A week ago, everyone and their brother was talking about Haruhi and there was good reason do so – the reairing of the first season of Haruhi included a completely new episode. This momentous occasion definitely deserved all the attention it received and I wanted to chip in but, at the time, it all felt very surreal and I was having trouble parsing what I thought about it.
A couple of rewatches of Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody (the new episode) and some time has helped solidify my thoughts so, before we get even more new Haruhi, I’m going to reflect on the episode.
The first point I wanted to bring up is a nick-picky one of the anime blogosphere in general. I don’t want to make anyone angry and I probably shouldn’t even mention it but I don’t think it’s correct to say that Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody is the first episode of the much delayed second season. Because of it’s position within the first season, I think it would be more appropriate to call this run of Haruhi something like Haruhi 1.5 or maybe the director’s cut of Haruhi season 1. Either way, it appears that the fans will finally get the 26 episode run of season 1 that we were hoping for back in 2006 before we found out that the show was only run 14 episodes and the fans that were angry at Kanon (2006) for making Haruhi run only 14 episodes can finally stop hating. 🙂
Watching the actual episode was a very surreal experience to me; it felt much like discovering a chapter in a favorite book that you know wasn’t there before – apprehensive about what it’ll do to the carefully balanced view you have of the show but excited to find out what happens. In this way, this episode is just as daring as starting the series with a bad movie like Haruhi did back in 2006 because it’s human nature to be suspicious and overly judgmental of new things. Since I had a long festering desire to see what happens next with Haruhi (I’ve been able to stop myself from reading the novels for over three years), my excitement was able to overcome the feeling of having to rearrange my world view of Haruhi.
So is it possible to pick up where the show ended three years ago? Or to put it another way, is it possible to go home again?
On one hand, when Haruhi ran the first time, I was just starting to really diversify my anime tastes away from shounen only shows and Haruhi was like a literal slip across the face. Now, I’m a much matured fan of anime and I’ve pretty much seen everything at least once now so chances are slim that the new Haruhi will leave as much of an impact on me. There’s also the fact that in the wake of Haruhi, every other animation company has had to improve their own shows to keep pace so the competition that Haruhi faces now is much stiffer. And then there’s the question of how well KyoAni can pick the series back up and give the same feel to it, especially with at least one of the important contributors gone (though his lackluster handling of Kannagi makes me wonder how important his presence would be).
But on the other hand while watching the show made long dormant thoughts bubble back up. It took all of 5 seconds to remember how creepy Itsuki is and how cool Yuki can make reading a book look. Or luxuriating in the sarcastic narration by Kyon and finding it impossible not to respect Haruhi in her quest for the odd and unique. Or being show a new bit of the overall plot of the show and wanting to know where the show goes next. (Did anyone else catch how Yuki’s handwritten card had the same script on it as what young Haruhi had Kyon write and did Kyon realize this?) Also present was the urge to find out what book Yuki is reading and then going to read it – after all, I found one of my favorite authors, Dan Simmons, this way. (BTW Yuki was reading a Robert Heinlein book about time travel.)
Thinking about it, I have to conclude that, at least in this case, it is possible for the show to pick up where it left off three years ago. Sure, the animation no longer looks godly – Production I.G., Madhouse, and Bones are all arguably equal, if not better – but what truly made the show awesome in the first place is still present so count me in.
Now that I’ve seen this episode I have to wonder why it was left out of the show’s first run. It’s not as important as the Melancholy episodes to the overall plot of Haruhi but Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody does provide important information to understanding the overarching plot of Haruhi. We learn how Haruhi decided to attend North High School, why she was disappointed by the lack of cool groups at North, and why she thought Kyon seemed familiar. It also further illuminates the drive, bordering on obsession, she has with becoming truly special by discovering the truly unique creatures of the world as well as giving us the proof that Mikuru can actually travel through time.
If it is a question of episode count constraints, I’d’ve dropped the video game challenge with the computer club episode for this one. One possibility I thought of not related to the episode count was maybe it was left out because it didn’t work well with the out-of-order presentation the first time season 1 was presented. Since they wanted to focus on the slow emotional change of Haruhi through time. Whatever the reason, they must have felt they had a good reason to pass this episode over the first time but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that how to incorporate this episode into the next production of Haruhi helped stretch the time we had to wait out to three years. If you look at what little publicity was released after the first season, almost all of it had to do with this episode – it was like this episode was going to be the what they would build momentum around for the new series.
As of right now, there’s only been one new episode of Haruhi but if the 28 episode allotment for the reshowing of Haruhi is correct then there’s thirteen new episodes still to be shown. I’m not a huge episodic writing fan but watching Haruhi always gave me plenty to ponder so expect to see more posts when more new episodes come out.