Anime Spotlight: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Released by Kadokawa USA and Bandai Entertainment
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is high caliber pop entertainment. From opening credits that sports bouncing cheerleaders and Ouendan references to an ending credits with an infamous, imitation inspiring para para dance, the anime plays a lot like a remix that is expressing the artist's view of the standard. There are works of anime that are more ambitious than The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. There's anime that's more artistic. Anime that's more cerebral. More exciting... More dramatic... But, few anime are as well tailored to their purpose as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Basically, it is THE anime for the anime fan. There are episodes that can amuse casual viewers, but the point of the series is to get the already self-indentified fans excited and thinking about this series. It's ability to intelligently poke fun at conventions of anime without being an outright parody, along with its ability to indulge in those conventions without being hypocritical allows it to breezily capture the appeal of popular trends. The philosophy present might not be on par with something like Ghost in the Shell. but it is appropriate, and the series is reliably adept at throwing out intriguing suggestions and letting the fans debate.
The anime series actually starts with "The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina" At first this looks like garbage, run of the mill anime of the lowest order, and without context, it's probably anime's greatest practical joke. The episode is guaranteed not to have the same impact in a well packaged, well publicized DVD release that it would if it just appeared on the airwaves, but it is a highly amusing, sustained visual gag. Mikuru Asahina is a childishly cute, but well endowed "battle waitress from the future". She's in the present to protect a young psychic, but spends most of her time aiding the local shopping district by appearing in a Playboy bunny outfit to flag down potential customers. It's quickly apparent (immediately if you're paying attention) that within the anime, this is actually a teenagers' film project. Mikuru is not as physical as the character she's trying to play. She can't do much running without getting terribly winded. She can't do her heroic gesticulation without losing balance. Other actors can't help but break character, or can be seen in the background of shots holding lights. Special effects are of the public access TV variety, and camera angles are literally laughable. While this film within in anime is capturing a group of friends trying to recreate their favorite popular media stories, on another level, stranger, far more out of the ordinary things are being captured on film. Again, if you're paying attention, 90% of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya's revelations were already apparent by the time the details are revealed. And, the series itself is coy about most of the unessential details. To an extent, the anime actively defies explanation for the ancillary wackiness. Sometimes the exact causes are hidden from the lead, sometimes the explanations goes over his head, and sometimes he just doesn't want to hear it. Elements are more important more important is exchanges between characters and how the animators present that interplay. The storyline actually starts in the second episode with Kyon commencing high school as a freshman. In addition to old friends, he meets students who attended the local middle school from a different region of his town. "Kyon" is actually a family nickname, and one that the character doesn't care for, but it's the only name he's granted for the anime. The most striking of his new acquaintances is Haruhi Suzumiya. She catches Kyon's eye by ritually transforming her hair every week day: putting it up in an incremental number of ties, with a rotating spectrum of bands. Kyon soon finds out she's notorious. In middle school, she joined every extracurricular activity, excelled at it, and quickly quit. She accepted every invitation to date, but quickly dumped each guy. And there were stranger stories, like the time she stole the athletic field markers to chalk alien-like hieroglyphs onto the school grounds. When it comes time to introduce herself to the class, Haruhi forcefully proclaims that she has no interest in normal people, only aliens, time travelers, ESPers and the like. The leap that this anime series takes over other male-oriented relationship comedies is that it has fun teasing contradictory impulses. It seems to be made with that expectation that it will provoke plenty of thought and discussion (probably more than it's actually worth) to untangle how everything works out and how you, as a viewer are supposed to feel about the whole mess. . To sample this, feel free to frighten yourself by plugging "Haruhi Tsundere" into a search engine. There's a real yin-yang complementary halves relationship between Kyon and Haruhi. He's the head. She's the heart. He's the point of view. She's where sympathies tend to lie. Though Kyon's initial infatuation with Haruhi quickly evolves into an unlabellable state between grumbling obedience and unvocalized caring, Haruhi is clearly, always the object of the series affection. Except, at some point, all that is flipped. While he's the one that knows what is going on, one of the great true revelations of the series is the clarification of why Haruhi thinks the way she does. While the characters of the anime aren't necessarily anime geeks, this is a series that addresses fans. During Kyon's introductory narration, he insists that he never believed in Santa Claus, but it took him a while to completely abandon hope that, against all logic, the super heroes of pop media exist. Kyon might be sarcastic, but he isn't dour. As he explains to Haruhi, dissatisfaction with the limitations of the world is the first step towards inventing or pushing progress forward. At the same time, what makes Haruhi a magnetic personality is that despite her tantrums, she's held onto that hope that aliens, time travelers and ESPers exists. In that, most anime fans are going to at least appreciate where she's coming from. This meeting of the minds leads to the formation Haruhi's own student organization for attracting the out of the ordinary, the SOS Brigade (cue t-shirt/merchandising opportunity). First Haruhi appropriates the Literary Club's office space, along with its one remaining member: bespectacled, freakishly calm Yuki Nagato. Then, Haruhi figures that strange things always happen when there is a "moe character", so she press-gangs Mikuru Asahina into the SOS Brigade. Finally, after waiting for someone who fits the criteria to come along, she seizes on the opportunity and grabs "mysterious transfer student" Itsuki Koizumi. Between Mikuru, Yuki and to a lesser degree Koizumi, Haruhi has rounded up the genre archetypes. They're supporting characters to the core, but the series leaps on the opportunity to exploit the potential popularity of characters that fill these molds. The polar opposites of Yuki's intense gaze and rigid form and often on the verge of tears, often costume glad Mikuru in particular are well employed as comic devices. Through Haruhi, these types are treated with a degree of meanness: Haruhi regards Yuki as an object; she subjects blushing Mikuru to various humiliations, including actually putting her in a rear choke and biting on her ear. There are plot justifications why this can be and has to be the case, but that doesn't really wash. Instead, the reason that the interplay isn't vile, is that it feels believable. This is a circle of friends captained by a forceful personality who both gets caught up in her own ideas to the exclusion of regarding anyone else and has a mean streak. The series' director Tatsuya Ishihara has gone on to dive into purer forms of the genre that inspired this anime series, such as the second Kanon, Clannad or Air. Working with Kyoto Animation (Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid), he's produced a series that has no reluctance straying from a straight view of the characters as normal (well, a very qualified "normal") to a bit of T&A, but this is handled with a degree of playfulness. There's nothing particularly clever about viewing a scene of girls in skirts from ground level, and the anime does do that, but it also finds other, more interesting angles for scenes that either suggest an offbeat casualness or positioned the narrative in such as way as to almost confront the viewer for their voyeurism. Especially with its elements of wish fulfillment, the anime always treads close to the appearance of pandering, but the character interaction is always credible enough and the animation is always clever enough, that most of its pushes at broad appeal are forgivable. There are plenty of oddities that surround The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Like "The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina" most of these are manufactured oddities, but they are fun none the less. Chief among these is that the anime was originally broadcast with its episodes out of chronological order. Multi-part storylines remained in order, but other episodes, covering later events, were inserted in between the entries. Except for opening with Adventures, the DVD release features the episodes in chronological order. The special edition versions of the series features a second DVD with the episodes in broadcast order. Using the chronological order as the primary model downplays the broadcast order. After seeing the anime scrambled, there is a strong desire to try it sequentially to see if the new arrangement reveals anything new about the events. If your first exposure is the chronological order, broadcast order is just a