Here at the “You Should Be Watching” posts, more than anything else, are about series individual bloggers wish they had more time (and perhaps energy) to blog, and reflect whether or no a particular writer is enjoying the series. Essentially they are statements of “I really, really enjoy this, and here are the reasons why. If you like similar things you might like it too.” It is not really intended to be some kind of “objective evaluation of anime as an art” or the like and should not be read as such.

This absolutely holds true for me in the case of the series being focused on here – Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu. I greatly enjoyed the KyoAni anime adaptations of the novels and of the volume focused on “The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi” in movie form – the latter especially I thought to be positively beautiful. The source material in question that is used for THIS anime adaptation is a manga series that is an imaginary spin off of the latter volume. The author is different. The art style is different. The adapting anime studio is different. So, of course, everything about it will be understandably … different.

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But in many ways that is precisely one of biggest draws of both the source material and its currently airing adaptation. When looked at in isolation, separate from the novel source material of the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise this is light hearted and charming shoujo high school romance-comedy that is pretty well written and with endearing characters. But what makes the story so interesting is the hidden background narrative, the second story that is always present and always “commenting” on the events taking place, almost like a Greek chorus, but a chorus that only those familiar with the source material novels can even perceive in the first place – this narrative is equally perceivable (and powerful) in both mediums too. To that degree this is an incredibly “in house” production, and to that degree it works marvellously for me. But how to blog it without having to almost “re-interpret” piles and piles of “in house” moments? As I mentioned in my “First Impressions” post for this series, I am undoubtedly “too far in” to this franchise!

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While the main character of the anime is undoubtedly the incredibly brilliant yet painfully awkward and shy Nagato Yuki, the most powerful catalyst force in moving events forward in the series is (no big surprise here) Suzumiya Haruhi. When she first begins to get involved in the lives of the other characters in episode 3 it is like an earthquake has taken place and shaken everyone, but unexpectedly interacting with the other characters serves to be an earthquake for Haruhi as well. One of the things that is often overlooked is that the Haruhi novels essentially are focused on how the God-like Suzumiya suddenly, unexpectedly develops romantic inclinations toward a member of the opposite sex and frankly does not quite know what to do with the fact. She even has a hard time realizing what is going on in the first place, let alone responding it “normally”. And this confusion, when intermingled with the habits and behaviors she has adopted up to that point, are the driving forces behind the story overall.

The catch? The young man she shows interest in does not return it. More than that, he has affectionate inclinations towards other people at the same time, while both reining himself in for fear of planetary-wide destruction and being moved to follow his inclinations, being a normal example of a young teenage hormone-charged male. The gist behind the volume that served as the spin off reference point for THIS series is that there is another unexpected member of the circle of friends around Suzumiya who also seems to have growing affection for the young man Suzumiya is interested in, but this member wields extraordinary power – to the extent of even being able to create alternate time lines and realities.

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So – when Suzumiya shows up things definitely begin to be set in motion. However, while the characters have certain similarities as those in the source novels, the mangaka/anime is able to “get away” with presenting them to be very like and yet at the same time to show how they are unlike their “originals”. Much of the delight, the positive relish and enjoyment of this series comes from character interactions, yes, but also the narrative and chronology of the events. Almost every general event has some kind of reference point and twist (or even a sort of “commentary”) on the novel source materials.

The character interactions are also great because seeing as they are in an “alternate universe” or timeline or suchlike, they can behave with slight variations. For example, Nagato is far more “human” and emotional, Haruhi is extraordinarily straightforward, yes, but also both articulate and more aware of her feelings and what it means to act on them. Asukura is much more pushy, impatient and “wilful”, for lack of better descriptions. The expressions of irritation she is able to express and/or inflict on others (especially Haruhi) would never have taken place in the novels, and Suzumiya’s sensitivity is so surprising at times (at least in comparison) I have found myself shocked.

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The audio/visual aspects of the series have been generally good. The visual side of things has the misfortune to be constantly held up against the stupendously talented standards of the KyoAni studio, and that is a pity, as I feel it gets in the way of being able to appreciate the series for what it is. To that degree it is a good adaptation of the manga’s visual style, I feel. One of the nicest parts of the series, though, has been the soundtrack – while both the OP and ED have a very personal and homespun feel to them, the background music unexpectedly surprises me from time to time. In episode 6, for example, Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” was quietly playing in the background when Nagato and Kyon were interacting, and I thought it was really fitting. The VA work has been quite good – not bad for the VAs from the novel anime adaptation 9 years ago coming back and flexing their muscles again! (Especially Hiyano does an excellent job with Haruhi.)


All in all, though, it is hard to know who might like this series and who might not. I can only speak for myself, as someone very familiar with the various creations and spin offs of the franchise up to now – it works. But there are plenty of people similarly familiar who dislike it, just as there are many who know nothing of the franchise and are thoroughly enjoying it. I can only recommend giving it a try, but with the caveat to keep in mind that it is a slow-developing storyline, and that later on if you are not familiar with the novel sources you may be in for some unexpected surprises. For me, though, the series has thus far been definitely “worth it”, and I encourage others who have not tried it to give it a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised. And if it serves as a springboard to draw you into the whole massive Suzumiya Haruhi franchise you may be in for an unexpected treat! ^^

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Currently the “oji-san” of the staff members age wise (in his mid 40’s) yet the most recent addition, he is also a Japanophile from his teen years while not quite an “otaku” who lives in the United States. Came to actively following anime late in life (in 2008), but in general loves the traditional arts, history and culture of Japan as a whole, both ancient and modern.

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