Region: 2 - UK
Length: 482 minutes
English Dolby Digital Stereo
Includes The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya Series 2 on 3 discs (Episodes 1-14) plus THE MELANCHOLY OF HARUHI-CHAN SUZUMIYA & NYORON! CHURUYA-SAN paraody epsiodes on a bonus disc (Episodes 1-25).
Perhaps one of the most anticipated and hotly debated releases of 2009 was the Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi series two.
With the first series, Kyoto Animation scored unprecedented success with the off beat comedy. The animated adaptation of light novel brought us an unforgettable and irrepressible heroine backed by complex and multi-faceted cast. Commonplace high school scenarios were subtly ensnared by the complex connections of space and time. In the show the megalomania of Suzumiya Haruhi was revealed to be of unimaginable influence with implications so potent that her whims could make or break existence. At its height it was almost as if the world had indeed come to revolve around Haruhi's dramas - at least among anime fans!
With the immense pressure to deliver a sequel to match the quality and appeal of the original series, what motivated Kyoto Animation to throw caution to the wind and take the twisted path it took through the centre section of series two? I refer, of course, to the infamous episodes known as Endless Eight. In this the characters are trapped in a loop of time that forces them to relive the summer holidays with little awareness that it is occurring (all with the notable exception of Yuki) until it is too late.
Fans of the original applauded the non linear and embraced the unconventional storytelling that made the most out of the unpredictable events as told by Kyon. The epic Endless Eight saga of series two, however, makes viewing equitable to endurance as opposed to enjoyable. Even in the midst of festivals and the sequences of the girls frolicking in swimsuits, nothing can stop the viewer from suffering alongside the cast as they struggle with the time loop. We are inflicted with the shared disorientation of dejavu and disappointment that comes from reliving a window of time over and over. It is, for its part, a bold retelling of the scenario played out in the fifth novel The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya. Part of me wants to commend the courageous and audacious choice that Kyo-Ani made... but I simply can't. Even though episodes have the allure of the avant garde and are completely reanimated and recorded by the studio anew each and every time there is still a terrible sense of foreboding as each episode opens on Kyon's same protestation that something about his day is "definitely off".
Considering the cost of affronting your audience, caution should always be drawn by studios when following a narrative that shapes their own adaptation. Sometimes a faithful reproduction is not the most flattering way to re envision a text on screen, particularly as the Endless Eight was originally a SHORT story. It seems Kyo-Ani may have been too clever for their own good in this instance. To further understand their motivations, I took the time to read the Endless Eight for myself and was again taken aback to see that the events are actually only described once! The niggling sensation of repetition bothers Kyon but it is only Yuki who can fully recall them. What is infuriating in reflection of the anime is that the same events are never described twice in the novel's narration. Did Kyoto Animation really believe that their audience had the patience of a humanoid interface? Unlike Yuki, who often endures time not unlike an automaton, fans who consider that time is a precious commodity are likely to feel cheated into having theirs wasted by the directors audacious disregard for their audience.
These episodes have only the value and quality of a DVD extra – like deleted or alternate scenes and it is frustrating that Kyo-Ani made this the meagre meat that filled the second season sandwich.
The moral of the story (once you have gotten to the end of the Endless Eight) is that procrastination and leaving summertime homework until the last minute is a VERY bad thing indeed.
Returning to the many positives for series two, the production values and subsequent episodes proceed with the same charm and calibre to match the show's former glory. Watching production of the cultural festival film produced by the SOS Dan with maniacal Haruhi performing a role of director as extreme as Freidkin (The Exorcist) and Kubrick (The Shining) we see how again her influence shapes existence in the most remarkable and comical ways. The complex interactions of the SOS Dan are also explored further as more of the individual agendas of Koizumi, Yuki and Mikuru are divulged during the course of filming.
Fans of the original should rest assured that in acquiring the collected series of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi part two there will be plenty to enjoy. The episodes that detail production are remarkably funny and reveal some of mysteries woven into the glorious Mikuru movie that was for many of us, our first encounter that had us hooked on Haruhi.
To sweeten the deal, the set includes the two SD spinoff series, The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan and Nyorōn Churuya-san to expand upon the wonderful yet weirder world of the formidable franchise. I have particular fondness for artist Eretto's interpretation with chibi Churuya on her endless pursuit of smoked cheese, which is in its own way both brilliant and utterly bizarre.
So how to rate this show to guide others leaves me in a quandary. Did I suffer any regrets after watching and wading through the Endless Eight? Frustration? Yes, regrets? No, for there was bright light at the end of that tiresome tunnel of time and the Suzumiya Haruhi supernova shined with all the splendor that I associate with where it boldly went before. So for the series EXCLUDING the debate of the Endless Eight debacle, I would have scored it a substancial 9 out of 10, regrettably I can't bring myself to do so.
I have been advised by a diehard Haruhi devotee that the most fun way to watch the Endless Eight is to do it one after the other and play spot the difference. This way you are able to enjoy the subtleties of the variations. I may try this for myself... if I ever get the courage to do so!
The other way around it is to watch the first and last episodes of the eight to get a condensed version and return to the whole set later on in the future as you so please.