December 18th. For Japanese fans of the Haruhi Suzumiya series, and later international fans, this date is one that bring anticipation every year. This is the date that the world changes as we know it. This year, it marked the release of the movie Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu (The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya) in Japan on Blu-Ray disc and DVD.
Originally released in theatres on Feburary 6th this year, this movie took Japan by storm. Exceeding expections, it raised more than 900 million yen in Japan alone while traveling overseas to North America, Scotland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Russia, and the Ukraine. In the first three days on sale, the sets sold 77,000 Blu-Rays and near 20,000 DVDs to nearly break 100,000 units sold. It’s simply an understatement to say that this movie is a success.
This is the first release in the series to receive a concurrent Blu-Ray release at the same time as the DVD is released. For the purposes of higher image quality, I will be reviewing the Limited Edition Blu-Ray version of the movie. I cannot promise to review or not review the DVD version as I am still undecided to import that version as well. Unlike Toonleap’s earlier preview I did not order the steelbook, so if you would like to see Amazon’s special packaging, view his preview.
This Limited Edition version comes with two Blu-Ray discs: one containing the main feature and another with bonus features. It also has a postcard set and mini theatre pamphlet. The LE Blu-Ray comes with an additional feature that the DVD does not: a script collection. Kadokawa also included inserts for other Haruhi-related merchandise.
The advertisements include leaflets for the Blu-Ray/DVD sets, the various books produced, the ipod/iphone/ipad applications, the upcoming PSP/PS3 games, a special Disappearance themed camera, and the first advertisement for the Japanese/English versions of the first light novel to be released in March.
The script collection is 114 pages and includes scenes not shown in the movie. The mini-pamphlet included in all versions is a miniature version of the ones sold at the theatres in Japan with a special cover by Noizi Ito.
The set comes with two discs: one for the main story and one for the bonus features. Both are near 3 hours long and output in 1080p. I’ve covered the main feature previously and my opinion has not changed: this is one of the best animated movies ever produced, regardless if you are a fan of Haruhi or not.
The story is a needed progression in the series. One can only take so many adventures created by Haruhi before the plot begins to become monotonous and Shoushitsu takes a step in the opposite direction. Why has Haruhi disappeared? Why is Kyon the only one unaffected? Why are our characters different than the day before? and finally: WHY IS ASAKURA BACK?!
While the running time is 2 hours and 42 minutes, it never feels as such. The pacing still works incredibly well to maintain a close continuity with the novel while taking certain scenes a little differently. The final scene at the rooftop finishes the movie with an emotional climax. One cannot help but feel compassion for Yuki after all that happens (and…).
On the extra disc, we have a variety of extras. First we start with the location scouting of Kounan Hospital, the location for the scenes on December 21st. The usual cast of characters come along: Director Ishihara, Director Takemoto, Music Director (and horrible cameraman) Saito, and various animators along with Shiraishi for no apparent reason. The hospital has a “antique” charm and an absolutely gorgeous view of Kobe.
Following that. we have a couple clips of the background music being recorded. The piano pieces performed by Seiji Honda composed by Erik Satie (Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes) were performed in front of the directors and producers along with Satoru Kousaki (the main composer of the Haruhi series BGM) at Victor Studio in Japan.
In addition to that recording, Kousaki and Saito travelled to Trackdown, a studio in Australia with the other music producers to record the orchestral pieces of BGM for the movie. Hiroaki Yura, the violinist from Gensou and founder of eminence helped with the music, but did not play for the soundtrack. Also from Gensou, Phillip Chu joined to conduct the music. Some images from the screenplay were used to time the piece to where it would be placed in the movie.
Next are three stage greetings. First, on 2010/2/6 in Tokyo, the main cast along with Ishihara and Takemoto went to Wald 9 and Cinema Sunshine Ikebukuro to greet the people who came on opening day. They mentioned various things about the movie. Sugita (Kyon’s voice) had the best line by asking if the fans were sick of his voice. The third stage greeting took place in at Kyoto Cinema on 2010/2/20 where Shiraishi, Character Designer Ikeda, Art Director Tamura, and Chief Animation Director Nishiya spoke to the crowd.
The next feature is a combination clip at various times where the directors and producers take part in cutting, dubbing sounds, and editing the video together. It’s quite interesting to see how the movie progresses from stills on a storyboard to adding in sounds/voices/music and finally to editing the opening credits.
Also included is feature about the making of the theme song Yasashii Bokuyaku. The first day has Minori Chihara visiting the school and seeing the locale. The second day has a photo shoot at various locations for the jacket. The third and final day has the actual promotional video being shot. For reasons that aren’t apparent to me, Shiraishi makes an appearance and goofs around with Saito. The shoot ends with a wonderful shot of Minori singing in “snow”.
Finally, the bonus disc ends with all of the “News Flash”, trailer, TV Spots, and BD/DVD commericals. All have been faithfully kept as they were originally aired. Not included are the videos by Lantis promoting the music for the movie.
Visually, the main feature is absolutely stunning. Some scenes are too incredible for words to describe. The backgrounds go from “amazing” to “I can’t believe this is animated” in the rooftop scene. There’s some stiffness caused by the transition to BD. A few outlines are pixelated, but are only noticeable in screenshots. The effects such as opening your eyes, seeing colors, and shifts in perspective remind me of the direction taken in the 2006 episodes. They all combine to form a work of art.
This release is the first time Haruhi has had a 5.1 channel mix. I wasn’t quite sure that my old system could recognize the 5.1 mix because the sound flows together so perfectly. Hearing everything around you as it should be is a great experience and reminded me of being in the theatre. I can’t speak highly enough about the soundtrack. The pieces are incredibly placed and only add to the experience. Kousaki et al did an amazing job creating this masterpiece.
Due to the circumstances in the movie, several voice actors/actresses had to adapt a new tone to their voices. Chihara captures a weak, shy Yuki perfectly. Matsuoka made me afraid of what Tsuruya-san was capable of. Finally, Hirano shows much depth in her Haruhi voice for the first time. The change in her voice during a conversation is nothing short of marvelous.
So is this set perfect? No, but it comes quite close. The lack of subtitles is very jarring given that a set was made for the international screenings. The video quality on the extras leave much to be desired, but is tolerable. The amount of extras is stunning to see how much work goes into this piece. I got the urge to write Kyoto Animation and Lantis just to say “Thank you for putting so much effort into this production.” after seeing that bonus disc. Bandai and Manga would be remiss if they didn’t translate those extras. In conclusion, it’s VASTLY worth getting. There’s a reason it’s out of stock in Japan currently; the set is absolutely amazing. When it’s available in your country, get it!
As always, I take more screen captures than can be used. This time ended with 170 from both discs (111 from the movie). I caution people who haven’t seen it that these do include spoilers. If you would like to see them, feel free to visit my Photobucket album.
This entry originally appeared on Cartoon Leap and has been copied faithfully (minus image locations) from the original content.