A Dance Opening is More Than Just a Dance: Haruhi 1 vs Haruhi 2

Yamamoto “Yamakan” Yutaka tends to divide the anime community with the anime he’s worked on, especially with his reluctant reputation as the most well-known creator of “dance segments” for anime openings and endings. Think Haruhi, Lucky Star, Kannagi, and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about. Now there are those among us, including myself, who have decried the overuse of dances in anime intros and outros, criticizing them as being too much of a fad, a gimmick which other anime are trying to latch onto in order to give themselves more otaku cred.

And they’d be right, except it doesn’t disqualify any of the above-mentioned Yamakan shows from being catchy bookends to each episode. Simply put, they’re quite good and they deserve to be catchy.

What actually made me newly appreciate Yamakan’s work was the second season of Haruhi. Watching the new ED, it just did not have any of the pop or style of the first series’ infamous “Hare Hare Yukai.”

Haruhi Season 1 ED

Haruhi Season 2 ED

It’s not like I’m criticizing the level of animation in the new ED; in many ways the animation in the new ED is better than the old one. And I’m not comparing the full Hare Hare Yukai dance itself to the new ED either. However, I really feel that the new ED’s sense of timing is a little lacking compared to the original, and that it overuses certain visual elements (a problem that goes double for the new OP). It was a pretty good idea, but the execution leaves something to be desired.

I’m not promoting the proliferation of even more dance numbers in anime, but rather just pointing out an example in which we have to look beyond the fad and into the core of what makes an opening catchy or memorable. I think that if you gave Yamakan an opening to storyboard and told him “no dancing,” he’d still be able to create something just as visually engaging.

Haruhi vs Lucky Star vs K-On!

No I am not pitting each cast of girls against each other to see who would win in a fight, but rather I want to talk about the ways in which these three shows differ beyond a superficial level. You’ll sometimes hear people say that Kyoto Animation’s about is all the same, and I will agree with them as far as saying that they know their audience, i.e. otaku, but when you actually watch these shows you will most likely get a different vibe from each one.

I won’t be discussing the Key adaptations because that’s another beast entirely.

With Haruhi, you’ll notice an air of mystery that permeates the show due to the supernatural aspects of it. Sometimes it’s more obvious, but other times simple actions can imply greater things, and it gives a certain sense of intrigue to the series. It’s still all about a bunch of high school kids hanging out and doing dumb things, but even the dumb things are given a sort of significance as a result of the setting. You can always feel that Haruhi is moving somewhere (right to what the light novels have already spoken about!).

Lucky Star is not just otaku pandering, it is active otaku pandering, and that’s also what makes the show enjoyable. More than either of the other two shows, Lucky Star asks if you’re an otaku, then asks one more time just to make sure, and then high fives you because you watch a lot of anime. In fact, Lucky Star probably does this more than any other show, but don’t think that all the humor is in-jokes with no setup; all I’m saying is that the show rewards otaku.

K-On! meanwhile does away with the pretenses of the other two and is simply about what it advertises: cute girls playing instruments and not being too obsessive about it. There are no undercurrents, no subtle themes at work here. At the same time, I wouldn’t call K-On a shallow anime, as the humor derives from the characters’ personalities very heavily, possibly more than Haruhi or Lucky Star.

All three shows feature groups of girls having fun, but the effects they have on the viewers will vary tremendously due to the inherent differences in each show. If you hate one show you might not necessarily hate the others, and if you do like all theree, there’s a good chance you’ll be liking them for different reasons.

There’s an Elephant in the Corner and Her Name is Haruhi

So they tried to sneak an ALL-NEW episode of the Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu into the season 1 re-airing, but tripped up in the end and left people anticipating its arrival. No more tricks, no more magazine covers to mock the fans. The episode’s come and gone, and fun was had by all. Of course, there’s nothing to stop them from doing this over and over with anything Suzumiya Haruhi-related, and the fans will gladly punch themselves in the stomach for it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as the makers and distributors of Haruhi have a unique relationship with their fans.

