The junkyard presents two articles about the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode Her Confusion...
The view from 5930 miles away:
One element of this spin-off that has been a whole lot of fun for fans of Haruhi has been watching the same events as the original series play out in different ways, catching all the references. It’s like a crazy game of spot the difference. This week we arrive in Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody territory, with Tanabata. Haruhi is back with a bang (hooray!) and gets Kyon and Koizumi cutting down bamboo. The mosquitoes have a feast, and Haruhi gets in a dig about being scared of insects, a fun little nod to Mysterique Sign. Then, when she wants to show off about the meaning of Tanabata, know-it-all Asakura steals her thunder:
“They’re light years away so we have to make our wishes for far in the future.”
Our game of spot the difference gets particularly interesting with the Tanabata wishes. Boring Koizumi is of course boring in all parallel universes, so his boring wishes are exactly the same, except this time we have Boring Asakura and Boring Koizumi complementing each other in a boring people love-in. Haruhi’s wishes are different: bizarre, but less bizarre than the originals. Kyon’s wishes are also lacking that hint of weirdness that his originals had. He hasn’t spent enough time with Haruhi for them to inspire each other quite so much as in the other universe. Just for the sake of clarification, we have:
My family’s well-being
My family’s well-being
Original/Mikuru is not there (although I suspect she would still be asking to get better at sewing and cooking, or to maybe not get groped so much by Haruhi and Tsuruya), and instead we have Spinoff/Asakura (yawn):
Give me a house with a yard big enough to wash a dog in.
I won the first prize in a lottery when I was in the 11th grade.
My grades suddenly improved when I was in the 11th grade.
Make the world revolve around me
I want the rotation of the Earth to go in the opposite direction.
Aliens, people from the future, and people with supernatural powers. If you’re out there, come see me.
I wanna play with UMA (Unidentified Mysterious Animals).
And then there’s Nagato, whose original wishes were “Harmony” and “Innovation”, and instead here we have:
Everyone stays good friends.
Things stay as they are.
She stops short of wishing for Kyon to sweep her off her feet, and instead what she wishes for is rather lovely, isn’t it. Not just Kyon, but all her friends have enriched her life enormously, and she just wants to keep them forever. I’m sure most viewers can relate to that feeling, reaching a point in our lives where we have good friends and there’s the risk of everyone moving on. It tends to happen in school, and then again in college or university. Life moves on.
And for those who wished for the Kyon x Haruhi resolution to this spinoff’s love triangle, that ship well and truly sinks this episode. That’s the trouble with love triangles. You either have to leave them unresolved, or disappoint half your audience, unless it’s one of those isekai series where the guy indulges in a spot of polygamy. But it had to happen this way. The cleverness of this episode in particular is that we have the context, finally seeing this universe’s original meeting between Haruhi and John Smith. This time round, Kyon is the same age as Haruhi, rather than an older version sent into the past, so Haruhi has no reason to go to North High to track him down. He’s not wearing the uniform. By the time they meet, she has already lost out to Nagato, although Kyon and Nagato might not yet have acknowledged their feelings. But Haruhi is incredibly perceptive when it matters, and she knows she has lost.
“Did the other Yuki tell you how she felt about you?”
It’s a crushing moment for the Haruhi x Kyon shippers, and the look on her face is heartbreaking, even when she is being brave and trying to smile through it all. In fact, it’s especially heartbreaking when she’s trying to do that. And anyone who doesn’t like the big eyes in anime, this is what they are for. The eyes are the window to the soul, and in the hands of skilled animators, this can happen. Haruhi is smiling, but her eyes tell a different story. You’ve got to hand it to this series. It knows how to stir the emotions. RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
I guess the question had to be asked: where could we go after the completion of the Disappearance arc and the answer wasn’t going to be a great one: we had to address the fact that our Yuki didn’t know what went on in the previous three episodes. And I’m not saying that the episode isn’t that great, it’s just that I shouldn’t have expected another deep insight into the nature of life when we needed to take time to welcome back a character we’ve come to know through most of this series.
One thing that we have to give the series is that it does add a little coda in the form of a dream between the two Yuki’s and it’s incredible because we’re seeing the universe from the other side of that incredible artwork from last episode. (see last week’s image, then see where we are this week!)
Yuki has been asleep in the white void, the line of which we saw the previous week as Amnesia-Yuki dreaded being swallowed up. This is an incredible image, but the sad realization now that I’m slowly coming to terms with is that our replacement Yuki may not have been the Yuki from the parent series after all. Maybe it will be left to the audience’s interpretation, but I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that this entire series will stand completely apart from its parent and I think that is a misstep. Yes, I have 3 episodes to go before I find out for sure but I’m starting to suspect that all my excitement may have been misunderstood.
That all said, it’s not that there isn’t a number of fun things to observe. One cannot help but laugh as the departing Yuki won’t tell her returning self just what she told Kyon. The series also brings back its main advocate for fun, returning Haruhi with her signature abrupt door slam to announce herself. And Koizumi is back to being the king of all suck-ups, actually channeling his inner Haruhi to help Kyon better understand her. (More likely, he’s making any excuse to make her look better!) But Haruhi doesn’t need a suck-up and we’re also back to that complex little love triangle where we see how much Haruhi really cares about Kyon. During this episode, she’s turned into a stronger character than ever before for two reasons. First, she plays a bit of Sherlock Holmes, correctly inferring what’s on Kyon’s mind and then successfully getting him to admit it. Then, she proves that her love for Kyon, while genuine, is not selfish and she won’t stop or interfere with Yuki having the chance to be with him. (She accepts second prize of being able to tease him relentlessly!) Personally, I loved that she treasured the moment when they first met and Kyon didn’t ruin her imagination. He accepted that aliens could be real. “…Common sense was edging out our imagination!” Wow, what a strong statement. I can perfectly relate to that. When I was young, a plant I’d never seen before could be a plant from an alien world, and that patch of woods near my house might hold the most amazing secrets; let’s not even discuss the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle, of which I’ve traveled through some dozen times in my life. As we age, we learn that the world, for all its amazing qualities, isn’t as exotic as that; there’s a logical reason for most of it and imagination slowly has to give way to reason. It’s part of life, and in one brief monologue, Haruhi explains it, and shows us why she loves Kyon. And in that instance, I love them both that much more as characters. They become so much more real than ever before and it’s amazingly captured in a single instance. (And, kudos to Yuki who also moved up because I totally could relate to her “I like books too; I just like video games more!”)
While my fear may yet become fact, I hold out hope that the parent series is ultimately linked to this in more than just character. Haruhi’s “why is Kyon making such a big deal about little insects?” might be a playful reminder of what happened with a certain giant insect in the parent series. Certainly the Tanabata wishes on July 7th make a reappearance and Haruhi once again proves to be the same person in both universes (sans godhood here). And I begin to understand the value of using such huge eyes in anime, especially as we see reflections in them; eyes are the gateway to the soul and with the whole disappearance arc having so much to do with Yuki’s eyes and glasses, I have developed a new respect for these techniques!
Like I said, the episode is not bad, but it wasn’t as deep as I’d hoped. But at least it brought back our main comedy character. And the friendship; may that always remain. We may be away from that introspection I enjoy, and maybe the sci-fi twist will remain in the eyes of the audience, but at least we can have some fun while hanging out with these characters. At least, for a little while longer. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Nagato 15: His Uncertainty