Tuesday, July 4, 2006

suzumiya haruhi no yuutsu ends...

sigh. my favourite anime ends. very very satisfiying anime overall. i'm anxiously awaiting for the second season though. can't wait!

here's a synopsis of the anime from my good friend at animedb... i hope it'll lure you into this anime! hehe.

Be it aliens, time travelers, ghosts, demons, espers, or evil organizations and the heroes out of cartoons or comic books who battle them. I didn`t realise that they weren`t real until some time later. No, I had probably already realised the truth. I just didn`t want to admit it.

Deep in my heart, I wished that they would pop up in front of me. I wanted to be the one who saved the girl kidnapped by aliens and imprisoned in a bowl-like fortress. I wanted to be the one who used my courage, intelligence and trusty laser gun to fight against villains from the future trying to change history for their own gain. But wait, calm down. If I really were ever attacked by aliens or whatever, how could I ever possibly fight against them? I don`t even have any special powers!

Well then, how about this: one day, a mysterious new student transfers to my class. Except he`s really an alien or from the future, and he has telepathic abilities. When he gets into a fight with the bad guys, all I need to do is find a way to get involved in his war. He`ll handle all the fighting and I can just be his flunky sidekick. Oh my god, this is great, I am so clever!

However, reality is rather cruel! None of those could possibly exist. Though I kind of wish they did. As I graduated from middle school, I also graduated from those childish dreams and became accustomed to the routine of this world.

That is, until the day I met Suzumiya Haruhi.

Those thoughts run through our hero`s mind when he steps to his first day in high-school. Although the anime is called Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, we get presented everything through the eyes of Kyon, who made the mistake to approach Haruhi and gets involved in all the stuff he actually wished for.

Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu is based on a novel series by Nagaru Tanigawa. The novel series had a small following in Japan and was even awarded with a prize. Still, it was virtually unknown, especially outside of Japan, till the day it aired. In only two mere weeks after, its popularity jumped from non-existing to, as titled by many people, "most hyped anime 2006".

Looking at that sudden outburst it must do something right to get that known and get that many haters just for that small surprising fact.

But this surprise can only be ascribed to the content of the novel series and the quality of the adaption. While most works tend to miss a lot of things or don`t even have anything in common with their origins, this is not the case with Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu. The anime follows the novels closely, it does include the narrative style and it does excel in its technical execution. But not only that, throughout the show the production company behind this anime, Kyoto Animation – best known for their adaptions of the FMP novel Fumoffu and TSR and the adaption of the bestselling Key Visual Arts game AIR, manages to surprise the viewer in every episode and to achieve a new level of animation in a tv series.

The first episode is not even an episode of the anime itself, but a movie which was filmed by our beloved characters for a school festival and it`s brilliant in itself, it shows off all the little details and mistakes such a student-made movie makes, down from the bad script to screwed pans, poor effects and so on. It does it actually so good that most people need the whole episode to figure it out and many others don`t even get it until the second episode, which lets me take off my hat before KyoAni.

Such a beginning must be a first and is quite risky, as the company relies heavily on the fact that the viewership gets the thing, else they won`t turn in anymore. But they don`t stop there, after two more episodes there`s another surprise, as the anime jumps once ahead in time and shows episode 7 instead of 3. After that it`s almost like somebody shuffled the episodes to air them randomly, the preview for every episode does mention that though and we get our both main characters quarreling with each other as to which timeline is now the right one, another small detail which adds to the whole of it.


Good, there`s much more to come. Neither the first nor the next episode show what the show is actually about. It`s neither about a film club which has to learn its basics, nor is it a love comedy playing in a school. The first hint about the true nature of the show appears at the end of episode three and it takes a long way, with many random occurings and a lot of heavy explanations to show that the show is a science-fiction school comedy.

Not possible, you say? Well then, how about you find it out for yourself!

All of these points make out the story of the anime, which may seem confusing at first but quickly finds its own pace and like in a puzzle all of the small pieces form together a big object which is anything but ordinary in either its execution and content.

But despite of that, the anime probably wouldn`t work as well as it does without the technical quality it delivers.

Never did an anime look as real as it does here. There`s always movement, in every scene, how little it may be and even unimportant things in the background are animated, small details are included everywhere, we see the time passing by as flowers wither and things around our cast slowly change, the effects are top-notch, it doesn`t have to step back behind any action and/or sci-fi anime, it has battle and fighting scenes which are far better animated than any of those anime could ever do, it also does feature several cg sequences which are made so good that they flow like given. Compared with other shows this year who had moderate to good animation it only puts all of them to shame

It does also heavily rely on mind-boggling sequences, a lot of which are similar to Shin Seiki Evangelion, but animated in a way, which wasn`t possible back then.

On the musical side there is no disappointment to note either. In fact in only 14 episodes it manages not only to achieve a rich variety which most other series don`t manage with 50+ episodes, but it also brings us the best animated sequences ever. The opening, bouken desho desho sung by Hirano Aya, is a light song with a nice upbeat and a melancholic touch in a few places, which is accompanied by the lyrics, if you pay attention to those you can also see the references to the show it makes. The animated sequence is effect- and colourful and does not only include small spoilers for the show and its characters but also incorporates several references to mathematic and physical formulae.

