End of Melancholian

July 4, 2006 at 7:06 am (Anime)

I am not interested in normal anime. If you know of any anime like Perfect Blue, Shoujo Kakumei Utena, or the Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, please see me.

I recall the first few weeks of the Spring Season, where the inevitable “OMG NEXT EVA” comparisons were made for MoSH. Oh, I don’t recall them because I think they’re appropriate, I recall them because Ep b14 (b = broadcast order, for clarity) that I just finished watching was chock full of Eva send-ups. MoSH took flac for some of their production decisions (among the aniblog community, at least), but in some ways I appreciate it just for generating interesting discussion topics. Now, I don’t think being thought-provoking makes something necessarily “good”; there’s the whole issue of: is this just a gimmick for the sake of being different? A lot of surrealist anime, for instance, seems like it’s just weird to be weird and goes over my head or under my head or somewhere. See Boogiepop Phantom. So I should get on with the wrap-up discussion, and be glad I have more to say for this than I did for Jyo Oh Sei.


There were a couple of particularly interesting aspects of MoSH, so I’ll hit on each of them.

I should probably avoid use of the P-word since it doesn’t seem to have a widely understood (well, outside of certain fields, I mean) or useful meaning. I think there are some “deconstructionist” aspects of MoSH, however, in the sense that it assaults parts of the framework of the anime format and genre. Well, I kind of thought that’s what it was doing. After viewing the first five episodes I had this beautiful dream that somehow the episode-order fragmentation was all going to tie into Haruhi being unconsciously writing the story, and since it’s sort of established that she’s a shitty writer, we were going to get really stock episodes, and then either the order of the episodes would not matter, or the point would be that she wasn’t doing things in order, or…something cool like that. Basically, I was hoping the meta-ness of the show was going to go full circle, and the weird form was going to work itself back into the story, because, well, I love it when that kind of thing happens. It didn’t, so I was a little disappointed, but not all that surprised. Even so, there was *some* aspect of this going on.

Episode b1 was the biggest example of doing strange things with the format. I wrote a heap big post on Ep b01, but it was focused on viewer immersion. I was impressed at how it used the inner film to tell you things about the outer film, like the hints of the talking cat and the cg effects, and just the general weirdness that film-within-a-film brings with it, amplified up a couple of degrees.

I’d thought that — particularly after Haruhi’s introduction of Mikuru, announcing “All good mystery stories have a big-breasted cute girl like her!” — there was going to be more genre play in the show. There was some, but I don’t know how much was intentional. At first I thought the baseball ep was gonna be a thing like “Well, all shows or comics with superheroes have some intermission episodes where they use their superpowers for mundane purposes,” but after finishing the series I’m less sure there was actually that level of awareness of genre. Even so, just the general realization that: Haruhi has a stereotypical concept of science-fiction AND is unconsciouslly controlling the world, makes everything really meta, and…well, I don’t know exactly what it does, but I think it’s interesting. I wish they’d played with it more.

Where’s the Bunny Girl

Kyon’s Narration
So, within all the crazy metafied framework of the show, there’s an actual story. Actually, there are several stories, but our main focalizer (I love that word) is Kyon, who provides us with constant narration. I think that, for most people, enjoyment of this show is going to hinge heavily on how much they appreciate Kyon as a character. I liked Kyon. Sometimes his narration was fucking hilarious, but a lot of the time it was dull. I liked Kyon though, largely because I get really sick of genre archtypes, and oh man does Kyon stay out of those. He’s sure as hell not nekketsu, but he doesn’t balk either. He tends to just stand there and look stoic, even while he’s having some crazy conversation in his head. You might notice he reacts a lot more visibly to Haruhi Hijinks and Mikuru Moe than he does to, say, waking up in closed space to an imminent apocalypse. My favorite parts of his narration are where he puts really bizarre accents on things “Sayonara, Haruhi. Forrrr-rev-AHH!” and “ChiiiGAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUuuuUU!”

Kyon, in a gaijin4komashell

If I add a million screenshots to demonstrate how retardoawesome the cinematography was in this show, I will never get this post up. There are a few examples on my post on Ep b03. I would not generally say good animation / cinematography is enough to carry me through something, but it was definitely an inspiring factor for my eagerness at watching new episodes of MoSH. Somebody could write a huge paper just on the crazy stuff they did in Ep b01, simulating really crappy camera-work. But even after that, there are weird camera-emulation effects, much more subtle, but there’s a screen-shake when Haruhi comes flying into the clubroom and slams the door at one point. In Ep b02, at least, there is a time when somebody walks across the shot kinda randomly. The show is also filled with strange viewing angles, sometimes almost voyeuristic, which was another reason I thought the show was gonna be more meta: I thought maybe some of our viewing was supposed to be through the eyes of Unconscious God Haruhi, though it turned out she wasn’t really omniscient, so I guess that was just me grasping at straws. It was still weird. They did a lot of lighting effects, and just put an obscene amount of detail into a lot of the frames. Next to b01, and maybe b02, b12 (Live Alive) is probably the most impressive in regards to detail. Lots of people talked about the sweat on Haruhi’s face during the concert. It wasn’t just that though, they put a fair bit of detail into the guitar playing animations, and a lot more into the crowd than I’m used to seeing. I could really go on and on about all the crazy animation stuff I liked in various episodes of the show, but I think I’m gonna stop here, and just say it’s probably the most impressed I’ve ever been with any show’s animation. I will grant: some of this is just relative to anime, because I think anime tends to skimp on quality cinematography to save budget. I’m not, for instance, ready to stack the cinematography here up with a good Hollywood movie, though maybe they’re not formats worth comparing.

