The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2009 episodes)

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya 2


Watched via fansubs/DVD



PLOT: Alright, so this may be old news by now, but Crystal and I decided to take a little trip down memory lane to revisit The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2009 episodes). As we noted in our review for the original 2006 episodes, we love the first part of the franchise. So you can imagine, we were extremely excited when we heard there would be a second season. I think part of why TMHS2 (I’m gonna use this as an abbreviation) fails so badly is because fans had such high expectations for the season before it was even made. No wait, it was because we had any expectations.

TMHS2 does not function as a story in the typical sense, or like anything remotely narrative. In that regard it is a lot like that first season, broken into little story chunks from various parts of the novel series it is based upon. The difference is, the original episodes were made to stand alone, and worked harmoniously together to tell a combined story about the cast of characters. There were themes, development, humor, all that good stuff with a hint of dull-drum when there was too much monologuing. Now let’s take a look at the second season, it is comprised mostly of repeated events and monologuing. I’ve read the first couple of novels, so I’m a bit familiar with the possible content choices available to work with. I’m completely bewildered at the staff’s pick and use of content. Certain arcs were stretched out way too long, just to fill up space.

It’s hard to get into all that is wrong with the story and plot without writing an essay on it, so I’ll just put it simply, TMHS2 was thrown under the bus in order to shine the spotlight on the following movie. That’s right, the staff killed the potential for an entire season, just to make money on something else. What we got left with, is basically just eye candy.

Such trolls! Dear Kadokawa, having a sad excuse for a second season won’t generate much interest for a subsequent movie. Unless they wanted fans to be happy with whatever they made, even if it wasn’t very good.

PLOT: TMHS2 isn’t a normal second anime season—it’s a bunch of episodes that fit chronologically in between the episodes of Haruhi’s first season. There are three distinct arcs here: “Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody,” “Endless Eight,” and “The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya.”

“Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody” is the only arc really worth watching, if I’m being honest. It shows what happened on Tanabata (July 7) three years ago and how Kyon’s involved in that all. It doesn’t add too much to the series, but it’s a fun little jaunt with a younger Haruhi who still bosses people around.

Then there’s “Endless Eight,” which is a loop of the same events for eight episodes straight. Fans famously hated this while it aired, because they never knew when it was going to end. I thought all of the reactions on the Internet were incredibly entertaining, and I manage to get enough out of the changing directorial styles that I find all eight episodes just barely worth watching. However, an eight-episode loop is just too much to put fans through, especially when it was just so they could make the “Disappearance” arc into its own movie.

“Sigh” finishes up this season, showing the creation of “The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00.” This should be more of the same fun as the first season, but Haruhi gets really grouchy, as does everyone else in the group, meaning their personalities clash more than normal. Add to that the fact that Haruhi’s molestation and abuse of Mikuru escalates, while Yuki and Itsuki don’t care, and it makes me mad at almost everyone in the show.

By the time all of season two finishes and the show returns to the original episodes, I’ve forgotten why I liked everyone and have a hard time watching them go about their daily lives without wanting to throttle them all. This, in a nutshell, is the problem with TMHS2: it takes everything fun about the first season and ruins it. It’s hard to enjoy Haruhi anymore after watching the second season.

I forgot about all the groping. :/ I don’t know if it was more subtle in the originals, or if I was younger and didn’t care so much, but the molestation of Mikuru really ticked me off more this season.

SETTING: TMHS2 takes place in an alternative modern Japan where Haruhi Suzumiya has the ability to control the world around her subconsciously through her mood swings. It doesn’t help that she is quite the temperamental teenager and likes to get things her way. Each story arc bends reality in a new way and so setting has an opportunity to become altered and explored in exciting ways. Just like with the first season, we see some time traveling back several years. The big twist for this season is that Haruhi continues to loop time to enjoy her summer break, and the cycle must be broken. I enjoyed the premise of these themes in regards to setting, but I felt that the setting relied way too heavily upon the first season without branching out into uncharted territory. Much of the season was dedicated to fleshing out old events from the first season. What made the setting so exciting in the original episodes was that every episode would bring a new idea that would introduce us to the world of Haruhi’s mind. TMHS2 chiefly focuses on old ideas without giving us a new vantage point.

SETTING: The setting of this second season does some new and interesting things. For instance, Kyon and Mikuru actually travel through time, which allows the viewer a different perspective on Haruhi. “Sigh” also does a lot with Haruhi’s influence on reality as she twists their surroundings to better fit what she wants to record for their film. This stuff is fairly interesting, and it adds to the fun use of setting in the first season.

“Endless Eight” makes the most use of setting by showing how different directors can influence the tone of various places. Each episode takes place in the same settings, meaning an interested viewer can learn a lot about how different camera angles and lighting influence the feel of places. This is why I find all of “Endless Eight” worth watching, since it’s a great experiment in how differently the same events can feel. Not that it’s a good choice for the middle of an anime series, but it’d work out as an experimental film or something.

CHARACTERS: In general, I really enjoy the characters from the Haruhi universe. They function as satirical versions of tropes within anime. However, their acting roles in this second season sets them back to just being a trope, only this time of themselves.

Kyon is the snarky narrator who monologues everything that is happening to the point of putting the audience to sleep. In small doses I can handle his insight and energy, but having to watch him struggle through eight episodes of the same realizations drove me crazy. Actually, I think I’d be perfectly fine never having to listen to him monologue again. That’s right, TMHS2 burnt me out on the cast.

