears off, she attempts to recruit him for the literature club. Kyon’s only intention is to search for any clues in the room about his current situation, and he eventually manages to find a bookmark that provides him with instructions on how to restore his old world.

  • The human Yuki ends up forming the basis for The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, a spin-off manga that supposes that this world was the world than Kyon desired. While not well-received by numerous fans of the Haruhi franchise, I personally found great value and enjoyment in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, as it shows Kyon as he would have been prior to meeting Haruhi. This story similarly sees Yuki try to keep the literature club alive, and with the combined efforts from Kyon and Ryōko, the club does end up doing quite well.

  • I would imagine that a part of the cold reception towards The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan was a consequence of die-hard fans wanting a continuation of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and instead of the long-anticipated continuation, fans instead got a low-profile spin-off that did not add to the original series. Thus, these individuals were willing to overlook that Yuki and Kyon’s relationship developed in an entirely natural manner, and both individuals mature greatly as the manga progressed: the manga itself is excellent and is one of the few series I’ve bought in full. I normally don’t buy manga series unless they are exceptionally enjoyable, speaking to The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan‘s high quality.

  • In this alternate world, the lighting is subdued, with a grey-scale palette dominating all of the scenes while Kyon is at school. Far more than any other studio, Kyoto Animation masterfully makes use of colours and lighting to paint an incredibly vivid and detailed view of the characters’ emotions in a scene. Their technical excellence cannot be understated, and in an industry that is so demanding that corners are sometimes cut, Kyoto Animation’s commitment to excellence makes them stand out as a superior studio. The arson incident at Kyoto Animation earlier this year was a devastating one, an unfortunate event resulting from an individual whose mind was filled with malice and hate when he perpetuated his actions.

  • It’s been five months since the fire at their studios, and the losses are still being felt at present. However, the studio’s president has also resolved on recovery. I naturally will continue to support their works. Back in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Mikuru does not recognise Kyon, and Tsuruya, ordinarily friendly to Kyon, is openly hostile to him. This drives home the fact that Kyon’s world has changed considerably, and with the days counting down, Kyon must work to figure out what the original Yuki’s puzzle meant.

  • While determining what the “keys” that Yuki refer to are (they have nothing to do with unique identifiers that are used to quickly and efficiently retrieve data from storage), Kyon spends more time with the new Yuki, quickly discovering that she has a keen interest in books and therefore had a legitimate reason for being in the literature club. The literature club room stands in the exact same spot as the SOS Brigade’s club room, and is conveniently equipped with a computer that, while old, is still operational.

  • Yuki is pitifully shy in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, although with Kyon’s appearance, she does begin taking the initiative and brings him over to her apartment. Kyon is initially reluctant to stay, and this reluctance turns into a desire to leave when Ryōko shows up. In The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Ryōko is Yuki’s best friend and very protective of her; these traits carry over into The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, where Ryōko acts as a guardian of sorts for Yuki. This spin-off manga definitely had its own merits and while starting its journey carrying the same sense of gentle longing that The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya had, the story ends up having Yuki become more confident and independent as she begins to get closer to and eventually, go out with Kyon.

  • Kyon makes to decline Ryōko’s invitation to dinner, but is surprised when Yuki pulls on his sleeve, signalling her want for him to stay over for dinner. I personally felt that The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan adds more value to The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, as it gives insight into what sorts of things that Yuki herself would have wanted to experience with Kyon. By knowing the path that Yuki ended up taking, it makes the thought process that the Yuki seen here took towards creating a new world to give herself and Haruhi an even shot even more poignant, showing the extent of Yuki’s feelings for Kyon and the lengths she would go to seek an answer for herself.

  • While Nagato tugging on Kyon’s sleeve might’ve been the boldest she’s been all movie so far, viewers are further treated to a moment as rare as a blue moon: after dinner, Kyon asks Yuki to see if it’s alright for him to swing by the clubroom again the next day, and Yuki’s resulting smile is positively dazzling. This marks the first time that Yuki’s smiled at all anywhere in either The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya: I’m told that from fan reactions, this single moment alone made the movie worth watching. Such moments do not make or break movies for me, but I do admit that Yuki’s smile is pleasant and the movie’s setup allows us to see other sides of Yuki’s character.

  • When Kyon learns that Haruhi exists, he rushes off to the Kōyōen School, an elite academy that this Haruhi is attending. She is shocked and disgusted that Kyon appears to know so much about her and proceeds to give him a physical beating, but Kyon stops the melee by revealing his identity as the “John Smith” of several years previously. Haruhi is surprised that anyone could’ve known about the incident, and immediately faints.

