The junkyard presents two articles about the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya episode Endless Eight IV.
The view from 5930 miles away:
“That role requires a certain something that I lack.”
A personality perhaps. Maybe Koizumi has to develop one of those to end the loop. Or maybe Kyon has to satisfy Haruhi’s instruction not to lose to Koizumi in the bike race to the pool, or get Koizumi to pick up the bills for their drinks for a change.
Apart from the appeal of seeing all the different shot framing techniques and the bikini of the week, this is clearly getting repetitive, so our motivation to keep watching comes down to solving the mystery of how Kyon can get out of the time loop. The answer is hidden in plain sight, so perhaps the animators saw fit to throw in a red herring to stop us guessing too quickly. And they hid that in plane sight instead.
We start this episode with a much darker sky, throwing the clouds into sharp contrast. The episode is then peppered with shots of aeroplanes. During the night meet-up there is a gorgeous shot of Haruhi framed against clouds, with a plane flying just past her head. When Kyon is desperately trying to figure out what to say to Haruhi to stop her leaving the café, there are lots of cloud and plane shots, and there are also little clues here and there, such as the clouds image on the back of Mikuru’s top and the sign with a bird on it, and then right at the end Kyon has been doodling a plane rather than doing his homework. Some of this is starting to feel like noticing irrelevant details. Is watching all this twice finally robbing me of my sanity or something?
No, it’s clearly all there to lead us in a particular direction, and this is a common technique in mystery stories. Importantly, there’s a good way and a bad way to do this. The excellent TV Tropes website offers an example to illustrate:
For example, the murder victim may have been a philanderer. His wife has no alibi. Aha! It was the wife!
The wife’s lack of an alibi is a red herring. It turns out the wife was shtupping somebody else at the time and didn’t want to provide that information. However, the deceased husband’s philandering is what got him killed, as it turns out, by his girlfriend’s jealous husband. Philandering as a motive is introduced for good cause, not just to set up suspicions about the wife’s lack of an alibi.
The key here is the motive “introduced for good cause”, i.e. not just there to provide a red herring. So the way to make a red herring work is relatively simple: it has to be integrated in some way. I would suggest that most red herrings work like the planes in Haruhi, thrown in to lead us to a dead end, but these are actually the ones that have us throwing the remote control (or a paper aeroplane) at the television in frustration, because they are a massive cheat…
…unless you want to give the animators a free pass and say it’s a metaphor or something. Haruhi is the metaphorical plane, her wishes and desires flying out of Kyon’s grasp? No, I really don’t think so.
This is loop iteration 15,513, moving on from 15,499. When Nagato gives her usual information she specifies 9031 jobs as against 9026 previously, so that’s 5 out of the last 14. That makes just 35% of the last 14 iterations where they get jobs, despite a 58% rate up to that point. Is Kyon ever increasing memory of previous iterations enabling him to avoid the most annoying activity more often?
Before I do my usual lists, just a quick mention for the music this week, which is fabulous. At times it is like a horror movie soundtrack, with an urgent heartbeat and a piano discord.
Let’s finish up by looking at the activities the SOS Brigade enjoy this episode once again:
Bon festival and goldfish scooping
Making their own fireworks show
Cicada catching (Nagato catches another rare beetle)
Part time jobs (followed by the night time meet up)
This week we are missing the fireworks show, fishing, test of courage, beach, bowling and karaoke, although they are all mentioned by Kyon.
I’ve also been enumerating some possible solutions that the episodes have offered so far, based on nothing more scientific than things I have noticed:
There are lots of shots of the sky and planes, Kyon wears a t-shirt with a big upwards arrow in #2, and Mikuru wears a t-shirt with clouds on it in #4. Maybe some kind of an aerial experience is needed?
Is the weird fourth wall break “stuff you can’t say on tv” significant? Is this more than a time loop?
Kyon never does his homework, and that keeps getting mentioned.
Koizumi suggests a resolution similar to the conclusion to the original Melancholy arc, with Kyon confessing his love for Haruhi to bring her out of the loop.
- Something to do with Kyon and Koizumi’s bike race to the pool?
We might not have seen the fishing tournament this week, but a massive red herring just got dangled in front of our eyes. Somebody’s trying to keep the solution hidden away in the clouds… RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
Repeat day 15,513. I think it’s getting tedious, how must poor Yuki feel??? And that theory about the back to back episodes that were 2 and 3? That’s out the window now too! The thing is, the story is interesting because I’m dying to know the same thing Kyon is: what is the secret? What key unlocks the future? The plane motif shows up a lot in this story, implying there’s a hint in it… but what? It wasn’t there before. Or was it and it’s just totally background stuff? Even here, the plane does not seem to make a big impact in this story short of being there a lot, but then the clouds are also a big focus, so are we being told to look to the skies? Is the UFO that Haruhi searches for actually up there? Maybe in plain sight? Beyond the swimsuits in each episode or the mask Yuki chooses, something must be different that would catch our attention. A good mystery is based on the answers being right in front of us and we just have to piece if together. In this case, we have a 30 minute episode that gets repeated over and over again; the solution has to be there for it to be good, or the story will end with a catastrophically lame resolution. Seeing as this story has been so clever so far, I have a hard time accepting that, but the riddle should be solvable.
Years ago, I had a book that was both story and Mensa puzzle. Supposedly in the pages of the book was the answer to a Merlin related riddle. I neither solved it, nor do I recall what the solution was (it might explain why I don’t have the book anymore – it was so idiotic that I threw it away!) I feel like the Endless Eight storyline will bother me when it’s done. I hope I’m wrong. I hope, when the solution presents itself, I have another of those moments where I say “holy cow, I need to go back and re-watch the whole thing!” You know, the way you felt after watching The Sixth Sense? You immediately want to go back and watch it again. Or Fight Club. Sometimes the solutions are so mind blowing, that you go back and do it again.
The only thing that really stood out to me in this episode was the moment Kyon stops Yuki from going home and they stare at each other for a few seconds. The music is super-strange and there’s a distinctly artificial static sound that is palpable. So much so that I had to pause the episode to make sure it wasn’t coming from somewhere else in the room. Whether this is a clue or not remains to be seen, or heard, but I am beginning to feel like Yuki with having to sit through the same August days over and over again. This must be how the Doctor and Romana felt when they were trapped in that time loop. There’s a key to this mystery, I just have not found out what it is yet… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Endless Eight V