The junkyard presents two articles about the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode Her Melancholy.
The view from 5930 miles away:
Misunderstandings are the meat and drink of romantic comedies, but it is rare to see one resolved so quickly. It is even rarer to see everyone just sitting down together to discuss their feelings openly, so this is a refreshingly mature episode for a series that often includes such frustratingly immature animation.
It is immediately made clear by Haruhi that her gift of chocolate to Kyon was exactly what I thought it was: friendship chocolate. Koizumi gets one too. However, there’s a little more to it than that, with Asakura quite rightly calling her out on the timing of the gift. The confrontation between the two of them is a blistering moment, with Asakura very nearly hitting Haruhi, and just stopping herself before her fist makes contact. It’s interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, anyone who has watched the parent series will be expecting Asakura to be dangerous, and she certainly seems to have some anger issues (“”I don’t know what to do with all this anger.”). Secondly, the way Haruhi deals with all this stuff so calmly is extraordinary. Haruhi was far from being a two-dimensional character in her own series (well, you know what I mean), but sometimes you had to work hard to look for the nuances. Here she is complex and fascinating, much more than just an unstoppable bundle of energy. When people are genuinely upset she just gets very, very calm, and won’t exacerbate matters deliberately, take things personally, or even attempt to defend herself. She’s also completely honest with everyone, and remarkably fair to her love rival. And Yuki is her love rival. When she asks Haruhi if she is in love with Kyon, you don’t need to be able to do much reading between the lines to realise that he is the first “ordinary human” that has sparked these kinds of feelings in her.
“To be honest, I can’t say I dislike him.”
And for those who were expecting the title of this episode to refer to Yuki after the end of the last episode, the rug is pulled out from under their feet, and the episode is instead the story of Haruhi’s melancholy. She plays it fair and gets out of Yuki’s way so she can give Kyon her chocolates, and looks on from the school building. While Asakura watches in excitement, Haruhi is sad and worried. The animation is beautifully subtle, but it’s enough.
“Bunch of loons, what are they doing? What am I doing for that matter?”
These aren’t aliens or time travellers. This is life. And I can’t help it – I have to root for Haruhi. As cute as the moments are between Kyon and Yuki, with Yuki’s hands shaking when she gives him the chocolates, and as fun as all that counting down to eating one was, the flashback scene with John Smith and the kid Haruhi is the moment that really gets the heart racing. We have an added context to Haruhi’s fascination with Kyon, and once again we can see why she loves him: it’s because he is open to her beliefs, and now that has happened twice, with the additional brief flashback to the moment in the river I mentioned last week. This also throws up some questions. Kyon is younger in the flashback scene than he was in the matching scene in the parent series, but he still speaks those all-important words:
“John Smith wishes you the best of luck in making the world more exciting.”
So what’s going on here? There has been enough evidence now to indicate quite clearly that this is not the same universe as either the original series or the Disappearance arc series, but we still can’t just write off that moment as a chance meeting between Haruhi and Kyon as children. What prompts Kyon to say those words to Haruhi? And does she realise it’s him? I would suggest she almost certainly does.
If you stopped watching when the ending titles played then you need to go and put that blu-ray back in the player or whatever, because there is quite a lengthy post-credits sequence this week and it’s important. I’ve seen many anime series that have a Valentine’s Day episode, but not many that show the traditional follow up to it when the boy has to give a present in return: White Day. As somebody who generally dislikes Koizumi, I was delighted to see that he is now being treated as a figure of fun by the writer, because it would have been tedious beyond belief for him to be a genuine rival to Kyon. Instead, he is as hopelessly boring as we would expect:
“You gave me a game only an 80 year old would like, Koizumi.”
She doesn’t spare his feelings. But who cares – he’s nothing more than comic relief now. Haruhi is instead obsessed with her present from Kyon, and trying to find a way that hers might be just a little bit better than the identical gift he gave to Yuki. This is an important scene. It reaffirms Haruhi’s attraction to Kyon, so the rivalry hasn’t gone away. But it also poses the question as to why Kyon has done that. One possible interpretation is that he is simply innocent enough to be returning the favour of friendship chocolate to both of them, and thinks nothing more of it than that, but I don’t really buy that. I think Kyon understands exactly what is going on and is playing the innocent clueless guy routine to buy himself some time to decide. For now, he’s keeping his options open. For Yuki the hopeless underdog, that in itself is an achievement. RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
It’s easy to long for the days of innocence, when we were kids and had a crush on someone. This series certainly is a reminder of bygone days. Well, I say that with the assumption that it’s true. My high school days were not quite like this. But the idea of liking someone and not being adept with um … what’s it called??… WORDS! Yeah, words. That’s something I think we can all relate to. Watching Yuki struggle is both heartbreaking and kinda funny. It’s heartbreaking because you can’t help but root for her. You want her to win Kyon over. She’s sweet and kind, while Haruhi is fun and extroverted but mostly self-centered. Sure, they are both likable but the series has been gently pushing us to look at Yuki as the star, even if Haruhi is a force to be reckoned with. But it’s also kinda funny because what goes on gives us a lot to laugh at.
