The junkyard presents two articles about the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya episode Endless Eight V.
The view from 5930 miles away:
When my daughter was just a couple of months old I tried a little Endless Eight experiment. She was already a fan of anime music and would fall asleep to the dango song from Clannad, which functions beautifully as a lullaby, or various other opening and ending songs. The first season Haruhi opening titles had captured her imagination in some way and putting those on my phone when she was upset was a great way to settle her down by distracting her from her troubles. So one day when she was ready for a nap I thought it would be a good idea to test out the theory of the Endless Eight being a boring thing to watch, and sat her in front of the television with the first episode playing. By the end of the episode she was still wide awake, so I played the second one.
She eventually fell asleep during episode five.
I realise this is far from being a scientific test of how interesting a form of entertainment might be, but I do think it illustrates an important point about Endless Eight. You see, from our perspective it’s the same thing on repeat (or at least it is if we’re being superficial), but take away the narrative (which a baby can’t understand) and from her point of view it’s eight different episodes because the animation is never the same.
I’ve mentioned before that it would have been the easiest thing in the world for the studio making this to reuse shots and save time and money that way, so I think they deserved a lot more credit than they got for what they achieved here. Yes, the development of the story could have been more gradual across the episodes to keep things interesting, but it’s almost like at this point everyone had given up on doing anything interesting with the story and instead just concentrated on making it all look as beautiful as possible. Let’s take a moment just to appreciate the art, because this episode in particular is truly gorgeous.
And that’s why I think anime is such an important art form. Yes, I know the Endless Eight becomes a bit boring, but there is simply no other medium where you could tell the same story six times over (yes, six, as #1 and #8 are functionally different – only #2 to #7 have a near-identical narrative) and actually present six different and interesting visual interpretations, each beautiful in their own way. Live action can’t do that, and books can’t do that. People cite the costume changes and the different shot choices, but there’s so much more going on here. Just look how different the colour palette is from last week, where we had all those dark, moody shots, with an angry sky, bringing the clouds into sharp contrast. This week we have bleached out, summer brightness, with even Kyon’s awkward encounter with Nagato taking place in daylight rather than after sunset.
As a bonus, for the first time since #2 we also have some significant variation to the scenes we are shown. Firstly, for anyone unaware of the translation for the piece of paper in the cemetery, it says “SOS Brigade test of courage. Place the doll here as proof!” and then we see Kyon placing a cuddly toy on a tomb. Then we have a completely new activity that we haven’t seen at all: the SOS Brigade playing in a playground. We see a roundabout rotating in the playground with Haruhi hanging on, and that is shown from above to echo the sight of the hands of a clock going around, with Haruhi becoming the second hand.
Somebody got their sums wrong this week though. This is iteration 15,521 (+8 from last week), but Nagato says they have done 9048 jobs (+17 from last time). Unless we come up with a very tenuous explanation such as more than one job per iteration, this is a mathematical blunder.
Let’s take a look once again the activities the SOS Brigade enjoy this episode:
Bon festival and goldfish scooping
Making their own fireworks show
Cicada catching (Nagato catches a long-armed scarab)
Part time jobs (Kyon gets kicked by a little boy!)
Test of courage
Playing in a playground
This week we are missing the yukata shopping trip, although they have obviously done it. Mentioned by Kyon, but not shown, are the fireworks show, fishing, batting cages, movies, beach, bowling and karaoke.
We end with Kyon’s clock ticking around, and the way it is done illustrates the point I have been making this week about anime as an art form. The whole picture moves round with the ticking of the clock. It’s the kind of artistic choice that keeps things fresh. In all honesty, I’m watching these episodes right through for the second time, and I’m rarely getting bored because there’s just so much to enjoy visually. It’s not boring, it’s art, and it’s entrancing and beautiful. RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
I feel like I’ve seen this episode before. Am I stuck in a time loop?? Damn it, I hate it when this happens!
I don’t know if I think the show is clever or pulling a fast one. On the one hand, I’ve seen the cleverness of this show already, so I am pretty sure there is a clue in each episode allowing me to piece together the real answer. On the other hand, I wonder if this was all one overlong episode that the animators took apart, touched up, and extended into 8 parts. I’m hoping for the former, but beginning to suspect the latter. Now, I’m not blind. I have seen some things change. I love that someone drop-kicks Kyon to the back while he’s in his frog costume. It’s subtle, but apt for the poor, suffering oaf. There are other things I’ve noticed too; things I’ve paid attention to and realize it might be important. For instance, this is the first time I think I’ve ever known what time Kyon has the late night meeting with the group. The call comes in at 1:16am and he meets with them at 1:50am. This makes me wonder: where are Kyon’s family? He has a little sister, but what about the rest of them. Yeah, it’s a cartoon, but they craft a narrative, and it should make some sense. Does he leap over his balcony? Or does he just tell mom and dad, “hey, my friends need me, I’m out of here!”
On the downside, I am totally tired of hearing Miss Asahina go on about classified information that she’s not getting from the future, because her normally high pitched voice is so over the top when she’s crying that I can’t tell when she’s saying “classified” or “declassified” and I wonder if the clue is in there. If it is, I hate it! If it’s just meant to be funny, it lost that ability episodes ago. Where this episode, iteration 15,521, succeeded is that the café scene starts having repeats. We didn’t have to watch the whole episode each time to get that. In that scene, Haruhi doodles an 8. There’s a hint here: everything culminates in that café. I think the link is there, but were we supposed to notice it before? I watched for the plane and it did repeat too so maybe… just maybe…
Damn it, time distortion, what are the clues? What’s important and what’s throw-away!?!?! Time, it seems, will tell.
Time, it seems, will tell.
Read next in the Junkyard… Endless Eight VI