The junkyard presents two articles about the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya episode Endless Eight I.
The view from 5930 miles away:
So here it is, the dreaded Endless Eight, and I’m about to become one of the few people to actually sit through all eight episodes twice. So what happened here? What’s with this controversial run of eight episodes?
No, not yet. This is episode one, and it’s not fair to stand in judgement over this one with preconceptions of what’s to come. Let’s look at this on its merits and see what we actually have here. What’s the real experience of watching this episode, before we start worrying about the other seven?
I want to start by mentioning the new opening, accompanied by another great Haruhi theme Super Driver. I love the artistic freeze frames for each character, and Kyon’s little sister doing a dance move with the cat is adorable. Where has that cat come from by the way? We’ll have to wait and see. Even before the credits there’s something interesting going on though. Kyon is watching… well, some kind of sport (I’m really the world’s worst person to talk about sport) and the commentator seems almost to be commenting on Kyon’s life at that point (“he looks like he’s just had the wind taken out of him”). I also noticed that “the score now is 8-0”.
Without looking ahead to what’s to come, what we have here is effectively a slice-of-life episode. It’s actually really lovely, but it comes as a bit of a surprise, because we haven’t actually had one of those before. The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya was the episode that came closest, but it hardly qualifies, what with the fate of the world resting on that baseball game. Some explanation of the term “slice-of-life” might be necessary here. Without sugar-coating it, a slice-of-life anime is one where nothing much happens. There are no big dramas, no jeopardy, no antagonists or villains as such. The usual dramatic rules are abandoned. It’s actually a hugely popular genre in Japan, and there are some lovely, gentle, innocent examples such as K-on! from the same studio that made Haruhi, which just offers us each week a day or two in the lives of a group of friends who belong to a music club. The point of it is that we get to love the characters, and are happy to watch them just being cute and having fun. I have read a theory about this which I find compelling: the pace of life for many Japanese workers is ridiculous by our standards. They come home exhausted, after working incredibly hard for long hours and being packed in on trains like sardines, and the last thing many of them want is some heart-racing drama. A slice-of-life anime provides a bit of feel-good therapy for tired minds.
With the main characters in Haruhi well-established and now hopefully liked by the viewers, it’s a good time for an episode where we are expected to tune in just to enjoy the spectacle of them having fun on their summer holidays, although it still feels a touch disappointing and out of whack with what has gone before. It’s not quite what we expect, so I suspect a lot of viewers will watch this impatiently, waiting for something to actually happen. And the most that we get, for the attentive viewer, is another example of Haruhi somehow hearing Kyon’s thoughts. When he says “how come I always get stuck with the check?” this is clearly just narration. He doesn’t speak it out loud. But a direct reply comes from Haruhi:
“Because you were late, that’s why.”
And there’s not much more to say than that at this stage, although for future reference (and for the fun of it), let’s just enumerate the activities the SOS Brigade enjoy this episode:
Swimming (an excuse for a few fanservice shots)
Buying Yukatas (gorgeous summer kimonos)
Going to an Obon festival (a custom to honour spirits of ancestors – and I really, really want to go to one of those one day) and goldfish scooping (Mikuru’s special request)
Making their own fireworks show
The SOS Brigade Cicada Catching Contest. Nagato finds a hercules beetle (and some great freeze frame hero shots, and poor Mikuru running into a tree and falling over)
Part time jobs at a supermarket, attracting customers by wearing “unbearably hot” costumes, except Haruhi of course. She just eats ice cream. Note that she also wears a 69 t-shirt, which is a not-so innocent way to indicate infinity.
A real fireworks show
Gobi fishing tournament (poor Mikuru with that worm landing on her!)
Test of courage in a graveyard (poor Mikuru in tears)
Watching a movie (Mikuru and Koizumi asleep, Kyon asleep and drooling, Nagato and Haruhi wide awake)
That’s a lot to pack into one episode, and there’s a lovely moment at the end of it all with the five friends in a train. Even Haruhi is asleep this time, Kyon is drooling again, and Nagato is of course reading a book. Then it’s August 30th, the final day is assigned by Haruhi as a day off, Kyon makes a failed attempt to get his homework done, and that’s it.
So just what was the point of all that? Was it just an episode of slice-of-life fun? Or is there something more going on here? We’ll find out next week. And the week after. And the week after that. And… RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
I excitedly scrolled to the next episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya when I noticed the title of the next several episodes were all “endless 8”. My brain took in “clue one”, but it wasn’t until the episode was over that “clue two” really made itself known to me. It was something Haruhi said earlier in the episode and I did notice it at the time, but thought it was there for the viewer to think about Miss Asahina. But when episode 1 ended without anything happening, I thought about it. No, that’s not true – it was like my brain called out the line again. It was when Haruhi said of their 10th grade summer, “once it’s gone, it’s gone for good!” Oh no you don’t, Miss Suzumiya! I’m onto you. But before I talk about how my mind got there, I’ll talk about the episode. Well, what there is to talk about…
Let’s call a spade a gardening instrument (ok, “A spade is a gardening instrument”. Good, now that that’s out of the way…): nothing happens in this episode. No, really, it’s summer break for a bunch of high schoolers and the leader of the SOS Brigade decides what everyone will do. That’s cool. I remember summers and boy howdy were they fun. I loved having nothing to do. I wax nostalgic about that era of my life. Not that I’d give up my now, but I do miss my then! Oh, if only I could go back from time to time huh? I mean, yeah, the episode has a new and ever more bizarre opening than before, but hey, what’s so strange about that? Wait a second: everything in this show is a little strange. Or comical. Let’s talk about the comical for a moment. Or is it the strange?
When Haruhi is considering cicadas, she says “I wonder if anyone ever tried eating a cicada”, and then goes on to ponder how it would taste as tempura, to Kyon’s horror. Then later she says what may be the best line yet: “If we let them go now, they might return the favor someday!” (I laughed but thought “in what way could a cicada return a favor??”) But the thing is, this show is weird and we’ve seen a giant cricket and a scarab beetle make an appearance… maybe the cicada will return the favor? So the comical might be the weird too, or it could be a clue. I just don’t know.
But when all of the summer fun was done, I was left with the feeling that nothing happened. It would have made for a great opening to a movie, like Stand by Me, or if anyone ever gets brave and makes Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine into a movie, sure it could be a coming of age opening, but barring that, nothing goes on of any merit. What was the point? I’m forced to quote Kyon: “Ribbit!” But that was when it hit me: the title and Haruhi’s comment. Oh. My. Word! Time Loop. I know it! Onto the next part! I must know if I’m right… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Endless Eight II