curious historical note. In terms of which serves the anime better, there are arguments either way. The anime is based on a series of light novels, and episodes two through seven are from "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya." Other episodes are adapted from other books or stories. For example, episode eight (seven if you don't count "The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina""), the final episode of DVD two, is "The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya". The one exception is what is now the final episode "Someday in the Rain" (episode nine in the original broadcast order ). As the anime's title suggests, originally the series was "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya," with other stories popping up seemingly at random. The anime reached its climax with the climax of Melancholy, but in chronological order, Melancholy's end, and the series' dramatic high note hit half way through the series. The DVD release's order is more suspenseful in that it leaves matters uncertain as they are happening and it is certainly more closely tied to the perspective of the lead. However, in broadcast order,, the associative hops fit the personality of the show, and the anime exits after the biggest moment. The change in order does imply a shade of different meaning. For example, in chronological order, The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya" becomes the denouncement to "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya". Boredom works well as a funny, if familiar, take on the situation of the characters forming a baseball team and taking on out of their league opponents. In this position, Boredom suggests that nothing was really learned from Melancholy. In broadcast order, you know that everything returns to a status quo, but In chronological order, it is something of a letdown to be immediately reminded how quickly everyone finds their level again. However, much of the anime series seems to be about provoking fan chatter. The tone of "Someday in the Rain", what is now the ending, is in a minor key. There is a bit of a feeling of "this is life after..." Like the final episode of the first season of Genshiken, it's a sustained low note that at the same time suggests something deeper about the characters and leaves you wanting another opportunity to see them in action. Which ending better suits the characters is open to debate. Part of the trouble of front loading the entire " Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" is that while situation comedy could be spun out of the anime's premise indefinitely, or at least to the length any concept can avoid becoming tired, there is a solid beginning and end for the most significant arc to the characters. While this is not the kind of romantic comedy that keeps on building to the point where the hero and heroine can reciprocate their affection, like that model, there is an end in sight. Anything past that risks feeling tacked on. There are powerful moments in the episodes that were not part of the Melancholy story, but after the fact, they may just seem to be re-iterating known concerns. Ultimately, question of whether Haruhi can sustain more than 14 episodes will be answered when the announced second season materializes. Like many very hot anime series, time probably will not treat The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya well. It probably will not be forgotten, but given the segment of fandom it targets, it may be looked back upon more like Ranma 1/2 or Tenchi Muyo than Neon Genesis Evangelon. However, it is not a flawed series for not being timeless. Instead, it feals like it should be allowed to become dated. It's pop ephemeralness is part of the thrill.
Yoko Ishida Headlines Anime Vegas Concert
The organizers of Anime Vegas Convention 2007 have announced recording artist Yoko Ishida as the Japanese musical guest of honor for this year’s fourth annual celebration. Since her debut in 1993, Yoko Ishida has been singing on various anime show opening themes and released a number of popular singles [Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon R Ending Theme song "Otomme no Policy", TV Anime "Bluer Than Indigo2 (Ai Yori Aoshi ~Enishi~) Theme song "Eien No Hana," TV Anime "Bluer Than Indigo2" (Ai Yori Aoshi ~Enishi~) Theme song "Takaramono", Shakugan no Shana Ending Theme song "Kurenai no Seijyaku", This Ugly Yet Beautiful World Ending Theme song, "Natsuiro no Kakera"] over the last fourteen years. Ms. Ishida recently sang the opening/ending theme song for Ah! My Goddess. With Anime Vegas as a stop, Yoko is currently touring World Wide to promote the Japanese release of her new "Single Collection" album due out September 21. Other J-Rock programming includes rock bands: Eyeshine, Metal Phyzix, Thee Out Mods and Tokyo Smog, with a performance with anime music producer DJ Jinnai and Anime Hip Hop recording artist MAJA at the Anime Vegas Dance.
