The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya S2

Title: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya S2 aka Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu (2009)
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Company: Kyoto Animation
Format: 14 episodes
Dates: 22 May 2009 and 26 Jun 2009 – 18 Sep 2009

Synopsis: It’s a hot summer weekday, and Kyon is typically annoyed about upcoming exams.  Suzumiya Haruhi, on the other hand, is excited because it’s Tanabata, and she has big plans for how the SOS-Brigade should celebrate.  After reasoning that any wish to Orihime and Hikoboshi can only be granted after sixteen and twenty-five years, Haruhi becomes oddly depressed.  After the other brigade members leave, Asahina Mikuru asks Kyon to travel back in time with her…

The Highlights
Controversy: “Endless Eight” has nothing to with storytelling, and everything to do with reaction.
Characters: Both Kyon and Haruhi show the worst of themselves at different stages.
Pacing: “Sighs” is a tad too slow; “Endless Eight” is at least five episodes too long.
Aesthetics: Everything feels watered-down compared with three years ago.
Plot: “Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody” and “Sighs” are really well written.

Since it first appeared three years ago, Suzumiya Haruhi(1,2) has been a phenomenon whose scope has fair outreached the anime itself.  Starting with a following whose fervency is like that of a religion, praise, controversy, money, adoring love and bitter hatred have gone wherever so much of a mention of the unwitting high-school goddess has appeared.  Suzumiya Haruhi is huge: only a complete disinterest in anime could explain why someone hasn’t heard of it.  It’s no surprise that this sequel has been discussed, analyzed and dissected to the extent that it has.  What is surprising, though, is the extent to which KyoAni have gone to fuel the controversy that goes hand-in-hand with Haruhi’s very name.

The new series of Suzumiya Haruhi involves three arcs: “Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody”, “Endless Eight” and “The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya”, but without doubt it was “Endless Eight” which sparked the fiercest debates.  Much has been made of the decision to animate eight iterations of the “Endless Eight” timeloop, each having at most cosmetic changes, and there are innumerous theories and opinions on the creators’ intent.  My own theory is that “Endless Eight” is almost entirely a meta-experiment.  There’s virtually no literary or entertainment value past its third episode, and while Suzumiya Haruhi has always had a foot in the meta-realm, “Endless Eight” is almost completely about the fan response to the controversial decisions, rather than the response to the story itself.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say watching all eight episodes of “Endless Eight” is like pulling teeth, even though it hardly surprises me that others do.  I’d say it’s more like watching a particularly dour match of a sport you don’t like anyway, repeated back-to-back.  It’s the repetition that will eventually get to you (unless you find the resolve to turn it off, go outside and do something).  Not much is exciting after its eighth repeat, and the first episode wasn’t brilliant anyway.  The last episode does nothing to even justify, let alone absolve the tedium.  It tries its damnedest to be grandiose, but I was too distracted by the fact that the solution didn’t actually make any sense.

“Endless Eight” doesn’t even “feel” like Suzumiya Haruhi, but the other two arcs could have fitted seamlessly into the first series.  “Sighs” has its pacing problems, but its story is an important part of the overall narrative.  “Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody” is just plain fun, and is probably the best episode of the entire series, and at least the best scripted.  The animation is reasonable without attaining the gloriously consistent levels of the first season, but there’s too much of a K-On! influence in the character designs for my liking.  The music is good, but the OP and ED themes are not, and certainly don’t have the same impact as the infectious themes from the first season.

This, probably, sums up Suzumiya Haruhi S2 quite well: there’s simply nothing in this that has the same impact as anything from the first season… except for “Endless Eight” which made an impact for all the wrong reasons.  However, if you conveniently ignore “Endless Eight”, then Suzumiya Haruhi S2 is alright.  The other two arcs are worth watching, but they’re not enough to absolve a horrifically failed experiment.  This show has been trolled incessantly; I’m not sure what compelled its creators to join in.  I rather think that the biggest victims in this ordeal have been the fans.  Two words I used to associate with Suzumiya Haruhi were “bold” and “unconventional”.  Now, I’d replace “bold” with “obnoxious” and “unconventional” with “arrogant”.

The Rating: 4

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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