Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu

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To say that the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for fans of the show would be an understatement. The first season hit the anime world like a storm, and huge numbers of people immediately swore their devotion to Haruhi and the SOS Brigade. The second season though, sorely tested the patience of many fans with the lesson in tedium known as “Endless Eight”, and many were left wondering where it all went wrong. The ups and downs of the franchise are well documented and commented upon, and while Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu (2009) had some great moments, the lacklustre storyline left many diehard fans dejected and despairing that the promise of the first series had seemingly fizzled out.

Well, it seems someone was listening.

Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu (or, The Vanishment of Suzumiya Haruhi), begins on 16th December, a month after the cultural festival in the first series, and all is seemingly peaceful. It’s not long though, before reality gets put through the wringer, and it’s up to Kyon to fix everything.

The thing that most surprised me about this movie is how closely it tries to follow the light novel of the same name. Granted there are a few liberties here and there, but nowhere near the number used in both TV series. The benefit of this is that the story has a solid base to begin with, especially as the plot is mainly based around Kyon’s thoughts and actions.

The movie begins at a farily placid pace, with nothing untoward or suspicious occuring, but one of the problems with the story is that it never really shakes off the languidity of the first 20 or so minutes. While the story itself is actually very good, there are occasions where there is a marked lack of urgency about the plot, and it’s these occurences that upset the flow of the movie.

There are some plusses though. The fact that much of the movie is based around Kyon’s motivations makes it a more interesting piece than the majority of TV episodes, especially as he is now the engine which drives the plot rather than a reactionary element. In addition to this, Kyon’s numerous monolgoues reinforce the direction of the story, but also offer some insight into his character, especially towards the end of the movie.

The design is exactly what one would expect from the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise and follows that of both TV series, but it’s when things go to hell that KyoAni really begin to flex some of their creative muscles. The alterations in the character’s appearances and actions are extremely well managed, and the characters are generally more expressive here than they are in either series. The animation is crisp and smooth for the majority of the movie, however there are the  odd few blips here and there with character actions (nothing that’s really worth worrying about though).

The music used throughout the movie is actually very good, even though the majority of Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu lacks any thematic pieces. The main theme, “Yasashi Boukyaku”, is sung by Chihara Minori, and while the song has echoes of regret and oppurtunities lost, these sentiments are made more powerful by the lack of any musical accompaniment. The rest of the music is choreographed well with the on screen action, and some of the tracks chosen are inspired in their usage.

The one thing that hasn’t really changed at all is the cast, and while many of the seiyuu definitely earn their pay with this movie, the two stand out performances are from Sugita Tomkazu (Kyon), and Chihara Minori (Yuki), both of whom give a new perspective on their respective characters.

Which neatly leads me on to the characters themselves.

One of the things that has always been a bit lacking with the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise is that there hasn’t really been much focus on specific characters with a view to developing them. Thankfully, this movie begins to address that issue. Unlike the two TV series, both of which adopt a more reactionary approach to the growth of a character, the movie is more direct in terms of Kyon’s development, and the difference this makes is rather surprising. While some may find Kyon’s monologues to be no different to those in the series, it should be noted that the content of his comments gradually changes over the course of the movie, and the culmination of this development bodes well for future releases.

In all honesty, I was pleasantly surprised by Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu. The tight storyline, together with the more focused character development, means that the plot is more flowing than in either of the TV series’ (although admittedly the time jumps from one episode to the next play a part in that too). In truth, this movie is everything the second season should have been, and it goes some way to tying up certain loose ends from both series.

One thing that many people don’t seem to see though, is the very clear influence of a certain long running British sci-fi series about a time traveller who sometimes calls himself “John Smith”, and to be honest, there were several occasions in this movie where I kept expecting to see a TARDIS.

As with any popular title though, there will undoubtedly be those who will be inclined to hate this movie because it’s part of the Suzumiya Haruhi series. The majority of viewers however, may find that they enjoy the movie in a way that isn’t possible with a 13 episode series.

Hopefully, movies like this will be the way forward for the franchise, as the last thing anyone needs is more Endless Eight.

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