5th Season Debut of Digimon Data Squad
Toei Animation’s DIGIMON makes its 5th season debut this fall on Toon Disney’s Jetix block with Digimon Data Squad. DIGIMON DATA SQUAD continues the adventures of 14-year-old Marcus and dinosaur-type partner Agumon as they challenge the menacing Digimon from the Digital World who intrudes into the Human World to cause nothing but trouble. For their efforts, the pair is inducted into DATS (Data Squad) a special investigation unit called in to ensure planetary safety. Being a reformed schoolyard punk, Marcus learns to channel his belligerence toward the evil Digimon, and to work as a team to help protect the human world from ruin. The DIGIMON DATA SQUAD cast also includes Marcus’ rival, teen prodigy Thomas H. Norstein and his beast-type Digimon partner Gaoman and Yoshino Fujieda, the only girl in the DATS and her plant-type Digimon partner Lalamon. In addition to the launch of the animated television series on Jetix, Bandai America will be releasing an expansive line of DIGIMON DATA SQUAD toys in early 2008 while Namco Bandai Games America has set video games based on the newest DIGIMON series for the fall.
WMA Signs TOKYOPOP
The William Morris Agency (WMA) has signed TOKYOPOP to represent the publisher's original intellectual property for film, television, digital, merchandising, and game development. "WMA's partnership with TOKYOPOP presents a fresh opportunity for our clients and TOKYOPOP to create new characters and ideas through the dynamic world of manga," said WMA President Dave Wirtschafter. "Our agency's resources coupled with the unique world of TOKYOPOP, allows for a global exchange between traditional content creators and manga, anime and beyond." "We are excited to join forces with WMA as we further develop the TOKYOPOP brand worldwide," said Stu Levy, the company’s CEO and Chief Creative Officer. "This partnership takes us one step closer to realizing our dream of merging the leading edge of manga entertainment with Hollywood." With Levy at the helm and creative executive Noah Stern onboard, the newly-formed TOKYOPOP Pictures is off and running. Film projects in development include the company’s hit properties, Lament of the Lamb and The Ai-Land Chronicles.
Latest NewType USA
The August issue of Newtype USA will feature a cover story of Code Geass, including interviews with with director Goro Taniguchi and series organizer Ichiro Okouchi. The issue will also include more coverage of Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and the new Evangelion movies, as well as Blue Dragon, Denno Coil Red Garden, The Wings of Honnêamise and Gunbuster 2 coverage.
Upcoming Geneon Releases
Geneon 10/23/07 Rozen Maiden Traumend Puppet Show (volume 1) 10/30/07 Fighting Spirit The Complete Collection Part 1 ($79.98 ; 8 discs) Fighting Spirit The Complete Collection Part 2 ($79.98 ; 8 discs) No one ever expected the gentle and self-conscious Ippo Makunouchi to ever join the Kamogawa Boxing Club - much less punch his way to the top of the Eastern Japan Rookie Championship Tournament! But after a chance meeting with a legendary boxer inspires him, Ippo finds the confidence to face down almost anything: challenging opponents, dirty tricks and even a near-crippling injury - such is the power of a Fighting Spirit! Based on one of the best-selling sports manga in Japan by Jyoji Morikawa, Hajime no Ippo. Fighting Spirit was animated by Madhouse (Trigun, Chobits, Texhnolyze) and directed by Satoshi Nishimura (Trigun, Street Fighter Alpha), Geneon will also be distributing Bandai Visual's Freedom ($39.99) on October 30th.
