The view from 5930 miles away:
“Wouldn’t it be OK to force change to happen?”
This is the episode I’m counting on to capture Mike’s imagination. If he’s not hooked on Haruhi by the end of this episode he probably never will be. I’m still going to make him watch the Endless Eight though mwahahaha!
The previous episode was big on exposition, with lots of people sitting around, talking about the nature of the series. This week is a huge contrast, packed full of exciting action. I’ve been trying to subtly flag up the presence of Ryoko Asakura over the last three weeks, without spoiling things. She has been a supposedly insignificant background character, just another member of Kyon’s class, and somebody who occasionally shared a few words with him. But on the rare occasions she talked to him there was only ever one topic of conversation. Asakura only ever wanted to talk about Haruhi.
So the clues were there, and were sufficient to make what happens in this episode something that is not entirely out of left field, but it still comes as a huge surprise and shock, and there are two reasons for that. Firstly, she has such a sweet voice, and all of a sudden she is saying things like “now you die” with that sweet voice. Secondly, as a Data Integration Thought Entity she could not be more different from the near-emotionless Nagato.
The episode slightly hedges its bets as to Asakura’s true motivations, or at the very least if there is a power behind her somewhere, pulling the strings. According to Nagato she is supposed to be her “backup unit” and she is malfunctioning, but Asakura says that her “superiors are extremely stubborn and lack any vision whatsoever.” So everything she says suggests that she is part of that other faction Nagato mentioned previously, which wants to provoke Haruhi and see what happens.
This is the episode where we really get to see the powers of the Data Integration Thought Entity, and how they have complete power over matter. Asakura changes the very nature of the world around her and Kyon, and paralyses him. There’s no fighting against that. Luckily for him, Nagato steps in. Seeing her holding the blade of a knife in her bleeding hand is a huge contrast from the quiet bookworm we have seen previously, although she remains calm and emotionless. It’s all hugely exciting, and Asakura is a chilling character, even giggling as she dies. I wonder if we will ever see her again…
Just while we’re recovering from all that excitement, a new character pops up, and one who has been in the opening credits sequence right from the start if you’ve been paying attention: the older Mikuru Asahina. She doesn’t give Kyon a lot of information (“it’s classified” is becoming a habit), other than to tell him to remember “the story of Snow White” when he finds himself in danger, with Haruhi by his side. But there are also a couple of other pieces of information that might seem insignificant, one of which she lets slip by mistake. Firstly, Kyon was the one who told Asahina about the star-shaped mole on her chest (has she never looked at her boobs in the shower?) but from his perspective that hasn’t happened yet. By the way, that mole has been there in previous episodes, so if you’ve been studying her boobs closely and have spotted that then you’ve just been handed a justification for looking carefully. Congratulations on your observational skills.
Secondly, the older Asahina warns Kyon not to get “too friendly” with her. The implications are clear here. However much they might be attracted to each other (and there have been plenty of hints), we have already been told in the previous episode that Haruhi has the power to reshape the world around it, or even perhaps destroy it. It might be a bad idea for the one and only “ordinary” human she is interested in to get involved with the most beautiful girl in school.
Finally, we get a bit of fun where Haruhi is investigating the mysterious disappearance of Asakura, which is of course exactly what she wants it to be and Kyon knows all about it, but can’t say anything. This pulls the old Shakespearean trick of dramatic irony, with the viewers aware of a lot of information that one of the main characters is unaware of. And then, after all the excitement of knife-wielding Asakura and time-travelling Asahina, Haruhi drags Kyon along the corridor by his collar and once again everything seems right with the world. This series has pulled quite a trick on us. Being with Haruhi seems like the normal, safe, happy state of affairs for Kyon, and despite her behaviour we can’t help but start to like her. We’ve come a long way in just four episodes. This series can’t get any more bizarre and exciting, right? RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
“What kind of fun do normal high school students have…” Well, Haruhi took the question out of my mouth. Just as I’m thinking I should go back to school, but in Japan this time, I do wonder what fun these guys can have considering the last 3 episodes. I should have known this would be a good one though because there were no opening credits. Thank God I didn’t have to sit through that mental assault. Now I know how Colin Baker felt during Trial of a Time Lord. Or was that Mark of the Rani? I can’t recall after all the assault lately. I didn’t know it was because of the opening credits of this show that the Doctor was put into a coma! Anyway, I held out no hope at first but holy cow, I think I might have had the wrong DVD in this whole time. It was like watching another show altogether.
After another secret invitation, Kyon finds himself the subject of another girl’s (Ryoko’s) interests. But it’s about Haruhi that Ryoko is actually interested. Kyon sums that up with his marvelous monotone, “Haruhi! Man, she’s popular!” Then the other girl announces that she’s going to kill him to see what Haruhi will do. And then I find a Matrix-esque battle (…let me hit Pause so you know: I’m talking the one from Doctor Who, not the Keanu Reeves movie!) where all of reality can be changed to fit the needs of the would-be assassin. Yuki turns up and proves to be the most awesome friend a guy can have … at least during a battle because things get more complex soon… and saves the day. But it leads to a damned interesting development as the world is returned to normal. Long term readers know I love ontology and a bit of philosophical debate about the nature of reality is just what The Doctor ordered. This entire sequence is basically a chance for me to ponder the nature of life as a simulation anyway. As Yuki recreates the world, she forgets her glasses. Kyon mentions that she looks better without them and that he does not have a glasses fetish anyway. She asks what a glasses fetish is, and his reaction again cracks me up.
Long term readers know I also love time travel stories. I’m a total sucker for them. So when future Mikuru shows up I am totally intrigued. And when she shows Kyon a mole on her breast I was not put off and I didn’t even realize it. I have been programmed by society! Life is a simulation! I wasn’t put off because this Mikuru is actually meant to be an adult. A sexy one at that, and when she shows Kyon her mole, his exclamation of “Supersize me!” was both relatable and hilarious. I mean, this wasn’t a guffaw that ended as abruptly as it started! This was an actually, hearty laugh!
So, we have two Mikuru’s in the same time period and Kyon will know the future one intimately, even though she leaves telling him not to get too close to her. Well, color me intrigued. Oh, and one personal note: when Haruhi finds out that Ryoko is no longer in the school, she talks to Kyon about it. Apparently she was taken out of school abruptly. She’s utterly convinced there is a mystery here and she’s right. But why is that a personal note? Because it sounds like the most horrifying part to Haruhi is that Ryoko was pulled out to go to CANADA! I think she’s convinced it’s not a real place too, and only aliens live there. I knew it…. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya V