The junkyard presents two articles about the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode Haruhi Suzumiya!!.
The view from 5930 miles away:
Well if anyone deserves a double exclamation mark in the episode title it’s Haruhi!! The carefully constructed group dynamic of the first couple of episodes is blown away by her arrival, turning the Lit Club on its head. Although this is a parallel universe, she is very much the Haruhi we know and love, “not interested in ordinary people”, bossy and entirely self-confident, and just a little bit worrying in her ethics. Going on a night time mission to see Santa might seem like an odd thing to do. Going to capture him armed with kidnapping paraphernalia is something else.
It’s fascinating how quickly we are falling back into old patterns. Kyon is once again the only one who challenges Haruhi, and what was unspoken in the original series is made clear straight away here: she likes it.
“It’s kind of nice to have somebody talk to me as if I’m a regular person.”
When Koizumi turns up he’s the same old tedious sycophant, although his reason for that is different: he is in love with Haruhi (yawn). Surprisingly, even Asakura defers to Haruhi, on the proviso that Yuki has no objections to what is going on. Apart from Kyon, only Tsuruya attempts to challenge Haruhi, in a fun but cartoonish battle for ownership of Mikuru, which results in a foot in the face for both Koizumi (hooray) and Kyon. There is a sense that these people are destined to be together in any parallel universe, and in particular (and this might be bad news for Yuki) Haruhi and Kyon might just belong together. Despite saying that she’s “not interested in ordinary people” and “certainly not interested in relationships”, Haruhi is quick to find out Kyon’s relationship status, and although he’s not an alien or a mysterious transfer student he immediately fascinates her:
“Oh, so your mind works the same way mine does, huh? Very interesting.”
And in a moment guaranteed to get the hearts of the rom com fans racing, Kyon suggests Haruhi should put her hair in a ponytail and she immediately does what he says, while Nagato forlornly touches her short hair. This is, I think, where the whole premise of this series is going to be a hard sell. We are supposed to be watching a gently budding romance between Yuki and Kyon, and yet there is a special bond between Haruhi and Kyon that we have watched develop over the course of two seasons and a film, and that bond is carrying through into the parallel universe whether Yuki likes it or not.
That’s not to say the Yuki/Kyon romance is entirely forgotten this week. Maybe things were going a bit too smoothly, and Haruhi certainly puts a spanner in the works, forcing them immediately to put the nature of their relationship into words. It’s an old rom com cliché, but Nagato’s denial of a relationship goes too far, denying even a friendship, and that offends Kyon a little. However, Haruhi is far from being just a negative influence in Yuki’s life. We already saw how she inspired her to fight for the existence of the club, and this week when she tries to thank Haruhi she receives another dose of inspiration from a selfless Haruhi who refuses to take credit:
“If you found some sort of inner strength, that’s exactly what it was, strength from inside you. Give yourself credit, not me.”
It’s no wonder Yuki’s eyes light up in the presence of Haruhi almost as much as they do for Kyon, and she’s happy for Haruhi to turn her world upside down. By the end of the episode the club room is starting to resemble the madhouse that was the SOS Brigade, even with that frog costume (a fun moment for the fans, especially when Kyon gets hit in the head with it!).
So in just one episode we’ve gone full-on Haruhi, and the SOS Brigade has been reconstructed in the parallel world. All the pieces are back on the board: Haruhi, Kyon, Yuki, Mikuru and Koizumi, with the bonus of new regulars Asakura and Tsuruya. But we have to ask the question: what is the point of recreating the world of Haruhi, but leaving out a lot of the stuff that brought the original version to life (aliens, ESPers, time travellers, and Haruhi actually being a god)? Why not just have another series of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (which, believe me, would have been utterly magnificent – I’ve read the books)? And has this all derailed the entire premise of the series before it had even got going? Can we really care about the Yuki/Kyon rom com any more? Frankly, I don’t really mind. Haruhi is back, and this series just burst into life like a particularly impressive fireworks display.
“Things used to be very quiet in this club, but something tells me those days are over now.”
