In an alternate universe, shy, awkward Yuki Nagato attempts to court her crush, Kyon, with the help of her best friend and neighbor, the perky and indomitable Ryoko Asakura. Together, the trio defends their high school literature club from extermination…and from the pestering of their over-the-top classmate Tsuruya and her friend and minion Mikuru.
As a fan of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, I won't hesitate to watch or read (or at least plan to) anything related to that series. Of course, that includes this spin-off, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. I read a few volumes of the manga and loved it, so when this anime was announced, my excitement was only doubled! However, I admit that I also had my concerns, as Kyoto Animation, the studio that worked on the original anime, didn't work on the spin-off. As it aired, I found that it wasn't received that well, either. However, that doesn't change the fact that I still
really enjoyed The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan.
Okay, so does anyone remember The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya? This anime takes place in the alternate world from that movie, where everything is normal and there is no aliens, time travelers, or espers whatsoever. Yuki Nagato is a shy girl who is nothing like the Yuki Nagato we all know and love. This Yuki is a member of the Literature Club, along with Ryoko Asakura and Kyon. Yuki also happens to have a crush on Kyon. Basically, the anime follows Yuki as she goes through her everyday life with the Literature Club and her feelings for Kyon develops.
As you can see, a majority of the characters have changed. As I've said before, Yuki is now a really shy girl, and Kyon is kinder in comparison to the original. Ryoko Asakura is also different from the original; she acts as more of a motherly or a sisterly figure to Yuki. I wasn't really a fan of her in the original anime, and I'm guessing other Haruhi fans can understand why. However, that's not to say everyone's completely different. Mikuru still retains her character from the original series (which is a good thing, as I LOVED her in the original series), and Haruhi is still as fun of a character as ever. Even so, even the characters whose personalities have changed were still fun to watch, although I can't deny that they're still not the same as the ones we know and love.
The story is a good one, with lots of comedy and drama. The story is especially great in episodes 10-13, where the Yuki Nagato we all know and love is shown to us. The animation, I admit, is not as good as in the original series. What do you expect, though? It wasn't Kyoto Animation that did the animation this time; instead, it was Satelight. As a result, the animation is more bright and more cutesy, and it takes a while to get used to. It's not bad animation at all, though; in fact, Satelight did a good job with the animation. The voice actors also did a great job at reprising their roles, as expected. The OP and ED are great, too; I could listen to them on repeat without getting bored!
Let's face it, everyone; The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is NOT a Haruhi Season 3. However, it's still a really, really, REALLY enjoyable anime. If anyone liked Yuki Nagato from The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and want to see more of her, this anime is PERFECT for you. It's given me even the tiniest of hopes that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya will get an actual third season!
While I've never been much of a fan of the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise, I can still say, at the very least, that I admired the off-kilter charm it had and understood the appeal that others would find in its self-aware meta-humor. It was quirky, upbeat and had a trademark style of doing things that were uniquely its own. By itself, that might not seem like much of an accomplishment, but when placed through a filter with the countless other school slice-of-life titles produced after its inception, it becomes more apparent why it gained its popularity. Despite the anime industry being saturated with these dime-a-dozen titles
every year, the Haruhi franchise still manages to stay relevant by being one of the few to tinker with the formula in inventive ways. And like most things tend to, it had its fair share of detestable moments as well (8 x ∞), but regardless of that, it still had a distinct identity that couldn't be found elsewhere. It's something you don't necessarily have to like, but you can still appreciate it for what it did.
Unfortunately, I can't offer the same accolades to its spin-off Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu ( The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan). A "Spin"-off is supposed to take elements of its predecessor and add a new "spin" to it. In other words, it's supposed to do things differently from the status quo of the original series but still maintain aspects of it that connect it back to the parent story. While it was certainly "different" and a departure from the usual hijinks of the SOS Brigade, it had none of the charm or inherent value found in the parent story. In fact, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is the exact opposite of what I saw admirable about the main story in the first place. It's a spin-off indistinguishable from the mass produced yearly offerings that I thought Haruhi never fell victim to. It's a title that got caught in the trappings of its genre's tropes, which automatically makes it a title that many would not speak of or forget altogether in the long run. The premise that it had wasn't bad, but the actual product that we were given was far from satisfactory.
