Although I like to think of myself as aware and with it and on the ball, sometimes you get your hat handed to you and this show “The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan” (“Nagato Yuki-chan no Shōshitsu”) certainly brought me back to Earth. It took me almost two episodes to realize that this was a spin-off/Alternative Universe approach from the world of Haruhi Suzumiya. Well, it did take me many, many years to realize the cities in “Pokemon” were all colors and Ash came from Pallet Town. (Or course, if they had spelled it Palette Town, I’d have gotten it like that!)
In this approach, Nagato is all-too human and painfully shy. She is still in the Literature Club, and the president of it, but was one of the few members, along with new friend Ryoko Asakura (that’s her between Nagata and Haruhi) and Ryoko’s friend, Kyon (far left). They manage to save the club with the addition of members Tsurura and Mikuru (and if they gave the name in the first episode as Mikuru Asahina, I would have gotten it like that; they are both at the far right). It isn’t until the end of episode two that Haruhi makes her grand appearance. Oh, don’t worry; Itsuki Koizumi shows up as well, although, he too, is a normal student. And therein lies the first concern.
The artwork is altered from what we know. They all seem to be a bit more physically mature and a bit visually different. I had the nagging doubt that I knew these people, but couldn’t click on it (and why I didn’t get it when Kyon showed up can only be attributed to thick-headedness). Hair length, skin coloring, glasses and, more importantly, reaction to things had me puzzled for the longest time. And Haruhi is so tall! Although just as annoying as ever, she does get put in her place from time to time. The series has evolved into a caliber of romantic comedy, well, more of a dramedy, as an incident in the middle of the show changes who Nagato is and how her friends deal with this change or, in a broad sense, her ‘disappearance’.
I’m not too sure how to react to all of this. I’m STILL not sure how to react to all of this. For me, it was hard to change gears and see these characters in a different light. Miss Asahina is not as airheaded as seen in the regular run, Kyon is less grumpy and the internal dialogue is gone, Koizumi is reduced to being a lackey and since Haruhi goes to a different school, her presence is lessened. Yes, this show is all on Nagato and her wishes and desires to be more than she is.
The “Haruhi” franchise is always willing to experiment. Sometimes it succeeds (The Haruhi movie), sometimes it fails (the Endless Eight Saga). For me, this one treaded water. It seemed like it spent a lot of time trying to set up the (possibly romantic) situation between Nagato and Kyon, just to change it. I felt that Nagato was a bit too shy and retiring, almost paralyzed by her own fears and doubts. She just was not a strong enough character to lead this show. Seriously, every time Haruhi showed up, she stole the show. Which leads to the question: was that deliberate?
We all know of a person who comes into a room and gloms the spotlight, the attention and all the best snacks. All heads turn towards them and the rest of us stand there, dumbfounded. The show really took off with the post-accident reactions and discussions that Nagato had with ‘herself’, but was a touch of a workout beforehand. Still, it was a show that kept you on your toes. No sitting on the sidelines for this one.
The conclusion sets up the potentiality of a second season, and with how Haruhi and Pals do things, I wouldn’t doubt it. But it is of such an interesting nature, I cannot tell you, as I want to see if you get the reference (I certainly did on that point). And perhaps we’ll get to see Miss Asahina’s take on things. It’s that you just never know what to really expect from these off-kilter folks and I honestly feel this is not the last I’ll be seeing of these people.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (An interesting experiment with things)
Plot 6 (Needed something more)
Pacing 6 (A bit sluggish in the beginning)
Effectiveness 7 (Not certain what they wanted to say)
Conclusion 5 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)
Overall 7 (Hard to get started)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Are you OK? Really?