The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya is the part of season 2 that contains the majority of that season’s plot, Endless Eight taking up 8 episodes but having the plot of 2 at the most and Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody being merely one at the start. And going past Sigh already means I’ve seen the last of Super Driver on this rewatch, a very sad day. The thing is with Sigh, is that it really really stretches all fans of Haruhi to their limits and has an episode and a moment that many consider really controversial. But as a whole, this arc is pretty brilliant in a way that’s very different from Melancholy – as it shows off the strengths and weaknesses of the characters. Additionally, Sigh is why I personally want a season 3 to come out of this, in season 1 the plots were great but the characters weren’t as defined as they are by the end of Sigh. In this, everyone but Yuki gets major insights into how they work and Yuki isn’t even left out that much, plus she has Disappearance mostly focusing on her so that’s okay.
Sigh begins as a mostly slice of life arc, which is slightly weaker a start overall than normal, but again, that’s the same way Melancholy started. Only this time we already have the group dynamics set so we get to see a lot more of the great character interactions – including Haruhi trying to pour water on Kyon’s head. What this arc is best at is exploring their relationship to the full and this start, showing them as friends who’ll mess around with each other is really important for where it will be going – and is relatable to probably many people who have a friend who’ll pull pranks on their friends like that to be funny even though the straight man of the relationship, Kyon, would really rather not have it happen. It’s a great foreshadow of where the arc will go. Another foreshadow is Haruhi demanding things from the shopkeepers for something that’s probably of comparatively little value to them, a half-hearted advertisement for their shop to be shown in a school culture festival film is probably not going to get them enough business to reimburse their equipment. Of course, Haruhi probably sold them a pack of ambitions that she’d never be able to reach because she’s like that.
The second episode continues Haruhi being even more annoying than she has ever been before, demanding more and more out of Mikuru, essentially this episode is just build up for the next episode though.
Episode three of Sigh is where shit really starts to go down, Mikuru develops the ability to fire laser beams just because Haruhi wanted her to, showing that Haruhi is starting to blur the line between reality and fiction and therefore is unconsciously making unreal things real. It’s amazing how Yuki manages to cover Haruhi from finding out that she’s doing this, especially all of the way through. There’s also an even worse scene where she mistreats Mikuru in the scene leading up to the Mikuru Beam becoming reality which nearly pushes Kyon to his limit. He would get there next episode.
Episode four is the most interesting of the entire arc. Because it’s here, after yet more of Haruhi pushing Mikuru too far, throwing her in the lake, getting her to kiss Koizumi for the role, drugging her to make her more compliant and finally tapping her on the head to indicate that Mikuru is just a ‘toy’ to Haruhi and not someone she cares about, that we get Kyon finally snapping – and he nearly hits Haruhi.
Haruhi was acting the way you might expect her to be as an omnipotent god with no connection to those with less power than her, but she doesn’t know that. She should be acting like a normal, albeit confident and overexcited girl. She’s just gotten way too excited and has stuck firmly to her belief that she is right and everything she does is right that she cannot see how awful she is being. And that’s where the strength of this entire arc lies, because it’s Kyon who calls her out on it. Kyon, the person who she believed to be entirely reliable and deferred to her, and in fact, probably the one person in this world who she does really care about (you can see this in her attempting to make a ponytail out of her hair once she’s in her depressed mode the next day, looking for any reason to get Kyon back to liking her), says that she is going way too far, shouts at her and defies her, she’s suddenly shocked into silence. And I think she learned from that. Yes, Kyon allowed her back into the fold without any consequences to her, yes, she reacted by appearing to go back to normal, but in that time between Kyon standing up for Mikuru and forgiving Haruhi, she was utterly depressed, potentially she had lost all of her friends by overstepping the boundaries, the boundaries that she had no conception of because they hadn’t really existed for her before. No one had called her out before. That would have been a huge sudden shock to anyone. And that’s my favourite thing about this arc.
The final episode ramps up the supernatural stuff as they finish the movie, they find a glorious deep-voiced neko that Haruhi gives the power of speech to, passenger pigeons become unextinct, sakura blossoms appear, it’s all very fantastical and again, it’s a miracle Haruhi doesn’t twig, especially when Kyon tries to confess everything to her at the end of the episode. The determination of him and Haruhi to finish the movie together is really nice too, Haruhi actually offers to help with that bit, which is another reason why I think she learned from the events of episode 4, she was going to force Kyon to do everything but in the end she tries to ease his workload even if she doesn’t end up doing much at all. That scene, where she walks out on him after he tries to tell her about the supernatural events, is one of two reasons why episode 5 of Sigh really makes me want a season 3. The other reason is that this episode also contains a much deeper look at the games being played on other levels behind the scenes between the parties interested in Haruhi. As Yuki says, they could all be telling the truth about Haruhi, or they could all be lying, and we do not know. Particularly Koizumi comes off far shadier in this episode than he ever has before – and that dynamic, continued for season 3 could be just glorious. I’d pick up the light novels but I’ve never done well with reading anime source material, I’m very much an anime-only person. Manga is comics and I’ve never liked comics and light novels, I have no idea where I’d get access to them. Probably because I haven’t tried, so yes, that’s a weak excuse. Also they’d probably change and even improve things for any anime adaptation.
The final episode I’m covering, The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina, the actual movie they’d made, is very important to me. This was the way I was introduced to Haruhi – and it was just by chance that I picked the broadcast order first. It kind of instilled so much of a ‘wtf’ feeling in me that I couldn’t wait to carry on and see where this series would go next – all kinds of places, as it happened. The chronological first episode is pretty good too but I think this is a better hook just for being really weird. Kyon’s ever-present sarcastic monologues, more prevalent now than they ever have been up to now, really help that, he really carried the entire episode by constantly pointing out the flaws, something that, being very unfamiliar with anime, but very familiar with tropes upon first watch, really had me amused from the get-go. It is like watching a really bad movie with a reviewer wittily commenting over it and that’s a media form I can definitely enjoy.
By the time I got to Sigh for the first time I’d almost forgot about this one, so far removed from the rest of the series as it was, that it felt really good watching that and finally seeing where all the pieces of making this came together – although watching it the other way this time means that I can see through this movie all the little bits of Sigh that were going on in the background between scenes and that’s really fun to analyse too – two episodes examining the same events from different perspectives are often a winner with me in TV. Basically this episode first is my one argument for broadcast order – albeit because I did it this way, but it left such an impact on me by being so deliberately shitty it was amazing.