After finishing Melancholy last week, you think the series wouldn’t have anything up its sleeve, but this week we get to see the humor of the franchise as well as some focus on the least-focused of the main female trio. Time for the first two short stories in the third light novel. As always, Yumkea (of the well-known Mainichi Anime Yume) and K-On! superfan Goggen join me in this reviewing post. (Yumeka: Haruhi, Goggen: Mio, ultimatemegax: Koizumi) Disclaimer: each of the views expressed were noted individually. No one saw the other responses while writing.
The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya
In this style of viewing, Boredom is the first comedic centric episode you see and it’s still one of the best short stories in the franchise. The anime takes an amazing short story and makes it even better. The dramatic music as Koizumi tells Kyon about the dangers of losing and the techno Nagato music as the home run montage occurs help amplify such an abstract risk. I also have to applaud Kousaki for the music choice playing during Kyon’s turn as pitcher. The lighthearted tune combined with Kyon commenting how cheap the world seems lately is a wonderful mix. We also get the first appearance of Tsuruya-san too! A wonderful episode that is a joy to watch over and over again!
I tend to get bored fast when watching sports – even when part of a fictional story, sad as that may be – but thankfully, The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya is anything but boring. Shifting gears from last week’s epic Melancholy conclusion, this is the first stand-alone episode of the series and although the threat is once again Closed Space and the possible end of the world, it is kept off-screen, allowing for some light-hearted comedy. Of course, it’s notable for being the episode that introduces Tsuruya, as well as the introduction of Kyon’s sister to the rest of the cast. But it is Yuki’s hilarious “magical cheating” that wins the episode for me.
After Melancholy established the premise and characters of the series, finishing it off with quite the epic story arc conclusion, Boredom is a bit of a breather episode. It’s the first of many stand-alone episodes that, while it may appear filler-ish, plays its part in subtle story and character development. Boredom shines the spotlight a tad more on minor characters like Taniguchi, Kunikida, and Kyon’s sister, as well as introducing fan favorite Tsuruya. I’m not interested in baseball, so I actually find this story more enjoyable in anime form than novel form, where I can continually see the characters being their lovable selves and not have to read through a lot of Kyon’s baseball jargon. Even though this episode seems like all fun and games, it still has its share of sci-fi revelations, such as Yuki’s homing bat and the fact that things could turn ugly if the game doesn’t go how Haruhi wants it. Although it’s not one of my favorite stories, Boredom has a lot of funny and cute scenes that keep me entertained.
Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody
The first of the new episodes from 2009, and the batch is off to a great start with Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody. On my first viewing, I was a little distracted by how the art style isn’t entirely consistent with the 2006 episodes that surround it, but in fairness that is to be expected after a three year period having passed in between. And, honestly, I love the more polished look of the newer episodes. The story itself is very interesting, with Kyon’s first personal experience of time travel and his encounter with a younger Haruhi. How Kyon and Mikuru eventually find their way back to the present, I thought, was particularly clever. When I first watched it, though, I was a little confused about the purpose of this time travelling adventure – what was the point of it? What had they accomplished, aside from going back in time and getting themselves stuck? Of course, this question would be answered in a thoroughly satisfactory manner later.
This episode is significant to the series in more than one way. Firstly, it’s extremely important plot-wise and is referenced and revisited multiple times in later stories. And secondly, it was the first new Haruhi anime episode fans had been eagerly waiting for for three years since the 2006 series ended (little did they know what the new episodes coming after were to be, but that’s for a later review). Another reason Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody stands out is because it’s also the first episode where time-travel actually happens (something to be seen in later anime material and even more so in later novels). In addition, this episode answers questions brought up at the beginning of the story such as why Haruhi thought she had met Kyon before, how the alien symbols she (or rather, Kyon) drew in the courtyard came about, and how Haruhi got the idea to search for mysterious beings at North High. With the previous Boredom and many of the episodes following Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody being less plot-advancing, the story development in this episode is quite thrilling for any fan of the series. I personally will never forget how excited I was when I watched it live-streaming back in 2009 before heading off to school, seeing it again later when people at my university’s anime club watched it on their laptops during the meeting that week 😄
Finally, some use for Mikuru. With little shown use in the 2006 episodes, we start the 2009 bunch with a fantastic time travel story featuring both Mikurus in one story. I’ve been re-watching the series via the BD-Box, so the shift in animation quality is huge between the 2 sets of episodes. I enjoy the newer styles more than 2006, but the most apparent is the change in backgrounds. You can finally see clearly outside the windows! Of course, I have to mention “John Smith” and the fantastic back-and-forth between Kyon and middle school Haruhi. Tanigawa also solved the problem very well by having Nagato freeze time in a room for the three years. Another fantastic episode.
And so we wrap up another week of re-watching The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Two short stories this week; two short stories next week! Stay tuned for Mysterique Sign and Lone Island Syndrome!