We saw it with Lucky Star and its meta-self-referential humor which knocks down not just the 4th wall but keeps charging and makes a gigantic hole in the wall behind you as well. Kadokawa even licensed and created a mini-series out of the hit doujinshi series Nyoro~n Churuya-san. They are so aware of their fanbase that they might as well be standing on a pedestal dangling Haruhi merchandise and offering goods in exchange for your undying love and devotion and fan-generated content. It’s kind of like Gainax, but only a step further as Gainax has at the very least presented an air of distance, unlike Kyoto Animation which is right there in the thick of things high-fiving the audience and taking photos with them. And yes, I know my two metaphors just contradicted each other. Let’s just say that they decide to occasionally jump down from that pedestal.

And this newfangled Haruhi has something else to say:

“Enough with the DANCE openings and endings. We are laying to rest the beast we created. Move on, anime! Move on, fans! Well not too much, we still want you to do our Haruhi and Lucky Star dances.”

Will anyone heed their advice? Only time will tell.

Give it let’s say… about 16 years.

CHU RU YA!!!! スモークでチーズが落ちてくる~ん

Japanese meme superstar Churuya-san’s gotten her own official anime, and Haruhi-chan is a super deformed series designed to poke at the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise despite the fact that Haruhi is already about poking fun of itself.

The best part of course is that both Nyoron Churuya-san and Suzumiya Haruhi-chan no Yuuutsu are on Youtube, translated, on Kadokawa’s own page. So this is legit, guys. Totally on the up-and-up. And while neither are really the pinnacle of anime, it’s good to know that they’re looking out for us. You know, after trolling Haruhi fans everywhere and driving them into a mad rage swearing off the Haruhi franchise forever.

If you’ve seen the Churuya comics, there’s nothing really new for you except you get to hear the actual voice actors play their 4-koma counterparts. Asahina Mikuru here has shades of her Gotouza voice, and it is excellent if very brief.

Update: It seems that after a period of time the episodes go down so I’ve unlinked the videos and added a link to the Youtube channel itself.

A dream which vaguely counts as anime-related

I had a dream last night, which I want to share with all of you.

In the dream, I had friends who I told to go to an awesome arcade on Thursday, but they didn’t. So I decided instead to go that following Friday. There, after playing some games and some trouble with my credit card, I noticed that the arcade was connected to a restaurant, and that connected to the restaurant was a Super Smash Bros. Brawl  tournament going on. There, the MC shouted, “Are we here to have FUN?” And the crowd shouted back, “NO!”

I was viewing this from a hidden entrance. I found out shortly after while eavesdropping that this was an entrance people weren’t supposed to know about to keep people from flooding in to play Brawl.

Then, in a seamless transition which happens only in dreams, I was watching an episode of the Simpsons.

…with guest star Nagato Yuki.

The Simpsons were under house arrest for bootlegging movies. Homer shouts, “THEY’RE CALLED VCDS!!!”

Luckily, Yuki has a plan. She has a robot marge distract the cops, while the Simpsons and Yuki are camoflauged to blend in with the fence. Yuki falls down, but tells the family to keep running.

Sadly, this is where I woke up, so I do not know how this episode ends.

Understanding the “Emotionless” Anime Girl

I’ve heard it all before, about how otaku like the quiet, blue-haired anime girls because they’re empty dolls onto which fans can imprint any sort of fantasy on them. It’s supposed to be a selfish fantasy that speaks nothing of REAL women.

And this is wrong.

The first step to understanding the “emotionless” anime girl is to realize that they’re not emotionless at all. More important than the quiet distance that they usually provide is the evidence of emotion that appears. Because they are so quiet all the time, any actions they take are that much more significant. They may even say that they’re unable to feel anything, but when evidence proves otherwise, it fascinates the viewer, who gets a brief glimpse at what the character may really be all about.

Ayanami Rei’s stern reaction to Shinji holding that pair of broken glasses.

Eureka’s simple comment that Renton is “interesting.”

Nagato Yuki contributing to the defeat of the Computer Club.

Vanilla H’s anything and everything.

And of course, Hoshino Ruri discovering her childhood.

If someone wants a blank slate to fantasize over, the truth is that any character will do. But fans who love the “emotionless” type do not do it out of some desire for an everywoman, they do it out of the desire to see what this specific girl is all about. More important than imprinting an image onto the character is striving to find out what the character is all about.

PS: As I’ve said in a previous post, I don’t count Kawazoe Tamaki in this category. She’s just a quiet girl who wears her heart on her sleeve.