The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – Season 2 (2009)

Haruhi Suzumiya’s Triumphant Return!

Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara and centered around a collection of light novels written by Nagaru Tanigawa, the second Season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, much like the first, follows the happenings and exploits of the ‘S.O.S. Brigade,’ which comprises of the spirited, lively and sometimes bossy Brigade Leader, Haruhi Suzumiya, and her companions; the often cynical and sarcastic Kyon, timid time traveler Mikuru Asahina, stoic and introverted ‘humanoid interface’ Yuki Nagato and the polite, constantly smiling, esper Itsuki Koizumi.

Upon airing, the first Season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was broadcast in a nonlinear fashion with the prologue and the first seven chapters of the principal novel intermixed with chapters from some of the later novels, but having seen the series chronologically I was unaware of this element. Much like the first season though, the second contains episodes which take place in-between the first, making it a little difficult to follow if not familiar with the characters or general premise, and is therefore near impossible to watch in a sequential order. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Season 2 consists of three arks, The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya, Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody and the controversial Endless Eight; while these storylines are rather appealing, the variety and concepts on show in Season 2 are less diverse and distinct than the previous seasons.

Cicada catching for the thousandth time!
Cicada catching for the thousandth time!

Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody sees Kyon and Mikuru, on the eve of the Tanabata Star Festival, travel back in time to encounter a younger version of Haruhi on the night that may have been the source of what led to her search for aliens, time travelers and espers. It contains some truly interesting and intricate concepts surrounding time travel, explored in a very basic and plausible way; as fascinating and thought provoking as this ‘arc’ may be, it is short-lived, only lasting one episode. The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya is a five-episode prologue to the preface episode in Season 1, looking at how the ‘S.O.S. Brigade’ executed and completed their film project titled The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina, which the group created for the school Culture Fest.

The longest branch in the season, Endless Eight, is an eight episode arc that takes place after the events of Remote Island Syndrome in Season 1 and sees the ‘S.O.S. Brigade’ unknowingly stuck in a time paradox, where the Brigade members keep reliving the final few weeks of summer vacation — between the dates on August 17th to 31st — over and over again, some 15,000 times, in a continuous never-ending loop. During the last few weeks of summer vacation, thanks to an enthusiastic and over eager Haruhi, the ‘S.O.S. Brigade’ attempt to make the most of their only summer as 10th Graders, taking part in an assortment of summer festivities which include spending a day at the local swimming pool, attending an O-bon Festival, taking part in a Cicada catching competition, getting part-time jobs, star gazing, karaoke, bowling, a test of courage endearment and a whole range of other entertaining and enjoyable recreational activities. Then, on August 31st at midnight time resets, with Kyon not having completed his summer homework, and everyone’s memories erased, albeit not thoroughly enough, they are sent back to August 17th to relive the same events of the last few weeks, leaving the Brigade trapped in an endless summer vacation without having a way out.

Kyon, slowly getting over Endless Eight!
Kyon, slowly getting over Endless Eight!

Kyoto Animation, the company responsible for the anime, have made quite a bold and risky decision with Endless Eight, as viewers are essentially stuck seeing the exact same events repeated and reanimated eight times, with only few dialogue variations and a total wardrobe change for the Brigade members in each episode. This arc can either enrage viewers, as watching the same thing over and over again can be extremely frustrating and tiresome, or it can be seen as somewhat entirely unique and a daring undertaking. Even if you do enjoy or appreciate the arc, by about the 6th or 7th loop even you will perhaps began to grow weary of hearing and seeing the same thing, knowing it will happen again in the subsequent episode. One can’t be sure why Kyoto Animation chose to present this story eight times, as by about the 5th viewing one really begins to understand how it may feel to be stuck in an infinite loop. Perhaps Kyoto Animation chose to present this episode eight times to give viewer’s somewhat of an idea of how Nagato may have felt, as she, being an artificial human, is the only Brigade member who retains her memory during the cycle, while the rest only have strange feelings of déjà vu which get stronger and more prominent the more they relive these events. Whatever the reason, Endless Eight triggered a lot of controversy among fans who more or less raged and felt like they were being fooled and the arc is still commonly discussed among Haruhi enthusiasts, while the controversy surrounding Endless Eight spiked a lot of interested in the anime, despite it already being widely popular beforehand.

While the events in Endless Eight are continuously repeated and can get a little monotonous at times, the animation, costumes and design of the episodes are exceptionally fresh and first-rate. There are plenty of costume variations across all eight episodes as the Brigade members are seen wearing an assortment of unique and original outfits, ranging from bright colourful swimsuits to stylish yukatas. There are also a variety of locations on show from a blistering day at the overcrowded local swimming pool to a earnest night on Nagato’s balcony star gazing, the ‘S.O.S. Brigade’ literally cover indoor and outdoor locations across all times of the day ranging from sizzling sun sets to sweltering afternoons where the atmosphere truly immerses the viewer, putting them in the headspace of summer; each scene is beautifully lit and animated, complete with echoes of humming Cicadas, buzzing nightlights and searing or tranquil midsummer ambience.

The S.O.S. Brigade at one of many O-bon festivals!
The S.O.S. Brigade at one of many O-bon festivals!

The animation of this second season feels more refined, fluent and detailed than the first, as the characters are more lifelike in their actions, movements and expressions. The Brigade members themselves also feel more realistic and genuine this time around making it easier to sense an attachment to the group; this could possibly be because by the time viewers reach the second season so much time has been spent with these characters that one can’t help but feel like part of the Brigade itself.

There is just so much to admire in this humble yet complex Slice of Life anime that it comes recommend to anyone and everyone. It’s no wonder The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is one of the most adored, admired and beloved anime’s of all time, and makes oneself really appreciate the simpler facets of life, such as friendship, nature and existence, yet is perfect escapism entertainment without being too far-fetched or implausible. One thing’s for certain, after finishing Season 2 and sitting through the entire Endless Eight arc the sedative voice of Kyon contemplating the following phrase will forever be implanted in your long-term memory!

Kyon: ‘Something’s wrong. That’s what it felt like anyway. The game on TV was between teams in another town. Now I had nothing to do with either school, but since I tend to sympathize with underdogs, I found myself rooting for the losing team. And that’s right when I felt that Haruhi was going to call.’

4 / 5 – Recommended

Reviewed by S-Littner

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – Season 2 is released through Madman Entertainment Australia