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It was another day for the average high school student, Kyon. He went to class, attended the SOS Brigade's club activities, and put up with its club leader Haruhi Suzumiya to keep her from irrevocably altering reality with her godlike powers. Yep. Another normal day for Kyon.
That's when everything changed. Kyon arrives at school and discovers Haruhi had mysteriously vanished. Not just from the school either, but from everyone's memories as well. The rest of the SOS Brigade are either gone or don't remember him. Kyon desperately tries to find out what has happened as his entire world has been turned upside down. Was it Haruhi who had finally altered the world? Or is someone else behind it ?
Now for the review:
Oh boy. Here we go. Reviewing the movie based off of one of the modern day anime juggernauts, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. This review is either going to please a lot of people and invalidate me as a critic, or piss a lot of people off and invalidate me as a critic anyway. Either way, I'm screwed. Let's get this review started.
For a movie with very little action going on, there's a lot happening onscreen. With scenes that feature background characters, there is always something going on the background, which I will always praise for giving an animated movie more life and a world beyond just what we're shown. Kyoto Animation is known for its work on the anime industry's most popular moe series, such as Clannad or K-On!, which you can tell had an influence on the style of the movie and its original series. The characters are very cute-looking, yet still have a distinct look to it that makes it have its own style that a fan could recognize immediately. The animation for movie is absolutely topnotch. Character movement is always important when it comes to defining them, which is beautifully shown in the change of SOS Brigade club member Yuki Nagato. The character from the series is a very robotic and emotionless-type, and as such she moved very little and when she does it is very meticulous and calculating. However, after the change in the world, Yuki becomes well, human. She becomes an introvert bookworm, and sort of flails about when nervous or scared. From her movement alone, you could tell that she was a completely different person. The character presentation is excellent.
For the most part, Disappearance has virtually no music. This allows viewers to settle into the mood built by the movie, letting the dialogue to speak for itself. There's no need for music tricks to manipulate the audience into feeling what they want them to feel. It can do it on its own. For the times it does feature music, the scenes are typically the most important ones that features a reveal to Kyon or a big moment. The silence before it always make these moments even more profound as it builds them up and brings the audience right back out of sitting comfortably in their seat, having them join in Kyon's excitement or shock.
While there are plenty of voice actors to discuss in this movie and they're all good, the only one I'm going to bother talking about is Kyon's. Why? Because about 90% of this movie is just him monologuing. I'll get to that later. For now, you're going to have your audience listen to a character narrating throughout most the movie, you'd better cast someone with a voice that the people will enjoy the hell out of listen to.
Thankfully, they cast Crispin Freeman.
While Tomokazu Sugita also did a great job as Kyon, Crispin Freeman gives Kyon his trademark snark in his delivery while still expressing a whole spectrum of emotions. Sugita I felt like he was speaking too quickly to properly gauge, but that might be due to my inability to speak Japanese and actually pass judgment. Either way, I think Freeman is allowed to deliver his lines in a more relaxed way.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a very polarizing series due to its immense popularity, as many well-known series are. However, this movie I believe is an undeniable good. First thing I have to say is that if you haven't watched both seasons of the series (though you can skip the Endless Eight episodes, thank GOD), you will not be able to follow this movie. So I'm labeling this movie as For Fans Only first before I get to the analysis.
If there was only one word I can use to describe this movie, it'd be "slow". Disappearance is a 164 minute long movie, and it takes its sweet time with those two hours. As such, I know that the more impatient viewers will swiftly declare the movie as "boring" or "nothing happens". However, this slow pace actually works in the favor of the movie. This is not an action piece, nor is it a thriller. It is a drama with science fiction elements. As such, the story is all about the characters and the conflict presented to them. As I stated earlier, the movie has the audience naturally flow into the mood created by the movie by progressing slowly, allowing both emotional investment and time for the viewer to ponder on the ideas brought up by Kyon's narration. To put it simply, the movie is pure ambiance.
As with the series, Kyon is the point-of-view character and his narration both has the benefit of an audience stand-in and a chance to analyze his incredibly well-developed character. In fact, the whole movie seems to be a character study of two of the series' main characters. This movie gives the already three-dimensional Kyon so many more layers, while also giving even more to the other main character that didn't get enough in the original series.
So what if it's slow? This movie presents some of the best character-driven scenes I have ever seen in a story, and characters that one can't simply ignore because they will make their existence worth noting.
For this movie of a possibly overrated series, I proudly give a:
5 out of 5
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is beautiful movie. While I can't say everyone will like it, I can definitely promise those who liked the series will love this movie. It is very slow, but the feel of the movie and the characters are so magnificently crafted that I couldn't possibly give it anything less.
As I said, I recommend this movie to the fans of the original series. Though I recommend the series for everyone. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya was produced by Kyoto Animation. It was licensed and distributed by Bandai Entertainment stateside, Manga Entertainment in the UK, and Madman Entertainment in Australia and New Zealand. The English dub was co-produced by Bandai and Bang Zoom! Entertainment.