Swapping the supernatural shenanigans and one-off adventures with a rom-com narrative, the story of Nagato Yuki-chan sees the titular character Nagato try to confess her love to Kyon, only for her attempts to end without fruition, and then they repeat the cycle by the next episode. There you go, that's literally it. For the 1st 10-episodes, what we're essentially given is your typical "would they or wouldn't they" scenario where every moment is ruined by the love interest in question or by a side character popping up at the most inconvenient time. In between these moments, they insert a lot of padding and fluff in the form of slice-of-life segments. This includes everything from your cliched bathhouse/hot spring episode, to your group field trips. If you've seen enough school SoL anime titles before, this is just a patch job of all the overused setups, with the only difference being that the characters are from the Haruhi universe. I feel like there isn't a need to spell out the obvious here but just in case it isn't already clear enough, this is G-E-N-E-R-I-C. But like I said, it was the 1st 10 episodes that followed this monotonous cycle, after that point, the show took an unexpected turn and introduced a plot twist that brought with it much needed character drama, but I'll save that information for the spoiler section for those who haven't seen the spin-off yet.
The story of Nagato Yuki-chan may have had good intentions, but the humdrum way it went about presenting it topped with the overused scenarios made it a tedious watch very quickly. It tossed in an unexpected twist for good measure, but by then, the damage was already done.
The art and animation of Nagato Yuki-chan were, for the lack of a better word, basic. This can also mark the 1st real point of contention for fans of the franchise as they altered all the original character designs that helped to distinguish the cast into moe ladened ones that make them appear painfully generic. Change isn't a bad thing per say, but when the change is a downgrade from unique character design to xerox copies, that change can be very jarring. Their "spunk" was gone. The quality downsizing didn't stop there, as there was also a lack of detail placed in any given background. Even the unique shot compositions were no longer present. This may have been the result of another studio handling the show, as Satelight took the reins from Kyoani in its inception; a choice that might have been the first big mistake. With no proper use of lighting, no attempts at unique camera angles, inept understanding of color theory and no real distinguishable atmosphere developed, the switch in studios was one that really put a damper on a show that was already holding on at the end of the proverbial rope. The only credit I can offer is that they were able to capture the right tone for the latter half of the show.
As if to add insult to injury, a majority of the cast felt alienated from the prior installments. Not only did they look generic but now even their personality is bleached. They were either rewritten or regressed in dimension, and some were also reduced to being used as nothing more than background decoration. Thankfully, some maintained their personality, like Haruhi and Asahina, but even then, they were all watered down versions of their former self. Nagato and Kyon took the lead roles in the story, and while Kyon still had his sharp whit about him, it was toned down quite a bit. His personality was altered to fit a more optimistic portrayal, which in turn erased the "person of reason" that he was always known for into a character that didn't quite fit the mold. It's okay if they wanted his personality to reflect better the more lighthearted tone the show was going for but his pessimistic outlook is as much of a signature of the franchise as is the yellow ribbons as much of a trademark style of Haruhi. Getting rid of it is like getting rid of a big chunk of what makes the character stand out.
Koizumi isn't even given any screen time and felt like he was only being placed the show as a carryover and nothing more. Same can be said about Asahina's involvement. They were both there to fill in their roles but was never given any time dedicated to them. A majority of the cast was underutilized or not even relevant at all. Perhaps the most significant change is that of Nagato's, and quite frank, it's the most grating. While the intention was for her to be an alternative story-line version to that of the movie, her personality makes a complete 180 if compared to the original and his grossly exaggerated if compared to the movie version. She's no longer the stoic, calculating Nagato but a shy hyperactive moe-blob with a pension for food and video games. It's a huge juxtaposition from who she was and one I couldn't buy into.