  • In a world where Kyon and Haruhi had not met, Haruhi is a much more austere person, although her bold and forceful tendencies remain. The incidental piece that plays when Kyon rushes off to Kōyōen School, Suzumiya Haruhi no Tegakari (“A Sign of Haruhi Suzumiya”) begins playing. This piece remains one of my favourite songs on the soundtrack: with its use of woodwinds, the song greatly resembles Sim City 4‘s Wheels of Progress. The choice of instruments signifies that progress is happening, and for the first time in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon feels as though he’s got the faintest hint of what he needs to do. There are many incidental pieces in the film that would not sound out of place in Sim City 4: Kodoku Sekai no Hirogari (“Spread of a lonely world”) opens similarly with Sim City 4‘s Morning Commute.

  • When Haruhi comes to, she immediately takes interest in Kyon’s situation, listening attentively as Itsuki explains what may have happened with Kyon. Even in this alternative universe, where Itsuki has feelings for Haruhi, the fact that she’s immediately drawn into helping Kyon suggests to him that Haruhi has feelings for Kyon (regardless of how much the two try to deny it when asked). With the situation explained, Kyon begins to realise that his keys back to his old world were to gather the people who were in the SOS Brigade, and so, the group heads back to North High, so that Mikuru and Yuki can be assembled.

  • That Itsuki is quick to conclude that Haruhi loves Kyon shows that there doesn’t appear to be a timeline or reality that could keep them apart, further reinforcing the idea that Haruhi and Kyon complement one another extremely well. This was my favourite aspect about their dynamic: even though the two never enter a relationship in the animated adaptions, Haruhi’s boldness and energy pushes Kyon out of his comfort zone into experiences that he retrospectively enjoys, while Kyon’s down-to-earth, pragmatic approaches means that he’s always trying to reign back Haruhi’s outrageous plans, and in doing so, creates a slightly-scaled back but still-enjoyable experience for Haruhi.

  • After arriving at North High, Kyon lends Haruhi and Itsuki his gym clothes so the two blend in with the other North High students. Haruhi complies with Kyon’s request to wear a ponytail, and I admit that like Kyon, I’m fond of ponytails, as well. Haruhi’s aura changes noticeably, and she takes on many of the traits of her other self; within moments, she manages to find Mikuru and brings her to the literature club room.

  • Halo Reach released roughly seven months after The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya aired in theatres, and in a curious turn of fate, I experienced both the game and the film close to one another. There is definitely a nostalgia factor at play when I stop to contemplate things: on the day of the LAN party, after I’d arrived and wrapped up The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, one of my friends had arrived, and we now had enough people to play Halo Reach‘s co-op. Having spent most of the term attempting to survive organic chemistry and data structures, I didn’t pay attention to Halo Reach‘s campaign.

  • My friend, however, had known of the different missions and immediately requested that we play Long Night of Solace on co-op, which has Noble Team storm through Covenant forces attacking a Sabre facility and then help the UNSC fleet repel Covenant forces in orbit over Reach, before boarding a Covenant super-carrier. We made it on board the carrier before the remainder of my friends arrived, after which we threw burgers on a grill and then spent the rest of the evening blasting one another in MLG Team Slayer on Reflection. Halo Reach has now made it to PC, and my journey began on Chinese Winter Solstice.

  • Back in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, with all of the keys in one place, the old computer powers up, and the old Nagato Yuki’s program begins running, asking if Kyon is ready to go back. Without hesitation, Kyon hits enter to execute the program; he only stops briefly to apologise to this world’s Yuki for not being able to join the literature club with her. Nothing immediately happens, but in a few moments, Kyon’s world fades to black, and when he comes to, he finds himself in a hot, humid room.

  • It turns out that Kyon was sent back to the night of the Tanabata three years previously, which was in July. Unlike the washed-out, faded world without Haruhi, this hot summer night is portrayed using saturated shades of blue and other hues. This particular event is of great significance in The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, and in Japan, the festival is characterised by the writing of wishes on small pieces of paper and affixing them to a bamboo tree. The festival was presumably chosen to frame a time period where people make wishes, and so, when Kyon helps a younger Haruhi with her wishes, he inadvertently creates a future where he would meet her, and fulfill her desire for excitement.

  • Shortly after his arrival, Kyon encounters the older Mikuru, who knows of Kyon’s actions and sends him to Yuki’s apartment. With Yuki’s program, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s story shares similarities with Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai, which similarly used time travel as a part of its core story: both films are highly enjoyable extensions of a light novel story that have a much greater emotional impact than even their anime, and both use a causal loop to prevent the development of any paradoxes. In addition, both films force their male lead to make a difficult decision.

