「大切な場所」 (Taisetsu na Basho)
Before we begin, I’d like to advise all those interested in this show to partake in the rest of the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise that anime has to offer first. That is, watch the original 14 episodes (in broadcast order, of course), all of the second season (yes, all of Endless Eight; it’s important), and the Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi movie. You might as well watch the Haruhi-chan and Nyoron Churuya-san web series as well, to acclimate yourself to silliness. Go on, watch them now. We’ll wait.
Nah, forget waiting. The text must flow!
Even those who knew nothing about The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan prior to diving into the show will immediately notice that this is not a Kyoto Animation production—it’s Satelight this time. Sure, there’s some fancy lighting here and there (look at that lens flare! We don’t even have a lens!), but aesthetically Nagato Yuki-chan is not comparable with its predecessors. Much has changed for this spin-off. Character designs skew towards their manga versions, an entirely different staff is in charge of production, and although all of the original voice cast reprise their roles, you may not believe that the muppets they play are still the same people. The titular Nagato Yuki is now a clumsy girl who likes to sleep and likes to eat, and her
backup mother best friend Asakura Ryouko is no longer only occasionally evil. Thankfully, general shapes (and sets) are still there. Tsuruya-san is still fang-licious, Mikuru is still a doormat, and Kyon, though a tamer shoujo hero, has been given more opportunities to snark compared to the manga. God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.
The actual show itself was rather amusing, but probably only for those familiar with the original series (again, you must watch the source first). In-jokes galore! References to the episode 00 home movie (the height of the franchise, if you ask me), Asakura humming Hare Hare Yukai—this first episode of Yuki-chan took great joy in poking fun at exactly what it was not. That’s good fanservice in what is essentially a fanservice anime, but on the other hand it made me slightly disappointed to think that the only thing that Asakura will murder in this show is a daikon. The occasional flashes of flair (an improvement on the manga) only reinforces the true nature of Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu: a rom-com that approaches slice-of-life levels of mellowness. With a pleasantly soft colour palette and backed by a pleasantly carefree soundtrack, there’s little one should demand out of Yuki-chan other than general good feelings, which could be a fine thing in itself.
So, would I watch an entire cour of alternate-universe Yuki just being cute? Totally (you should have seen all the screenshots I had to cut). But on an objective level, fluffiness and self-referential humour can only carry a show for so long. There are some hints of substance: Nagato needs to lead her club, a genuine emotional connection between Kyon and Yuki needs to be developed, and there’s a certain someone who needs to re-appear to shake things up a bit (but not too roughly). Otherwise, there’s no real hurry to usher in the plot. Established fans of the franchise can easily be content just tuning in for their weekly dose of the warm, fuzzy feeling.
ED: 「ありがとう、だいすき」 (Arigatou, Daisuki) by 茅原実里 (Chihara Minori)