The view from 5930 miles away:
“Wouldn’t it be cool if the cat could talk.”
Indeed it would, and it’s a lot of fun, although this episode is something of an anti-climax after the big dramatic moments last week, finally addressing Haruhi’s behaviour towards Mikuru. There is some evidence that she has learnt from what happened. Not only is this episode devoid of any Mikuru-abuse, but Haruhi also takes the trouble to praise her team’s efforts, rather than just taking everyone for granted:
“The footage looks great and everyone’s doing an awesome job.”
Before the events of the last episode, these would have been wasted words for Haruhi, and she would have been more like to say “I’m doing an awesome job”, so this is a subtle but significant shift in her attitude. Her faith in Kyon is unwavering, though:
“You can make the deadline if you work through the night.”
Somehow the world always seems to align so that Kyon doesn’t let Haruhi down when it matters. It’s no wonder she has so much faith in his abilities, but who actually puts the visual effects into the movie? The obvious answer is Nagato, but then again that is rather an active role for somebody who tends to be passive unless she’s saving her beloved (join the dots!) Kyon’s life. His alternative theory doesn’t bear thinking about, as Kyon himself points out.
“It could be someone who hasn’t shown up yet.”
Considering who was the only back-up for Nagato we’ve seen so far, that’s a scary thought. Other than that, the episode offers little in the way of excitement to bring the arc to a conclusion. Kyon’s solution to the problem of Haruhi blurring fact and fiction is a bit limp. We get some more cool world-changing stuff such as Mikuru’s contact lens shooting knives, but these moments are fleeting and wasted. Even the animation is occasionally sub-par this week, with some shadowing in a scene with Koizumi and Kyon that makes them look like they have moustaches. On the other hand, we get this:
The main thrust of the episode seems to be to seed doubts about the honesty of Koizumi and Mikuru. There’s some good dialogue, but ultimately it all tells us nothing we didn’t already know, and the debate about whether Haruhi is a god or not is little more than semantics. Having said that, it does have an impact to hear the timid Mikuru saying things like “you shouldn’t believe what he says”, and it’s also interesting to see Tsuruya lurking in the background of that scene. There is clearly more to her than meets the eye.
We also get some medieval fantasy characters popping up, who appear to be something more than just students. There is a fan theory that they are sliders, which makes sense within the context of the episode, but I don’t think it works entirely. If you think back to Kyon’s meeting with Haruhi when he travelled back in time three years, he expressed the opinion that time travellers, espers and aliens all exist, which is probably the affirmation Haruhi needed to subconsciously call them into existence, but he expressed doubt about sliders, which is presumably why she doesn’t have one of those in her group of friends. It seems odd for them to pop up now, so I think it makes more sense that they are simply creations of Haruhi’s mind, the same as the pigeons and the Mikuru beam, and as soon as the filming wraps those things pop out of existence again. Shamisen (named after a traditional Japanese stringed instrument) becomes just a normal cat again (or does he?). At least we know why Kyon’s sister is holding a cat in the title sequence, at long last!
There is a coda to this episode, and its cleverness is perhaps a little too subtle for the casual viewer who is not immersed in the wider world of the Haruhi manga or light novels. Thinking back to when Haruhi first assigned roles to her team, Kyon was worried that the similarity between Koizumi, Nagato and Mikuru’s characters to their real identities was his fault. Here we get the reason for that, the conversation he was referring to, which actually takes place chronologically just after the end of the Melancholy arc, and was mentioned there as well. We finally get to see that conversation, and it shows Haruhi’s rational side after weeks of showing us her largely subconscious irrationality. It’s also very funny:
“Don’t mess with me!”
One final point to mention: without going into specific details, Koizumi tells Kyon that there is a lot going on behind the scenes of his agency. To find out more about that you will need to read the manga series, and even then the story is unfinished, with a huge amount of untapped potential. As always, the story of Haruhi remains frustratingly incomplete. RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
Sigh.. of relief! After my revelation in the last episode, I went into #5 with renewed confidence. Like Haruhi herself, I felt like the series was back on track. Talking cats, white pigeons, … no, extinct pigeons… medieval warriors walking through the school… oh, there are still mysteries to be solved. Yes, the show is back and no child exploitation. Thank heavens!
Picking up from where last week left off, thus once again telling me that these are all one long story, a lot happens. First of all, I love that Itsuki is more concerned with the type of cat Shamisen is, rather than the fact that he can talk. Is the Japanese Bobtail really that strange? Of course it is… I also think from a strictly ontological perspective, the dialogue Yuki, Miss Asahina, and Itsuki individually have with Kyon is fascinating. There is no guarantee of truth. This is both alarming and practical. This puts Kyon in the unenviable position of not knowing who he can trust. And these are his friends. Of course, we might finally be at a point that he questions Ms. Asahina!
I also found some interesting things in those conversations. When Ms. Asahina is talking to Kyon, there is a dark shape in the background that looks like Ms. Fang herself, Tsuruya. Why was she there and what, if anything, did she learn. Obviously, there was no need to put her there unless it means something later. I am waiting to find out what! During Itsuki’s conversation with Kyon, he talks about creating a different reality when a glass is put down “in front of the camera” altering the view of their world. Again, it’s there, so one must assume it means something. Haruhi also says something alarming, “or someone who hasn’t shown up yet”. This one line actually stood out to me more than any other. Thanks for taking lessons from Kosh, Haruhi. A cryptic thing like that, and now I wonder. The most obvious from the clues so far would be Tsuruya. Unless it’s a red herring?
The end of the episode has Haruhi working with Kyon through the night to get the final special effects squared away. Comically, Kyon falls asleep and awakes with the keyboard print on his face, but the video is done, complete with special effects of unknown origin. Kyon and Haruhi meet at the café to discuss things before we see the final product. Here, Kyon tells Haruhi the truth about everyone: the alien, the time traveler, and the esper. Haruhi successfully identifies each… and then yells at Kyon for thinking she’s stupid enough to believe it all. Fascinating. Maybe it’s a calcium deficiency, but I haven’t figured her out yet. The mystery will continue when I get to see the final product of their movie! ML