So begins an arc that isn’t “Endless Eight”: instead, we’re now about to get the behind-the-scenes look at how that infamous film which launched the whole franchise, and a million Hirano Aya fanboys, The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina, came to be.
Many have spoken about the K-ONification of Haruhi ever since the second season began. It’s visible from the pointier chins and the way the eyes are drawn. I’m not sure these shots qualify to be even of that quality, though–this Haruhi looks positively weird…
I have to admit the effect is rather jarring, because aside from that, the background music, the snarky Kyon commentary, the overall feel is really much the same. Albeit slower-paced, with this episode; the first half, where the idea of making a film winds its way into Haruhi’s head and thus becomes law, is leisurely and almost deliberate.
At this point there is nothing left to be surprised about with this series. Everyone has already seen the end product of this storyline, after all–how could anyone forget?–and Kadokawa and KyoAni have wasted most of whatever presumption fans had that they were about to see something exciting and different with “Endless Eight.” The pleasures will have to be found elsewhere, and I would like to suggest that in a way, Haruhi Suzumiya is perhaps now best understood as a slice-of-life comedy with a few sci-fi elements. Oh, we’ll probably find the answers to why the cat could talk and whether some of the “special effects” were in fact real, but these things–quirks that begged for further explanation and suggested a much larger world of mystery when they were first witnessed–have become background details. Now it’s more about watching Haruhi’s antics, like just what she might have said to those shop owners to give her expensive equipment. Or laughing once again as a taciturn Yuki waits five seconds before answering “Yes” to a question. (I think the semi-BL overtones of Koizumi’s interactions with Kyon were added after the fact in reaction to fan(girl?) desire…)
It’s going to be interesting to see how all this is going to be received post “Endless Eight.” The whole experience is a testament to how so much of Haruhi has been received not merely as an anime, but an experience–a whole package that includes the hype, the breathless speculation of what certain things mean and whether they will pull some storytelling trick or conceit next, and all the debates that accompany them. As I said before, “Endless Eight” as a compressed story wasn’t bad at all; what its repetition has done was to undermine the meta-advantage, as it were, that KyoAni and Haruhi had over other anme. And as it prepares to deconstruct the very genesis of the phenomenon, which itself was a brilliant deconstruction of otaku tropes, one wonders whether there’s anything left to give. If the arc turns out to be banal, what does that say about that infamous episode 0? Will it help extinguish that spark of mad genius which ignited fandom all the way back in 2006? Or can it survive on its own, with fans perhaps disavowing this whole second season the way fans of the Tsukihime game disavow the anime to the point of denying its existence?
Who knows. Perhaps, when the dust clears, it will be easier to actually judge The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya on its own merits as a show, and nothing more.