The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya II

screenshot008The view from 5930 miles away:

“Don’t think so hard. Just go with the flow.”

This week Haruhi assigns the roles to her actors, and they seem awfully familiar. Mikuru is a “combat waitress from the future”, Koizumi is a “boy esper” and Nagato is an “evil alien”. In a moment of cleverness that Haruhi is so good at, Kyon questions if it is his fault that their roles match, and he is actually referring to a conversation that we haven’t seen yet. But why doesn’t Kyon get to be the leading man? After all, he’s clearly the leading man in Haruhi’s life, so why does he get a mountain of behind-the-scenes jobs?

Last time I partially addressed that question. Haruhi has unwavering faith in Kyon’s ability to do just about anything. This is thrown into sharp focus this week when Kyon realises that one of his jobs is “editor”, which means Haruhi is expecting him to be able to cut together something coherent from her jumble of set-piece scenes, and she never for a moment doubts that the film will not just come together, but will be magnificent. But, tellingly, Kyon’s main job is the cameraman, and that reflects real life just as accurately as the future waitress, boy esper and alien. Kyon’s job in Haruhi’s world is to be the observer, to watch her being fabulous.

And yet he keeps getting that wrong, in Haruhi’s eyes. For the last two episodes he has done little but challenge her. It’s done with a great deal of humour, but ultimately he’s constantly running her down and questioning everything she’s doing, verging on belittling her. Yes, her film is coming together as a collection of derivative fun sequences and little more (the different colour eyes, for example, are an anime cliché for exactly the reasons Haruhi states, e.g. Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, or Another) but what more does he expect from an amateur film being made by a group of school kids who have never picked up a camera before? And do you know what? When Haruhi says “as long as it’s entertaining it’s gonna be cool” she’s exactly right. She talks the big talk of winning awards, but that’s just Haruhi, and Koizumi is spot on when he says she “is a rational being after all”. She’s having fun putting together a crazy film that the other students will get a kick out of watching, and Kyon just doesn’t get that. He keeps sniping away at her.

screenshot005Worse still, he can’t help himself and has to keep perving over Mikuru. He can’t really be blamed for this – he is a teenage boy after all – but we need to keep in mind that the evidence so far has pointed towards Haruhi’s ability to actually hear some of his thoughts. Her actions can be easily understood in terms of jealousy, and it makes her mean.

“You can drink later, got it?”

She seems horrible in that moment, but we shouldn’t judge. She’s a frightened girl who just intervened in time to stop the love of her life indirectly kissing the girl who the whole school is attracted to. The indirect kiss also seems to be a bigger deal in Japan than over here. I’ve noticed it cropping up in a lot of anime, and at times it’s treated almost like a declaration of love. It makes you question Mikuru’s motivations at moments like this. To what extent is she really just a nervous victim of Haruhi? Is she playing a game of her own?

So, although this was a bit of a slow episode, with this whole arc maybe an episode longer than it needed to be, as a character study it is fascinating. Even Nagato, who gets virtually no lines in this episode, is interesting to observe and try to draw conclusions about her feelings (and she does have them). Note how she just turns up in that fortune telling costume when she could have got changed before she went to the club room, and then happily keeps wearing it. Did she figure out that it would please Haruhi? Or is she wearing it just because she likes it? I would suggest the latter.

As for Koizumi, he’s a sucker-upper with his own agenda as usual, and I continue to enjoy Kyon’s disgust towards him:

“Don’t smile at me. I’ll turn to stone.”

But he is responsible for the best line of the episode. Mikuru, Nagato and Koizumi are all part of larger organisations, and there are others who can step into their shoes. The later manga volumes play with that idea in a frightening way, but the point is that they are theoretically replaceable. But what about Kyon?

“There is no understudy for you.”

This little group of friends is made up of a god, a time traveller, an ESPer, an alien and an ordinary human. The only one (and I do mean the only one – read the manga!) who is irreplaceable is the one with no powers at all. Now isn’t that interesting… RP

The view from 6,868 miles away:

So part two opens exactly where part one left off, and I am more convinced now that this was one long episode broken into 5 parts.  That’s ok, but it does limit what one can say about it without retreading old ground.  I’ll give it this: the series is unlike anything I’ve seen before.  Beyond the odd choice to start a series with the most off-putting episode ever, like Black Mirror did, there are not many shows that break certain conventions.  This show, with its 8 repeated episodes culminating in a lesson about getting “that junk” (homework) out of the way, and now one long episode that gets broken into five 25 minute segments… this show is definitely atypical to my viewing expectations.  And that’s not a bad thing.  It’s just… atypical.

This is one episode where Haruhi nailed my favorite line: “It’s hard to believe that anyone would confuse an actor with a role they play”.  Here, I go back to last weeks question about Haruhi: is she just terribly immature?  At 15, do I blame her?  But her statement ties in with the theme of the episode.  Haruhi assigns roles of time traveler, esper and alien to the respective members of the group.  While the coincidence is too high to actually be a coincidence, Itsuki writes it off to that very thing saying that he believes Haruhi finally understands fact from fiction.  Let’s rewind: she’s 15-ish.  What 15 year old really knows fact from fantasy?  I’d say a suspiciously low number!  Call it a bell-shaped curve if you will, but the majority don’t get it and neither does Haruhi because she’s still to young.  She can’t distinguish where reality ends and fiction begins, or vice versa.

Then we get the comedy: Haruhi manages to negotiate with shop owners to get the very things she needs for her production, to Kyon’s surprise.  But when the logic behind this is revealed, it again leads to uncomfortable viewing.  In my old age, I must be getting prudish; I felt like I was watching some child exploitation.  Imagine the news if a shop owner allowed a girl to have a camera so she could film a commercial for him wearing some hot bunny outfit?  This is funny if we watch Kyon, but very uncomfortable if we apply any of today’s societal norms to it.  I know, I know: cartoon.  Anime.  Whatever.  The point is, Haruhi and Miss Asahina are both underage and the shop owner is not.  (You might argue: no they are not.  They are pen and paper, while the voice actors are of suitable age.  Sure, but tell that to Haruhi who can’t distinguish reality from fiction.)   Sigh…

Onwards… ML

About Roger Pocock

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyard.blog Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Anime, Entertainment, Reviews, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya II

  1. Roger Pocock says:

    “This is funny if we watch Kyon, but very uncomfortable if we apply any of today’s societal norms to it.” You missed out an important word between “today’s” and “societal” and that word is “American” 😉 Applying the “societal norms” of your own country when viewing the output of another one is not a particularly valid thing to do.

    Like

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