It’s been more than a year and a half since the first broadcast of “season 2” episodes of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, which debuted in the middle of a rebroadcast of the series’ original 14 episodes. Calling this a nontraditional way of rolling out a new season’s worth of episodes would be a drastic understatement, to say the least, but apparently the producers at Kyoto Animation and/or the broadcast affiliates had enough faith in Haruhi and her fans to debut these episodes in a way that (to my knowledge) had never been tried before. And as far as I know, it was a strategy that worked. It may have divided fans, but it also helped push the series into the realms of legend.
It began auspiciously enough, with the fantastic (IMO) episode “Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody,” which pushed the series’ sci-fi themes to new heights and contained some of its most mindblowing moments. This was followed by the curiously titled “Endless Eight part 1,” which played like a lightweight and fun counterpoint, a return to Haruhi‘s “slice of life” tones. No one who’s seen the series needs to be told what happens next. And no one who’s planning on viewing it needs to have it spoiled for them (at least not by me). So what’s the point of writing an entry on it?
I wasn’t there when this first aired, so I don’t recall what sort of reaction most viewers had as the arc slowly progressed. And I’m curious about how it was received by the series’ fans. By “fans,” I mean both viewers in Japan and in the rest of the world, which of course are two very different groups that could (naturally) react in very different ways. Were viewers in Japan outraged by it? Or did they actually lap it up, either out of a sincere appreciation for the premise or out of sheer devotion to Haruhi? What about fans outside of Japan? As fansubs spread across the Internet, did fans rush to praise the daring move, or was there a massive outcry against what was (probably) seen as a copout by the series’ creators? Were there many fans somewhere in between, simply willing to roll with the story and see where it goes? On the Internet, it’s always easy and tempting to only notice and remember peoples’ extreme reactions, but maybe the first season had prepared fans for this unexpected and somewhat provocative move. Like I said, I wasn’t there at the time, for I avoided any conversation about it to keep the series from being spoiled for me. After all, it sounded like the sort of series that I’d like to get around to, eventually.
Once the arc was finished, it seemed ripe for open discussion across the Internet, so despite my best efforts to avoid it, the plot was eventually spoiled for me before I had a chance to view the series for myself. This must have happened on a mass scale, for by the time the Haruhi season 2 DVD was released in America (September of last year), Bandai saw fit to reveal the “secret” of the Endless Eight arc right on the back of the DVD box. So much for surprises.
I’m sure it’s been discussed to death already, but what did fans (including you, dear reader) think of the Endless Eight? Did you even watch all eight episodes? I get the impression that many devoted Haruhi fans were content to skip through them. Did you enjoy them, or was it a palpably painful experience? How did Haruhi fans respond en masse to such an unconventional creative move? Now that the dust has settled, can we decide if this was a good move for the series, or a “jump the shark” moment after which the franchise can never be the same?