- Newfoundland, Canada
- I've been a big anime fan for about 10 years or so now. My five all-time favorite animes at this point are, in no particular order... Puella Magi Madoka Magica, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Love Live!: School Idol Project, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. However, there are hundreds of anime shows that I like. The main purpose of this blog is to provide meta-commentary on anime, and the anime industry - to try to cast a critical, though appreciating, eye upon this entertainment genre that I believe has tremendous potential, but can also be easily wasted. I have always been a fan of animation in general - in the 80s, I grew up on western cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, and G.I. Joe. Through out the 90s, I was a hardcore comic book fan, for the most part. I'm also a big fan of Star Trek. Right now in my life, though, anime is my principal entertainment passion.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
The Tale of Two Haruhis
The first picture is Haruhi's response to "Endless Eight".
The second picture is Haruhi's response to "Sighs". ;)
Well, with only one episode left to go for this year of Haruhi, and with the general quality of each of the sections of this year of Haruhi not really being much in question for me, I felt that it was time to once again provide a meta-commentary of sorts evaluating the current standing of this anime, and franchise, in general.
For me, this year of "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" has had peaks as perky as Mikuru's breasts, and valleys as low as how Haruhi typically treats Mikuru. This year also reminds me of that old cliche and paradoxical line of "It was the best of times... it was the worst of times...". This year of Haruhi provide quite a bit of each; perhaps making it better, and definitely making it more memorable, than simply slightly-above-average fare on a consistent basis from start to finish.
Although, I wonder if non-novel readers will view Sighs the way us novel readers do?
And that leads into three key divides I see within this year of Haruhi that will impact how it well be received overall. These divides are...
1) Endless Eight vs. Sighs/Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody
2) Hardcore Fans/Novel Readers vs. More Casual Fans/Non-Novel Readers
3) Japanese fans vs. Foreign fans
The central divide, of course, is Endless Eight vs. Sighs. I suspect that all but a few of Endless Eight's harshest critics would nonetheless admit that Sighs has been very well-done. On the other hand, I think that all but this anime's (and Kyoto Animation's) most fervent and hardcore supporters would admit that Endless Eight had something at least a little bit lacking in the basic entertainment department.
Does Sighs make up for Endless Eight for me, personally? Right now, I'm very much inclined to think that it does. I still have to watch the subs of two episodes, but the gorgeous artwork and fascinating feel of Haruhi has returned for me with Sighs, and reminds me of exactly why I consider this anime to be one of my five all-time favorites (and of the five, it's the only one currently broadcasting new episodes). So, chances are, I'll love the latest episode, and it's hard to imagine the final episode being much of a step down from that in quality given the sharp and sudden rise in quality coming from KyoAni, in my opinion. For the first time since Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody made a stunning stealth airing, this anime has managed to recapture just the tiniest touch of magic for me, and that's very important.
I think that for most novel readers - that is, to say, for most hardcore Haruhi fans (there's not a perfect overlap of the two categories, but it's close I think) - that Sighs will undo the damage inflicted with Endless Eight (amongst E8 critics anyway; some folks say they liked E8 and I'll take them at their word). I won't deny that there's still a slight tinge of bitterness with me; a bitterness that cries "Why couldn't you have done the entire year like you did Sighs, KyoAni?!", but... I'm trying to silence that within myself because, truth be told, this anime is still far better, imo, than most of what the anime world currently has to offer. Really, only Bakemonogatari strikes me as serious competition for Haruhi at the moment, as far as currently running anime is concerned. As an aside, I suspect that Haruhi vs. Bakemonogatari could become the real anime battle and debate to watch in the coming months and possibly years. I suspect it could be as huge as Bleach vs. Naruto vs. One Piece debates are.
So... long story short, Haruhi is fine with it's hardcore base. These fans are mostly satisfied, and that's good news for KyoAni and Kadokawa. The floor for their fan support hasn't lowered, and is still a healthy one. This is true on both sides of the Pacific, I have little doubt.
But... what of the casual fan?
One thing that really struck me when I reflected it upon it recently was how, well, stalled this season of Haruhi is for non-novel readers. Let me put it this way...
For Novel Readers:
This year of new episodes brings an entire novel to life, and two short stories besides (BLR and E8). All of the above are rather faithfully translated... arguably too faithfully translated in E8's case, but that's a separate discussion. There are maybe two or three specific scenes where one can legitimately question the adaptation; probably the most noteworthy being the scene where Yuki Nagato enters the SOS club room for the first time in her witch's outfit; but all told, this has been an outstanding adaptation, both superb in its faithfulness and praiseworthy in its ability to actually improve upon the source material in a few subtle ways in a few scenes, imo.