The cast as a whole was quite unappealing, and none of them was endearing or fleshed out. They were all husks of their former selves.
The soundtrack was forgettable. None of it ever grips you and remained as background noise. I can't recall anything special about it, as none of it stood out. The only time there was any visible effort came with the piano ballads towards the latter half, but even that was run-of-the-mill for what it was intended to do. The opening and ending themes were skippable, with the opening being a typical J-pop song and the ending a somber downtempo one. The voice actors were all fine, the only standout that comes to mind was that of Tomokazu Sugita's, who played Kyon. His monologs were always a nice touch and through it, provided insight into the situations the characters found themselves in.
(skip to the enjoyment and overall section to avoid spoilers)
So the big reveal that the show hits you with is that the old stoic Nagato from the main series randomly commandeered the body of the new Nagato of this spin-off, and while it was indeed an interesting twist..., HOW and WHY does this happen?
The plot twist had no buildup, no foreshadowing but just came out of nowhere with no explanation and then it went away just as quickly with no proper reasoning behind it. Honestly, it felt like it was a cheap ploy only there to break the monotony of the basic rom-com and in a desperate attempt to salvage viewer interest. The character drama that arose from it was nice, as it spiced things up, but with it simply popping up and then going away without consequence or reason, it just brought more questions than it helped with the overall show. Not to mention that even the stoic Nagato was reduced to acting silly and "kawaii" after the reveal, which defeated the whole purpose of her being introduced in the plot twist, to begin with. I don't know if they meant to use this as a chance to leave the story open-ended for a continuation or not, but it happened far too late into the story to matter, and everything was only brought back to the status quo by the time the series ended.
***End of Spoilers*****
I'm not going to mince my words here; I hated this spin-off. Every bit of me wanted to drop it, and the only reason I didn't is my OCD-like mentality towards finishing titles. It was bland, overly sentimental and a waste of effort.
Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu is not only a stain on the Haruhi's name but one that manages to lose all the charm and wit the franchise is known for. It's a cash grab nobody wanted nor needed, and the only thing it honestly shares with Haruhi is the characters and familiar namesake. With that said, if you're an avid fan of the franchise, then I suggest keeping your expectations low, as it doesn't contain the same trademarks you'd expect from the series. And if you've been impartial towards the series thus far, then stay clear from this one or prepare yourself for a cringe-inducing experience.
Its amazing how slight changes in perspective can cause something that on the surface seemed initially disjointed and disappointing, into an emotional experience that brings a surprising amount of satisfaction.
Like most, I went into the series expecting the enjoyably discordant storyline, animation, and voice acting that the original series and movie had. I was consequently confused by Kyon's noticeably different appearance and a number of other slight visual changes that I shamefully explained away by learning the original studio hadn't worked on it. The first few episodes made it abundantly clear that it was not "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya", and finding that out
annoyed me immensely.
However, as I continued to watch the series, I began to recollect parts of the "The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya" in particular Nagato's role in it. As part of that recollection, I finally realized, "Ah... this is Yuki-chan's dream reality" and afterwards everything clicked into place. The visual aberrations weren't unintentional, there was meaning behind the almost cliche variants of this series' characters' personas, and even the series' romcom style, and use of aged animations, was used to create a traditionalized perspective reminiscent of Nagato's preferences that contrasts really well against the unreal and jolting, or Haruhi-like, characteristics of the previous series. With this new perspective, even apparently superficial references to the previous series begin to question which of the two realities (i.e. Haruhi's or Yuki's) is the "truest" one or had the most merit for existing. This issue could only have been seen from the original Yuki's perspective, and was briefly discussed in the movie; bringing it up in this manner in Yuki's reality neatly explains the logic of her actions in the movie while allowing Yuki's own personal wishes and motivations to remain at the forefront.
