There was a time where I wanted to put some special effort into my Haruhi posts – I thought that highly of the show – then Endless Eight hit, and now I have no clue what I’m doing.
For better or for worse, the Haruhi watching experience has never been normal. From the initial Adventures of Mikuru Asahina episode, to the strange ordering of episodes to the three years of Kadokawa/KyoAni trolling to the most recent Endless Eight troll, watching Haruhi has always been a strange experience. And maybe it’s been that off-kilterness that’s raised our expectations for this show. But Kadokawa and KyoAni’s previously endearing quirkiness had become a full fledged calamity by the time E8 ended. There’s a fine line between eccentric and repulsive, and K&K crossed that line with their years of false starts. And like a drug addict who’s lost control, they continue to keep getting further and further off-course. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya wasn’t a huge hit just because its episodes were broadcasted in a weird manner. It was a huge hit, because it has a cast of interesting characters with great chemistry, great designs and animation, and an interesting story that effortlessly weaved in the mundane with the profound, supernatural and remarkable. This is why I enjoyed the show, and this is why I’ve enjoyed every one of Nagaru Tanigawa’s novels.
So now we’re back with the Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya. A somewhat ironic choice, since unlike E8, we know exactly how the Sigh turns out in advance. And admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was glad to hear the familiar background music, and to see the tit-for-tat back and forth between Kyon and Haruhi again. Similar to E8, we see how Haruhi can turn a rather ordinary event (although based on everything I’ve seen in anime, cultural fairs sure seem like a lot of fun!) into something totally outrageous.
The episode had a similar Haruhi feel, and there were some great moments as well (Haruhi pretending to be a clumsy maid, Kyon being assigned to be Haruhi’s assistant), but something felt off. And I don’t want to make this another post about E8, but it’s hard to watch the rest of this season without associating it with E8. And the worst thing that E8 did was it broke the "magic" that Haruhi carried. Before, the first thing I did when I came home was watch Haruhi. New Haruhi was "Haruhi!" An event! But E8 got me into the routine of expecting the expected. And then I did the unthinkable – started skipping huge chunks of episodes. And the magic began unraveling. Suddenly new Haruhi episodes were just "Haruhi" not "Haruhi!" It was no longer the first thing I watched when I came home (in fact I watched the latest episodes of Spice and Wolf, Sora no Manimani and Umineko before getting to Haruhi).
You could argue that Haruhi is still Haruhi, and you’d be right. The first episode of "The Sigh of…" was pretty good. But I’d argue what made Haruhi really Haruhi was the "magic." It’s what separates a very good show from a cultural phenomenon. Can Haruhi recapture that magic? I think so – although I don’t think "The Sigh of…" is the right arc to do that – but it starts with KyoAni and Kadokawa getting back to focusing on what makes Haruhi special – the story and characters – and not gimmicky shenanigans.
Anyway, now that I got all of the above out of my system, I promise to talk more about the actual episode in future write-ups. I’m still trying to figure out my way in this post E8 blogpocalypse.