Friday, June 25, 2010

The Starry Night Of Haruhi Suzumiya

And so they came en masse. All hoping to capture a glimpse of a world without her.

What at first seemed like an undersold show at Laemmle's Sunset 5 in Hollywood, became a fankid free-for-all when Bandai unleashed the much anticipated feature film, The Disappearance Of Haruhi Suzumiya for a one-night engagement. The Jen was with me as we witnessed Haruhiism for the first time sans a convention setting, which imho served as a nice annual buffer for the madness that will be Anime Expo next week. Thankfully,(or to a detriment, depending on who's asking) the crowd is a little more subdued than the crowds that filled the New People Viz Cinema Theater in San Francisco several weeks ago. Regardless, the fandom for this show is very much an interesting variation of the atypical anime otaku. Demanding a rare craving for imagination, knowledge, and a streak of geeky humor ten miles wide, these fans were not disappointed by the festivities as well as the centerpiece...The epic-length feature, centering on the continuing tales of  the oddball high school club, the SOS Brigade, voice of sanity, Kyon, and the uber-Mary Sue club president who would be a sleeping deity, Haruhi Suzumiya.

And even before walking in, we had an opportunity to chat & get autographs with english version actors extraordinaire, Wendee Lee (Haruhi), & Crispin Freeman (Kyon), all while being lavished with some goodies courtesy of Bandai, Crunchyroll & Yen Press.

Having seen the film previously (my review on Diet), it was possibly a much richer experience watching it surrounded by friends old and new. There is an almost "slice-of-life" element to the film that becomes bolder the more I begin to think about it. As an animated work, it isn't imperative that they let the camera linger on a quiet moment. Most films just get on with it. But to take that kind of time and care in something like this shows a grand deal of dedication & heart, making it something of an anti-blockbuster. One that demands we stew in the moment, rather than hop to the next convenient plot point. The story, while at times painfully drawn out, is this way by design, and to that end makes the film have a uniquely ambitious quality that one rarely sees in films where only so little actually happens.

Kyoto Animation's work here still impresses as the film's at times glacial pace allows us to immerse ourselves it its world. Whether it be via character action, or merely the motion of the city & its outskirts, anime reaches an at times uncanny valley which works beautifully with the series' totem of playing the absurdism of anime in a slightly tweaked, but very real setting. It knocks me out to consider how exciting it was at times just to see doors open, characters running, focus shift as the camera represents the vision of our narrator.

But even greater still was the experience of discussing the film, and the story of Suzumiya thus far. I was able to listen to some great theories as to how it all will culminate in later volumes of the popular Japanese light novel series that inspired the anime. So much of it reflects a giant section of modern geekdom that longs for something not merely entertaining, but something a little more introspective & original. This is a franchise as comfortable with intimate rumination as it is with laser-precise nerd comedy.

Being able to really clock the entire package, along with the audience's reaction was a bit of a blast, personally. A part of me still wishes more people could have a chance to catch this film in a local theater before the US DVD release, but that almost always seems to be the case with films such as this. Its a film that while trapped in a myriad of genre, asks us to be patient, and just enjoy the atmospherics.

 Previous Haruhi fans or no..It is a singular experience.

(Also finally had the historic opportunity to finally meet two of the minds behind Anime Diet in the 3D! Stop on by as I'm sure there'll be coverage & video. Great stuff all around last night.)

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