Was it Really That Bad? – Haruhi Suzumiya’s Endless Eight
(Check out the other posts for Haruhi week!)
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a pretty crazy series. It doesn’t shy away from time paradoxes, the supernatural, not even giant AI cricket monsters.
Anything can happen in Haruhi Suzumiya, so long as the goddess herself wishes it. This is usually a great thing. It makes for an infinite source of possibilities. You never quite know what you’ll get in the next episode.
Perhaps that’s why people are so upset when eight episodes focus on the exact same thing. For those of you who don’t know what the endless eight is, it’s a story arc in the original light novel that lasted a fairly short amount of time. No longer than many of the other short arcs, at least.
Well, when the anime adapted this arc, they took a few liberties with it. And I want you to take “few” with multiple grains to at least a spoonful of salt, or else you’ll end as annoyed as my friend Kyon.
Instead of it being one short story focused on an endless summer vacation, they decided to make it eight different episodes, each focusing on one of the 15,532 time loops the characters experienced. The number is slightly different in the LN.
This arc is incredibly controversial, and there’s a lot to discuss. That’s why I couldn’t really talk about it in the Haruhi review. I’ll give the reasons why this arc exists, but I more want to talk about the story significance it has and whether it’s actually as bad as people claim.
So what is the arc actually about? It revolves around the various activities Haruhi forces on the SOS Brigade during their summer vacation. They go to the pool, catch bugs, attend a festival, play with fireworks. About what you expect.
The catch is that Haruhi is just having too much and doesn’t want it to end. And we know what happens when Haruhi wants something; she gets it. Haruhi’s subconscious forces the gang to get stuck in a time loop where the same two weeks repeat endlessly.
This means the brigade does the same activities over and over and over again. Each time, forgetting almost all of their memories. To make matters worse, they have no idea how to make Haruhi break the time loop, so even on the occasion they do remember, they can’t stop it.
This, by itself, is an incredibly fascinating idea for a story arc. I really enjoy it conceptually. The biggest problem stems from how the anime tried to portray it. As I said, it was turned into eight full-length episodes, each one set in the time loop. More or less, nothing changes.
It’s essentially the same exact eight episodes repeated. The same events happen, in the same order at that. What each character says and what they do is largely the same. You could hardly tell them apart besides the title of the episodes. They all blend together.
To put this into perspective even more, the entire anime is only 28 episodes long, which means about 28% of the series runtime, give or take a few minutes, is just the endless eight. That is, quite honestly, absurd. You can see why this would upset people.
That time could have been spent adapting another arc or spending more time on other aspects of the story. Wasting eight whole episodes on the same content seems like a bizarre decision. It seems like a needlessly risky, stupid move, really.
And it was quite risky, though I wouldn’t say it was needless. There was actually a reason why they did this, strange as it seems.
The Disappearance of “The Disappearance”
Kyoto Animation wasn’t lazy. That isn’t why this arc exists. Something you’ll notice is that each and every episode of the arc is animated completely differently.
Characters wear different clothes, and the same scenes are drawn from different angles. Get this; even the voice actors had to reread the same lines each time. At least I know that’s true for the dub. Nothing, aside from the setting, was reused. Everything was made again for each episode.
For the two people curious, my favorite Kyon is hat Kyon, and my favorite Haruhi is the one with the polo that makes her look like a McDonald’s employee.
You can tell from this shot above. This is the same segment, but the way it looks in each episode of the arc is entirely different. You can tell it wasn’t about being lazy. This arc took just as much work as adapting any other.
That might have you wondering why they didn’t do just that then. Well, that’s a bit complicated. But they actually did intend for another arc to take the endless eight’s place in the series.
Originally, KyoAni had planned for The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya arc to be adapted in the anime itself. But as they were writing it, the script got too long, and they didn’t want to cut things out. So they turned it into the movie we know it as now.
Because of this decision, that left a pretty sizable gap that needed to be filled in the series, all those episodes originally planned to be filled by The Disappearance were now vacant.
The logical conclusion would be to adapt another arc and replace it with that, not to make the same episode eight times. That was also a bit tricky to do. It wasn’t as easy as just adapting whatever they wanted.
You see, the catch is where they were in the Haruhi timeline. The series was just creeping up to The Disappearance arc after the Remote Island Syndrome arc. But because The Disappearance had been changed to a movie at the end of the series, something else needed to go there.
Adapting another arc would mess with the timeline because it would take place after The Disappearance. That means you’d see the end of the latest arc in the timeline, then suddenly jump back in time for the movie. Not to mention the problems if references are made to The Disappearance in that arc.
The anime does jump back and forth in the timeline quite a bit in broadcast order, but they never adapt something later than what the episodes will catch up to at some point. Eventually, you’ll see the whole timeline by the end. If they adapted something else, that would be out the window.
And your hope of seeing it chronically would be out there too, writhing in pain on the ground somewhere. Basically, KyoAni backed themselves into a corner by making the movie. There was no way they could find, other than making the endless eight, that they could dig themselves out without screwing the series over horribly.
Yet, to some people, that’s just what they did anyway. It’s a tough spot to be in for sure. They needed some magic way to stall for time, and they just happened to come upon an arc that’s a literal time loop. It was almost too perfect.