We have our other leads, Yuki the alien, Mikuru the time-traveler, Itsuki the esper, and of course Haruhi. The first season fleshed out who these characters were and gave an introduction into their motivations and personalities. This season really just gave us eye candy to look at. Wow, look at those pretty people doing pretty things and having a good time.

Again, there was a lot of potential for the staff to develop the cast and have them grow, but instead they were left alone in order to save all of the good stuff for the movie.

I think you’re forgetting about the “Sigh” arc, where all of characters see more development, especially with the rivalries between factions observing Haruhi. However, all of that infighting never did more than make them all more obnoxious, which made me dislike everyone, including Kyon to an extent.

CHARACTERS: You know how Haruhi’s characters are generally fun commentaries on anime stereotypes? That falls away in TMHS2, as the series tries to develop people and instead makes them all unlikeable.

Let’s start with Haruhi, who I can forgive in the first season for her over-the-top exuberance and molestation of Mikuru. In TMHS2, she goes a step further and deliberately takes advantage of Mikuru for the sake of her own amusement, which shows that she hasn’t learned anything and is still awful and childish at heart. Considering how I want her to grow as a person, this is a tough blow for me and makes me feel bad for ever liking her so much in the first place.

Kyon’s also hard to like in this season, especially when he gets mad at Haruhi during “Sigh” and tries to punch her. I can deal with him whining during “Endless Eight,” but he gets really hard to handle later on. And, as I said above, his negative actions make it hard for me to like him anymore by the end of the first season. Normally I’ve got his back through the entire first season and even ship him with Haruhi, but after “Sigh,” it’s difficult to do that because it just doesn’t make sense.

And then there’s everyone else. Mikuru gets a lot whinier in this season, with Haruhi riding her so hard, and Yuki and Itsuki are awful people and just stand around and watch. No one really stands up to Haruhi, and Haruhi becomes so awful that she takes the magic out of the show. Yes, the repetition of “Endless Eight” is bad, but I think “Sigh” is almost worse because it shows the negative sides to characters who function best as commentaries on the genre.

If memory serves me correctly, that’s pretty much how the novels were. I think the first season toned down everyone so they were likable, but this season makes them just as awful of people as they were in the books.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Just like with any long running series, you run into some changes in art style. All of the character designs from the original season appear to have got pushed through a K-On! filter. Designing the characters to be even more moe in appearance gave the studio an opportunity to bump up the satire, but instead it just became a way to sell out—in that regard, I’m disappointed in the alteration of designs.

So as I mentioned before, this series is chiefly made for eye candy, so we get a lot of beautiful artwork, and wonderful cinematography, well as far as second seasons of TV series go. I have to admit, I did like the subtle changes between mood, pacing, and narrative in regards to design choices in the summer arc. I suppose if that’s all you care about, this season has at least that one quality to redeem it.

The only redeeming factor of “Endless Eight” is seeing so many different takes on Haruhi’s world by various directors. Doesn’t make it worth watching for most people, but it’s still fun for me.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: What TMHS2 does have going for it is good animation. Yes, the art style changes around, but the animation’s actually of a higher quality than the first season. There are more inventive camera angles and lots of fun lighting, all of which make the season pretty to look at. If you can believe it, no animation was reused during “Endless Eight,” and the animators still put tons of effort into making each episode look good. There’s even an episode that brings in visual motifs of clouds and planes to break up the redundant monotony, which I appreciate.

The art style is a little weird, though, because it’s like Haruhi’s original characters got in a blender with K-On! and shift around each episode. Some episodes look more moe (it’s all in the teeth), while others follow the original character designs more. I guess it’s all a reflection of the times, but I really wish the art style stayed more consistent between seasons, especially when they’re supposed to be watched all mixed together. Poor planning, KyoAni, for viewing consistency.

OVERALL: If you haven’t already, don’t watch this! No seriously, don’t watch this unless you are a super huge fan and feel like you have to complete everything. If that does describe you, as it definitely describes me, then I’m sorry you had/have to go through that.

sad Mikuru

I know this series has been around for a while, and the original even longer, so there probably aren’t any new fans to the whole thing. However, if there are a couple who are just starting out, skip this season. In fact, if you really want to have the “second season experience”, just flip through screen cap images online and set one of the nice various summer shots as your wallpaper on your desktop. That’s really all you need to do in order to appreciate the show.

OVERALL: I have to agree with Whitney that this isn’t worth watching if you’re new to Haruhi. I introduced my roommate to the franchise, and while she was glad we watched it from a completionist standpoint, it definitely took the fun out of the series for her. If you really want more of Haruhi after the first season, go watch Haruhi-chan.

TMHS2 is just too stretched out and too negative, as it tries to bring both too much and too little development to the series’ characters. “Endless Eight” should’ve been cut down drastically, and “Sigh” tries to do too much with characters who work best when they’re comedic. I can’t even tell you this is worth watching to prepare for Disappearance, since that movie’s not very good, either. If you wanna watch Haruhi, watch the first season and Haruhi-chan, then call it quits before you get disappointed by everyone.

Omg yes! Watch Haruhi-chan! After you watch that you won’t need this season, or the original for that matter.


2 thoughts on “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2009 episodes)

  1. The second season does have its faults, and Haruhi’s overbearing personality might grate, especially in the Sigh arc (making the fan film) while Baboom Rhapsody does fill in a blank about the first time Haruhi meets Kyon.
    Endless Eight, for all its technical achievement, is really a test of patience when it comes to viewing it. The short story on which it’s is really that – short. One or two episodes at most, not eight.
    Still, at least they made it up with the movie. Still love her tho… well, more Yuki, but still…
    Nice recap, by the way.

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