This Week: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star, Mars of Destruction, La Maison en Petits Cubes, and Galaxy Express 999
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu) [Both Seasons]
I let the Haruhi wave pass me by when this was The Big Thing several years ago, but the advantage here is I can just consume both seasons of it in addition to the film and see where I stand outside of the heat of the moment.
As this is the type of show that lives and dies on its characters: I enjoyed Haruhi, Nagato and Koizume were more stereotypical but solid enough, and Asahina was like nails on a chalkboard to me each time she was in a scene. Kyon was the strongest though. The sheer volume of inner monologues he gives, and how long they often are, provide extensive insight on how he feels about Haruhi’s shenanigans. I greatly appreciated that, and it provided counterbalance to how outwardly dominating a character like Haruhi is.
As for Endless Eight: I watched it all, and I think it’s stronger than a lot of what I had heard. I found a certain joy in the mechanics of camera placement, storyboarding, clothing, etc. It also hammers the feelings of Nagato by putting the viewer in the shoes of observing this loop again and again. And again. And again.
But, I can understand how if one was viewing this weekly, it could leave a horrible taste in their mouth.
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu)
While I enjoyed the TV series well enough, it didn’t “click” for me as it seemed to for many. The movie though, certainly, I feel to be the strongest part of this series.
The run time is long and the tonal shift is drastic, so I was concerned at first if it was going to be able to hold itself together. Thankfully it does, and I thought it did a swell job tying together some seeds that had been planted previously. Kyon’s strong internal monologues, combined with the stress he comes under, showcase the weight of the situation he finds himself in and then staying with it rather than a quick cut to comedy. Likewise, I liked the cast reshuffling, as it moved characters who had more screen time in the TV show back and brought others forward for additional development. This especially helps Nagato, in so many ways, as she was so easy to crowd out previously.
Due to the nature of this franchise though, it essentially requires having sunk the time into a 28 episode prelude. It can’t really stand on its own legs, so it can’t be recommended to anyone who hasn’t seen the TV show. None of the dramatic payoffs would work.
Appropriate for the same week I watched Haruhi, given the number of prominent shout-outs there are to it.
I did like how the show slowly drip fed new characters over a long period of time, making sure the audience knew the current ones well enough before easing another into the mix. The Lucky Channel “show within a show” bits at the end amused me in its development, as well as the karaoke credits, all in different ways from the main show which helped break things up. There is a mountain of audio and visual gags referencing all kinds of anime, manga, games, etc, and some are easy to catch while others are incredibly obscure, so that can be a game in its own right.
Beyond that, since this is a “high school girls doing things” kind of show, there’s not much else to really add. It’s an area I don’t delve into much, as I find the formula difficult to get right, but for that style of show this was enjoyable to pop an episode or two of then do something else.
Mars of Destruction (Hametsu no Mars)
I’ve seen folks call this a “So Bad, It’s Good” show, and that’s really unfortunate. For productions to fit that beloved category, I believe they need sincerity in intent that falls wildly off course to take the viewer on a terribly hilarious unintended ride. Anime like Blood-C, which I watched a few weeks ago.
MoD did not have anything like that though. There’s no sincerity of intent for the viewer to laugh at. It’s poorly constructed on every level, definitely. But it was seemingly made by a team more than aware of this before they even started. That’s the key difference making “So Bad, It’s Good” productions enjoyable, while MoD fails to achieve that; Someone on staff has to care about the project in the first place, or it never gets up far enough to fall on its face.
La Maison en Petits Cubes (Tsumiki no Ie)
It’s only twelve minutes, and has no dialogue, but this was such an excellent piece in visual storytelling and making every moment count (highly appropriate, given the plot). Each and every frame of this work is individually strong enough to elegantly decorate ones home with, of that I have no question. The music is wistfully appropriate in setting a tone for the viewer to write the story in their mind as they watch it, while taking care to never become overpowering. It guides, but does not lead. I can see why it won an Academy Award.
I can clearly fill in so many fine details our elderly lead is contemplating over the course of this piece. Ravines of animation work have been made over the years accomplishing far less in their narratives than this manages in only a few moments of ones time.
Galaxy Express 999 (Ginga Tetsudou 999) [Episodes 6/113]
I’m increasingly reminded of shows like Kino’s Journey, as the travel format and limited time at each stop allow for a lens at all kinds of potential worlds and places with questions to ask. I like to think that I’m not giving it an undue handicap, as it is 30+ years old, but I’m honestly really impressed thus far with how it has been progressing.
There’s this interesting sense of wonder generated in how it does and presents things, combined with it never letting the viewer forget the presence of danger and the fangs of space. I really hope it can keep it up.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime series I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.