I’ll start by saying that I was right with my assessment at the end of last episode: a chocolate from Haruhi could mean anything. As it happens, she has a chocolate for both guys in her crew; it’s a courtesy gift on a day where giving chocolates is the expected thing to do. But now, Yuki has run off and her friends have to find where she went. And friendship is truly at the core of this series. Right from the start Asakura is waiting nearby with her hands folded as if in silent prayer that things go well. When they don’t, she flips out! But what drives home the point about friendship is that Haruhi sees the issue for what it is, a misunderstanding, and takes a pragmatic approach: “Finding her is what matters most right now. You can yell at me later!” She’s not caught up in the drama so much as being concerned about her friend.
This separates her and Asakura from everyone else allowing for a discussion to take place and Asakura has to come to terms with things, but that entails yelling at Haruhi. And that gives the attentive listener a very interesting piece of dialogue: “When you want something, you just make it happen.” I found her choice of words interesting. There’s a hint of that parallel universe bleeding through. I first noticed it when Koizumi arrived in his high collared military-school uniform, but Asakura’s line brought it home further. Haruhi, in the alternate universe does make things happen. So here’s something to observe: when Haruhi remembers her youth talking to a young Kyon about whether or not aliens exist, there’s an incredible starfield image:
It’s not just the fact that I love space, but the mirror image really struck me. We see two stars brighter than all the rest. If you folded the image along the center gas cloud, from bottom left to top right, those stars would be very closely aligned. Maybe I’m reading too much into it… but maybe not. That image struck me as significant. We already know there is another Haruhi out there that really does make things happen. This one is still looking for her water imps, but they are very similar. I felt this was an interesting parallel.
For my money, this episode makes clear that Asakura is the stand out friend though, and the source for this week’s inspiration. For kids watching, I was impressed by her “No more wasting time on my mistakes! Time to move on!” Sometimes the best advice is to take the mistake, learn from it and move on. We all make them and wallowing around isn’t going to make it better. I also really loved that she confronted Yuki with an important question: “why are you so quick to give up?” It takes a real friend to force us to look at our weaknesses and improve on them. I credit the writers, and I love the character. Even while I write this, I realize Haruhi does deserve recognition too. When Yuki asks her directly about how she feels about Kyon, (along with a well placed flashback to the water imp dialogue proving to us that Kyon’s acceptance of her sense of wonder impacted her deeply), Haruhi gives an honest answer. She doesn’t sugar coat it, but she’s effectively telling Yuki, don’t let that stop you. The writing has seriously impressed me!
Along with those well written moments, I have to acknowledge the comedy. As usual there are a number of laugh out loud moments. When Asakura compares the situation to a story and mentions the devil, Haruhi realizes that it put her in the role of the devil. Her simple “The Devil?” as she points at herself is great, but coupled with the quick change in artwork, was hilarious. I loved Haruhi’s reaction to being a “masochist”. But the deepest belly laugh I had was when Kyon falls face down on Yuki’s chest. The screen changes as Yuki realizes where he is and the word “chest” appears twice to the beating of a heart. It was so cleverly done, I had to laugh. Asakura’s sudden lifting Kyon into the air by his face while her mouth seethed evil vapors was just icing on an already magnificent cake.
I was surprised that the episode ended early so I stuck around and was rewarded with a few more minutes of Kyon giving gifts to Yuki and Haruhi but totally failing to get Asakura. I did get one more chuckle as Haruhi says that Koizumi gave her a “game only an 80 year old would like”. I still find this show such a strange thing to have on my viewing list, but I love the characters more and more. I sure am glad there are two universes with them going about their lives and I can’t wait to see what they get up to next. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Nagato 6: Over the Obento