The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Haruhi Suzumiya is a god. As such, her various flights of fancy and bizarre beliefs about the world become manifest. Aliens, psychics, and time travelers exist in a world filled with supernatural happenings. But those who are aware of Haruhi’s powers dare not tell her, for fear of what she may do if she knew she could. At the same time, while hiding the fact that all of the strange things she wishes to see are actually all around her, they must keep her content; because when she is bored, her wishes and fantasies turn dark and destructive.
The Haruhi franchise has a reputation for being odd, in both content and structure. The first season was aired out of order, and the second include a plot line about time repeating itself, which was executed by having the same story repeated for eight consecutive episodes.
In The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, the ‘odd’ thing is the lack of oddness itself. One day, Kyon, the only ‘normal’ member of Haruhi’s SOS Brigade (which is secretly made up of people who are tasked with keeping her happy), awakens to find Haruhi missing from his life; and with her, all the strangeness that has plagued him since they met. The other members of the brigade, the psychic, the alien, and the time traveler have not only lost their memories of their past adventures, but have also been transformed into normal, unexceptional humans, just like Kyon.
Kyon attempts to unravel the mystery of Haruhi’s disappearance and set things right again, though he has to decide if he really wants to go back to the strange life he was constantly complaining about before, or settle into his new, normal one.
People who haven’t seen the TV series could probably follow the plot, thanks to Kyon’s constant narration; but the massive back story would likely make the movie seem more frenetic than it is. A lot of plot points from the TV series make a reappearance. Their significance is explained in the movie, but there’s still a lot of it to digest. It may also be hard to a newcomer to get into, because most of the movie takes place in a ‘normal’ world, the sudden injection of very strange elements could be jarring.
The TV series had a number of multi-part episodes. The movie, being two hours and forty four minutes long, is roughly equivalent to six episodes. It has the same pacing as the multi-part episodes from the series, but without the natural breaks, so a lot of people have complained about the movie being overly long. But if you watch the movie in three, hour-long pieces, it just feels like a new season of the series.
The visual style is virtually identical to the TV series, save for a few quick shots that are more complex than what we’ve seen before. The animation is a little better. The character’s movement is more fluid; Haruhi gesticulating, and close-ups of hands picking things up look very nice.
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is basically just an extension of the TV series. If you like what you’ve seen before, you’ll like this as well. If you hated it, you still will. It has a slightly more focused plot line than the rest of the series, but doesn’t lose any of its whimsy, and for that, it’s my favorite entry into the series.
The blu ray from Bandai Entertainment comes in a combo pack with a DVD in a DVD case (which is sad). Video and audio quality are very good. The subtitles seem a little small, but are readable. The credits and titles are left in their original Japanese.