Anime

The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya (Mysterique Sign, Remote Island Syndrome & Endless Eight)

You read correct, we’ll be doing some Endless Eight talking here, because I’ve spent far too long foolishly watching all of those again to not talk about it on my outlet. And I have a lot of thoughts about that particular collection of episodes. But first, Mysterique Sign and Remote Island Syndrome.

Mysterique Sign was an episode that I had completely forgotten about the first part of, I knew that girl with the cream green hair was in the opening but I had myself convinced that she actually didn’t appear in the anime itself (as she I believe has a larger role in the light novels that haven’t been adapted… yet… if the third season ever materialises which I somewhat doubt now). Anyway, that first half, as she approached the SOS Brigade to find her missing boyfriend, the computer club president, was fairly normal SOS brigading, although obviously something was going to happen if Kyon advertised the SOS Brigade as something akin to a counselling-service-cum-sleuth brigade. Although it seems that it was all orchestrated by Nagato at the end anyway, the recruiting of Haruhi and the gang to solve this problem. That may even be obvious from the start, I mean, computer nerds don’t have girlfriends, don’t be silly!

Where I really remembered this episode from was the transition into a desert space and the appearance of the giant cricket and the subsequent fight with that cricket. I don’t remember the fight being so meta though, what with the cricket summoning a scarab to heal itself out of nowhere and Itsuki and Yuki’s powers looking so ridiculous when used against a giant insect, but I certainly remember the scene. As an anime episode it’s a little below par for the series but also does a good job of showing off a normal day for the SOS brigade, nothing too serious or earth-shattering, just a millions-of-years-old proto-version of Nagato that burrowed its way into the internet and abducted the soul of one computer geek. Totally normal day.

The two part Remote Island Syndrome is one of the more clever Haruhi episodes. By this point, the show has gotten you so used to the weird and wonderful that so often infect these episodes that it crossing the line into a show where people actually get murdered doesn’t seem all that jarring. Particularly when Asakura nearly did it anyway back in Melancholy. And the mystery at the end of the first episode seems very confusing and is shot in a way that doesn’t make you suspect the twist at the end. I’m doing this off of my experience, on this rewatch, I had somewhat forgotten how the twist played out, I remembered that Tamaru didn’t actually die but I had forgotten that it was a set up and assumed his brother to be the responsible one. Haruhi attaches herself more to Kyon than ever in this episode, dragging him out into the storm with her to look for the murderer, confiding in him her theories, it’s clear she wants him to be a big part of her brigade, more so than any of the others at this point, as she leaves Yuki and Mikuru to guard Little Sis and lets Koizumi pretty much do his own thing. She’s also definitely respecting Kyon a lot more now, her electing not to take off her bra in front of him in the cave represents some excellent and well-presented character development as far as their relationship goes.

I’ve heard a theory that the screen distortion while Haruhi and Kyon are in the cave represents Haruhi subconsciously using her powers to turn a real murder into a play-acting scenario and I really like that for two reasons. Firstly, it’s consistent with how Haruhi uses her godlike powers, they’re never directly alluded to but Koizumi and ESPcorp assume that they’re working behind the scenes to enforce her will, secondly, it’s a sign that her morality is really being that of a normal person – she didn’t really show an emotion either way but it felt like she was horrified more than excited that a murder mystery had shown up at their feet. If so, that is a really clever episode and I trust Haruhi enough to give it the benefit of the doubt, it was something that didn’t need to be spelt out. Some TV shows could learn a lot from that sort of subtlety and leaving room for interpretation.

Finally, the most infamous set of Haruhi episodes, Endless Eight. Which is one of my favourite Haruhi episodes because every Haruhi episode is one of my favourite episodes. Endless Eight is good though, even if I wouldn’t want to watch the whole thing again at this moment. Actually, that’s kind of the beauty of the way it was done, because you put yourself through so much, seeing the solution at the end of the last episode is such an elating feeling (and makes you think how much more so it should be for Yuki, if it were any other character I’d expect them to visibly celebrate at least a little bit but Yuki is Yuki and if she did that that’d be too jarring), particularly as it calls to someone other than Haruhi directing the flow of events and as much as Haruhi rages, I think she secretly appreciates it. I know I’m reading into her motivations a lot here, but I’m very familiar with her as far as anime girls go and it is my professional opinion as someone who has watched the entire series through two, maybe three times, that she is really complex and not the dictatorial tsundere she’s often made out to be.

It’s certainly the second and last time I’ve watched Endless Eight in full though, and while I did only half pay attention to lots of the middle episodes when I could recite the lines off the script, I did like occasionally noting down the outfit changes, the often strange and very different camera shots that appear from episode to episode, the slight dialogue changes, particularly in Kyon’s sarcastic internal monologues, show a world that is experiencing very small butterfly effects from loop to loop, most of it is exactly the same but in each loop there are… completely natural if one were to repeat the same flow of time over and over… minor differences in how everything looks and plays out, two of the most notable and meta being the Endless in the clothes shop in I think part 7 and Kyon tracing an infinity sign in part 5 . In fact, the way the episodes could have been better would have been to skip out sections of their summer activities in a loop, more and more as it got further from August 17th. Yuki said they only did part-time jobs for 9000-odd times out of the 15532 times they went through the loop, two-thirds of the episodes should have been frog-costume free – and in fact more as she says they do several other jobs. Some of the episodes could have focused harder on events like the fishing contest or the karaoke singing to make it feel a bit less pointless, after having the same start of course because the world needed to have ‘Kyon-kun denwa’ in their life.

Endless Eight is a wonderful concept, I love Groundhog Day time loop episodes, it’s one the best time-travel high concept sci-fi plots and Haruhi’s version really went into the fine details of how it works, in the anime at least. Maybe it wasn’t a wise move to dedicate so much of the second season to it just to troll and there are certainly ways it could have been improved, especially upon airing (not that I was watching it at the time and never had to suffer through 8 weeks of that), but now, now it’s all out there and able to be dealt with as quick as you like, it certainly makes for a talked about set of episodes that is a complete experience to watch. You (the standard weeaboo anime watcher) do not know perseverance until you have been through Endless Eight in its proper fashion. Plus, it makes you (and by that I mean me) look forward to your episodic dosages of Super Driver and Tomare, which are two of the all-time great openings and endings of anime – as are Boken Desho Desho and Hare Hare Yukai while I’m at it. You’ll never catch me doing that dance though.

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