"Asience: Hairy Tale" in Competition at Ottawa 2007 International Animation Festival
Production I.G has announced that Kazuto Nakazawa's "Asience: Hairy Tale" has been selected for the Official Competition in the Commissioned Films - Promotional Animation Section at the Ottawa 2007 International Animation Festival (OIAF 2007), to be held in Ottawa, Canada, from September 19 to 23, 2007. This year, the festival received 2077 entries from 74 countries, and only 97 films have been selected for competition. Created by Production I.G for Kao Corporation's Asience shampoo, "Asience: Hairy Tale" is a 60-second animated film directed by Kazuto Nakazawa, who gained international fame by directing the animation part in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill: Vol. 1." Nakazawa also designed the characters and directed the animation. Art direction is entrusted to Shuichi Hirata, the texture wizard behind the stunning artwork of Cannes-nominated "Innocence" and Annecy-selected "xxxHOLiC - A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Anime on Blu-ray
Anime on DVD reports a Blu-ray box set of aerial sci-fi Yukikaze will be releases in Japan on January 25, 2007 for ¥26040. The set is not scheduled to include English subtitles, but will feature English 5.1 TrueHD audio track A report on FUNimation's Blu-ray session at Comic-Con can be read here
Upcoming in Japan
From AnimeNation Fantasy novels "Ookami to Koshinryo" ("Wolf & Spices") will be adapted into an anime television series. According to the September issue of the Japanese edition of NewType, an adaptation (anime or manga) of Hamamoto Ryuusuke's "Puchi Eva" ("Petit Eva") line of collectable figure toy is in the works.
Speaking of super deformed Evangelion, Ikimashou has posted images of the super deformed version of Mine Yoshizaki's redesigned Evangelion angels. A trailer of the Sousei no Aquarion motion picture has gone online. An English promotional promotional movie is streaming on the a href="http://www.straitjacket.jp/" >Strait Jacket homepage. The site for the Kyo Kara Maoh! R OVA is online. From Anime News Network: Yu Yabuuchi's sex-ed manga Naisho no Tsubomi: Mebae will be adapted into an anime scheduled for next spring. Nobuyuki Fukumoto's (Akagi) 1998 Kodansha Manga Award winner gambling manga has been adapted into an anime series scheduled for October. Hello Kids Office #59, about an agency hired by parents to find mascot characters for their pre-teen children is also scheduled for an anime adaptation. From Twitch, the site for Appleseed: Ex Machina features a streaming trailer.
Viz Talks Tekkonkinkreet Re-Release
VIZ Media, LLC has announced that the omnibus edition of TEKKONKINKREET: BLACK & WHITE by Taiyo Matsumoto will be rreleased on September 25th. The manga, which is being offered by VIZ Media’s Signature imprint, is also the inspiration behind the new TEKKONKINKREET anime feature film from Sony Pictures directed by noted visual effects artist and producer Michael Arias (The Abyss, Princess Mononoke, The Animatrix). TEKKONKINKREET: BLACK & WHITE bundles all three volumes of the original series along with a color poster insert and 12 special full-color manga pages - the first time these pages will be published in the U.S. An insightful interview with Michael Arias and screenwriter Anthony Weintraub is also featured in the foreword. TEKKONKINKREET: BLACK & WHITE is rated “M” for Mature Audiences and will retail for $29.95. TEKKONKINKREET: BLACK & WHITE presents a gritty depiction of urban and social decay surrounding a pair of outcasts who somehow find hope and redemption. Orphaned on the mean streets of Treasure Town, street kids Black and White must mug, steal and fight to survive but are fiercely loyal to each other. Black is especially quick to avenge any slight against his dim-witted pal White. The result? The citizens of Treasure Town are afraid of them, the police are afraid of them, and even the local yakuza gangsters are afraid of them! But when a crime boss known as the "Rat" returns to Treasure Town, a confrontation is destined to occur!
North American Premieres
Bandai Entertainment will be releasing the first volume of Zegapain on October 2nd. ADV Films will release the first volume of Welcome to the NHK on October 2nd the the first volume of Pumpkin Scissors on October 23rd. Anime on DVD has a report on Welcome to the NHK's dub cast here Upcoming ADV thinpak collections include Yugo the Negotiator on October 2 and Blue Seed on October on October 16th.