But I really don’t think the endless eight is that bad. At least, not like people say. I won’t defend it entirely, but KyoAni did do a few things right. I think they did the best with what they had, really.
By making the viewer watch the same twenty or so minutes over and over, it gives us a look into what it might be like to experience a time loop ourselves. Some people even describe this arc as torture.
If around three hours of the same thing was torture, I have news for you, try repeating the same thing for 594 years as the SOS Brigade does. You’ll go insane. Making us watch these episodes gives us a little insight into that feeling.
Which brings me to my next point. The time loop really isn’t that bad for most of the cast. Each time their memory is erased, so for them, it’s nothing. They just have to deal with slight Deja Vu now and then. It’s far from torture. We probably suffer more than they do. Well, most of them.
If you remember, Nagato isn’t exactly human. Her memory works differently than everyone else. Meaning she doesn’t get her memory wiped. She had to sit there for every single second of those 594 years.
I don’t care what you are. Human or not, that would be the worst hell I could ever imagine. By watching the endless eight, we realize, ever so slightly, the pain that Nagato would feel from that experience.
So why doesn’t she just tell them? It’s not her job. She’s an observer. In the last arc with the murder mystery, we see that she doesn’t even open the door for Kyon because they told her not to open it for anyone. Only when they take that order back does she listen. She does what she’s told.
Not one single time in the endless eight do any of the characters ever tell her to remind them next loop, or anything of the sort. So, according to Nagato’s mission, she’s supposed to sit there and wait for the loop to break. It isn’t her place to help break it, not without orders to do so.
All Kyon, or any other character for that matter, had to do was tell Nagato one of those times they meet up to tell them what’s up next loop. Then they would have more time to fix it, and she could even relay information between each loop.
But they never do. The same scene plays out. Kyon and Koizumi have their suspicious, Mikuru gives them proof, and Nagato confirms it. But before she can get to telling them anything important, Kyon interrupts her. So, she says nothing.
This begins the same loop where nothing different happens. What’s really clever about this arc is how endless it actually is. With this setup, it’s basically impossible to believe they would ever break it. I certainly believe it might take 594 years.
They’re pretty much waiting to just get lucky. You’d think the characters would have some sense of urgency and want to end things as soon as possible, but each time they remember, as far as they know, it’s only the first time.
That means when they hear that time has repeated for X amount of times, they don’t know about the thousands of times they remembered but did nothing right. This is because Kyon cuts Nagato off before she says it. I can only imagine how much she probably wanted to kill him. Maybe that happens in one loop? Eh, probably not.
It’s so painful how easy this loop would be to break. I know when I watched it, I was practically screaming at my TV for Kyon to do something. Maybe I’m the one who wanted to kill him, now that I think about it.
But because of how all the pieces are laid out, nobody can make a move. You just have to wait for someone to take a shot in the dark and break the loop. And that’s exactly what happens. And my god, is the ending disappointing.
It’s just the worst way to break the loop ever, but it makes sense. The time loop is simple to break, so of course, it would have a simple solution. The problem is, there’s no way to find that solution with the loop as it is.
So for as tedious as it is, it’s such a smart setup. It really is. For as much of a waste as it feels, it’s ingenious in a lot of ways, and despite how people feel about it, I can’t help but give KyoAni a round of applause for how they handled it. I think it was really neat and on theme for the series.
It also makes The Disappearance hit a lot harder. I won’t say why, but Nagato isn’t quite the same after the endless eight, as nobody would be. That was also a smart move. It makes this arc feel a lot more important than it would have been normally. It also makes it seem less like stalling for time and move a stylistic choice even though it was a bit of both.
I can’t say that this arc the most entertaining thing I’ve ever seen, but I can say it’s worth watching, despite what so many people think. It’s fascinating, if nothing else, and watching it is experiencing anime history.
Even if it wouldn’t have been quite as satisfying as having the endless eight arc be eight episodes, it could have been shortened more. You could have included the first, second, fourth, or fifth, then the last episode, or however many you think, and call it a day. The viewer would still get the point.
But as I said earlier, they couldn’t do this. Really, the responsible thing would have been to ditch the movie idea and just adapt The Disappearance. Not doing that was a really risky move and a dumb one. I will say that. I think the endless eight is interesting, but it was a stupid thing for a big company to do to its fans.
I’m lucky because I didn’t have to wait a week in between each episode. It was pretty much a big slap in the face to every Haruhi fan, really. You know it’s bad when Aya Hirano, the voice actress of Haruhi, the main character, apologizes to fans over the arc. It was a decision, that’s for sure.
The only decision they could make with how they wanted things, but it was still not the best choice. I think everyone would agree. Still, because of that decision, we got The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya in the way we did. And boy, did people love that movie.
So it really comes down to what you valued more. The three hours you spent watching the endless eight or the almost three hours you spent watching The Disappearance. I don’t know which would have been better, to be honest. But I do know that in large part because of this arc, we’re still talking about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya 15 years later.
Thank you very much for reading
What are your opinions of the endless eight? Do you think it was a worthy sacrifice to make or not? I’ll tell you one thing, the fans who destroyed their Haruhi merch certainly didn’t think so. They lost their time and money.