The junkyard presents two articles about the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya episode Remote Island Syndrome Part 1.
The view from 5930 miles away:
It’s always fun to take characters from a school-based series out of their usual setting and take them off somewhere different. The school club trip is a storyline you will find in just about every anime that centres around a club of some kind, and it tends to be used as an excuse for fanservice (swimming costumes, etc). There’s a little of that here, played for laughs of course:
“Too many beach balls!”
This being Haruhi, the SOS Brigade trip centres around her latest crazy idea: to become “a great detective”. The world has a way of falling into place in a way that Haruhi wants, so we move steadily towards what’s going to be a locked room mystery. But does this all happen because Haruhi wishes for it, or is there something more going on?
“I know that the organisation has nothing to do with this.”
Rule One of Haruhi is that Koizumi isn’t as trustworthy as he appears, and observant viewers will figure out that this is a deliberate lie. Remember when Koizumi took Kyon to see a closed space for the first time, and a taxi conveniently appeared at just the right moment. The driver was Arakawa. Now he just happens to be a butler, working for a relative of Koizumi.
“It just so happens that I have a distant relative who is incredibly wealthy.”
That’s handy. Of course, this throws doubt on Mori as well. They will both show up again, but frustratingly we never got a third series of Haruhi so you will have to read the manga series to find out about that. Haruhi describes them as “a suspicious looking butler and maid”. Once again, she stumbles upon exactly what she is looking for, just like she did with Asakura, but ironically never finds out. Dramatic irony is always at the heart of this series.
Adding to the holiday fun, Kyon’s sister is along for the ride, amusingly stowing away in a suitcase. Interestingly, Haruhi only ever addresses her as “little sister”. The cute little sister character has become so prevalent in anime that it almost seems to be compulsory. Is the lack of a name of Kyon’s sister just laziness, or does it say more about the generic little sister role? Could Haruhi have just wished her into existence? It doesn’t bear thinking about, but the series does tend to throw up those kinds of ontological questions. Kyon never gets a real name either.
The cliffhanger ending comes as little surprise. It’s obvious where we’re heading the minute Haruhi dons that “supersleuth” armband. But there’s a huge amount of fun getting there, and the episode made me laugh out loud a couple of times, even on second viewing, especially the pillow hitting Arakawa in the face. Just like Haruhi’s wild signalling when she was playing baseball a couple of weeks ago, Nagato’s speed eating is a gift to makers of animated gifs, and I love those little touches that remind us of her alien nature.
The problem with a locked room mystery is that there are a very limited number of resolutions that actually work. We’ll see if Haruhi stumbles on one that makes sense or not next week… RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
Did anyone notice the books on the shelf in the club? Fantasy is the title of a whole bunch of them. And then there’s a whole bunch called Science Fiction. This bookshelf might be the lamest ever, or the best. Or maybe it’s just a way for the artist to draw our attention to the type of series we are watching; an odd mix of science fiction and fantasy. I think there were more but those were the ones that stood out like a sore thumb to me. I do think it’s significant on some level, mostly because those book titles are written in English. Anyway, I come to the oddly titled Remote Island Syndrome 1, letting me know there will be more than one part to this one. I was fairly sure I’d sit down and do both back to back.
Right off the bat, the story opens on a boat (ship, really) where Kyon is narrating what has happened so far. Then, we cast back and the humor begins. When Itsuki is nominated deputy chief of the club, Kyon announces forcefully, “No, I’m not jealous!” and the laughs begin. I also found it funny when Haruhi arbitrarily asks “do you know the name of the architect who built it” (of the mansion they are going to). This would be tantamount to me asking who delivered my paper today as any answer would likely be an unknown name to me. What was she hoping for? Alien McMystery? And her logic, “It’s suspicious because nothing looks suspicious!” is also hilarious. This show, quirky and bizarre as it is, does make me laugh frequently. It’s those moments like Kyon saying throughout episode 8 “so cute!” when referring to Miss Asahina. There doesn’t have to be a laugh-out-loud uproar, but the humor is there if we’re paying attention. And who doesn’t love the sarcasm that comes from Kyon?
Besides humor, we get a mystery. Like Mysterique Sign, we’re back in Sherlock Holmes territory. Locked room mysteries are very popular and Holmes has had his share. In fact, when Dynamite comics released the first Sherlock Holmes Graphic Novel, it was a locked room mystery that had me going the whole time. Am I surprised at this? Nope. Sherlock is very popular in Japan. There’s even a fairly recent Miss Sherlock from June of 2018, released on HBO (Asia) featuring a female Sherlock. (Yeah, it’s only a matter of time before James Bond gets his…) I only watched the first one but it was quite good. (I don’t read fast enough for the subs, and I was missing things on the screen so I bailed but the show was excellent!) So when Haruhi announces that she wants to be a supersleuth, we have all the makings of another Sherlock Holmes mystery. When the body of the owner of the mansion is found dead, stabbed through the heart, in a locked room… well! Perhaps it is possible that frequent visitors to our site may have picked up on the fact that I am a bit of a Sherlock Holmes fan, so this story was capturing my attention on all counts. The possibility of time travel, pocket universes, aliens, giant healing scarabs… and now a proper mystery? Add to that a hint of Agatha Christie with the island house (And Then There Were None)? I am sold. So when the episode ended on a cliff-hanger, what the hell could I do? I ejected the disc and put the next one in because, you know, some sadist put part one on disc one and part two on disc two. Sadists!! (Probably produced in Canada now that I think about it!)
Before I jump into part two, though, I had written a note to myself: Deck Chairs. I stared at it for a sec, like my own home made mystery, when I remembered! When Kyon and Itsuki are on the deck of the ship talking, deck chairs are visible. Call it a weird bout with synesthesia, but I could feel them. This is largely because during my youth we had those colored deck chairs and they had a very rough texture that I liked to touch. I knew immediately what those chairs were modeled after. It was an incredible thing! I give credit to the artist. It seems those chair were more popular than I ever realized! Ok, enough about the chairs… let’s see what happened on the island. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Remote Island Syndrome II