KyoAni has become, frankly, a parody of itself. To me, anyways. Each show that comes out of the studio gets progressively more pedantic and less engaging as time passes. Pretty sad, considering they once offered some of the most ambitious, fascinating stuff in the industry. It's kind of a relief, then, that they're off the airwaves this season, and that what once was their most definitive property is now in the hands of a new studio.
The only question now, of course, is if this long-anticipated companion to the 2006 masterpiece, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, is worth the wait.
Is this the elusive third season? Hardly, and in many ways, I'm grateful for that. As much as I'm interested in seeing more of Haruhi and the gang, their personalities and dynamics were so expertly composed by KyoAni that it would be jarring to see another studio get a crack at them so suddenly. So, instead, this is more of a "season 2.5" if anything, or more accurately, a "seasons 1&2 in a parallel universe."
You see, this is the alternate reality that audiences got a taste of in the astounding The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya a few years back. The one where there's no hint of science fiction weirdness happening. The one where the cold, calculating android Yuki Nagato is actually a clumsy, blushing human being with a crush. The one where everything is, essentially, a generic slice-of-life show with cutesy happenings happening in a cute way. Essentially, this alternate dimension, or more accurately, this split timeline, is the same sort of stuff that's been saturating the market for a long time now, and I was thankful that the core Haruhi franchise wasn't anything like it.
So... why am I so engaged by this show after the first episode?
It's not like anything substantial happens. Nagato is preparing for a Christmas party, wants a turkey, nurses a serious crush on former Haruhi protagonist, Kyon. That's... well, that's it. Yet for some reason, I was interested in seeing more, and wasn't instantly put off by some of the blush-y moe antic that happen. Part of that, I think, lies in the strength of Nagato as a character. From the get-go, she's painfully shy and anxious, and can barely voice anything she wants in life, let alone telling a boy she likes him. There's a little bit of that in all of us, I think, and it instantly made me care about her more than 90% of moe audience-bait protagonists. She never really got under my skin, and I can't see her doing so in future episodes. We'll see.
The other aspect that makes me compelled to keep watching, aside from the fact that I'm (obviously) very partial to the franchise, is that the supporting cast is equally as strong as the lead. Kyon playing the straight man as a side-character rather than the protagonist is an interesting spin, and it allows us to get a more objective view of him. Ryoko, formerly a knife-wielding psychopath, is now Nagato's brash, perverted best friend, and provides a lot of the laughs in this episode. The group dynamic between the three works, and it almost feels like the franchise never left, despite being stylistically different and a good deal less ambitious.
But less ambitious isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, we're in the mood for something simple and comforting, and while yes, I can't see Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan ever being as good as what Haruhi Suzumiya once was (it did change the entire anime industry, after all,) I also can't see it turning into an outright bad show. The music is nice, the animation is pretty, and I like the world and the fresh take on familiar characters. What's old is new again, so to speak, and I think that's for the best. Again, it would be jarring to see another studio simply do a continuation, and it was wise to establish something new yet familiar.
While I really expected to hate The Disappearnce of Nagato Yuki-chan I'm looking forward to a season of seeing what happens to the quirky bunch of the Literature Club, and am especially excited to see if there's any overlap between previous series.