If you watch this series because you wanted a 3rd season of "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya", you'll be disappointed. However if you watch this series because you want to know more about why Nagato did what she did in the "The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya" then I think you'll be pleasantly satisfied, and glad that this series made it to air. Personally speaking, the groundhog hell that Nagato went through in the movie still prevents me from watching it again; watching this series softens that angst and brings even more meaning to the series as whole.
I don’t envy anyone who sits down and tries to come up with a spin-off story. Picture it: Here you are with a bunch of fun, memorable characters who each have a purpose but you want to change those around to create something new. If that wasn’t hard enough already, strip away one of the major genres that underpinned the original. Hand someone some paper and a pen and tell them to come up with something new with that added rule. It would certainly leave them scratching their head for a while. I’ve found the anime that shows why that’s not a simple task.
Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu is an attempted creation along that line, a romantic comedy created from the Suzumiya Haruhi series, with studio Satelight putting it to screen. In place of the supernatural we have a focus on romance. In place of Haruhi as the lead we have Yuki. The pieces were all rearranged on the board ready to start the game but then this anime didn’t know how to move them. It’s a show that relies too heavily on referencing the original series as opposed to crafting its own meaningful story. It’s all a big bunch of fanservice and if that’s all you’re after then there’s a few things you might enjoy spotting. But if you wanted to see some more creative spark or interesting developments in the story department you might walk away feel a bit sour.
I’ll also end up doing something in this review I normally like to avoid, and that’s compare it to another show. Given the franchise this anime is inspired from into I feel it’s only fair I draw upon Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu as a reference. Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu show fails to stand up on its own merits as a spin-off and there’s no better way to show that than by making this comparison. Note that this review contains minor spoilers for the original Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu series.
Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu is a story packed with few surprises. Yuki wants to tell Kyon how she feels about him but every time she comes close to doing so she falters in some manner. Rinse, repeat. You get to watch episode after episode of it. The presentation can be fun and light hearted at least. It’s not as if the show is ever terrible, but it’s never memorable. As I watched on I couldn’t help but notice there was a serious imbalance between comedy and drama. It opts for laughs over love on too many occasions, and there’s little to no complication in the romance area. If there’s little external forces to come between our pair then what’s there to keep it interesting? There’s the odd curveball though that saves the show from being a complete flop, which I’ll come to.
More than the characters involved, nothing annoying me in Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu more than its boring episode structure. It tells you “Here’s your Valentine’s episode”, “Here’s your beach episode”, “Here’s your summer trip” and the list went on. It was sleep-inducing. While there’s a share of Easter eggs to be found in these episodes that pay homage to the original series, sometimes clever and subtle, often that’s all they are: references. They serve little purpose and it’s like the writer was saying “Hey remember this scene guys? This was in the original series!” You have a laugh, nod in agreement, and then go back to watching droll rom-com nonsense.
These generic episode set ups were still made to be exciting in the original series because romance was not at the forefront – it was a product of the mysteries and adventures the cast found themselves in. At least when Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu resorted to these stereotypical anime scenarios they came with that added spice of having to appease Haruhi. Even when the SOS Club were thrown into seemingly mundane situations you always had to expect the unexpected. It was a show that knew how to have fun because of that kicker. Here these same situations are used for nothing more than cheap laughs and with little to no romantic progression. When love is the theme, and you strip away the supernatural, things all come crumbling down.
By the time that Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu decided to start being serious and start exploring the mind of its lead character I had lost interest.
There was a serious imbalance in the way the show built up to its major complication. I was falling asleep. When the psychological drama came around it was like an alarm clock taped to my ear. I really wasn’t ready for it. Talk about a jarring tone shift. As jarring as it was though, I must say it was welcome. Here we are with not only some complication of substance, but also comes with one of the more clever throwbacks to the original series. It was the first sign of meaningful development for Yuki. It also changes up the dynamic between Yuki and Kyon a great deal. Dare I say the show even became somewhat interesting? It saves the anime in its run home but all I kept asking myself was “why didn’t this happen earlier on?” If you’re able to overcome how sudden – and maybe a bit ridiculously – things take a turn then you might get more out of this series than what I did. The ending is charming enough and I actually got a lot more out of it than I expected. While not entirely satisfying or complete, the presentation and references this time around were fun and felt useful.