  • As such, it is not entirely unfounded when I say that both movies feel quite similar in their atmosphere and execution – that both Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yumemiru Shōjo no Yume o Minai and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya manage to be so compelling is a testament to the strength in both movies’ narratives. Of course, both worlds also have their unique points: the former encapsulates the difficulties of youth with fanciful metaphors, while the latter is really about the joys of having fun and colourful people in one’s life.

  • Upon arriving in Nagato’s sparsely-furnished apartment, Kyon and the older Mikuru are given nanites to help them survive the next step of their operation. Yuki also provides Kyon with a dart gun that will immediately patch away the irregularities that will appear in her future self. These abnormalities, as Yuki considers them, are what would be known as emotions: these instinctive reactions to stimuli are a fundamental aspect of humanity, and while they can impediments, are also critically important towards the ability for people to work together

  • That Yuki’s begun developing this emergent property of having emotions, while humanising her character and making her more mature, also begins to affect her duties, hence her contingencies for this eventuality. When Kyon and the older Mikuru arrive in the world three years later, it is moments before Yuki changes the world. It’s a cold winter’s night, and Mikuru is completely unprepared for the brisk weather, so Kyon lends her his coat.

  • The sight of Yuki standing in the middle of the street on her own evokes a very melancholy, lonely feel that speaks volumes as to just how advanced her emotional intelligence had come since when Kyon first met her. Kyon readies his dart gun and chambers the round, but before he takes the shot, he considers the reasoning behind Yuki’s actions, as well as the justification for his own choices. Kyon quickly deduces that Yuki, having been exposed to the constantly exciting and fun environment that Haruhi and the SOS Brigade bring, as well as the changes that Kyon himself had wrought in Haruhi, began wondering what it would be like if she had gotten closer to him instead.

  • By providing viewers with a confirmation of their thoughts (or helping them to realign with what’s happening), Kyon’s monologues in the movie are immensely helpful. Whereas The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya had Kyon’s narration fill viewers in on what’s happening (similar to the TV series), Seishun Buta Yarō would delegate this particular task to Rio Futaba. In both cases, the narration starts out unreliable, but soon becomes more important as their respective stories advance. The attendant imagery in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya speaks volumes to just how extensive and intense Yuki’s emotions had become.

  • The golden glow flooding the empty clubroom creates a sense of wistfulness: a similar light illuminated the world the day that I had arrived at my friend’s place for the LAN party and busied myself with finishing The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya after being informed that the others were a good half-hour away. For better or worse, the last light to afternoon of a late spring day is now something that irrevocably brings to mind the sort of loneliness and yearning that Yuki had: having been on her own this whole time, it was only natural that she began to entertain thoughts of getting closer to Kyon, who had been kind and understanding towards her despite discovering that she’d been of extraterrestrial origin.

  • For Kyon, the choice between his old world (the bookmark) and the alternative world (the club application) becomes tangibly represented towards the end of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. While the movie represents it as being a tough choice, Kyon’s actions throughout the film, and the fact that he immediately executes Yuki’s program without hesitation already foreshadows the choice that he would take.

  • The use of turnstiles in a train station shows that once Kyon’s made his decision, whatever that might be, his decision is to be final, and that Yuki would accept his choice (along with the ensuing consequences). Besides the use of colour and lighting, Kyoto Animation also excelled with strong use of symbolism within their anime films. Hibike! Euphonium similarly made extensive use of symbols, as do CLANNADKanon and other of their works. However, while some might take symbolism to mean that a film (or series) is necessarily intellectual, Kyoto Animation’s actual intent with symbols is to make tangible an idea that had only previously implied: in a Kyoto Animation work, once a symbol appears, an idea becomes explicitly clear.

  • The final hurdle Kyon faces internally lies within his own doubts: as much as he disliked Haruhi for forcing him into things he did not wish to participate in earlier on, her actions have also allowed him to make friends of everyone at the SOS Brigade. Thus, while he does indeed still think a peaceful life is something to enjoy, the more exciting world with Haruhi in it is the one he prefers, having seen what is possible when she’s around. The answer, then, is evident for Kyon, and he moves forwards without any hesitation. He readies his tool and remarks that he preferred Yuki without glasses, clearly indicating beyond any doubt that the other reality had no chance.

  • While the original world may have been a lot more exciting, one cannot help but feel bad for Yuki, whose feelings will be irrevocably denied. Nowhere in the soundtrack is this more evident than the piece Nagato Yuki no Kokoro ni Aru mono (“What’s In Yuki Nagato’s Heart”), an incredibly touching song whose use of strings captures the sense of yearning Yuki had for another life despite understanding that this was a path she could never take. If there was one song that could capture the entire essence of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya from Yuki’s perspective, this would be it.

