15 Nov 2010

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (Anime) Review

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (2010)
Format: Movie, 163 minutes
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Score: 4 stars
Summary: Filled to the brim with various Haruhi references, Disappearance will definitely be a fan favourite. Well-written (as most of the Haruhi series is), convincingly voiced, and nicely animated, the only downside would be its long screen time which dragged out certain scenes in the second half.

Ah.... where do I start. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but the second half was a little bit hard to sit through. OK, let me start with the good. The original voices are back and they are exactly how we remember them. That is to say, they were fantastic. After all, this was the anime that shot Aya Hirano to stardom. The story is still top notch and does not dwell too much in the slice-of-life parts like the original series. The director seems to know that those segments worked for the series but would not work that well in a movie format. Kyon was, as usual, perfect with his delivery of witty dialogue. The writer did not miss out any chance to sneak in a reference here and there, a nod and a wink to long-time fans of the series, bringing about comedy standards far higher than the original series.

Animation wise, KyoAni does not disappoint. The one second of brilliance displayed when Tsuraya twisted Kyon's arm was wonderfully down and, in my opinion, showed how KyoAni excelled in all the little details from character motion to background animation. Indeed, this movie was filled with fluid animation in areas you would not expect. Stylistically, it built upon the original series, especially the "Someday in the Rain" episode, without changing much. Works for me though. The original looked great and knew how to build up tension and mystery subtly.

This movie had two directors: Tatsuya Ishihara and Yasuhiro Takemoto. Ishihara-san served as chief director. I'm not 100% sure who to blame for the faults of this movie, but I suspect it is Takemoto-san. Ishihara is a veteran director, with several hits on his belt, including the original Haruhi series. Takemoto, on the other hand, has only directed Haruhi-chan and Lucky Star. Both of those series were rather episodic, hence explaining his unfamiliarity with pacing in a film. Moreover, the second half of the film had quite a drastic change of direction and pacing. The "End of Part 1" title card made things even more obvious. My conclusion? Ishihara mainly directed the first half, while Takemoto did the second half. I don't know how else to explain this. It was such a big disappointment to see it finish like that, as it could have easily been 5 stars in my book.

Overall, this is just a movie for fans. Not because it's bad or anything, but there are too many things you need to know about the series first before you can start to understand this. But this movie is too good to pass, so my recommendation is this: go watch the series (5 stars) and then watch this movie. It's nearly perfect, just like Nagato. To make it any better, you have to be John Smith.

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