Postulation – Endless Eight

So, yeah.  I was scanning YouTube and one of my frequent stops is GRArkada.  If you don’t subscribe to him, do so.  He’s a pretty cool guy (and a fellow Canuck).

Anyways, he was reviewing the Haruhi franchise, done by Kyoto Animation (KyoAni), and decided to dedicate an entire video on the infamous Endless Eight episodes.  A link to his video is provided below, but for reference, the Endless Eight series is the use of 8 of 13 episodes in the second season around a very minor aspect of the light novels.  In fact, if memory serves, the short story only shows the last move through the loop.  Anyways, the summer is coming to an end and the characters find themselves in a time loop that repeats.  Thousands of times.  Each episode is fairly similar, highlighting the same events (typically) and only being visually different much of the time.  The video also contains GRArkada’s opinion on the matter and it’s worth a good listen to.

Now, this episode sequence is one of the most hotly debated series I can remember.  It not only divided fans in half, but staff.  The video above notes that some of the decision makers hated it.  One point that wasn’t mentioned, and really should be, is that the Voice Actress for main character Haruhi Suzumiya, Aya Hirano, also hated the sequence.  Turns out, the VAs had to redo the lines eight times over as well.  Okay, now tell me YOUR job is menial.

But the question still remains: what exactly is the reason for it?  Laziness?  Insanity?  Obsessive love of the number eight?  An elaborate prank?  I’ll try to address some points that I’ve used to look at this and narrow down what really is meant by this.

1) Each episode was lovingly animated and redone

Anybody who viewed the video above knew this already, but each episode is actually unique.  Every piece of the episode was redone from scratch.  In fact, extra steps were taken to ensure they were different.  That’s a great deal of dedication and expense.  Repeats, such as flashbacks or off model work, are cost saving measures.  This was the effect of a cost saving measure, but without the cost savings.  If it helps, think of the Community flashback episode: the show pretended to have flashbacks to events that happened, but actually had to build the sets for each of the flashbacks as they were never filmed before.  Both cases use money on an event that’s traditionally meant to smooth over a Neon Genesis Evangelion styled budget.  Add in the previously mentioned fact that the VAs had to redo their lines for each episode and we can rule the concept that they were looking to save time or money.

2) KyoAni is very meticulous with their work. 

From my copy of the Haruhi Season 1 DVDs, I’ve taken 3 screenshots and highlighted a few points you might want to see.  Why I’ll explain after you get a chance to view them:

No, not the eyes.

No, not the eyes.

Did I ever mention how much I love drawing in paint?

Have I mentioned my love of the first season’s animation yet? I should.

So, what’s the point of all this?  These are all screenshots from season 1, but reference stories and events that never aired in that season.  They actually do appear later in the series, but in the second season, something that wasn’t a guarantee at the time.  In fact, if you look at the chronological order, the items only appear after their correct chronological appearance time.   In other words, the staff actively took great deals of pride ensuring these little details in the continuity appeared, despite no guarantee it would actually pay off or mean anything.  This is something I don’t see in anime to THIS degree and I think stands to reason that KyoAni planned out the Endless Eight arc with forethought and intent, if the above wasn’t a hint.

3) The Fans Were Expected to Have the Disappearance Arc of the Haruhi Franchise Appear

For many of us older fans, this should be obvious.  However, I’m not sure everyone who has seen the show recently knows this: it seems extremely likely that adding in story from The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, a now highly acclaimed movie which follows up on the story of Endless Eight, was planned for a while.  If you check out Wikipedia’s page on the movie, a major Easter egg on the website was planted on a key date in the narrative: December 18, 2007.  This was not too long after the first season wrapped up (Ending July 2006) and not shortly after the second season was announced (July 2007).  Later on, large art releases for the season season of the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise were made which focused purely and emphasized the story of the Disappearance Arc.  In other words, I think fans were expecting what eventually became a movie to appear eventually in the second season of Haruhi.

