Anime

The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya (Episodes 5-8)

Continuing with my review upon rewatch of The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya, today I’m covering the two final parts of the first arc as well as The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya and Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody. This set contains some of the best episodes of the entire series. I guess that’s spoilers for what I think of them. Read on for more details. I command you. Obviously there will be spoilers for these episodes – the chronological order of both seasons, Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody in broadcast order is the first episode of season 2, be aware.

Episode 5 obviously deals a bit with the disappearance of poor departed Ryoko, with everyone finding it really strange that the popular cheerleader-type and hugely kind and attractive girl has disappeared overnight. In fact, honestly, it’s strange that the non-SOS Brigade cast don’t react more. A girl who lives on her own suddenly disappearing so suddenly and ‘transferring to Canada’ with no forwarding address should raise some questions above the level of a high-school club, although maybe I am overthinking this and the Data Thought Entity is somehow behind the scenes making it so that only Haruhi is really interested in this because that works out quite nicely for the Entity. There’s a scene where Haruhi plays herself unusually normally when talking to the landlord of Ryoko’s place, you get a sense that she does know how to deal with people, she just doesn’t often show it. She has to be smart, you would assume, it’s good to have proof of that. Then Ryoko’s landlord comments on how attractive Haruhi is, and encourages Kyon to hit that while he can. Which is funny, Kyon doesn’t really find it so. Haruhi doesn’t find anything and this is rather frustrating for her, which leads to the next part.

She goes into this beautiful, long monologue about how she realised upon going to a huge sporting match that she was so tiny, so insignificant in the grand scheme of things because of so many other humans just like her that she swore to herself to have an interesting life and to find people who were interesting to surround herself with. It’s really quite an inspiring monologue and the first time in this rewatch where I said to myself, ‘wow, that is a key reason of why this show is so incredible’, because that is relatable, especially the part where she realises she didn’t know what to do to make her life meaningful. Kyon and the gang are helping with that but Kyon doesn’t know yet just how important that is, he’s about to find that out.

The final part gives us our first look at a concept important for the Haruhi series, closed space, space that Haruhi unwittingly creates when she is frustrated and is the first sign of real doom that hangs over much of the series, that Haruhi remaking the world is a very real possibility and the Esper Squad that Koizumi is part of fighting the giants created in close space is essential to the well-being of the world, as far as the espers are concerned at least. It’s quite breathtaking to see that sort of vista and destruction going on, the true extent of the powers of the esper, as well as it happening unwittingly, but the best form of that is saved for the next episode.

The finale of Melancholy is one of the best episodes of the entire series. And yet it opens completely normally, with some trivial actions from the SOS Brigade in a rather normal day. Only Haruhi is put off by Mikuru and Kyon messing about in a rather close way, she’s jealous of course, and so accidentally pulls herself and Kyon into closed space together that night. In which she wants to build a new world – although she herself is only interested in this strange new place when giants start showing up and destroying it. Which is where she does start to light up as if this is all she wanted. This is all soundtracked by Mahler no less, because there’s little better than an epic classical choral roar as we see Haruhi light up with excitement about this new world she’s found herself in. I need to mention that because the soundtrack to this episode is made one of the most awesome in the series with that in. The episode is kind of like Disappearance on a much smaller scale. A bit.

Anyway, in this new world, in an empty school, Yuki and Itsuki make contact from the other side to inform Kyon that they believe the old world is dying as Suzumiya is no longer there, and that they’ll see him in the new world, if they’re fortunate enough to be created there. Kyon and Haruhi run away from the giants that are destroying the school, all the while Kyon thinking of how he can get Haruhi back, and it ends with one of the best things ever, a ponytail fetish an anime kiss – rare in the wild but normally comes with a great deal of fanfare, and this most of all, the kiss between Kyon and Haruhi is one of my favourite single moments in all of anime. Kyon doing this gives Haruhi the reason she needs to abandon this adventure and return to normality, however she does that with her unconscious God-like powers.

From that, it was originally broadcast as a season finale, and it feels like one, it’s a hard act to follow for Boredom, which goes back to the shows roots as a comedy – and makes everyone spend the entire episode playing baseball, a sport I know little about and only vaguely know how it even plays from TV and anime episodes like this. At least all the main cast suck at baseball, at least that makes it feel more relatable, all but Haruhi and Yuki, and Yuki is bored out of her mind the entire episode, as much as an alien can be. We do have the first appearance of Tsuruya though, who starts to make up for the loss of Asakura, I really like her weird cute fangs and her boisterous attitude.

The homing bat jury-rigged by Nagato’s magic is quite hilarious, even more so that the team they were playing against didn’t pick up on anything strange happening. I would have. Ultimately, it’s feel-good at the end, everyone ends up happy as the team that lost gets to continue in the tournament that mattered to them, Haruhi is entertained… for now… and there were some very fun and notable character interactions. Good feels. And Haruhi really starts to shine as a nicer person now, that bit at the end when she’s talking to Kyon, softly smiles and says ‘if you’re alright with it, oh well’. Starting to think of others, Haruhi. Good. This is why the SOS Brigade is good for her.

Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody is very important to the series, so we go right back into high gear after merely one episode of slight filler. It’s Tanabata, and Haruhi demands that everyone enjoy themselves, and make wishes on Tanabata paper about what they want to be doing far in the future, hanging on the titular bamboo – which she stole, Haruhi morality going back into the Dark Side again. Kyon’s wish, own a house and have a lot of money, are exactly what you’d expect from his sarcastic, dour, pragmatic attitude. It’s why we love him.

Then though, Mikuru comes with a request to go back in time three years, to where it all began. This is very interesting of course, and she has to knock Kyon out so that he doesn’t find out about her TPDD classified information. And then she falls asleep and her older self comes by and explains what’s going down before nicking the time machine from her younger self because stable time loop said that’s what needed to happen without there being any real motivation for older Mikuru to strand the others in the past. Time travel is always the best plot.
Kyon then encounters a young Haruhi, exactly the same personality wise as the older Haruhi, who he then paints an entire field for, saying ‘I am here’ (at the least a stamp for Haruhi’s identity if not loads else to analyse) and encourages her to keep on being awesome, at least by admitting that he thinks that aliens, time travellers and espers exist, probably inspiring her to be so obsessed with those three groups and in turn probably giving Itsuki his powers and making Mikuru and Yuki turn up at North High in the first place… and for Haruhi to go North High. He doesn’t mean to do encourage her to do this, it just happens via him mentioning it – and I think it’s because of this that the entire series happens.  In the way it does of course.

And then, in a way that is quite sobering to think about, it turns out that Mikuru and Kyon were time-frozen in Nagato’s room for the past three years and that’s how they return to the present. Any form of time travel that takes the slow path in some fashion, even though they didn’t experience the time and didn’t age, feels so poignant to me that I really like how they came back, and how Nagato was able to set that all up with her abilities. Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody is a pretty perfect time travel story at its heart and a clear sign that the series could sustain itself beyond the original Melancholy.

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