Yuki obviously gets the big turnaround in behaviour when compared to the rest of the cast. Instead of the alien of few words, she is now driven a lot more by emotion. This gave her much more potential to express herself but watching her felt like a chore. How could they have made Yuki more interesting? Putting her character on a greater offensive would have been a great start. Don’t get me wrong, she really wants to make things change. She tries to express herself but you can guess how it always ends. It’s normally something along the lines of… awkward situation, exasperated overreaction then back to square one. You can find that one in the first chapter of “Writing Generic Romantic Comedies 101”. I wouldn’t be mad if Yuki followed the start of those guidelines but then actually took something away from her experiences, and learn to fend for herself. Instead it’s always mother Asakura to the rescue and Yuki herself doesn’t seem to take anything on board. It’s like every episode restores the status quo.
Speaking of the devil, that’s all Asakura’s role in this series is. She’s there to pick up the pieces Yuki leaves behind and do everything for her. She’s more of a parent than a friend. I understand that this is another interesting tie-in to the original Haruhi series (in particular the film) given the ‘protective’ nature she had there, but watching it here is tedious. She had the potential here to play a much more active role in this love story but content to hang back to provide annoying comedy (hey look she’s pulling a scary face again) and repetitive relationship advice to Yuki.
This may sound a little mean, but Kyon is just too happy and untroubled in this show. His best asset was his frustration as a result of the situations he found himself thrown into with Haruhi. He becomes just another generic anime high school male character this time around when left alone to his own devices. While we get the odd look at the old Kyon we know and love, it sadly isn’t the one taking centre stage. It’s unsurprising that some of my favourite moments in this anime came from his dialogue with Haruhi. It’s not a good sign when your main female lead can’t bring out the same level of engagement. All Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu will do is make you miss Kyon’s non-stop stream of amusing thoughts and inner monologues.
Everyone else in the show just feels like they’re there to advance the story and take the group to somewhere new. They don’t feel like active players in character relationships, again just there most of the time to remind everyone what series’ spin-off you’re watching. Haruhi manages to steal the show away from Nagato quite often. I thought she was going to add a bit of conflict this story but I was let down with that idea. Everyone else isn’t even worth touching on.
Thank goodness the original cast returned for this and helped to correct that somewhat. Tomozaku Sugita, while limited with his capabilities in this show, still gives Kyon that snarky edge through all his rom-com suffering. Minori Chihara actually gets the chance to put some sentences together as Yuki and does a fair job in a new role as the blubbering, timid female lead. You also don’t need me to tell you that Aya Hirano, as Haruhi, was excellent. I have to say that people have ragged on the character designs a bit too much. I actually like that Satelight tried to distance themselves away from KyoAni’s designs and make something unique on their end. Are they memorable? Not really, but they’re far removed from the worst I’ve seen. It’s fair that you compare the roles of characters between this and the original series, but it’s unfair to do the same for the art style.
Here’s the big problem with a spin-off that changes up the dynamics and personality of its characters: The original series is crafted around the interactions and clashes of those personalities. Changing this up is asking for trouble. Now in Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu the roles of these characters have become uninteresting and out of place. All the drama in this show is boring and everyone outside of Kyon, Yuki and Asakura don’t seem to have anything to contribute. I’d struggle to recommend Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu even to a fan of the franchise.
If you could sum up the show you could call it “References: The Anime”. All it does is serve as a reminder that you could be watching its more superior reference anime. Granted, Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu never tries to emulate Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu. It knows it’s only a spin-off. It goes for a completely different theme in its story but its execution was iffy. Pointless, meandering slice-of-life antics took up too much of the show. When it finally ditched them I’d come too far through the 16-episode count. It tries its hardest to look back of those SoL previous experiences and make them feel significant but it falls flat on its face.