The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya First Series BD-Box review

In 2005, Kadokawa Shoten greenlit an anime adaptation of an increasingly popular novel series that was thought to be nearly unadaptable. While the series was critically acclaimed, there were issues adapting a series that had many short stories and basically had the climax of the series in the first novel. Planners Wada and Udagawa were able to convince Yoko Hatta to sign on and adapt the set of novels into a TV show, inking director Tatsuya Ishihara and series director Yutaka Yamamoto to lead the production with the author Nagaru Tanigawa providing assistance. Tanigawa proposed from the start to adapt it in achronological order, which was combined with Ishihara’s desire to finish with the final portion of Melancholy. Yamamoto made the decision to lead with a student-made film and the hit was born on April 2, 2006 when The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina: Episode 00 started the first series of the Haruhi Suzumiya anime.

2013 was the anniversary marking the tenth year the Haruhi Suzumiya novel series first went into print. Likely, Kadokawa wanted to release two items during that year: a pachinko collaboration with Sankyo that had been in the works since 2009 at minimum, and a re-release of the 14 episodes that aired in 2006 as they were broadcast (which had never been released before in Japan). Due to circumstances that weren’t made public, both of these were pushed back to 2014 and on August 29, 2014, Kadokawa finally gave the 629 Japanese fans what they had been waiting for.

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This Blu-ray Box set contains all 14 2006 episode re-encoded/mastered for this box on three discs (2 2-layer discs containing 5 episodes each and 1 1-layer disc containing 4 episodes). Also included in the box is a set of two postcards featuring the newly drawn box/cover art by Shoko Ikeda, the character designer/chief animation director for the series, and the soundtrack for the series on 2 CDs.
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I’ve talked about the series at length before. Despite the issues that arise in the first three Melancholy episodes, I still have a soft spot for this franchise and really like the series as a whole. Seeing the episodes in the broadcast order for the first time in years made me re-appreciate the direction that was used to tease “future” events so that audiences would have an idea yet not be completely lost when watching it.

Kadokawa Shoten’s video division put the same encodes on new discs with the addition of the next episode previews in different files (examples). While it’s not re-mastered/re-composited, it’s quite possibly the best the series will look barring Sony PCL taking a swing at it. This show was made in 2006 and yet I find it holds up well visually to many shows produced years later (though nothing in the current year). The direction was immensely wonderful with many creative angles/portrayals of material. It’s simply a joy to re-watch.

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Like last time, Kadokawa included the Japanese and English audio. These are the exact same tracks as in the previous box, so I can’t comment more on them. They also included the English subtitles produced by Bandai Entertainment and Bang Zoom. After learning a great deal of Japanese since my last watch with these subtitles, I realize how much I dislike a lot of the translation (even moreso than “futuremen”). It’s not worded well IMO.

Included on disc 1 are some bonus features. Firstly, we finally have the opening and ending used for the 2006 episodes without text. These were recomposited by Kyoto Animation in 2010 and look utterly fantastic. Upon futher investigation, these appear to be the first productions that KyoAni did in full 1080p HD. Additionally, we have the special dance version of the ending, which is kept from the previous upscale and doesn’t look as good as either the main feature or the newly composited ending. Finally, we have two versions of promotional commercials: the “pre-airing/now airing” version with Yamamoto and Hirano on a train while she states Haruhi’s famous line from Melancholy and a “pre-release/now on sale” version with Hirano and Ishihara on top of a roof with Ishihara in make-up to look like an alien.

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The soundtrack sounds like it always has: fantastic. Kousaki is one of my most underrated composers if only because his music compliments the show moreso than other “name” composers without overtaking the show on its own. These are wonderfully composed/arranged pieces and perfectly compliment the scenes used. There’s a great variety to mimic how diverse the show feels in tone from episode to episode. It’s nice to finally have these on two CDs instead of on 8 split with radio pieces.

To sum up my feelings on the box, I initially felt it was a cheap cash-grab to get some yen from the pachinko hype, but came to vastly enjoy this box release. I can’t say enough how nice the show looks visually now and the gimmicked re-airing helps highlight the better stories that were chosen to be adapted in this season. It’s easily recommended for any fan, but highly recommended for any Haruhi fan to own.

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