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1d4+3d6 Backstab (Target: Level 0 NPC Kyon)

December 21, 2010

I kinda feel bad for posting this, mainly because it’s gonna come off as if I already made up my mind on this ages ago.

Around this time last year, I posted about how I wasn’t too excited about the upcoming Haruhi Suzumiya movie. I had read the Disappearance novel shortly before hearing the announcement of the movie’s release, and I kinda hated it. It felt like it was going around in circles, repeating plot points that we were already familiar with but pretending they weren’t glaringly obvious.

While I liked the movie a bit more than I liked the book, I can’t say that I feel any differently about the actual plot. It still comes off like a bunch of unnecessary exposition that doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know about these characters.

The gist of Disappearance seems to revolve around two things: Kyon realizing that he does enjoy Haruhi’s insane antics and Yuki’s developing emotions and humanity. Those are positive things, as far as the whole “character development” thing goes. Peeps like to see characters grow, change, mature, or whatever. The catch is that we’ve already seen this shit in the TV series.

I always took the finale of the first season, where we had the ending of the school festival (complete with Haruhi’s bunnygirl performance) juxtaposed with the final episode of the Melancholy storyline, as Kyon’s admission that he loves Haruhi and her outlook on life. All of his cynical comments and whining are just his way of coping with stress, while deep down inside he loves this shit. We got that already, so why do we need a completely separate story that revolves around him realizing this. Again. We know what decision he’s gonna make, because he’s already made that decision. So there’s no drama in the moment where he presses enter and chooses to try to restore the world to its former state, no matter how much the soundtrack pulls out the manipulative orchestration and shit.

So yeah, that angle of the storyline was wasted on me, because it told me nothing that I didn’t already know about Kyon’s nature.

Then there’s Yuki. I think the above link does a good job of detailing what I don’t like about her other world persona, and seeing it depicted in anime form only makes me hate this version of the character even more. It takes everything that I found charming about the regular version of Yuki, throws it out the window, and tries to make me want to prefer this version over the “true” Yuki.

Human Yuki flat-out sucks.

And none of this takes into account that we’ve already seen Yuki take steps towards becoming more emotional. She’s shown signs of enjoying the antics that Haruhi forces her into, like the whole baseball thing and the bit where they played a video game against the computer club. Yuki seemed to show signs of “humanity” at those moments and during other moments throughout the series, so we didn’t need an entire story based around bashing us over the head with this revelation. All this story succeeded in doing is wallowing in annoying moe tropes by having Yuki act like every other cookie-cutter megane anime character ever made. Really? Is that what people want? Whatever, man. Her original “alien” mode is hardly revolutionary or anything, but she has far more style and personality by lacking personality than this blushing monstrosity.

But you know what? All of this could be ignored if the rest of the story was the least bit interesting. But there isn’t much else going on in the story to make up for the rehashing mentioned above. Kyon spends a better part of the first hour moping and throwing a fit over the fact that the world around him has changed. Kyon says something about Haruhi, someone says they don’t know who she is. This goes on for a while. Then he and faux-Yuki spend a lot of time staring at each other. Then Kyon plays on the computer. Kyon finally figures out where Haruhi and Koizumi went, but once they enter the picture all they do is sneak onto campus so they can get all of the Negaverse SOS members into the same room to do… absolutely nothing. Their unification triggers a program that allows Kyon a chance to escape from this alternate reality, and that’s it. The whole time we’re in this altered world, Kyon whines, Yuki blushes, and Haruhi puts on a jogging outfit. The End.

Once Kyon finally escapes from his hell filled with banality, he gets shunted back to the day when Haruhi paints the weird markings at her middle school. So yeah, a good bulk of the latter half of the movie is spent rehashing a previous episode from the series, where we see the events of that storyline from a different perspective. Problem is, that episode wasn’t even all that interesting to begin with, since it just expanded upon an event that I never really felt needed to be shown in anime form.

The only real tension or excitement that the movie has is when Asakura appears on the scene. This bitch has no business existing in this world, regardless of whether Yuki fucked with it or not, and we’re never sure if she’s gonna turn around and pull something. The way she’s introduced is like something out of a horror movie, and it works awesomely. And when she finally reveals that she is out for Kyon’s blood and stabs him in the back is a pretty damn awesome moment. Seeing her dance about, all happy and shit, while blood splatters about and Kyon writhes on the ground? Great stuff. It’s a shame that all of this takes up about 10 minutes of a 2 hour and 40 minute movie.

