The junkyard presents two articles about the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya episode Remote Island Syndrome Part 2.
The view from 5930 miles away:
We ended the last episode on a cliffhanger, with a body discovered in a locked room. I mentioned last week that there are very few resolutions to locked room mysteries that make sense. In fact, in John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man, Dr Fell enumerates seven possible solutions, and subsequent attempts to expand that list have generally resulted in variations on a theme. One of the seven explanations is that the murder isn’t a murder, and the website bodiesfromthelibrary.com suggests this is used as the solution for around ten percent of locked room mysteries. However, the alternative explanation is normally suicide. Having somebody lie on the floor and pretend to be dead is stretching credulity a bit.
The episode just about gets away with it, and it’s actually quite cleverly indicated by Arakawa pulling Haruhi away from the “body” when she goes to check for a pulse, telling her “I don’t think you should move him”, because of course she would have found out the truth immediately otherwise. I think the animators might have drawn the scene with a little more distance between the characters and the body after that point to make things more realistic. Haruhi and Arakawa in particular are shown kneeling very close to the body and keeping still enough would be a difficult feat to pull off. Other that that, it’s pretty clever, with the discovery that meals had been sent to the room and the inconsistency in liar Koizumi’s supposedly long association / brand new acquaintance of the “butler” and “maid”. It allows Haruhi to play detective for a week, although it seems at times as if the writer of the episode was struggling to make things stretch out to the running time. The scene in the cave is largely padding, although it does set up the notion that Haruhi really has created a monster on the island. It also allows for a moment where Haruhi fears for Kyon’s life and the look on her face when she realises he is OK is fascinating. This series constantly reminds us that how Haruhi behaves and how she feels are two very different things.
Also of interest here, once again, is the question of what makes Nagato tick. She interprets Haruhi’s instruction to “lock the door and don’t open it for anyone” literally, and won’t back down until Kyon says this:
“My sister’s out here. Please open the door.”
This leads Kyon to speculate on whether Nagato was playing a joke or not.
“You can’t be serious all the time, can you?”
The animators might be working with a rather thin lock room mystery plot, but they make the most of the opportunity. Everything is designed to build the tension, with a choice of shot framing that constantly feels a bit wrong. The close-up shots are too close, and we veer between those and wider shots from odd angles: a shot from above Koizumi, through a fan; Haruhi’s reflection in a cave pool; best of all, a shot looking down on the corridor from high up, with the rain effects reflected on the corridor floor through the window. It’s all designed to unsettle the viewer. Add in some violin stings at the right moments and you’ve got an effectively made thriller of an episode.
I’ve been hard on the character of Koizumi previously, and once again I think this episode leads us to a place where we’re supposed to dislike him and distrust him. It’s not just the lying about his organisation. As much as the idea of staging a mystery to keep Haruhi interested makes sense, look how far he is willing to take it. Mikuru is so shocked and frightened that she passes out and spends the whole of the episode as a quivering wreck. Keeping Kyon’s sister away from the sight of a murdered man could easily have backfired. Most sinister of all, Koizumi even seems prepared to allow Kyon to think he is jointly responsible for accidentally killing somebody.
“There’s some kind of horrible something lurking on that island right now.”
Maybe there always was. His name was Koizumi. RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
After an interminably long time reading the disc and watching a trailer that I really didn’t want to have to watch, I jumped into Remote Island Syndrome 2. Back to Sherlock territory, but now with a hint of Nancy Drew. Or is that The Hardy Boys? Haruhi and Kyon find themselves looking in a deep, dark cave! Ooooo! Spooky. But the show doesn’t fail on the weird: nothing really comes of the cave and it ends up being a place for drying off after a perilous walk and a fall off a cliff only to then give us some weird camera shots. (Can I say “camera shots” when talking about animation?) Many of the “camera shots” throughout the episode were strange to me too. There are some where the camera falls on the characters legs while someone speaks off to the side. In the cave, we see shots of the two characters drying off, and Haruhi debating about taking her bra off, but nothing is disquieting and the characters get back to the house. The cave was, to my dismay, filler. But the mystery…
The mystery is solved adequately, but it fails to work in reality. First off, the “dead man” would have to be damned good at acting to pull off a dead man so effectively and for so long. Translation: not breathing or showing a heartbeat. Not to mention, how long can a guy lie on the ground without getting bored to tears? I mean, what’s the incentive? “Please lie here for 24-48 hours in case they come back to the room. Why? Oh, because the girl who wants to be a supersleuth might open a portal into a pocket dimension and destroy the world!” Hell, if that were the sales pitch, I’d be on a plane to Canada. What if the poor fool had to go to the loo!? Speaking of closed spaces, I did find it interesting that Kyon compared grey skies and black seas to the closed spaces that Haruhi creates. One wonders…
Oh, and speaking of wondering, that’s yet another point. When the mystery is solved (good job, supersleuth!) and everyone is heading home, Haruhi remembers seeing a shadow. She writes it off; it was probably nothing. Sure but they play it up for the audience that maybe something was left behind on the island; some creature of Haruhi’s creation. Cool idea, but I’m not biting. See, I really do love a good time travel story and I don’t think there’s a creature there at all. I think one of the time travelers visited. At least, that’s what I’d do if I wrote the episode. The question in my mind is actually not “what was the shadow?”, it’s “why would one of the travelers return to that place?” And at present, I have no answer. (And I may be dead wrong! I seem to guess all the wrong deaths in Game of Thrones, so what do I know!?)
The closed circle, as Itsuki refers to it, is closed but maybe there’s more to it. I am beginning to thing the Darth Vader line, “the circle is now complete” is not sharing all the details. (Perhaps it’s a sphere?) Back when I watched Land of the Lost I saw a closed circle. Season one wraps up a complete story and would have made a marvelous series finale had they not continued making more episodes – it went on to become rubbish by season 3, and only slightly better than that in season 2. When the final episode, Circle, finished, Vader would have been proud: the circle was now complete. I have a very strong suspicion that, while the story ended, the circle is not closed yet. And I can’t wait to see how they bring it together. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Endless Eight I