30th Dec2020

‘The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya’ Review

by Xenia Grounds

Features the voices of: Crispin Freeman, Wendee Lee, Michelle Ruff, Stephanie Sheh, Johnny Yong Bosch | Written by Fumihiko Shimo | Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara, Yasuhiro Takemoto

A flaw with the Haruhi Suzumiya series lies in its massive fantastical elements. The stories could get really grand, insane and the characters just had to roll with whatever was thrown their way. The animated series never had a sense of real dramatic pay-off. Don’t get me wrong, the storylines are fun to watch but those moments of drama when they did happen captured human emotion brilliantly and you can’t help but wish for more of it. Well, that’s what the movie taps into and excels in turning a story known largely for its comedy into something much more grounded.

The premise of the movie is self-explanatory given what the title is. Haruhi disappears. Literally, Kyon wakes up on a cold December day and the world is back to what it was before he met her. No aliens, no time travellers, no espers. Given that Kyon has spent multiple episodes basically wishing for this, you’d think he would be happy about it but he’s not. Understandably, this genuinely scares him because things aren’t the way he remembers. Friends like Mikuru don’t know who he is. Itsuki and his entire class is no longer at his school. As you can tell, it’s not the ideal Christmas present.

While the ending of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a very easy one to predict, it’s the near 3 hour journey that we take to get there which is really the selling point. Mostly because it provides massive character development for two characters that until this movie were loveable but didn’t get much variety. The first being Kyon who goes through hell trying to get back to his proper dimension and internally wrestling over whether he should go back to the world where Haruhi is running the show. Crispin Freeman (Kyon’s voice actor in the dub) doesn’t play those real moments of struggle for laughs either so when Kyon is terrified or desparate, you feel it. The second being Yuki who was basically uncrackable due to her alien nature in the series but since she’s a human in the movie for a majority of its runtime, we see a vulnerable, shier and more adorable side to the character. Michelle Ruff gets to play emotion in a character who essentially has never had any and managed to make it feel very believable and true to Yuki.

Now everything I said above makes the next thing I’m about to say obvious but nevertheless, it should be said. If you come into this movie expecting more wacky adventures with the SOS Brigade then you’ll be disappointed because The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is definitely not that. The pacing is much slower and the tone is massively different but very atmospheric. Some may not like the slow pace but it really places you in the same mind as Kyon so when things aren’t going his way, you get as scared he goes but when things turn a corner, you experience that relief and euphoria with him. It captures the reality of a world without Haruhi because it’s not fast paced or high energy at all times. There’s nothing crazy happening and everything is really calm. It’s just the same regular days one after the other.

Since this is a movie and not a television series, the animation has been stepped up and stands as some of the best Kyoto Animation delivered at that point in time. It’s more on par with the things they would later get to animate after the release of this movie. If you’re familiar with Clannad then the best way to describe it would be by saying that its the high quality animation you get with the Girl in the Illusionary World story at all times in this movie.

One of the other aspects that evolved was the soundtrack. The series had a very lighthearted tone and used somewhat cheesy band tracks. It definitely worked for the show and just how comical it was but given the massive change in tone for the movie, it wouldn’t have worked here. All the tracks that are in the show that are used here are beautifully orchestrated and it’s not just to add to the laughs like the series. In fact, there’s a sense of acceptance and peace with hearing the familiar music with this orchestration. It legitimately warms the heart to hear. Since the movie is more dramatic too, there’s more variety like sombre piano pieces and epic vocal choirs to highlight a few examples in this diverse OST.

This is more of a nitpick than a flaw on the movie’s part but there is the ending. The ending practically shouts out that there is more we’re not getting to see by the time the credits roll and after everything that happens, you want to see it. That said, I was perfectly happy with what I already got to see. Yes, some things are left unexplained but it doesn’t take away from the movie at all.

Overall, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya basically served as an unconfirmed conclusion to the Haruhi Suzumiya series. The Nagato Yuki-chan animated series doesn’t count as a continuation (and this isn’t an insult against it) since it takes place in the world of this movie rather than the Melancholy animation. If you look at it that way, it’s very satisfying because the ending leaves everything in a good place and as we all know, not every series ends on a high note. It’s a massive accomplishment in itself that this anime which was so hilariously larger than life and self aware for most of its run managed to create a masterfully dramatic and emotional movie that tugs at the heartstrings and keeps tugging until the very end.


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