The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

Title: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya aka Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu
Genre: Drama
Company: Kyoto Animation
Format: Movie; 163 minutes.
Dates: 6 Feb 2010

Synopsis: It’s a cold December 17th with a tint of holiday cheer in the air. Kyon looks forward to a nice, peaceful winter vacation until Suzumiya Haruhi bursts through the door with grand plans for a Christmas party (and a skin-tight Santa outfit for Mikuru).  The next day, Kyon wakes up as usual, walks to school and takes his seat near the back of the class.  While having a mindless conversation with his friend, he realizes that his friend has forgotten about Haruhi.  In a state of disbelief, Kyon asks around his class to see if anyone remembers Haruhi.  Nobody does.  Kyon has somehow found himself in a world where Haruhi has vanished.

The Highlights
Atmosphere: Incredibly muted but charming.
Animation: A distinct improvement of the original’s solid visuals.
Music:  Very calming, favoring strings and piano; sudden shifts contrasts critical scenes from the rest of the events.
Pacing: Slow and deliberate.

Forget what you know about the feel and style of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (1,2); The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a whole new beast.  While this movie drops a few inklings of the manic energy in the original, the film is largely slow, atmospheric and very deliberate.  If you have come looking for a fun, bouncy adventure with Suzumiya and her SOS-dan or if you are unfamiliar with this franchise, stay far away.  At an incredible 163 minutes in length, this movie can easily bore many people with its long, dragged out scenes, slow plot progression, and anemic quantity of jokes. However, for those of you who have the patience, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a rare transformation where a mostly quirky, energetic series becomes a serious, introspective film.

In the world presented in the movie, Haruhi and Koizumi have disappeared, Mikuru is your normal high school moe character and Yuki has become a quiet schoolgirl who is fond of books.  Though Kyon is once again the focal point and narrator of the story, there’s a reason why Yuki is featured so prominently in the promotional material of this movie.  She is the person who has changed the most drastically in this movie. Unlike the cold, robotic original, Yuki is an extremely timid girl who is easily flustered and practically begs to be protected.  She presents the biggest hurdle Kyon faces as he realizes that returning to his old world means leaving her behind.

The story is top shelf but the execution is what makes the movie. Throughout the film, there is an uneasy sense of calm. Everything feels routine, monotonous and “normal”.  The world has fallen into dead silence without the presence of Haruhi, and her absence slowly eats away at Kyon.  In many of the more silent moments, the movie is unabashed in showing exactly what Haruhi means to Kyon.  At the same time, however, the world throws the protagonist an interesting curve ball: Yuki.  She is the embodiment of what the inner cynic in Kyon always wanted, which is some much needed peace and quiet.

Many of the scenes in the movie follow a distinct pattern.  The first few moments pass in near silence before the characters start to engage in some small talk.  The conversation continues with the occasional joke or gag before tripping over an important plot point that triggers a set of events that explodes into some over-the-top fanfare. Though the beginning of this pattern may seem dragged out and unnecessary, it does capture a very laid-back mood. The characters go through many little motions that lay the foundation for each scene to meld into a warm, natural feeling whole. Cut these seemingly meaningless moments out and you’ll have a completely different movie.

For many people, the movie will be a mildly engaging experience that dragged an hour too long.  They will point to how zany the first is and contrast it to how “dull” this is, but I believe that simple fun is not what this movie is trying to accomplish. With a meaningful story to work with, solid animation and moving soundtrack, Kyoto Animation could have easily dialed down the atmosphere and amp up the comedy to produce a feature length season one episode, but the studio didn’t and for good reason. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but for those who can relish a movie driven by atmosphere, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a gem that will gently tug the edge of your jacket and capture your heart.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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