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Anime Reviews: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya S2
Though it's pretty to look at and has its moments, the second season of the Haruhi franchise has mastered the course of "How to Alienate Your Fanbase 101."
Title: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya S2 a.k.a. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Production: Kyoto Animation
Series Length: 14 episodes
Air Dates: 5/22/2009 to 9/11/2009
Age Rating: 7+ (mild language)
Summary: In their never-ending hunt for aliens, time travelers, and espers, the S.O.S. Brigade can never seem to catch a break, especially not while Haruhi's around. After Kyon learns about Haruhi's god-like abilities, he, Yuki, Itsuki, and Mikuru must do their best to ensure Haruhi never becomes fed up with the world around her. Each member contributes to this goal in some way: Yuki, the extraterrestrial data interface (a.k.a. alien), protects reality from any alterations or external threats; Itsuki, the esper, works to reduce the effects of any abnormalities Haruhi creates subconsciously; and Mikuru, the time traveler, works to prevent any time paradoxes from taking place. Kyon, therefore, must be the one in charge of keeping Haruhi's mind at ease, and it's no easy task. Especially not with both summer vacation and the culture festival on the horizon...
The Good: Kyoto Animation production values; characters are still interesting; the opening theme; Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody
The Bad: Endless Eight and all that it represents; contains very little of the fun that the series was famous for
The Ugly: Did I mention Endless Eight? Because Endless Eight.
14 more episodes of Haruhi and it has pretty much the exact same crew as last time? What more could an anime fan ask for back in 2009? KyoAni made a very clever move in airing the 14 new episodes intertwined with the 14 original episodes, all in chronological order, so not only did you get the new episodes, you got them within the context of the original storyline. So how could this be anything less than amazing, you ask? Trust me, I'll tell you when I get to it.
First off, in typical KyoAni fashion, the series both looks and sounds amazing. While the original series was already lovely to look at, KyoAni made some more money over the 3 years in-between, and it shows with even more lush, detailed artwork and even livelier animation. The music and the voice acting is much the same, with the addition of a new opening and ending theme. The ending theme is pretty good, but it's the opener, "Super Driver," that left me speechless the first time I heard it. "Hare Hare Yukai" is in no danger of being overthrown, but "Bouken Deshou Deshou" better watch its back. Also, the same voice actors are back in both the Japanese and English versions, so if you've read my other review, you already know how I feel about that.
As far as the story goes for this season, the strongest episode has to be Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody, in which Haruhi forces the S.O.S. Brigade to participate in making tanzaku, or wish-cards, for Tanabata. Then, time travel happens. This episode in particular is interesting, because we get some fun insights into each character with their wishes (Yuki wishes for reform and harmony, Mikuru wishes to be better at sewing and cooking, Itsuki wishes for prosperity for his family and peace on earth, Kyon wishes for a house where he can wash a dog and "fork over money", while Haruhi wishes for the earth to rotate the other direction and to rotate around her). This episode demonstrates what made us love the series to begin with, but that would all soon change...
After a few more episodes from the original season, we're treated to another new episode called Endless Eight. We weren't too sure about what the title meant, but we had some fun. The group spends their summer vacation in various ways, and a good time was had by all. The next episode starts up, and is also called Endless Eight. The events followed the same pattern as the previous episode, except for Kyon's eerie sense of deja vu, and the reason is explained later on. "This is kinda funny," we all thought, but our amusement turned to horror as we remembered the episode's title: Endless Eight. The next month and a half were a veritable hell for anime fans and for the internet at large, to say the very least.
The worst thing about Endless Eight, aside from the fact that it encompassed more than half of the new season and was basically the same exact thing 7 times in a row based on events from the 8th? Each episode of Endless Eight was done entirely from scratch. Nothing was recycled, no expense was spared, each and every scene was re-drawn, re-animated, re-acted, re-scored, and re-started. The whole thing was merely an exercise in seeing just how much audience trolling KyoAni could get away with, and when the final Endless Eight comes to an end and we all cheer rapturously, the folks at KyoAni smile big, toothy smiles. They got us. They got us by the balls. This was executive cynicism at its slimiest, and it will forever stain this franchise's good name.
The other main issue S2 brings with it is a notable lack of fun in the new episodes. While Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody was nonstop fun and The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya has a few great moments, there seems to be more dread and dour cynicism than any fun present. Even in Endless Eight, where the entire point of the story is "fun summer vacation stuff happens," there is only gloom surrounding it...mostly because we, the viewers, are trying not to physically harm ourselves, but it's also because the characters themselves know the horror of what they've been caught in. It's just not fun to sit through, most of the time.
Sadly, the only episode I can recommend watching is Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody, and if you want to watch the amazing film that follows the series, it's mandatory. Endless Eight is not only an exercise in fan reaction, but it's also entirely pointless, while The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya is only kinda fun but equally pointless. 1 out of 14 is not a good score, guys. I am just so glad that the movie is so much better than this, because S2 was downright depressing.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 10. While Kyoto Animation gives us another visual and aural treat, only the first episode remains afloat in this sea of mediocrity and blatant trolling.