Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Disapperance of Haruhi Suzumiya

            In my ultimately-pointless thing about anime series I hadn’t seen at the start of my Antique Bakery review, I mentioned that I had watched Haruhi Suzumiya, albeit with someone pestering me to do so.  I should start out this review by saying that, if you haven’t seen it, go and watch it right now.  It’s funny, it’s smart, it’s charming.  It has a great cast of characters, a genre-bending premise, and wonderful animation.  To be fair, I’ve only seen the first season, which means I have not sat through Endless Eight from Season 2, a Groundhog Day plot which has the same episode 8 times in a row (although they reanimated and revoiced it EACH TIME, which is at least some dedication).  At Otakon, they had the east coast English dub premiere of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, and I waited in a crowded line to go see it.
            I’m going to go ahead and warn in advance that, if you haven’t seen the series, you shouldn’t see the movie.  I know it seems obvious, but there’s quite a few plot points that either spoil parts of the series or just don’t make sense unless you’ve seen it.  Because of this, I’m not really going to concede to explaining some of the basic plot elements like characters.  After all, didn’t I tell you in the first paragraph to go and see the series?  Anyways, he plot has what appears to be a normal action for Haruhi, as she’s planning an over-the-top Christmas party involving the SOS Brigade, whether they like it or not.  Then Kyon wakes up the next day and everything’s different.  Haruhi and Itsuki are gone.  Mikuru has never met him before.  Nagato is just a shy girl rather than an android.  Kyon is the only one who even remembers how things used to be, and he has to figure out what happened and how to fix it…unless he decides that a normal world is better.  It’s not exactly a completely unique plot, but I think it works well for the show.  Kyon is the one normal person in a group of abnormal people, and suddenly he’s put into a world where everything is normal.  There’s enough moral decisions on his part about whether or not the previous world was better.
            It all comes down to the big emotional climax, a trippy inner mind sequence as Kyon has to make the big decision about what he’s going to do.  And it works so well.  The audience cheered at the end of it.  I wanted to get up and applaud.  I’m explaining all this because it comes to the big problem of the movie, and that’s the fact that, after this climax, there’s still 30 minutes of movie left.  You’ve just hit the highest point of the movie, and everything afterwards is going to be slow in comparison.  The movie as a whole is just far longer than it ever needed to be.  Before it showed, an audience member got to ask one question, and that was “Is it really 3 hours long?”  The answer was no, it’s 2 hours 40 minutes.  And that is a long, long 160 minutes.  Knowing that the Haruhi series as a whole, and this movie in particular, is based on a series of books helps to explain this.  It really does move at the pace of a novel.  It takes an incredibly long time for Kyon to do anything besides get used to this new world he’s in, and then he spends a lot of time just hanging out with Nagato.  It’s like, for every huge moment of a new revelation or a really big joke, there’s 20 minutes of meaningless wandering.  I got fidgety within the first hour of it.  I think the lack of Haruhi also hurts the movie.  You take a show based on a very eccentric main character, and then take her away for an hour.  It’s no surprise that the pace is going to struggle without her.
            Disappearance is a good movie, and a welcome addition to the Haruhi series.  But its length makes me really hesitant to just outright recommend it, especially to newcomers.  I’d almost say that, if you watch it, it should be split into two sittings.  I could see myself watching the first season again, there’s no way I could see myself watching the movie again as it is.

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