The junkyard presents two articles about the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya episode The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00.
The view from 5930 miles away:
One of the things I love about Haruhi is that it’s just such a weird and wonderful series to watch. This episode adds an extra dimension to the weirdness, and we should spare a thought for the original viewers of the episode on its first broadcast in Japan. This is a bizarre enough episode to watch consecutively, following on from the Sigh arc, but imagine what it was like back in 2006 when this episode launched the first series of Haruhi. What must the viewers have made of it? With the 4:3 aspect ratio and the fuzzy picture, they must have thought their televisions had developed faults for a start. Astonishingly, the Sigh arc didn’t even form part of the first series, so the viewers had to wait until 2009 to make sense of what they had seen. On the other hand, I suppose it adds another dimension to the Sigh episodes to watch them in that way, recognising the scenes that the SOS Brigade are shooting.
For those baffled viewers back in 2006, at least they had a funny episode to watch, with most of the humour coming from Kyon’s narration.
“Unfortunately none of this has anything to do with the story.”
It’s not actually clear whether his narration forms part of the film, or if we are just hearing his thoughts as usual. Either option throws up a slight problem. If it’s not part of the film then there would be long passages of silence and it would make even less sense. If it is part of the film then surely Haruhi would object to it? Or is she smart enough to realise that his humour is what makes it so good?
“Yuki Nagato stands there dramatically, although we don’t really know why.”
Kyon has fun pointing out some of the continuity errors to us, but some of the funniest goofs are those that go uncommented on, such as the old man slowly walking in the background of the shot when Mikuru is delivering one of her advertisement speeches, or the cutting between two locations for what is supposed to be a conversation between Itsuki and Yuki, complete with background traffic noise in just one of those locations.
“With a forced look of awe on his face, Itsuki watched Mikuru run off, and what’s with the camera tilting up like this?”
…asks the cameraman. In fact, some of the funniest quirks of the film are down to Kyon’s filming techniques. For example, in one scene he focusses the camera a bit too low on Mikuru’s body, before correcting it upwards. Haruhi obviously wanted Mikuru to bring in the male viewers, but Kyon often goes above and beyond the call of duty in fully exploiting her best attributes.
“Hold on, we’re only half way through this thing?”
There’s a lovely little ad break caption screen, something that is commonplace in anime but usually lacking from Haruhi. Amusingly, Haruhi’s ads aren’t placed here, but are clumsily integrated into the narrative of the film instead.
“That dialogue was incomprehensible.”
There’s an interesting moment in Tsuruya’s house where the dialogue sounds like the sort of confusing sci-fi stuff Nagato and Koizumi normally go on about. It feels like the two of them having a real conversation in the middle of the film, and it is surely not dialogue written by Haruhi?
Speaking of Tsuruya, she only appears a couple of times in this, but she’s absolutely hilarious. She can’t stay in character, and there’s a lovely vibe of one friend trying to watch another trying to act and finding it all absolutely hilarious. While Mikuru’s trying to say her lines, Tsuruya is corpsing, trying to hold in her laughter, and then finally gives in and laughs out loud. I was laughing with her, although not quite so manically.
Then we get to the final confrontation on the roof, and Shamisen finally has enough of all this nonsense and decides to have a diva rant. That’s a bit of a problem, because he’s a cat.
“I am also a ventriloquist.”
Nagato’s line is a laugh-out-loud moment and also illustrates how clever and quick-thinking she is. Of course, she could have just not bothered with that line, working on the assumption that the viewers would assume it was a special effect anyway, but (a) she needed to provide an explanation for Haruhi at that moment, while they were filming, and (b) she must realise that the special effects added in post-production on the school computer aren’t going to be up to the kind of standard that they could convincingly be expected to account for a talking cat. In fact, it’s quite likely that she was the one who added the special effects anyway.