The ending Hare Hare Yukai is being sung by Hirano Aya, Chihara Minori, and Gotou Yuuko (respectively the seiyuu for Haruhi, Yuki and Mikuru). It can be described as a happy-go lucky song which one can dance to and this is what the characters are doing. The animated sequence features all five main characters dancing like a group, which in itself is already quite something to animate but the most impressive thing to note about it, is this high level of detail the animators payed to the whole choreography. It also lead many people to learn the dancing steps to be able to dance to it.

Aside from it there`s also the fake opening the movie in the first episode had, Koi no Mikuru Densetsu, which is outright bad. The lyrics don`t make any sense and Gotou Yuuko sings with a high pitch which makes it sound exactly like something an amateur would do and this is its charme. Thanks to her really great work on this, one does actually get quite addicted to this little gem.

And there`s episode 12, which does feature two insert songs. Not one but two, in a 14 episodes series and even in the same episode and both are surprising on top of that. Unlike the other songs which are more pop alike, God knows... and Lost my Music are rock pieces. And once again one has to note the amazingness of the animation. The movements, especially the play on drums and bass are perfect to the smallest details, and Haruhi who is the one who sings does actually sweat during the performance (why didn`t I see all of that in the so-called music anime so far?). Did I mention that Hirano Aya does for another time exceed in her voice acting, not only does she perfect adapt to the rock style, she also sounds like singing life, with all the things like heavy breathing etc. (perhaps she really did? ;) ). On a side note, there were a few short sequences of other bands and other styles before that, which brought the show another laugher (school orchestra, country music?, death metal!).

Of course does the background music not take a backseat to this. While their movie has game boy like music, the sequences in the school are backed up by short tunes which do what they are supposed to, portray the school life. But if there`s a change in the theme of the anime, then the music does also change accordingly to it, may it be a special occurence on an island where our cast stranded, or a VR game they are playing, the show also goes all out in its use of several classical music-pieces which are gorgeous and most often send chills down one`s spine in the most important situations. But there are also several other key moments which are all accompanied by music which indeed is a strange choice but works in ways one couldn`t ever expect, for example a scene in episode two where Mikuru gets trapped by Haruhi and in the background a violin plays a dramatic tune which makes the scene on the one hand serious and does show Mikuru`s fear but on the other hand makes the viewer laugh even more at the happening. And this is just one of many such scenes.

The characters are all unique in their own way. Our male protagonist Kyon is a sarcastic companion and his narration of all the events makes the anime work and is funny on top of that, his seiyuu Sugita Tomokazu does one hell of a great work on that and deserves as much, or even more praise than the other seiyuu working on this show. Suzumiya Haruhi, the namesake of the show, is a crazy girl who founds the SOS-Dan (the Haruhi Suzumiya group to bring much excitement to the world) and is always in search of aliens and other not earthly things, the other three main characters are Nagato "Rei" Yuki, Asahina "moe lolita" Mikuru, and Koizumi "yes-man" Itsuki, who all get drafted for the club for various reasons but have each a secret of their own.

While it`s clear that the basic premise for those three is one many people would call stereotype, it`s quickly obvious that it works in the context of the show and their roles in the club Haruhi established, aside from that they do develop throughout this, even if pretty short, time. Especially Yuki, who became a fan-favourite character. There are also several background characters which appear from time to time and have their own interesting merits.

And after this fun ride the anime does end with an episode which is actually only a middle episode and still feels like a pretty good conclusion to the series. Episode 14 oncemore stands out in many ways and has a certain epic feel which did remind me yet again of several of Gainax` best moments.

Thus the conclusion can only mean this anime indeed deserves all the sudden attention it got, in fact it only got that because it does stand out. And this is not only because of the first episode which was a stroke of a genius, but because of the way it plays with many old ideas and brings them together to something new, interesting and also funny. To the fun factor also attribute many references to other anime, games, tv shows, literature, etc., throughout the show.

If there are faults and imperfections in this anime, then it`s aside from the way it starts and rearranges the episodes, which does confuse and annoy most people, the episodic feel it delivers throughout the middle episodes, yet again thanks to the way the timeline is shuffled.
It also doesn`t explain a lot of things about Haruhi and stuff like that, despite the conclusion which is well-done, but this is simply because the novel series is still ongoing in Japan with 8 books out of which only two were animated.

Overall the impact of the anime is strongest when being watched for a first time, and despite the random episode shuffling, it`s best seen exactly that way, else it loses a few interesting points.

And while there surely will be people who dislike it for its strengths, this is one of the few series in the last years which deserves a must see attribute, because of all those aformentioned points, which by far can`t be conveyed in such a "review". It`s best watched by oneself to "get it".

As for the matter of a comparison, this describes it probably best: A GAINAX` styled (Shin Seiki Evangelion, Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai, Top wo Nerae, FLCL) Kamichu meets Genshiken and School Rumble with a guest performance of Legend of Galactic Heroes, Beck, Meitantei Conan and many more.

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