The view from 6,868 miles away:
“Things used to be very quiet in this club!” You said it, Yuki! Haruhi has arrived and with it, a level of excitement takes over. Last week’s review, Roger made a superb comment about the X-MAS sign in the window (one direction for Haruhi, in the alternate universe; the opposite for Yuki in this one) and it got my brain thinking about something but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until this episode. It started as an observation about the harsh way the animators draw Haruhi’s eyebrows, but it wasn’t until she was standing on the park bench that I realized it. She says her goal is to find “aliens, espers, time travelers and people from parallel universes!” Yes, I knew this was the parallel universe that Yuki created during The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya but a new thought hit me. I knew what stood out to me! And I can’t help it since I started when I was 3 years old… it was down to Star Trek. In the episode Mirror, Mirror, Kirk and the landing party end up in a parallel universe. There, they encounter a goateed Spock. But Spock is the one constant in both universes. While everyone else is essentially brutal, Spock is still governed by logic. Funny thing about Haruhi is that she has very Vulcan-like eyebrows and she is essentially the same in both universes. She’s bossy, hilarious, energized, not afraid to be who she is and generally always loads of fun. And like a particular ion storm, the “storm” that connected the universes is what Roger brilliantly pointed out: the XMAS writing. The flip that echoes between both universes and Haruhi was largely at the center of it.
If nothing more, together with the original series, this has become part of a science fiction lover’s dream because we are now seeing the world through the lens of a parallel universe. How can I not love that idea? Certain ideas do bleed over from the other universe. Kyon likes ponytails and Haruhi immediately puts her hair up in one when he mentions it. (The slow motion scene is effectively a reminder to the audience; we’re getting parallel universe bleeding!) And Kyon is left with the bill after they have a bite out, just like our universe. I do so enjoy spotting these moments. In most ways, the group is the same, but without the actuality of being weird. It does make me wonder if this would have been the better series to see first. The Disappearance would have explained why we went between the two worlds, but I would like to know if I would have felt differently had I met everyone as regular people first. No way to undo it now; I’m just along for the ride.
Once again, there is an outstanding use of comedy. “I don’t need an ambulance; what I need is a warm room with a good heater!” Haruhi adds such a level of comedy and a lot of that is down to how straight-laced Kyon takes her. One of my favorite comedies of all time is Planes, Trains and Automobiles wherein Steve Martin is stuck with John Candy for a haul across the states. Their chemistry is outstanding but it’s all about how Neil Page (Martin) is a really normal man trying to get home for the holiday’s while Del Griffith (Candy) is a chatterbox who keeps Page off-balance all movie long. That interaction is tough to get right; so many movies try and very few succeed. The interaction with Kyon and Haruhi is a success. Haruhi goads Kyon by claiming he doesn’t have a sense of humor, all the while creating hilarity for the audience as Yuki finds things so awkward, she doesn’t come up for air while drinking her soda. But it wasn’t until Haruhi suggested that she and Kyon have the same brain that I made the movie connection because he calls her his nemesis. He is a pretty normal guy and she… well, to quote Yuki, “She does kind of rant like a crazy person.” (Even her “Just, you know, trespassing” struck me as the sort of thing a crazy person might say. And I loved it!)
Then the episode does what the original series didn’t bother spending that much time on, (or perhaps I was too caught up in the mystery to really notice) but they do the acceptance stuff. I mean, these are essentially high school kids and what everyone wants at that time of life is to be accepted and liked. Koizumi is a transfer student (like he was in our universe) and he fell in love with Haruhi probably largely due to her acceptance of him. She wants him to be something different, stranger but in the end, she accepted him while others shunned him. And Yuki is told at least twice that she has a strength inside and when she tries to thank Haruhi for help, Haruhi says she didn’t do anything that didn’t come from within Yuki herself. I’ve often said that Doctor Who should be a source of inspiration for the children watching. We need shows that subtly tell kids to be who they are. I’m glad a show like this exists as those messages are important for the kids watching. The secret to being happy comes from within and only we have that power to choose it. But it sure is nice having friends who help you realize that.
There is little to be said about the artwork in this episode barring a lovely orange hued image of three friends walking home near sunset. I thought that was lovely. I did love the scene of Yuki being so mortified that the background swirled like liquid, and I was impressed by whatever artistic skill was used to create that. Same for the hilarious scene of Haruhi being “evil”. As I wonder if I like this series as much as the last one, I am forced to think of that brilliant piece of dialogue after Asakura asks what Yuki prayed about “Oh, you know…” to which Asakura replies: “You’re right about that; I bet I do!” ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Nagato 4: Be My Valentine