For a novel reader, there's a lot to be happy about here. Most of the key scenes are done well, with only the most understandable and acceptable of alterations.
For Non-Novel Readers:
This is BLR, one episode more or less repeated eight times, and the lead-up to Episode00.
That's... not too good, from a non-novel reader's perspective. ^_^;;;
Remember, non-novel readers have no particular interest in the anime being faithful to the novels, just as novel readers have no particular interest in plot progression since they already know what's going to happen anyway. In fact, it was with this fact crossing my mind recently that I gained an epiphany of sorts over how novel readers might not care about E8 halting plot progression as much as I did at the time - I wasn't a novel reader at all when I first critiqued E8 over on Anime Suki, so I wanted to see plot progression. I didn't know (at the time) what was going to happen next.
Speaking as someone who went from non-novel reader to novel reader half-way through the broadcasting of new anime episodes, let me tell you... it completely alters what you look for in an anime, and what's your main hopes for it.
As a novel reader, your main concern is faithfulness to the source material (at least those areas of the source material that you like), and your main focus is on seeing key scenes from the novel done well (an obvious continuous focus on Anime Suki's latest episode thread).
On the other hand, a non-novel reader largely wants to see more story. Period. Perhaps in spelling things out like this, Haruhi novel readers who liked E8 can see a bit better where I was coming from at the time.
Anyway, this is all interesting to me, because I suspect that you're going to see a very sharp divide between novel readers and non-novel readers on their assessment of the quality of this year of Haruhi... and usually, with anime, you don't have a divide quite that sharp. I recall how Shakugan no Shana Season 2 was very differently received between source material fans and people who were only fans of the anime... and Haruhi 2009 will probably be just like that, only even turned up a few decibels.
One thing that worries me a bit... The Anime/Manga subforum over on Comic Book Resources has an almost entirely dead Haruhi thread, in spite of my frequent efforts to bring it to life as Darth Joker. This makes me think that E8 may have KILLED the casual fandom (i.e. the non-novel reading fandom) for this anime; at least amongst foreign fans. I hope not, but we'll have to wait and see.
Still, the sales for the Haruhi BLR DVD over in Japan, currently at 21,000+ last I checked, are very encouraging for how Haruhi is doing in Japan. Between those Haruhi BLR DVD sales, and the uplifting upsurge in quality shown in Sighs, there's a fair bit to be enthused about here, particularly compared to just a few weeks ago. Regardless of how the E8 DVDs sell, I think that there's real hope for the future here.
The following can be said about Haruhi, I think...
1) There will be new content beyond the conclusion of Sighs. Haruhi can still make money, and KyoAni (when they want to) can still make very high quality anime, including for this anime in particular. Logically, then, we should see more Haruhi beyond Sighs, at some point. It may take awhile, of course, but it will come. ;)
2) If Disappearance was to air before the end of the year, in one fashion or another, I think that the hype and buzz coming from the largely satiated hardcore Haruhi fanbase would be sufficient to get casual fans back into this anime. As such, I'm really hoping for that. If Heminga's theories are correct, it would be excellent. It would do worlds of good for this anime.
3) Sighs may have earned KyoAni and Kodokawa an extra year of patience, beyond what I theorized would be the case in my first Blog Entry that looked at Endless Eight alone. They've won back some good will with the hardcore fans, I think.
4) It still remains to be seen how the foreign fanbase as a whole will react to Haruhi... because I'm inclined to think that the foreign fanbase has more non-novel reading fans than the Japanese fanbase does. There's an outside chance, I think, that English dubbed Haruhi could end up being sacrificed at some point, if not right away.
Overall... it's sad to me to see the casual fans slip away from this anime (and they really have slipped away if Comic Book Resources is any indication), but its refreshing to see that KyoAni can still work their magic when they want to, and that there's real reason for the novel-reading hardcore fanbase to be pleased. This year could have been a fair bit better... but it could have been a lot worse too. I hate to think what a poorly done Sighs would have done to the Haruhi fanbase after E8...
On the other hand... KyoAni/Kadokawa's viral marketing needs to stop. They need to put up or shut up when it comes to teasing us with Disappearance imagery. That sort of thing is going to wear thin and fast. In some ways, it upsets me more than the idea behind E8 does.