4) The Episodes Aren’t Purely Wasted

I don’t unfortunately have the Season 2 DVDs and am fairly staunchly against pirating non-abandonware, so I can’t show this to you, but the series of episodes seems to highlight something about a key character in the movie, Yuki Nagato.  She’s effectively the most stoic character you’ll ever see in…well, any show.  I mean, here’s probably the most emotive moment you’ll see from the first season:

Okay, I don’t know what you want, but take all of my money. All of it.

Now, Yuki is also a special character: she actually remembers every single repetition of the Endless Eight arc.  And it’s a two week sequence repeated on end.  Now, I’m not sure who else has read Stephen King’s The Jaunt, but typically spending lots of time being unable to really interact with your environment makes you kind of, well, crazy.  This is something that really does come up later on.  But finding a way to express it on a character such as Yuki is really, really hard.  I mean, she does very little and says very little.  The Endless Eight episodes seem to act as a bit of a measure saying “well, you only watched the abridged version.  Eight times.  Try many more”.

5) KyoAni Seems to Have No Interest in a Season 3

Now, it’s only been a few years, but I would hazard that the show is dead in the water at this point.  I’d love to be wrong, as it’s happened to me a few to many times in games and shows dying unnecessarily (most spectacularly: Damn you Slayers!), but KyoAni doesn’t like doing long franchises (most wrap up within 3 years) and there’s a lack of fresh source material.  I would have no trouble imagining that the crew knew they were going out in 2009 for this franchise: in that long span, the author’s schedule started backing up…eventually creating a 4 year gap between books.

However, we do have to consider that there is a great deal the anime seasons and movie didn’t cover.  If KyoAni wanted, they could have made this thing an even bigger cash cow.   One could argue though that the material left out is also too complex for TV.  Though, I think with the recent trend of love in odd scientific thoughts (ex – Virtue’s Last Reward using simplified Schodinger’s Cat), that would not be a problem.

So, where does this leave where I stand?  Well, I think two different problems exist: there’s an argument for both it being an artistic merit sequence and another for making it a bit of a sledgehammer for making the movie a more cathartic experience.

Artistic Merit

One major aspect of this is that KyoAni had money to burn.  By the time they even got to writing the second season of Haruhi, they had money from Full Metal Panic‘s second season, Kanon, and likely have some idea of how popular Lucky*Star was going to be.  It’s not like they couldn’t afford to be a bit eccentric.  Under this hypothesis, we would believe that they felt this show could stand a bit of an oddity and mindscrew.  Unfortunately, the reason why is pretty circular; we have to assume that KyoAni wanted to make the show artistic for the pure reasoning of making the show artistic.  Therefore, they made the show artistic.

Cathartic Experience

This, I think, is much stronger given the above arguments and points.  Here, we assume we have to built pity on Yuki and get a better understanding of her viewpoint.  In other words, the episodes were intentionally planned to fatigue viewers and make them think “oh god, when will it end?”.  This seems almost self inflicted in pain as that means reviews, and therefore sales of product, drops.  Yet, we have to remember that the fans KNEW there had to be the Disappearance Arc somewhere.  And as soon as the last episode in the re-airing ended, a teaser appeared for the movie.  So it seems likely to me that the movie was always meant as part of the package of the second season.

It also seems to me that it was intended to be the grand finale for KyoAni’s work on the Haruhi franchise.  Again, KyoAni rarely seems to like picking up the pen years later.  They completely ignore some arcs in the story which I feel would actually make suitable TV now.  And, heck, I know they know they likely couldn’t top that.

Anyways, thoughts on this are greatly appreciated.  This is one of the most unusual and unprecedented moved in anime, so whatever thoughts you may have, fire away.  It’s an interesting subject to say the least.

One response to “Postulation – Endless Eight

  1. Pingback: Twelve Days of Anime 5: Revisiting Haruhi | FoundOnWeb

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