Review: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

As Christmas approaches SOS Brigade chief Haruhi Suzumiya announces that there will be a Christmas party in their clubroom. The brigade members prepare decorations and food for the party but several days later Kyon comes into school to find that no one remembers Haruhi or the SOS Bridage. Kyon begins to search for an answer to the mystery aided by a non-alien version of Yuki Nagato.

Kyoto did a fantastic job make the film feel theatrical. Having not seen any Haruhi in over a year, since season 2 ended plus eight months longer than the Japanese fans had to wait to see the film, I appreciated how it started by introducing each character briefly and showing off the traits that we’ve all come to love in each of them and ending, of course, on the title character herself. The first thirty minute or so, the “prologue” as Kyon himself calls it, is simply a love letter to Haruhi fans. It contains all the elements that fans swoon over. Kyon is annoyed, Haruhi is insane, Koizumi is a jerk, Yuki is strange, and Mikuru is adorable. There may be more hilarious character interactions in those first thirty minutes than in all of season 2 combined. The material felt fresh again and Kyon’s role as the only voice of reason using his trade mark sarcastic tone had me laughing throughout the entire scene. Haruhi herself was in overdrive, showing an amazing amount of energy and her dialogue couldn’t have been funnier. It was an absolute delight and a real potent way to start the film.

The majority of the film features Kyon’s attempt to understand and figure out the title event; why has Haruhi disappeared, and in doing so the audience is treated to a Kyon they’ve never seen before. Normally sarcastic, annoyed, and sometimes angry, Kyon went into a complete panic when his world was turned upside down. The aspects of his character only assumed and hinted at before came out in full force when the parts of his life he constantly complained about were taken away. In those moments the true Kyon is revealed. It was shocking and yet so obvious simultaneously. The largest change to any of the characters in the Haruhi-less world was Yuki Nagato. In a world without Haruhi she doesn’t need to be an alien observing the titular character but is transformed into a normal shy girl with emotions and feelings. The change is reasonable; Yuki retains all the traits from the alien version but instead is placed in a human context. She is still quiet and shy but actually reacts to the people and events around her instead of sitting and passively. While a drastic and shocking character change it wasn’t an unbelievable character change. It was Yuki imagined as a human girl, as simple as that.

The film’s main plot contain some serious and complex science fiction concepts wrapped up in a Moe costume, just like Haruhi should be, but everything feels like the stakes are much higher. Most of the series has to do with the danger of Haruhi finding out about her powers and running amok, the movie turns that plot in a new direction by showing a world without Haruhi. This puts Kyon finally in the driver’s seat instead of living in the shadow of the energetic Haruhi Suzumyia. Instead of the phantom threat of Haruhi destroying the world the conflict of the film comes from Kyon trying to get his life back, the life so wonderfully portrayed at the start of the film and all that can go away unless Kyon puts things right. The conflict is far more immediate than it has ever been, Kyon might lose Haruhi forever, the audience might lose Haruhi forever, and keeping her is finally something Kyon believes is worth fighting for and something the audience can get really distressed over.

The film, as exception as it is, is not without problems. Most of them come from the length. Kyoto wanted to make the Haruhi fans as happy as possible and to do that they adapted the novel practically word-for-word. The film’s runtime comes in at 163 minutes and it started to feel long by the end. Elements that work in novels such as references past events constantly, long sequences of omnipotent narration, and wrapping up the narrative with long scenes of dialogue after the action is long over slowed the film down. As a Haruhi fan I was in love with every word that came out of every character’s mouth, maybe not -Esper guy-, but as an Anime fan the film obviously needed some serious script editing to improve the flow of the film and tighten u the dialogue for maximum effect in minimum time.

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a near masterpiece. It gives Haruhi fans everything they want from a piece of the Haruhi franchise while opening up the story to a greater level of depth, science fiction concepts, and narrative. However, the films goal to appear to the hardcore fan harmed the overall quality by slowing down the pace of some scenes and making the film longer than it really needed to be.

Good

  • Haruhi characters are at their absolute best in humor and drama
  • Reaches new narrative and conceptual highs for the series
  • Calls back on past events to link both of the past seasons with the film
  • Direction and visuals are excellent even for Kyoto Animation.

Bad

  • Scenes that work in a novel feel long on screen
  • Long scenes of dialogue and omnipotent narration slows the pace of the film

 

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