Monday, April 18, 2016

Animondo: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Season 2)

I might as well get this over with.

Welcome back to Animondo. Today, we're discussing Season 2 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
I'm not going to go through all the details of the show--it's the same as for Season 1, by and large. I don't just mean the plot and characters: basically everything that I said in the review for Season 1, good and bad, applies to Season 2. Despite several years passing before Season 2 was made, Season 2 feels like a fairly natural extension of Season 1, with no major changes in technique or quality in general.

It's just...well...'Endless Eight' happens.
Okay, stepping back a bit: Season 2 takes place interspersed at points along the storyline of Season 1. It fills in a few minor gaps Season 1 had, and can basically be watched along with Season 1 seamlessly, fitting in just fine, if you know where to put the Episodes. It contains three main stories: a short one about Kyon and Mikuru time-traveling, then Endless Eight, and finally the story of how the group made their film for the school festival (the film shows up in its entirety in an extra Episode of Season 1, and is shown in the background in some shots of other Episodes in the same season). Overall, the show feels the same as before, and is quite enjoyable, though both of the multi-Episode arcs in this one move pretty slowly at times. The show can drag a bit, but not enough to cause any real problems.

I know it might seem like I'd go and complain about the Episodes being inserts among already established Episodes, given my rant about the original airing order in the earlier review, isn't bad, here. Unlike watching the Season 1 Episodes in the airing order, these Episodes are kind of just extra stories--they aren't, by and large, things that were referenced confusingly in Season 1. They add to it naturally, and feel like part of a whole, but it didn't feel like something was dreadfully wrong without them. That said, I do have one problem with the fact that this Season fits entirely within Season 1, but I'll get to that in a bit.

I'm going to do a full spotlight on 'Endless Eight' down the line, but if you haven't already heard of this, here's why I called it out specifically above. It more than anything is the biggest problem with Season 2. It takes up more than half of the season (a full 8 Episodes, thus the title), and almost completely consists of the same exact Episode, redrawn and re-acted in slightly different styles. It's a time loop plot done in the worst possible way you could do a time loop plot: with no one taking any actions that make it different each time through. It is quite honestly very nearly torture getting through the Episodes.'s the thing. Season 2 is more of the same Haruhi Suzumiya goodness from Season 1. It's a lot of fun, and if you enjoyed Season 1 you will enjoy Season 2, if you obey this very critical instruction: watch, at most, the first and last Episodes of the Endless Eight plot. Skip the rest of it until you've watched the rest of the season, and then, if you're morbidly curious, you can go back and watch the others and see what is simultaneously one of the worst ideas ever put into an Anime and one of the most interesting studies in methods to vary tone and presentation of the same scene in television history. Seriously, though...the rest of the season is well worth your time if you enjoyed the first season...just skip most of Endless Eight for your sanity.

One more comment before I close this up: there is, as I mentioned above, one problem that I have with this fitting within Season 1: the characters don't really grow or change all that much here. There's a slight development with Kyon and Haruhi in the later stages of the season, but it's nothing that hadn't already been done pretty effectively in Season 1 (just another example of how much Haruhi actually does value Kyon). Also, I kind of felt like Season 2 closes on something of a downer for their relationship, with Kyon being the one to back down and allow Haruhi to kind of get away with some pretty awful mistreatment of Mikuru. That said, that's because this comes before Season 1's "Someday in the Rain," which kind of resolves the threads Season 2 leaves hanging by more expressly showing that Haruhi is developing care for other people. If you watch the Episodes totally chronologically, it's a stronger show for it...if you just go ahead and watch Season 2 and call it a day, you may feel a little dissatisfied in the end.

So that's Season 2. It's basically the same idea as Season 1, and it is quite a bit of fun and if you like the show already, you're going to like this season as well. Just...skip most of Endless Eight or you'll lose your mind. A fun but flawed addition to a good show, Season 2 doesn't reach the same standards as Season 1, but works well enough nonetheless. If you enjoyed The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya you'll be happy to see more of Haruhi and the gang, but things just don't quite go as well this time.

Dubbed or Subbed? This uses the same cast as Season 1, so far as I can tell, so my evaluation stands: watch it either way you want, as both are excellent.

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