The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

Title: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya aka Suzumiya Haruhi no Shōshitsu
Genre: Drama
Company: Kyoto Animation
Format: Movie, 163 minutes.
Date: 6 Feb 2010

Synopsis: It is December 17, and Kyon wakes up to a frigid morning. After school, Kyon heads to the SOS Brigade clubroom where he hears that the group shall be having a Christmas party in their clubroom, a decision made by Suzumiya. The next day, Kyon wakes up to another freezing morning and meets his classmate Taniguchi on the way to school, who appears to be strangely ill. While chatting with him, Kyon finds out several strange things: Taniguchi doesn’t remember anything about their conversation the day before, and he’s been sick for almost a week. It gets more bizarre when apparently, Asakura Ryouko, who tried to killed him before, has been his classmate the whole time. Eventually, the shocking and unthinkable strikes him: Suzumiya Haruhi has disappeared.

The Highlights
Animation: More fluid than ever; utilized sparingly and with purpose.
Ambiance: Deliberately and effectively muted; slow but absorbing from start to finish.
Development: Nigh perfect in execution and tension building.
Characters: Nagato and Kyon swept the limelight from Haruhi’s grasp.
Movie’s influence: Changed my perspective on the whole franchise.

Allow me to make a clear statement before I discuss the movie: I have never been a fan of the Suzumiya Haruhi (1,2) franchise. The first season may be great but I wasn’t mesmerized by Suzumiya’s godly charisma. The second season is vehemently slammed even by hardened Suzumiya fans, and deserves to be locked away in a deep vault for good. The movie, however, is an unexpected surprise for me. Not only is it well-scripted and coherently-written, it did me a unprecedented favor of changing my indifferent perception towards the franchise for the better, and showed how a single movie can tie all its prequels without cutting any corners.

Unlike any other anime movie, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya clocks an extensive 163 minutes. The length gave me an impression that this movie aims to be comprehensive and not take any shortcuts with the story, and much to my delight, this does just that. The concept isn’t groundbreaking per se but what impressed me was the commendable development and buildup to the climax. The movie scrutinizes the unsettling discovery by Kyon. The fact that Haruhi has vanished wasn’t hurled into Kyon’s face; instead; viewers watch how he slowly finds out how messed up the world is and how he almost loses his cool several times while trying to find answers. Never have I been so engrossed at how engaging it is to watch Kyon when he goes into panic mode. It gets even better when the overarching plot delicately uses events from the prequels to tie everything up into one logically consistent story, addressing lingering questions left at the end of the prequels along the way.

While the skillful execution forms half of the movie’s brilliance, the other half is presented by the shift of focus from the effervescent Suzumiya to the reticent Nagato. Unlike the rest of the characters, she undergoes a substantial character makeover and whenever Kyon interacts to the “new” Nagato, it is accompanied with muted atmosphere. The muted atmosphere, along with lifeless atmosphere of the “new world”, create tension and chemistry that are never seen before in the franchise, and the movie deliberately takes its time to develop the relationship between them. As the result, the movie creates a sense of genuinity in the relationship that serves well as the all-important motif to the movie’s climax. It takes a “what-if” scenario, explores it and makes it work while using it as the backbone of the whole movie. Ironically, the titular character doesn’t have a particularly significant role in this movie since the role is passed on to Nagato instead. However, with the commendable character exploration of both Nagato and Kyon, it doesn’t even matter that Haruhi is not the central driver of movie.

TDoHS is an exemplary movie that deserves plentiful kudos for revisiting its own previous materials, utilizing them to maximum effect and make an engaging story out of it while tying off all loose ends. This approach transforms how I see the whole franchise and presents to me how a movie with a mixed bag of prequels, can be done right. The pace may be slow at times and, as expected, technobabble forms the foundation of the story. But if I felt like time stopped for the whole of 163 minutes, and it had me glued to the screen the moment the cinema hall turned pitch black, I would acknowledge that the movie has done extremely well with the riveting effect. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya S2 made me lost faith in its production studio, but this has rejuvenated it. For presenting me this movie, I tip my hat to you, Kyoto Animation.

The Rating: 9
9/10

Reviewed by: AC

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