I’m sure those who experienced the Haruhi Suzumiya re-broadcast expressed great disappointment for the inclusion of the infamous Endless Eight arc. I should know, because I’m one of the many who did. Afterwards, a friend of mine somewhat defended it, stating it was a pretty clever ‘stunt’ and exemplified the meaning of that particular arc’s title. While I initially (and vehemently) disagreed with him, I eventually came around and accepted Endless Eight for what it was. Still, I understand why people were angry, especially for those who had high expectations for it. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu) movie though, ought to quell that frustration down.
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is the fourth volume in the ongoing light novel series of the same name, taking place mid-December (more specifically, December 16) with Christmas right around the corner. Planning a nabe (hotpot) party for that day, the SOS Brigade makes preparations for the event. Then suddenly, Kyon goes to school two days later to find that everything had changed: Haruhi Suzumiya and Itsuki Koizumi are gone, Mikuru Asahina doesn’t know him and no one but Kyon himself has memories of the SOS Brigade. To make things more complicated, he finds Yuki Nagato as an ordinary human and most surprising of all, Ryoko Asakura is back. Trying to get to the bottom of why all this is happening, the only clue Kyon has is a bookmark left behind by the original Yuki, and it may just have the answers he’s looking for.
As somebody who’s read most of the light novels, Disappearance is by far my favorite, and marks the high point of the entire series for me. I didn’t, however, expect the movie to suddenly change in tone because I never had that impression while reading through the light novel version. Still, I liked the change of pace and thought it worked, and the movie indeed stays true to the original. I didn’t really notice any big changes to the plot, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with how every scene was presented.
And speaking of presentation, everything about the movie looks sharp, clean, and beautifully rendered. The backgrounds, as well as the character designs look fantastic. The animation is also solid and is reflected by how fluid everything is, from the character movements to their compelling facial expressions. Heck, I’m even compelled to point out that it’s also got some adequately done lighting effects, as I don’t really see much of it these days. To sum it up nicely, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya looks damn good, and I found myself admiring the visuals for most of my time with it.
That said the movie is far from perfect. In fact, it’s got its fair share of problems. You’ll most likely find yourself agonizing through a number of boring scenes instead of anything compelling or significant that moves the plot forward. There are times in the movie where nothing really exciting or anything that hooks the audience happens. It would’ve helped if there were more dialogue during those times or if they’ve been cut altogether. Instead, you’re treated to a great story that’s bogged down by slow pacing, ruining the flow of the movie.
Despite that, Disappearance focuses more on specific character development, something the first season didn’t necessarily do. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was pretty much a light-hearted slice-of-life comedy that put its action and sci-fi trappings to smart, intriguing uses, and all its main characters were smack dab in the middle of it. Disappearance takes those attributes to a more serious approach. The story itself is sort of a ‘what if’ scenario, placing Kyon and Yuki Nagato as its two central protagonists.
Ultimately though, this is Kyon’s story. Not only for the obvious reason of his role as narrator-- seeing things through his perspective, but because of the fact that Disappearance puts a lot of emphasis on his inner struggles as well as his psyche. His monologues throughout the movie are what surprised and impressed me the most, and it’s different than the ones from the first season. As those were strictly pertaining solely to his reactions, the ones in Disappearance actually make him develop as a character, and you definitely notice it as the movie progresses, especially right up to the film’s culmination. Kyon’s voice actor, Tomokazu Sugita, does a particularly outstanding job on this matter and the rest of the cast is always excellent at bringing their characters to life.
Music also makes a large contribution to setting the entire mood of the film, and I think it’s a fine soundtrack overall. While it owes and derives its main themes from Erik Satie’s melancholic yet beautiful Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes piano pieces, composer Satoru Kousaki delivers some stirring orchestra work that not only sounds pleasing to the ears, but perfectly fit the situations at hand. Sadly, I found Minori Chihara’s “Yasashi Boukyaku” (Sweet Oblivion) a lackluster ending theme and weak compared to the rest of the movie’s tracks. In any case, you should have an enjoyable time listening to the rest of the soundtrack.
It’s certainly safe to say that The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is the true second season fans have been hoping for. Perhaps the movie could’ve fared better with a shorter length, better pacing, or a less solemn tone with more comedic/action-y moments, something many have been accustomed to in the first season. In the end though, Disappearance is a good sci-fi mystery film that comes together nicely towards the end, despite how majority of it turned out slow and horribly paced. Regardless, fans will be pleased with the results, and should be enough to put the Endless Eight outcry to rest.