One of many shots I liked

Episode Ordering
The huge majority of complaints I’ve heard about this show have stemmed from the anachronilogical episode order. I think some of this may stem from watching this show in a weekly format, rather than in a batch; watching it as a batch “WHEN AM I??” probably becomes less of an issue. I already mentioned what I’d sorta hoped they were doing with the weird episode order, but, based on somebody’s comment that I’ve forgotten (sorry), and looking over the translation project wiki for the books the rationale for most of the weird ordering seems pretty clear: KyoAni wanted to stick close to the source material, but the books did not cleanly fit into the 14 episodes they had to work with. I suspect that the best solution would have been to make the show longer, but, alas, eroge adaptations are obscenely popular in Japan for some reason, and money drives this industry like…something that…drives things…a lot. Thanks for nothing, Kanon.

The six episodes titled “The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi [I-VI]” are the first book, almost verbatim. It’s a novella though, and they would have had to make heavy adaptations to it to extend it past five episodes. The second book, I believe, is also a novella, but the two together either wouldn’t fit 14 eps, or KyoAni just really wanted to do some of the short stories (like Asahina Mikuru’s Adventure). Books 3, 5, and 6 are, I believe, short story collections, and the remainder of the episodes seem to come from these books. So it looks to me like they had to figure out some way to get these random short stories, plus the first novel’s arc to fit together. All the main arc eps are broadcast in chronological order, but they’re spread in that order among all the other episodes. I think some of the decisions made were questionable, but that overall it worked well enough. I toyed around with everything in my head a bit, and came up with a possible alternate viewing order if anyone is interested in that.

Some neat things happened with the anachronicity though. Character development seemed to follow broadcast order, for one thing. Kyon X Haruhi definitely progressed in time with broadcast order, not continuity order. Gods, just, don’t let anyone convince you to watch the show in chronological order. Nothing would make any sense, and the plot would all be in the first six episodes. It’s not quite exactly like they made a show in order, and then shuffled it around to be cool. Some of it, like splitting the two-parter, seems like it’s just for-the-sake-of-breaking-rules, but all things said the show is crafted for its broadcast order, though perhaps not perfectly.



  1. Anga said,

    I still think that first episode about Mikuru was best one in whole series, it was truly ingenius episode without Haruhi bitching, abusing Mikuru and acting like a God (I don’t care if she is).

  2. sethjohnson said,

    Haruhi seems to have a lot of haters. I’m not really sure why. I’m kinda impartial on her I guess.

    The first episode was certainly the most novel. I think my favorite is probably the second episode though.

  3. Naughty Ninja said,

    First off: Perfect Blue and Revolutionary Girl Utena are some of the best titles I’ve ever seen. Period. I went all otaku and did a mini-thesis on Perfect Blue, concentrating on concepts like simulacrum and hyperreality. It heard my head, but it was awesome fun.

    I’m woefully behind on MoSHaruhi, but just the first three episodes have me begging for more. I’m always a sucker for meta-fiction and characters that acknowledge themselves. The first episode was especially a good one, because I’ve seen bad student films, and have had to create short films on a short budget, so I recognized all the dangers of such. Most of which they didn’t bother to re-shoot or edit out, hah.

    I enjoyed this post, it’ll keep my eyes open for some of the better stuff you’ve mentioned. Good stuff!

  4. sethjohnson said,

    Naughty Ninja,

    Thanks. By the way, I really like your blog, and not just because you trackbacked me =p

  5. Jack said,

    A nice log. Amazing.. Congrats…

  6. Loma said,

    A lot of people seem to be wondering about this, so here’s the deal about the second book:

    In short, it sucks.

    It’s not badly written, but it’s pretty long and doesn’t tell much of a story. Haruhi makes a terrible movie, loses touch with reality. Reality reshapes itself to fit Haruhi’s movie, Kyon fixes everything by making her read a disclaimer. Yeah. Basically, every funny part was in Bouken, and then some. If there was a postscript that explained Mikuru Beam/Shamisen, Bouken (6th book) would wholly replace Sighs. Already, it makes Sighs largely redundant.

    It gets worse, though. After the success of Melancholy, the author wrote Sighs at the same time as the serialization that became Boredom. He set Sighs far in the future (November vs. May) but didn’t account for any kind of character development in the meantime… so there isn’t any in Boredom either, really.

    Sighs really screws up the character development of the middle of the series. Not only does character development largely stagnate through the summer, but in November (movie filming) they act sort of out of character and more like their old Melancholy selves. Then immediately after (Live Alive, Day of Sagittarius) they act more like you would expect after having been together that long. It’s jarring, and another reason the second book is best forgotten.

    It’s also worth noting that Boredom (the baseball story specifically) is basically a recap for those seeing the series for the first time in the serialization. Development-wise it’s kind of a step backwards from the events of Melancholy VI. It doesn’t really work in sequence.

    I think the ‘character development makes more sense in broadcast order’ meme stems from this summer stagnation.

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