In the end, Disappearance lacks everything that I liked about the franchise. It’s a largely humorless movie, with the humor mostly crammed into the beginning of the movie. None of the narrative tricks are present, such as the nonlinear tricks of the first season or the awesomely insane and ballsy Endless Eight repetition. The “going back and reliving events from a previous story” bit would count towards this if said events were worth reliving again, but Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody isn’t ain’t all that great of a story to begin with, so that trick is wasted.

And worst of all, most of the characters are essentially forced to not be themselves. Haruhi is largely absent from the movie, and when we finally see her in the alternate universe she’s a pale shadow of herself. Koizumi has nothing to do in the movie. Mikuru gets some screen time as herself, but it’s her adult version. Then again, that isn’t really a bad thing, so I don’t mind that. And I already talked about how much I hate glasses girl Yuki. So yeah, this is largely a Kyon-only story, and even then we don’t get to see enough of his trademark cynicism. He spends so much of the movie angsting over his plight that we don’t get to see him do what he does best.

In the end, it feels like someone animated some Haruhi fan’s fanfic. It’s a story largely without consequence. Kyon literally wakes up at the end of the events, as if everything was just a dream. The only characters that are affected by the events of the story are Kyon and Yuki, but neither one of them has really experienced anything that hasn’t already been determined beforehand. Despite effectively fucking up the space-time continuum, Yuki doesn’t suffer any real consequences and hasn’t really matured all that much as far as her “human” side goes. She’s still the same robotic girl who isn’t really showing any more signs of developing emotions that she did before the story. That, and Kyon’s just realizing something that he had already realized before. So yeah, there’s no real impact on the Haruhi storyline and no impact on the characters. The only changes that occur are when characters act grossly out of character in order to pander to stereotypes that fans love.

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya simply isn’t all that great. And that disappoints me, since I absolutely love the TV series.

Bleh.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2010 6:05 PM

    To be fair, I think the audience is meant to reject Other Yuki, too, because she strips away everything that makes Yuki herself (and is created because Yuki is stressed out and fed up with all the bullshit around her). There are going to be people who gush over this Yuki, of course, but the story itself doesn’t ask the audience to prefer that Yuki because Kyon himself doesn’t prefer that Yuki.

  2. December 21, 2010 7:24 PM

    All good points. _Disappearance_, however well technically executed it may be (and I hear it was *very* good), has a fairly unsatisfying storyline… if you accept the basic Haruhi paradigm.

    That’s why I prefer to see Disappearance as a second exploration of an ultimately-rejected alternative world – in a paradigm where Kyon is the real God, not Haruhi.

    (What can I say? It’s a favorite theory of mine; I’m convinced it makes everything about _Haruhi_ material better: http://www.gwern.net/The%20Melancholy%20of%20Kyon.html )

  3. December 21, 2010 9:17 PM

    >The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya simply isn’t all that great. And that disappoints me, since I absolutely love the TV series.

    You liked Endless Eight?

  4. ocswing permalink
    December 23, 2010 12:03 PM

    I can understand a lot of the points you made (Human Yuki does suck), but as far as the character development regarding Kyon and Yuki I disagree.

    In the original storyline I don’t think Kyon’s actions denote a full acceptance of Haruhi and her antics. If you recall Haruhi was actually ready to stay with Kyon in that alternate world devoid of people. Kyon’s decision is more of a hedge to go back to the world he knows and actually shows his acceptance of the side characters more than Haruhi herself. Yes the action itself is a kiss, but it’s really just the attraction to her that has already been hinted (or will be referenced depending on the order you watch.) In Disappearance again he makes the choice to go back to the world he knows, but this time the difference is the lack of Haruhi altogether.

    With Yuki I agree that she showed signs of humanity during those episodes, but the driving force behind those choices was largely keeping Haruhi happy. Her actions in this movie completely disregard Haruhi and are done for what she thinks will be Kyon’s happiness.

    I guess you could say that there weren’t leaps in character development, but I feel Disappearance did a good job of making Kyon/Yuki much more fleshed out characters. Not that they weren’t in the series, but I definitely thought I was seeing a different side to them.

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