Haruhi Suzumiya re-viewing: Melancholy V-VI

Today, AT-X, a cable station in Japan, finished their re-airing of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya V and VI. The third post in this re-viewing series consists of Yumeka (of Mainichi Anime Yume), Goggen (of K-On! superfandom), and my own impressions of these episodes. Just a reminder: each of us writes our own impressions without seeing the other two’s (including myself), so any overlapping thoughts are truly overlapping. This just happens to be a week where we all were in agreement on one aspect. (Yumeka: Haruhi, Goggen: Mio, ultimatemegax: Koizumi)

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya V

The final two episodes of Melancholy are two of my most favorites. Here in Melancholy V, we finally get to see a side of Haruhi outside of her eccentric, manipulative antics. Her long monologue about feeling insignificant amongst the populous human race and her yearning to find life more interesting, does a great job in shifting the tone of the series to something deeper than the crazy comedy and complex sci-fi of the previous episodes. Continuing the string of thought-provoking dialogue, Itsuki’s long conversation with Kyon during the taxi ride brings up quite a decent helping of philosophical themes which again emphasize that the series is more than a high school comedy. Haruhi becoming melancholic, Itsuki’s long spiel about Haruhi having god-like powers, and Kyon finally witnessing the Shinjin, all do a great job in this episode of foreshadowing what’s to come in Melancholy‘s conclusion.

We start out with Haruhi and Kyon working on the mystery of Asakura and end with the Esper Squad taking down a giant <Celestial>.  It might be surprising to people, but I much prefer the first half of the episode to the latter half. Hearing Haruhi reminisce about when she realized how insignificant her existence was is one of my favorite moments of the franchise. This realization helps explain why she’s so anti-social and doesn’t fit into the normal Japanese society at the beginning of the series. Given some of the later stories, this one tiny scene sets up so much development into her character that nothing else compares (or does it?) I have to complain about the use of 3D CGI during the car driving scene. For the time it was animated, I’m sure it looked fantastic, but it’s really dated and brings down the overall animation quality.

I remember seeing some comments online about how this episode is “talky”. Well – there’s the giant getting slashed to pieces, but other than that there isn’t really anything one would really think of as “action”. There’s also hardly any comedy to be found here, unlike earlier episodes. I suppose it is “talky”. And yet, it might just be my favorite episode up to this point. The scene where Haruhi – for once – opens up to Kyon is a fantastic character defining moment for her. (Hey, where did that sincerity disappear to for the rest of the anime?) Kyon and Itsuki’s conversation during the cab ride is very interesting, and combined with the closed space presentation that follows, it serves to finally establish the high stakes once and for all. Obviously, the real purpose of this episode is to function as setup for the great climax of Melancholy VI, but for me it absolutely succeeds at being interesting on its own. Maybe I just like my anime talky.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya VI

I can certainly see why it was decided to end the series with Melancholy VI at the time of the original broadcast. It is a great episode and provides a fantastic climax that nothing else in the TV anime comes close to. The scenes of Kyon and Haruhi running around in closed space are exciting, and when it gets to the point where Kyon is forced to take action – well, the payoff is quite nice indeed. Despite feigning ignorance most of the time, he knows exactly what his role is in relation to Haruhi, and steps up when the situation demands it. I’m not much of a romantic, but I like to think that maybe one day we’ll see the two of them let their guards down in regards to each other on a more permanent basis.

It’s not hard to see why this episode worked so well as the season finale during the original 2006 broadcast. After four episodes of hyperactivity, Haruhi’s melancholic state in this and the previous episode continue to build a feeling of apprehension for both Kyon and the viewer. And just when it finally seems like Kyon is starting to like the everyday activities of the SOS Brigade, the climax strikes and he’s forced to come up with a way to make Haruhi bring the two of them back to the old world. It’s easy to see why the choreography of the end of this episode is quite a memorable scene amongst any anime fan who’s watched it – Kyon’s subtle kiss amongst the pale blue hue of the crumbling new world as the Shinjin towers over them and “Veni, Creator Spiritus” booms in the background – it’s definitely worthy of being the concluding episode of such an important story arc in the series. The six episodes of Melancholy did  a great job in establishing the overall tone, setting, characters, and premise of the series that will continue on in following episodes.

And so we reach the climax of this arc. From music direction, to storyboards, to episode direction, everything about this episode is remarkable (except the lack of capitalization of “Melancholy”). The final scene with Kyon and Haruhi kissing around the <Celestials> is one of the signature scenes of the franchise, if not anime in general. I feel it holds up incredibly well given the age of the series.  Ishihara and Yamamoto made an excellent decision to push this episode as the “finale” of the broadcast. Having the series end with Kyon saying “the first thing we’ll talk about [will be] aliens, time travelers, and espers” is such a wonderful decision that makes you want to see what happens next. I agree that the Disappearance movie is fantastic, but this one episode is my favorite from the franchise that may only be topped by something that’s happened recently.

Wow. That wraps up a fantastic 6 episodes to start the series. Wait? We’re just getting started?! Next time, baseball and time travel!

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