The view from 5930 miles away:
There is an air of finality to this episode, and it leaves you feeling almost like you’ve just watched a film rather than an episode of a television series. In particular, the post-credits coda, which sums up what has happened, shows people talking about the events of the episode and looks ahead to the future of the main characters, all feels very filmic and a little self-congratulatory. On first broadcast, with the episodes muddled chronologically, this was of course the literal end of the series, and you can kind of see why that decision was made, if you squint. Having said that, we are definitively still at the start of Haruhi’s story, with the events of this episode bringing to a close the first story arc. In terms of the manga, that’s the end of book 2, with 18 volumes still remaining. It might feel like the end, but it’s still early days.
Although this is a big, dramatic episode, there’s still a little time for some light and shade. Kyon’s little sister gets a bit more screen time, and perhaps offers some insight into why Kyon lets Haruhi get away with so much. He seems to have been conditioned to be bossed around by the female of the species, and to let them get away with anything, as evidenced by his little sister dragging him out of bed and later strolling into his room and taking some scissors without asking first. There is more than a little of Haruhi’s zest for life to be found in Kyon’s cute little sister. We also get a bit of fun with Mikuru discovering the computer folder that bears her name (and inside the folder that bares her star-shaped mole). But there is a point to this beyond being funny: Mikuru’s physical closeness to Kyon is a major factor in Haruhi’s depression. Note the message she sends to him when he is in Haruhi’s closed dimension: “I’m sorry. It’s all my fault.”
Kyon observes that Haruhi and Mikuru are “like a couple of sisters”, but it’s worth noting that the older/little sister is in tears while her hair is being played with. Haruhi’s treatment of Mikuru might make you uncomfortable as a viewer and I suspect it’s meant to. It’s going to have to be addressed at some point…
Once we get into Haruhi’s closed space we’re racing towards the big finale to this arc, but first we are able to understand more about what makes her tick. She is perfectly capable of normal human emotions, for a start. Look how frightened she gets in the club room, bombarding Kyon with questions he can’t answer. Wendee Lee again does a great bit of work softening the Haruhi dub voice in that moment. Then we find out that she has become so depressed with the ordinariness of her life that she has abandoned the real world and is going to create another, which brings to fruition a scary idea that the series has been paving the way for from the start. The only person she is going to take with her is Kyon, of course, and that helps him towards understanding how to resolve the problem. We have been prepared for this with the older Mikuru’s “Snow White” message, and as soon as Sleeping Beauty pops up on the computer screen it’s obvious what’s going to happen. But it’s not just about the kiss. Kyon also talks about how much he likes his life, mentioning the club members, which also gives Haruhi pause for thought. Perhaps the real world isn’t so bad after all. And then we’re back and Haruhi has remembered Kyon’s comment about liking pony tails in her “dream”. It’s a lovely moment, and one that affirms what we have always suspected. Haruhi has feelings for Kyon.
…and he might not be the only one. It’s easy to miss in all the excitement, but this pops up on the computer screen when Nagato is communicating with Kyon:
“I, as an individual, also feel the desire for you to return.”
A couple of weeks ago Mike emailed me about Haruhi, having reached the point where Nagato first reveals that she is an alien. He made the perfectly understandable mistake of referring to Yuki as an “android”. The series moves fast, so it’s all to easy to miss the details. But I was keen to correct him, because Nagato is far from being an android. She might be impassive most of the time, but moments like that clearly indicate that she is capable of emotions, and those emotions are developing over time. Another example is the steely way in which she promises to protect Kyon from any future Asakura-like attacks. It’s no accident that Nagato is going to end up as the centre of her own spinoff series, rather than the far more obvious choice of Mikuru Asahina.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This episode might feel like a full stop, but in fact it’s little more than a semi-colon. With Kyon’s help, Haruhi has accepted the real world (or the world she created three years ago, whichever the case may be), but what part does she play in it now? It’s going to be fun finding out… RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
Ha-ha-HAAA… wait, nothing? Nothing creepy and disconcerting? What show is this anyway?
Ok, this episode is another without opening credits, but it does something far more bizarre: an “after credit scene” that I almost missed. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. The opening has Kyon ask a very apt question: “Who wrote this scenario…?” Yeah, that’s a good question Kyon but I suspect after this one, I won’t care. This is the one that won me over. It was almost the last episode, but this one really got me. Oh don’t get me wrong, I was in it for the duration the moment I realized there was a mystery hidden in a science fiction story, but this one did a few things that really won me over.
First, there’s the return to the “closed space” featuring that fantastic choral chanting. It gets especially good when the entity begins destroying the city. It’s both eerie and wonderful. As the viewer, I was pretty positive that Kyon and Haruhi were just in a dream, but it was a shared dream and I knew it meant more than we could see at face value because episode 5 showed us that. It was suddenly clear that episode 5 was not just exposition. It did something I love in good story telling: it laid groundwork. And to tie it all together, Haruhi changes her hair style as a result of their time in the Closed Space.
Second, like I said in the last write up, I love these abandoned world scenarios because there’s something both terrifying and oddly cozy about them. Especially when there’s a mystery surrounding it. So the closed space takes on a creepy new life of its own. There’s a hint of The Quiet Earth or The World, The Flesh and the Devil. Two people alone in a world being destroyed by strange beings. Yeah, just what the Doctor ordered.
Thirdly, let’s talk about the art. It’s not that there’s anything outstandingly different about the characters but the scenes when Haruhi and Kyon are entering the closed world, we see sound waves. That’s a funny sentence, but we actually see the waves of sound emanating from the dark. It’s a wonderful scene and I hope to see more creativity like that. It was both inspired and perfectly set up.
Next, there’s the comedy. Refering to Kyon as one of Haruhi’s “henchmen” is very comical indeed. But the best scene comes after Kyon has escaped the closed world, falls out of bed only to question whether his encounter was actually a dream, asking “what kind of a dream was that?! Sigmund Freud is laughing at me right now!” Brilliant! Especially since he says it while “running while lying down”. But that leads me to a side note. Roger always says he’s a fan of the soppy romance. Fact is, I am too, when it’s done right, and I find more often than not, that’s a rarity. When Kyon exits the closed space by kissing Haruhi, I could not help but smile. Yes, I saw it coming, but I still enjoyed it because it was not over-the-top. It was completely spontaneous and it was appreciated. I say appreciated, I mean by Haruhi, but also by me as the viewer.
At this point, I am very happy with the show. It has drifted from the sexploitation and moved into a proper SF Mystery with a hint of romance. The credits began and I hit stop on the DVD. But something whispered to me: it’s not over. I don’t know why, but I hit play again. This gave me another solid 3-5 minutes of the episode. Nothing outstanding happens, but it had the feeling of an ending. Was this the end of “part 1”? Like my favorite, Babylon 5, was this the equivalent of season 1 ending? I guess I have to see where #7 takes me. At least I can say I’m really looking forward to it. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya