The Disappearing ROSSMAN
I fell in love with Ms. Haruhi Suzumiya and her high school gang of weirdos (the SOS Brigade) when The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya first aired back in '06. It was one of the most unique set-ups, with some of the most brilliant characters and situations I had seen in a long time. Then I read through all the novelettes that the original author had out at the time. Then I waited for them to make an animated season 2. And I waited some more. Then I wondered just what the fuck Kyoto Animation Studio was doing. They were sitting on a goldmine of a franchise, and instead of just translating any of the other 9 books already out into animated small screen goodness, they made three years of crap before they got back around to drawing more Haruhi (okay, Lucky Star isn't crap per se, but it ain't no Melancholy). But then finally, in the summer of 2009 we got more. MUCH more than what we asked for (times EIGHT).
The new season of Haruhi Suzumiya started with one of my favorite stories from the original books: Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody. This one half-hour chapter crammed in a very full short story that could have easily been stretched into 2 pleasant episodes. They still caught all the emotional moments of the tale perfectly though, and this only made me even more excited to see just how much else they'd be able to cram into the new anime season! "Hell, we might even get a full interpretation of my FAVORITE Haruhi tale, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya," I hoped to myself.
Then came the next new animated episode: Endless Eight - Part 1. What the fuck? Part 1? Okay, I thought. That was a fun, 30-page short story. Endless Eight's tale was actually about the same size as Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody, so I believed they'd just make two episodes of the Endless tale to capture the full effect of Kyon, Mikuru, Yuki, and Itsuki's misery at being stuck in Haruhi's repeating August (the eighth month) over 15,000 times. In fact, it was this repetition that was necessary to fully tell the story of Disappearance! The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya MUST be the big, multi-part anchor of the season! Now my hopes were even higher than before that this season would top the first! But then came the end of Endless Eight - Part 2, and there was no resolution to the plot. Anime fans the world over began to shit their pants in dread.
You've probably already heard of the full extent of the fiasco by now: Kyoto Animation — for some goddamn reason beyond ANY rationality — had gone on to make EIGHT Endless Eight episodes. Each one was the fucking same story, told with only very slightly different variations each time: Kyon is having a great, very relaxed summer vacation when he gets a call from Haruhi to meet the rest of the SOS Brigade for some forced summer activities. They continue with Haruhi's list of fun stuff all through the last two weeks of August, and on the final day of the break, Kyon goes to sleep ignoring his summer homework, and wakes up with two weeks of summer vacation left, a horrible sense of deja vu, and Haruhi calling him and telling him to get ready for a two week funfest before classes resume in September.
But the kicker to this story is that Studio Kyoto didn't just reuse the same animation and the same voice acting for each repeating episode.... No, that would have made too much goddamn sense, and maybe would have allowed them to animate more (and better) Haruhi stories with their season budget. Instead they freshly animated each Endless Eight chapter with new camera angles and new clothes for everybody in each scene, and had the cast record new (almost imperceptibly different) lines for each episode too. They wasted SO MUCH quality animation and talent, and EIGHT WEEKS (TWO GODDAMN MONTHS!) of precious air time in order to pull off the world's most expensive and pissing-on-their-fans TROLLING in the history of television. Anime die-hards all over the world kept wondering if the following week we'd get a new plot.... Or hopefully the next week.... Or (please GOD) the next... But to no avail. Some fans got really into the Endless Eight though, and they began noting all the changes in each episode: like "this week Kyon wore a yellow shirt with a collar, and they went to the pool instead of bug hunting, and Kyon and Mikuru were the ones who felt something was off..." But these people were/are morons.
So as it came to pass, the glory that was Haruhi Suzumiya was tainted like a virgin bride getting tag-teamed and anally raped on the night before her wedding, and then showing the video of the perverted act during the reception — the luster was gone, and nobody could look at it the same way again. Who in their right mind actually thought this was a good idea? Who thought 8 wasted weeks of the SAME EPISODE (blowing all the expensive resources of a new episode for each one too) was anything close to something that the general public wanted to see? I loved it when the guy who was fired from Studio Kyoto after making the original Haruhi series and 4 eps of Lucky Star (who went on to make the enjoyable Kannagi) was the ONLY PERSON to come forth and apologize for the Endless Eight. He said something along the lines that it was partially his fault because he was let go from the company, and he might have been able to stop it if he had been allowed to stay. To this day Studio Kyoto STILL thinks that they did nothing wrong.
Finally, after getting through all 8 Endless Eight chapters of the anime, we got something new... But it was too late; we (as a fan base) had lost faith. The final storyline of the season (The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya) was a fun one (as it dealt with Haruhi and company actually making the movie that we saw in the very first episode of the first series), but by then I was just watching it simply to get through it. Endless Eight almost completely jaded me to anything Haruhi-related, and that made me sad. There were so many long storylines, and even a ton of short stories that they could have filled in the space that Endless Eight took up. Honestly, if they could cram Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody into a half hour, they could have easily done the same with Endless Eight. The world would still be singing Haruhi's praises. The only thing that made me feel better about the whole ordeal though was the announcement that came at the last episode of the new season: they were turning The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya into a feature film. But I still had to wait a full year and a half for that beauty to hit theaters and then come out on Blu-ray to actually watch it myself.
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Well, that year and a half came and stumbled off like a drunk Japanese business man (who then proceeded to vomit on his equally sloshed boss' imported Italian loafers), and late this past December I sat down and watched The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, and when I was done I looked up at the clock and couldn't believe my eyes. I had just turned it on at 9:40 that night, and the clock said it was now 12:20 the next day. That sure as fuck couldn't be right... The flick had only been an hour and a half at most, I was sure of it. I then started the movie up again and fast forwarded to the end to read the timer, only to find it was indeed a 2 hour and 40 minute feature. And even at that runtime I wanted more. THAT, motherfuckers, is how you write and direct a Haruhi Suzumiya story. You keep it constantly moving forward, keep Kyon at the forefront, and DON'T REPEAT THE SHIT OUT OF IT EVERY 24 MINUTES FOR EIGHT TIMES IN A ROW!
The Disappearance of Haruhi is what it's all about. Things start off in mid December in Haruhi time (about a month after the cultural festival) with Haruhi making plans for the whole SOS Brigade to throw themselves a party in their club room on Christmas Eve. Kyon is his usual self about the whole affair (he's sarcastic to the idea and wonders how much fun it'll actually be for him, considering he's usually Haruhi's bitch-boy during these events), but on the morning of the 18th he goes to school and finds his world flipped upside down as nobody in his class knows who Haruhi is, Ryoko is still alive and sitting right behind him (Ryoko being the psycho alien who tried to kill Kyon in the first TV series), Yuki is just a glasses-wearing, quiet bookworm who's afraid of her own shadow, and Mikuru and her friend Tsuruya think he's a crazy stalker.
Knowing something has gone wrong with his timeline/dimension (with Kyon finally becoming the "slider" that Haruhi had always been searching for), Kyon starts going mad when he can't figure out what to do to set it all back to "normal," or if he even wants things back to how they were, seeing as this strange new world he finds himself in is actually a whole lot saner than the one he knew, and not filled with any strange beings that might try to end him on occasion.
That's all I'll tell you about the movie. It's just one of those fantastic stories that takes everything you've learned before about a world and a group of characters you love, and makes it all fresh and interesting and new. It's filled to the brim with intrigue and great people moments as we watch Kyon try to piece the mystery of the Haruhi-less alternate dimension together. "Whose responsible this?!" What does it mean? Why is Kyon the only one who remembers the world as it was just a few days before? Goddammit, just watch the flick for yourself. It's just more of what you loved about the original TV series.
Oh, and the story itself is as deep as anything Mamoru Oshii ever put together (including Ghost in the Shell, Avalon, Beautiful Dreamer, etc), but unlike anything by Oshii it's not preachy about anything at all. You probably won't even notice the fact that you just tripped philosophical-like for over two and a half hours until you think back on it.
The character development in Disappearance is absolutely epic as well; we learn more about Kyon, Yuki, and Haruhi in this tale than we have in all the other previous chapters combined. Finding out what makes Yuki tick is actually the best reason to want to read or watch The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, just like watching her get fucked with her legs spread wide and her blank expression still on her face is the best reason to look up any Haruhi doujinshi.
And on top of all that, Disappearance has now become one of my all-time favorite Christmastime movies. I shall definitely be watching this thing every year along with Gremlins, Die Hard, Scrooged, Christmas Vacation, Always My Santa, and Nightmare Before Christmas. Yes, the basic premise is fairly It's a Wonderful Life-ish, but it really becomes its own beautiful thing fairly quickly, and does more for the "wishing one's life away only to immediately regret it" genre than anything I've seen since the original Wonderful Life (and it's tied right up there with the Married... With Children Christmas special It's a Bundyful Life for being the greatest tale of the sort of all time). And that's all I have to say about that... Well, except for the actual rating below.
God. Damn. It. Yeah, I'm sure the Rossman already talked about it in his review, but holy fucking shit I need to mention it again. That was the biggest waste of my, or ANYBODY's time I've ever seen! 8 episodes in a row that just repeat the same conversations, the same summer shit, the same story, over and over again?! Holy shit! By the second episode I wanted to shoot my TV... I shot the Rossman's instead, but you know what I mean. This was the most annoying fucking thing to ever have been put on the tube. I couldn't even make it through the 3rd episode of the repeating plot, and fuck the movie! If the movie was just the same as this shit I never need to see it. Christ!
The Rossman here. Hmmmm, I find it strange, yet still awesome that when I tried wishing that Kuni would disappear just like Haruhi he actually did! I haven't been able to find him for over a month to get his views down on both the 2nd Haruhi TV series and the movie. So I'll just review them for him.
[UPDATE: Oh! After I did all that I found him. Seems he was in his bathroom puking his guts out just thinking about the Endless Eight again for the past 4 weeks. Well, I think his/my review still stands.]