「涼宮ハルヒの消失」 (Suzumiya Haruhi no Shōshitsu)
“The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya”
At this point in time, the Haruhi series needs no introduction. Unless you’re an extremely casual viewer, or have a streak of uncanny avoidances, you probably know who or what Haruhi is. You may not know that fans have been waiting for this movie for a long time, and you may not know that this is not a stand alone movie. If you have not seen the prior two seasons of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu, and you wish to enjoy this movie, please do so now. For everyone else, these impressions are written with the expectation that you have seen the movie beforehand, so if you have not had the pleasure to do so, well what are you waiting for?
Clocking in at 18 minutes short of 3 hours, Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu is a pretty lengthy movie, and rightly so. The plot is based on an entire novel’s worth, specifically the fourth Haruhi light novel, and as far as I can tell, the movie doesn’t miss out on much. While the first couple of novels and the seasons adapted after them focus more on development, Shoushitsu happily specializes in reflection, forcing characters to look upon themselves, and if taken from a joking point of view, decide whether or not the plot thus far was entertaining or not. Of course, none of this is obvious in the beginning, and since we take Kyon’s point of view and his only, the problem starts off as, “where the hell is Suzumiya Haruhi?”
While character focus eventually becomes the main point of the story, the initial plot still begs to be watched, since assuming the entire audience are fans, who wouldn’t want to know what would happen if Suzumiya Haruhi never existed? As thus, that is what I believed until further into the movie, when the mystery is chipped away little by little, and the plot soon turns itself into a character study of Nagato Yuki and Kyon. As mentioned before, the movie heavily relies on the previous seasons, specifically Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody, and uses past memories of season one to create much of the impact in the realization of Haruhi’s disappearance (the prologue helped too). Kyon’s desperations and emotions are executed effortlessly due to his still charming and witty narration, with nicely orchestrated music to fittingly accompany each scene. It’s rare for a movie to create momentum that gives goosebumps even once, and yet Shoushitsu manages to do that several fold. I’d have to give more props to the music for that one though.
As the movie was promoted over the years, it mainly focused on Nagato Yuki, and for good reason. Nagato had been so far developed as an unfeeling side character, despite having powers almost as strong as Haruhi’s, yet Kyon still couldn’t help but feel attached to her. With Haruhi gone, Nagato becomes a normal human, and with that came emotions, leading to a very, very, shy but cute girl (she’s kind of like a wounded puppy). The alternate world also reveals any initial feelings characters may have had without Haruhi’s intervention, such as Nagato’s growing interest in Kyon, and Koizumi’s liking for Haruhi. Sure enough, Koizumi gives parallels later at the hospital, repeating that he is envious of Kyon, which made me think back to all those times he’s said that before (yes, way back in season one), except now we know why. Nagato on the other hand, is far more complex, and it’s debatable whether or not her decision to change the world was for Kyon’s sake, or hers. Nagato doesn’t realize what’s happening to her, but over Kyon’s monologue, he explains that she has simply gained emotions, despite being an advanced AI. Personally, if I had gone through 15,532 loops of summer as an AI, I think I’d develop some serious problems too, not just emotions. As with the alternate Nagato, there’s a hint of love going on with the regular Nagato as well. She’s a “god” that can change the past, yet won’t change it without consent, leaving Kyon with the final decision of happiness. With this thought, the ending rooftop scene becomes enchantingly bittersweet, with Kyon blissfully announcing he’ll protect her (even kneeling down like a marriage proposal), unaware how that might sound to a girl who might have feelings for him. It’s a one-sided love in an impossible situation, almost tragic, and when Kyon calls out to her first name (in Japan, first name basis signifies a close relationship or intimacy), “Yuki,” she looks up as if with hope, but realizes it’s only the snow he’s referring to. With the short clip after the credits, she sees a scene that reminds her of Kyon and the library card, and holds up her book to cover what I can only assume to be a smile, confirming she has kept some emotions.
Despite Yuki going through a whole lot, Kyon’s development feels a lot more overshadowing, since all the major decisions in the movie inevitably rests in his hands. After fumbling around initially to Haruhi’s disappearance, Kyon makes the decision easily in the clubroom, not truly realizing Yuki’s feelings for all this, and hands back the club recruitment sheet without much remorse. After learning who’s actually behind all this, Kyon undergoes an enlightening reveal of a monologue, realizing Yuki’s anomaly as emotions, and even blames himself for not helping, a self-realization of one of his main traits, laziness. However, as he reaches the answer to why Yuki gave him a choice, he interprets it the other way, thinking only of Haruhi. In a fascinating blend of metaphors such as standing before a subway ticket gate, the conclusions in his head come to a climax, and the unanswered questions characterized as himself stamp in provocation, helping him reach an answer that he didn’t want to admit, but claims as “obvious.” While the main story is about Haruhi, and the hard truth is that they do like each other, one can’t help but notice Yuki standing behind him as he walks away from the ticket station. The unquestioned, the unanswered, and the unknown is Yuki, and whether or not Kyon will ever realize the other reason he was given his choice, is something only further adaptations will reveal.
You probably know my response to “is the movie good?” by now. Shoushitsu is absolutely perfect, with a hauntingly ignored Yuki that the film doesn’t just forget on accident, but concludes inconclusively, powerfully sending signals to my brain that I should loyally watch the rest of Haruhi for as long as it takes. The amount of substance this story can tell is something I’ve rarely experienced before, and it took a little discussion with a friend to realize all that was there. With Shoushitsu, I realized the depth the series was capable of, and with another mystery planted right at the climax (achieving yet another layer of time travel), I had been captivated. It is a beautiful movie, in more ways than just animation, such as Kyon brushing aside the hair of a sleeping Haruhi, affectionately tracing her lip, and while she may not be the main point of this movie (ironic right?), the scene reaffirms that this is the choice the author Tanigawa Nagaru has laid out for us. Nagaru is incredible, the dialogue is sharp, and this movie is an exemplary masterpiece of his skill in weaving such an intricate story. Kyoto Animation deserves massive props too, not just for the absolutely gorgeous animation, but scene direction, clever camera angles, and matching the intricacies of references and foreshadowing, such as showing room 1-9 when Koizumi first appears in the prologue. Yuutsu may have been light hearted, and don’t get me started on “season two,” but delightfully, Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu has finally made me a serious Haruhi fan.