Live Action Adaptations
From Anime News Network Cutie Honey the Live is scheduled to air on Japanese TV starting October 2nd. Mikie Hara will play the title character. Sony Music Entertainment will be adapting Yukari Ichijo's opera singer manga series "Pride". A trailer for Takashi Miike's Crow Zero, based on the manga by Hiroshi Takahashi (Worst) is online here Masami Kurumada (Saint Seiya) has announced that his ninja manga Fuma no Kojiro will be adapted into a live action television series. Yoichi Sai (Blood and Bones) will directing an adaptation of Sanpei Shirato's "Kamui Gaiden" starring Ken'ichi Matsuyama (Death Note's L). Tak Sakaguchi (Versus, Death Trance, SHINOBI) will be writing and directing a live-action version of Akira Miyashita's Shonen Jump fight manga Sakigake!! Otoko Juku. Konami Sonoda's shoujo fashion manga series ChocoMimi will adapted into a live action television series.
Vertical To Publish Beat Takeshi Book
Vertical will be releasing "Beat" Takeshi Kitano's book of prose, Boy. The stories range from the touching to the tragic, beginning with "The Champion in a Padded Kimono," which is told by a middle-aged man making mundane small talk with his brother about golfing. Reminiscences lead him to one particular memory of the two racing at an elementary school athletic meet. The odds-on favorite for the relay would be the jock, but a figurative and literal twist in the route gives the bookish older brother a chance to disprove his seeming indifference to the competition. Looking back, they are arrested with memories of their first bitter taste in disappointment and deferred ambition. In "Nest of Stars," a mother takes her two young boys to Osaka after their father dies. The kids are having a hard time fitting in at their respective new elementary and junior high schools and become ensconced in a world of star-gazing - a hobby that is also the last vestige of the little time they had with their beloved father. What was a treasured memory, however, becomes a source of ridicule, as the younger boy, Toshio, encounters his first local bullies who taunt him for looking at stars through a cheap telescope. As long as he has his brother, who seems to be faring much better at the new junior high, and their nest of stars - the make-shift planetarium they created out of their bedroom ceiling - Toshio is convinced everything will be fine. But when their mother introduces her new man friend and Toshio finds Hideo being bullied even harder than himself, the nest of stars takes on renewed significance as the boys decide to find their way closer to the real constellations and farther from their diorama. The last story, "Okamesan," is about Ichiro - a loner high school student and member of The History Club. On his first ad hoc field study, Ichiro goes to Kyoto, looking to satisfy his appetite for knowledge of ancient buildings and to take a look at one of the nation’s oldest temple bells. His Carmen Santiago plans are abruptly altered, however, when he ends up at a ramshackle inn run by a rusty middle-aged woman and meets a local hood-rat named Jun, whose no-good boyfriend, Minoru, takes him for all his money on a long joy-ride. While this depletes him of his necessary funds to make it through his original Kyoto tour and eventually back to Tokyo, Ichiro also realizes what’s been going on around him while he was looking up historical artifacts.
Non Anime Releases
A box set of Sam and Max season one has just been release for $29.99. ToonZone notes that the first 19 episodes of The Smurfs and The Smurfs Springtime Special will be released as the "The Smurfs: Season One, Volume One" on December 4th for $26.99.
Worth Checking Out
Episode 46 of Right Stuf's Anime Today podcast (find it on iTunes) features an interview with Newtype USA Editor-in-Chief Gary Steinman and Executive Editor Chris Johnston. Manga Punk interviews Otaku USA's Patrick Macias. Anime News Network interviews manga artist Arina Tanemura (Publishers Weekly also interviews the creator)and talks to singer Yoko Ishida Anime on DVD is now hosting the Official Del Rey Manga Forums Alt Japan looks at "Ochanoma-Transformation" (literally "Tea Room Transformation") here THAT AnimeBlog looks at the One Piece 10th Anniversary Special here
New Evangelion Movie Teaser
Mistakes of Youth points out a new teaser for the Evangelion movies has been YouTube'd
Kings of Power 4 Billion % - trailer
The latest from creator Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006 Paul Robertson
A Look at the Animated Tomb Raider
A chip of the pre-teen segment of GameTap's upcoming Tomb Raider animated shorts: