Why is this a Haruhi series? I’m serious, what does this have to do with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya? It’s not set in the same universe, as we don’t see a single time traveler, alien or even an esper. Sure, it’s set in Generic Japanese High, but does that mean it’s also a spin-off of Lucky Star, Full Metal Panic, K-On, Clannad, Free, Beyond the Boundary, Sound Euphonium, and even shows not made by Kyoto Animation? Kill la Kill?
I get that the supposed link is the characters. These are the same character that appeared in the Disappearance movie and they’re like the original Haruhi characters, or so we’re told, but I have trouble believing that.
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan takes place inthe false universe created by Nagato in the flim, only without real-universe Kyon interrupting things, or malfunctioning Asakura malfunctioning. It’s a run of the mill slice of life, and in retrospect the original Haruhi really seems like of clever parody of shows exactly like this.
Yuki Nagato is the leader of the literary club, which will unfortunately be terminated if they don’t find more members. Usually this wouldn’t be a problem thanks to Haruhi’s kidnapping skills, but so far she’s only been seen briefly. Also, Yuki is shy and has a crush on Kyon. I swear, if this gets any more like Clannad I’m going to go back in time, and make sure Kyon never suggests doing homework!
Thanks to Asakura’s advice and a short encounter with Haruhi, Nagato is able to work up the courage to ask some people she’s already friends with to join the club. Okay, I’m someone who has social anxiety, and even I find that to be a laughable conflict. A good story should have characters overcoming some hurdle. I get that she’s shy and this was tough for her, but it’s not like this took much courage or daring. I mean, she’s already friends with all the people she asks to join! Even the show seems to make light of it, seeing as the whole thing takes up half a scene.
The show is based on a manga by Puyo, also responsible for… as far as I can find, nothing. I’ve read the first four volumes of the manga and kinda like it, but adapting it to animation just doesn’t work. Partly it’s the tone, I think. You need to be able to read it at your own pace, like with a manga, to make it either comedy of romance depending on which works for you, but you can’t have that in an anime. But the biggest issue for me is that, in animation, it’s impossible for me not to think of Yuki-Chan in relation to Haruhi.
Here our protagonist is Yuki Nagato, in this universe she is a shy girl, and we’ve just run into our first and biggest problem. This isn’t Yuki Nagato. And I don’t mean that like a fan feeling betrayed and crying, “That’s not my Justin!” This character is unambiguously a different character from Yuki Nagato. Yuki Nagato, as she is in the Haruhi series, is a pretty badass Ayanami clone, and my personal favourite. She’s referred to as an alien, but she acts more like a robot. This Nagato is a fairly normal though particularly shy teenage girl.
I’m not saying that you can’t have a different character. In fact, a different character is required for this, as real-Nagato, as awesome as she is, doesn’t lend herself well to main character status. But you can’t just make her completely different, keep the character design, through her in the role of main character and call it the same.
The other characters suffer different problems. Kyon for instance, doesn’t quite feel like himself. I can’t quire put my finger on it, but he doesn’t seem like the same character. I don’t get why, he’s snarky, inner-monologues in a relatable way, and is bland just like always. It may just be because I never watched Haruhi subbed and I need to hear Crispin Freeman for my viewing experience to be whole.
There there’s the last of the three main characters in this series, Asakura, who I quite like. She’s changed as well, going from normal good-girl by day/homicidal maniac by night, to a funnier, more outgoing and generally more charming character. She’s more out-going and fun, and has been re-sculpted to provide the kind of humor that fits change in pace and animation style much better. She’s also given a motherly role in taking care of Nagato in an ironic reversal of their roles in The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-Chan OVA. It doesn’t hurt that so far she’s the only character who’s shown any spirit. She can reach past the slice of life, comedy time-wasting, and actually instigate reflection and character growth. That’s kinda big deal.
As for the rest of the cast, so far they’re the same as in Haruhi only without any of them having super powers, but I can’t say that really counts as spin-off either because they were hardly characters to beginning with, just background decorations and clichés. Mikuru was the most developed (not in that way, you pervs) of them, and I can’t remember her having a single line yet that hasn’t just been background noise. But to fix that, we have Tsuruya. I like Tsuruya. That’s all I have to say there.
It’s an adaptation, one that didn’t need to be done. Given that new animated Haruhi content seems to come out on a three year cycle (2006 the anime, 2009 season two, 2012 the film), I would have preferred to get those open ends from the film wrapped up now, rather than get this and have to wait until 2018. Still, this is a first reaction, and maybe things will pick up. I mean they won’t, but in honour or reasonable skepticism I have to say they might.
Don’t Lose Your Way