  • Before Kyon can fire on Yuki, a serrated blade cuts into his side: the original Ryōko had been a rogue agent who was not above cutting the Gordian Knot to get results faster. The Ryōko in the alternate reality (and in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan) only retains the original’s ability to be intimidating, but otherwise lacks the same disregard for life: in the manga, Ryōko is seen to intimidate with a glance, and primarily does this to keep Yuki in line, but otherwise never even considers violence as an option.

  • Even as Kyon begins to bleed out, familiar figures appear and manage to complete his original objective of neutralising Yuki and preventing the world from being changed. From here, the timeline converges: Haruhi, Itsuki and the others saw Kyon to have fallen from a flight of steps after being pushed by an unknown entity. That everyone else believes Kyon to have fallen into a coma from falling from a stairwell makes The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya feel similar to Futurama‘s “The Sting”, where Leela fell into a coma after being stung by a space bee and believed Fry to be dead. While this same setup might have been a plausible explanation for things, the conversation that Kyon shares with Yuki indicates this is quite untrue.

  • Itsuki remarks that Haruhi never left his side, similar to how Fry remained by Leela until she’d reawakened. It’s a touching moment that further cements that Haruhi has feelings for Kyon in spite of herself, and Itsuki describes his thoughts on this devotion as being akin to jealousy. When Haruhi wakes up from her sleep, she immediately berates Kyon for having lost three days, although this is really just her way of expressing relief that Kyon is alright.

  • Ultimately, from Yuki’s perspective, the events of The Disappearance of Haruhi is a story of unrequited love: while Yuki may characterise it differently, her actions throughout the movie have been prompted by the most powerful and poorly-characterised human emotion of all. I have a separate post on the matter, but the presence of a meaningful secondary theme meant that this film had several layers of complexity which underlie just how well-crafted the characters and the story is.

  • The colour has returned to Kyon’s world, and he anticipates enjoying Haruhi’s cooking at the film’s end. I will note that it is an incredibly impressive feat for The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, that even after eight years of additional life experience, my conclusions about the movie and its theme have remained largely unchanged. The film’s messages remain as solid and meaningful as they were when I first watched it, speaking to the narrative’s excellence, and even now, the film is something I can easily recommend. With this, I’d like to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas: now that this post is in the books, it’s time for me to head off and take a quiet day off to go through my games backlog, read and perhaps take a walk under the winter sun.

Between its moving plot and technical excellence (typical of Kyoto Animation’s best works), The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is an excellent movie that masterfully brought the original light novel’s narrative to life. Through a combination of stunning visuals and a soundtrack composed of orchestral pieces that create an elegant feeling, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a film without peer. However, what elevates The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya to masterpiece status lies how the film’s message found relevance when I’d watched it: the film’s home release was a mere five months earlier, and upon hearing about the overwhelmingly positive reception, my curiosity was piqued. After hammering my way through the first two seasons, I ended up watching the film during the summer, spending those long summer afternoons, after research had ended, watching the movie. I finished the same day the local anime convention started, having chosen not to attend on account of a LAN party, and while the film was something I enjoyed deeply, thoughts of Yuki and the emergence of emotions in her character fell to the back of my mind. When one of my classmates posted a video of his convention experiences and made mention of Yuki, likening her sense of longing to his own post-convention blues, I’d realised that The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s message was much more profound than I’d initially thought; having spent the movie focused on Kyon, I never really considered Yuki’s perspectives: as she spent more time with Kyon and the SOS Brigade, she begins to imbibe on decidedly human characteristics and wonders what it would be like if she could get closer to him. This silent sense of longing held a beautiful sort of melancholy, and also helped me to understand my classmate’s thoughts on anime conventions a little better, as well as make tangible my own understanding of what unrequited love entailed. While I would stare down and write the MCAT a year later, the year after, I had the time to attend the local anime convention for myself, and at last, I fully comprehended what my classmate meant when detailing the aftermath of an anime convention. For having eventually motivated me to visit and support the local anime convention, as well as providing a vivid and poignant story of what unrequited love can do, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya had a non-trivial impact on my life, which is why it is designated as a masterpiece. Personal reasons aside, the film is of a remarkable quality, and par the course for Kyoto Animation’s productions, has aged very gracefully. I have no qualms recommending this movie (and note that the TV series is essential to the experience), but because I imagine most would have seen The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya already, I imagine that suggesting folks to re-watch it is also appropriate.