Review for The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan Complete Series
Would you believe that I haven’t spent a single penny on the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise? Dollars and cents, yes, but not one penny or pound. Back when the original series was out on DVD, the economy was a much brighter, 2 dollars to the pound place, and I got a really sweet standard Bandai Entertainment boxset. The Blu-rays of that first and the controversial second season have been out for a while now, over a year in the US, much longer in Japan, and Anime Limited have licensed it for the UK. Only they got Season 1, while the US released Season 1 and 2 in chronological order (episodes all mixed up), and merely snaffling their discs as Anime Limited would have preferred is not possible. I got tired of waiting and imported that one too. Then there is the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya feature film spin-off, which Manga Entertainment were going to release on Blu-ray, until they weren’t. Bandai’s disc being locked to Region A, I wound up getting that one from Australia, and now to get the final piece of the puzzle, I’ve gotten the Australian Region B release of the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan spin-off series, a show which no one in the UK even bothered licensing. Maybe one day I’ll spend some money on Haruhi in this country...
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is an important touchstone in understanding what this series is all about. In that movie, the world of Haruhi’s S.O.S. club for seeking out aliens, espers, and time travellers was suddenly altered, and protagonist Kyon woke up in a world where he had never met Haruhi Suzumiya, and where Yuki Nagato was just a shy girl in the school’s Literature Club. Kyon had to figure out what had happened, and how to get back to his reality.
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is apparently set in that reality, or one just like it, where a shy and bashful Yuki Nagato recruited that reality’s Kyon into the Literature Club in order to stop it from being shut down. She’s also developed a crush on Kyon, and with the aid of her best friend Asakura, she’s trying to get her feelings across to him. But when she and Kyon meet Haruhi Suzumiya, it looks as if she has a rival for Kyon’s affection.
16 episodes of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan plus the OVA are presented across two Blu-ray discs from Australia’s Madman Entertainment.
1. Precious Place
2. Joy to the World
3. Haruhi Suzumiya!!
4. Be My Valentine
5. Her Melancholy
6. Over the Obento
8. A Plot by Haruhi Suzumiya
9. Give Me Your Hand...
10. Someday in the Rain
11. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan I
12. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan II
13. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan III
14. Her Confusion
15. His Uncertainty
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these discs, which is perfectly fine, clear and sharp throughout, and with excellent colour reproduction. There might be the slightest hint of digital banding to note, but what will be more immediately apparent is the change in character designs. The animation on this show was done by Studio Satelight, and not KyoAni, and the characters here bear only the most superficial resemblance to those you’re more familiar with from the Haruhi Suzumiya series and movie. That said, these character designs do more closely resemble the manga adaptation of the Haruhi story, but if your sole exposure is the original anime, the look here might be a little jarring.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and 2.0 Stereo Japanese with subtitles and signs locked to the appropriate track. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan has the benefit of maintaining the existing voice casts in both languages, so you have some continuity with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and the other spin-offs. I was happy enough with the Japanese track, the dialogue was clear throughout, the stereo gave the show sufficient space, and the subtitles were timed accurately and free of typos. The show opts for a more classical and down-tempo music soundtrack, which hints at a gravitas that the story itself lacks, and the whole never quite comes together. The show needed music just as trivial as the story.
The discs present their content with static menus. All of the extras are on disc 2.
Disc 1 autoplays a trailer for Funimation NOW, while Disc 2 autoplays a trailer for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
The big extra on disc 2 is the OVA – I Cannot Let Summer Break End, which lasts 24:19. It’s this universe’s version of the Endless Eight routine. Thankfully they only go through the thing once, but you can add another version of the episode to your collection of eight.
You get the textless opening, and four versions of the textless closing, all with subtitles locked for the duration. Someone please look up the meaning of the word ‘textless’... please!
There are 59 seconds of TV Spots & BD/DVD Promo.
You get the US Trailer for the show, and further Funimation trailers for Mikagura School Suite, Fairy Tail Part 21, Barakamon, The Rolling Girls, and A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd.
Have you ever wondered what The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya would be like without the espers, the time travellers, and the aliens, and all the paranormal mayhem that ensues? Well, wonder no more, as The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan resoundingly answers that question with an emphatic ‘Meh!’ This show is a bland, inoffensive expenditure of around seven hours, seven hours that you probably won’t lament spending in its company, but seven hours that will leave you unfulfilled and only mildly entertained. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is a pleasant enough romantic comedy, which in true tradition of anime romantic comedies doesn’t actually go anywhere.
One thing is made clear. Without the paranormal antics, Haruhi Suzumiya is just plain obnoxious, Koizumi is as creepy as a game-show host, and Mikuru is a wet fish without any personality whatsoever. On top of that, erstwhile protagonist Kyon is nowhere near as effective with his wry commentary with nothing but the everyday high school existence to comment on. That leaves title character Yuki, who alone in this universe has a personality transplant, presenting as a cute, shy, easily flustered girl who has a crush on Kyon. The actual interesting supporting characters in this show are Asakura, Yuki’s best friend, and Tsuruya, Mikuru’s best friend. Asakura is interesting as she’s supporting Yuki in her love for Kyon, while dealing with her own jealousy at potentially losing her friend to him. Tsuruya becomes interesting as a rival to Asakura. You might actually feel a little disappointed when Haruhi et al get more screen time, and given there is a move to turn this show into an alternate universe Melancholy, centring on Haruhi dominating the Literature Club for her own purposes for a handful of episodes, that disappointment becomes more palpable.
The show really only works when it is focusing on Yuki and Kyon’s faltering relationship (in true anime rom-com style), and the best story arc comes when Yuki’s in an accident and briefly develops a second personality (the emotionless alien), and Asakura and Kyon have to get to know this Yuki and have conflicting feelings about liking her, yet wanting the original Yuki back as well. But other than this development, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan plays like any lukewarm anime romantic comedy, not a lot happens, feelings are misconstrued, awkward blushes occur, there will be a big kerfuffle about giving Valentines chocolates, and Kyon will get a face full of Mikuru’s boobs on more than one occasion.
This show was inspired by that alternate reality plot in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, where history changed, and Kyon was presented with a cute, easily flustered Yuki who developed a crush on him. That was a brilliant story, and one reason why the film was such a godsend after the second season of Haruhi Suzumiya. But what made it special was that Kyon came from ‘our’ universe, and his dilemma was in wanting to get back, while also getting close to the other universe’s Yuki. There is no such dilemma here. It’s just an average, slice-of-life romance that manages to hold the attention without ever really offering any tangible hook. What you might consider its strong point, being a mirror universe story to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya actually is to its detriment, as this story’s version of the S.O.S. club antics actually distract from what should be the main storyline, that of Kyon and Yuki. And I certainly didn’t need the Endless Eight reference, which actually escaped from the OVA episode and reared up in the main series run as well.
If you’re a fan of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, you will no doubt want to see this show, but be aware that it’s an interesting, and not entirely successful ‘what-if’ idea, and its blandness is only countered by the fact that it’s riding on the coattails of the show that it spun off from.