For those of us who saw the first season of “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”, it was a challenge on many fronts. Pulling a page from the 60s Sci-Fi show, “The Prisoner”, it was shown in an order that seemed out of place, as though we were living the life that Haruhi wanted us to live and not getting that straight-forward narrative. It wasn’t until it came out on DVD that you could see it in proper episode order and not Kyon Order or Haruhi Order (both of which are non-linear and do not agree with each other on the order).
When you finally were able to see the show ‘properly’, it made for intriguing watching. I mean, a girl who is a God and does not even know it? Then, in an attempt to keep her focused and channeled and happy, we send along three aliens to keep things moving along so the entire universe is safe? Time jumping, inter-dimensional rifts, girls in bunny suits, how can you keep up with it all?
I certainly found it both an enjoyable and thoughtful series. So, when I heard that Season Two was available on DVD, I did something I rarely do: a blind buy. Without knowing anything about it (and on such a deal as well), I grabbed it. Perhaps I should have waited.
I would divide the show’s second season into three distinct units: the first episode, the Endless Eight and the Movie Madness. It is, at best, an experimental season and it has to go back to the drawing board. Much like the ending of every episode of “Excel Saga”: “Endless Eight Experiment…Failed!”
The initial episode is fine, setting things up for the SOS Brigade in the time ahead. It is done quite well, but in no way prepares you for the Endless Eight.
What you learn from that arc is that Haruhi is reliving the same two weeks over and over (the last two weeks before the end of summer vacation), looking for something she cannot find. By the time it all ends, it has taken around 600 years to get this taken care of, as it resets and it is, more or less, relived just as it was the last time it was experienced. By the third go-around, you are getting both tired and frustrated, as you see the same action with minor differences (different clothing, different angles, different pacing), but it ends up with the same results: the cycle is not broken and it resets. Again. Again.
When even the creators admit they made a mistake with this idea, letting it go on for eight segments, you know there’s trouble a-brewing. What is most frustrating about the whole this is that you learn major personality flaws from all of them, to the point that they may have perpetuated their own misery. Or are they trapped into repeating the same mistakes again and again, unable to learn from their errors?
Yuki Nagato, the data entry android, could have said something earlier (both in the overall run of the 15,500+ resettings of time and when the latest cycle begins), yet waits until prodded to let folks know what is going on. She possesses the ability to manipulate the surrounding environment as she sees fit, but didn’t see fit to do so on this occasion, letting everyone bumble about for all those centuries.
Mikuru Asahina, the time traveler, is more whiny and helpless than usually, to the point where you feel you need to give her a good shaking to get her back on track. And why didn’t she check things earlier than she did about the time disconnect? She is always plagued with doubt and uncertainty, but this is played to the nth degree.
Itsuki Koizumi, the esper, seems to have almost no esper abilities and is used more as a foil or a prod to get others to do things that he, himself, cannot or will not do. It almost appears that they act out of character in order to keep the Endless Eight going. No one, not even Kyon, do things they ought to do, say things they have to say, or respond to things in a better manner, but they appear to be compelled to react in a specific way, as they are forced to do so. By the time the Endless Eight finally ends, you feel like you have been worked over. All in all, not a positive viewing experience.
The last part of the season is an five-part extended story on when they made that absolutely wretched movie seen in the first season (the first episode in the non-linear presentations, the 10th in proper order), but one asks the question as to why in had to be done? The original episodes from the first season were good enough, but now, it is as if they ran out of story to tell and did this rehash. And does it really change things to go into deeper detail with the events on the shoot? I almost felt it was an excuse to stuff Miss Asahina into that outfit so we could see her in all her moe appeal.
But the characters seem to be at their very worst: Haruhi is a tyrannical bully; Nagato is more closeted than ever; Kyon is always angry; etc., etc., wtf.
Overall, I felt badly cheated. I wanted to see more of them, but not more of the same as with the Endless Eight. And not more of the same territory explored previously. I feel, I KNOW, that I could write a better series of shows than what was given.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 10 (it has always been a good-looking show)
Plot 4 (worked to death)
Conclusion 9 (it’s over! Break out the bubbly)
Fan Service 3 (similar show would be Wedding Peach)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. But in this case, I would run away.