Anime Film Review: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a theatrical film released for the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise; it was released to Japanese theaters on February 6, 2010. The film was licensed for North American release by Bandai Entertainment, which the company released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on September 20, 2011.

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Directed by: Tatsuya Ishihara and Yasuhiro Takemoto
Written by: Fumihiko Shimo
Starring: Aya Hirano, Tomokazu Sugita, Minori Chihara, Yūko Gotō, Daisuke Ono, Natsuko Kuwatani, Yuki Matsuoka, Minoru Shiraishi, Megumi Matsumoto, and Sayaka Aoki
Run Time: 162 minutes

The film is set after the events of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya television anime series. The story starts on December 16, when Haruhi decides that the SOS Brigade should have a Christmas party on Christmas Eve in the club room.

But on December 18, after Kyon wakes up and goes to school, he finds that everything has changed. Haruhi and Itsuki Koizumi are missing, and no one who is present in Kyon’s class that day has any memory of Haruhi ever being in the class. In addition to this, Ryoko Asakura has mysteriously reappeared, Mikuru doesn’t recognize Kyon, and Yuki appears to be a normal human.

At this point in the film, Kyon’s feeling rather confused and scared, and he comes across as being in agony. As a viewer, I was really feeling for Kyon, and you realize that for all the complaining he did about the SOS Brigade during the television series, Kyon actually did enjoy being around Haruhi and the others in the SOS Brigade.

A break for Kyon comes when his friend Taniguchi, who had been out sick due to a cold that’s been going around the school, tells him that Haruhi is a student at another high school. The film focuses on Kyon trying to track down Haruhi and doing what he needs to do in order to set everything right again. I don’t want to say anything beyond this, because I’m afraid of inadvertently providing spoilers.

After watching The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, I have to say that this is by far the strongest piece of the Haruhi Suzumiya anime franchise. The story is riveting, and it really makes the viewer think about what’s going on in the story. Unfortunately, you have to have seen the television series in order for the film to make any sense; in other words, you can’t truly introduce someone to the Haruhi Suzumiya anime franchise through this film, because they’ll simply become lost.

The animation is also pretty strong, although there are the occasional shots where the computer animation is just a little too obvious to the viewer and looks slightly unnatural in comparison to the other animation surrounding it. Fortunately, this jarring animation isn’t as prevalent as it could have been.

The only real drawback to the film is its length, because it clocks in at around two-and-a-half hours. While that may sound long, the story really called for that much runtime in order for it to be told effectively.

When it comes to the DVD release of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, it was released as a two-disc set; the first set includes the film, while the second disc contains all of the bonus features. According to the back of the box, the film itself has a runtime of 164 minutes, while the runtime of the bonus features on the second disc is 175 minutes; Bandai Entertainment definitely went to a lot of effort to include a lot of bonus features for this release.

The first type of bonus feature to appear on the second disc is featurettes. A 10 minute featurette shows the crew doing a location shoot at a hospital, a 16 minute featurette focuses on recording some of the background music for the film, a 29 minute featurette focuses on cutting, dubbing, and editing the film, and a 25 minute featurette focuses on the video shoot for the ending theme song of the film that was recorded by the Japanese voice of Yuki. Quite a few of these featurettes are of the “fly on the wall” variety, where the viewer sees what was going on at the time, but there isn’t a lot of explanation from the participants as to what’s going on. I can handle some of the “fly on the wall” style of featurettes, this was just a lot to sit through in one sitting.

There are also two bonus features that were recorded at special screenings of the film in Kyoto and Tokyo. The feature from Kyoto is about 16-and-a-half minutes in length, while the Tokyo feature is an hour and three minutes; however, it should be pointed out that the Tokyo feature actually includes footage from two difference screenings in Tokyo. If I had had any input on putting these bonus features together, I really would have suggested breaking up the Tokyo screenings into two different features; in my opinion, it feels less daunting to watch two roughly 30 minute features than one hour long feature.

There’s also a commercial for the Japanese DVD/Blu-ray Disc release, teasers for the film, a trailer for the film, and TV spots to promote the film on Japanese television. The final extra is an episode of the ASOS Brigade that was produced to promote the North American release of the film. All of the features except for the ASOS Brigade episode are in Japanese with English subtitles.

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a pretty good film, even though it’s a little on the long side. Between the film and the generous amount of bonus features that Bandai included for this release, this film is worth adding to your anime collection if you’re a fan of the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise. However, since Bandai Entertainment has ceased distribution, this film may be harder to find now; be sure to look at websites and brick and mortar stores that sell used DVDs to try to find the best deal.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Additional posts about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya:

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