Finally, we get Haruhi’s own narration over the end credits (perhaps adding credence to the theory of Kyon’s narration being only in his head), with her speaking the lines that will bring to an end all the weird phenomena she has called into existence. It’s interesting to note how much she is deferring to Kyon at this moment, not only agreeing to read something she sees little point in, but somehow persuaded to read the “work of fiction” bit twice, just to be on the safe side.
“That totally rocked!”
And she’s right about that. The line is followed by a dramatic turn to the camera, and again we must be mindful of the original broadcast order. From our perspective, watching the Blu-rays, this is episode 25 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. For a viewer in 2006, this was episode 1 and they had just seen the face of Haruhi Suzumiya for the first time. It was probably the strangest thing they had ever seen, but it was going to be a magnificent series… RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
Well, if I doubted this series from a science fiction point of view, I may be justified. It has a hint of it, like drinking those orange flavored seltzers – it’s a hint you can’t miss – but it has no calories to keep you satisfied for long. But also like those seltzers, it does quench thirst because it give me something by which to be entertained. And this episode has some of the best lines of the whole series. First of all, it’s hilarious imagining Kyon doing the voice-over while people watched this “cultural arts festival movie”. The mere notion of it in a high school is magnificently funny. But I get ahead of myself. Let’s start with my recurring complaint. It’s pretty evident that the creators were aiming for sex appeal when they show Mikuru about to take her top off, and just as they get to the point she’d undress, they cut it. (This happens twice!) It’s made better by the comedy lines spoken by Kyon that they don’t have the footage because they stopped rolling (so don’t ask) but I can’t help but be bothered because of the supposed ages of the characters. Even as Mikuru is running with the weight of the world “riding on your shoulders”, there’s no denying that the focus is on her ample bosom. I would have been completely fine with this if the characters were of age, but they are teens! I can only pretend for so long.
But barring that, our precious cupid arriving from the future does bring a lot of laughs. When she seems to randomly run into a pole, I had to pause from laughing so hard. It was just so random! This is an animation, not a real woman! To make her trip was just icing on a great cake. (I seem to go for a lot of food metaphors!) When Itsuki carries a suddenly bathed Mikuru into the bedroom, Kyon’s frustration was perfect. “This would be the point where anyone’s doubt turns into a white hot rage, building to a desire to kill; but for now I will not give it much thought!” This was uproariously funny. Same with Itsuki, when he’s doing one of his scenes, he says, “I understand that he… no, in this scene it’s me so, I…” I guess this is what one should expect of a guy who stares “blankly at the world as he always does!”
It’s one outstanding line after another in this crazy movie. “The schizophrenic movie reaches it final act as if it were written by a drunk child!” That sums up much of the series, come to think of it. There are moments of brilliance followed by moments of mind-numbing normality that one wonders how much the car swerved off the map during the writing of the episodes. When the cat speaks in the movie, Yuki has to actually state: “I am also a ventriloquist” which is freakin’ brilliant! As if anyone would think the cat actually spoke and it wasn’t some special effects like all the others that were added to the movie!
But there are a couple of other things that warrant attention. Throughout the series, we’ve seen a number of odd “camera angles” but this particular episode is actually supposed to be a recorded movie, so it belongs here more than any other episode to date. As such, we see a lot of grainy and out of focus shots, with the occasional unintentional zoom in for good measure. While the show may be all over the map for Science Fiction, there’s a very clear awareness of various elements. I mean, this could be a downside because it implies that the sex stuff was also intended even though these are underage characters but I just have to remind myself that the culture I was brought up in is not the only culture out there. But that aside, this episode was by far one of my favorites because I laughed so much.
Then, just as the episode is ending, Haruhi asks “Right, Kyon?” and I am again realizing how much she values him. He is the one person that she actually turns to for validation. So even amidst all the comedy, we are again treated to hints of who Haruhi is. She’s not an easy person to get to know, but then, barring Kyon, who is? Yuki is a robot. Mikuru is classified. Itsuki is mysterious and we never get to anything deeper about him or his organization. I guess we shall see, in the final 3 episodes… ML