The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: Second Season, Early Review
By Marc | September 11th, 2010
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya… one of the more popular series of recent memory. After three years the series returns with a new season.
After having such a well received first season that blew quite a few people away can season two possibly stand up to its predecessor? Does it need to? Or would a few extra adventures with fun characters be enough? Guess we will find out…
The packaging for Haruhi Season 2 is sort of ratty to be honest. It comes in a fat scanavo case that uses clear plastic. The single insert that works as the front and back cover just don’t look good. The front cover sorta does a riff on a few past Haruhi covers by having a poster rolling up and Haruhi ‘jumping’ out from it, but it just looks odd. The back cover suffers from multiple problems though…
We start off with a big wall of text. I’m not sure we need three paragraphs going over the entire season’s plot on the back of the box. It’s unnecessary and just looks like a mess. Below that we get episode titles. Around this we get some small screenshots and a small picture of Haruhi. They all look terrible. The problem here is quite simple: they weren’t resized properly. Every single picture on the back looks like it came from a low resolution picture from the internet that was resized badly with lines ripping apart and stuttering (A small scan of part of the back cover is directly below.) Under that mess we get a track listing for the CD, a list of DVD features, and a list of DVD extras. Below that is a wall of credits and a small space for technical details and company logos. The entire back cover just looks like a mess and the problems with the art suggest a lack of quality control.
The disks themselves use the very nice artwork from some of the Japanese DVDs. It’s just unfortunate that the case that holds them feels so cheap and tries to fight you to get them out. Two of the disks are also on a plastic ‘page’ that feels quite cheap and flimsy. There is no reverse art on the insert or any sort of booklet to explain what is on each disk. The packaging on the whole is very disappointing.
The menu is quite fun. It starts off showing the opening to season two and slides naturally into the menu design which is clean and well designed. When you make a selection into a submenu one of the characters’ images will slide to the right and that color will be the theme for that sub-menu. It’s very creative and comes across as fun by using the opening itself. A great menu.
Season two of Haruhi may be one of the most disappointing second seasons of memory (if it isn’t in fact the worst.) After a first season that caused many people to become fans out of a combination of comedy, some drama, and a great sense of whimsy and fun, the second season comes across as badly put together and depressing. The first episode is actually a great start to the season, going back to a moment we were told about in season one and (perhaps) explaining a few of Haruhi’s eccentricities.
After that… Endless Eight begins… Most Haruhi fans know and shudder at those two words, with good reason. It’s the same episode eight times. Eight times. I’ve enjoyed a TV show before and rewatched an episode eight times because it was just an insanely delightful and fun episode. Endless Eight doesn’t fit that. It’s just insanely boring and frankly insulting for a season with 14 episodes in it to spend eight reanimating the same content over and over again. The staff has seemingly claimed it was a thought experiment meant to show what the characters are going through. It comes off as taunting fans who waited three years for a new season. But after these eight episodes is a five parter that ends the season, so it has to end on a high point… right?
Unfortunately… the five episodes the season ends with may be worse than Endless Eight. Watching them I just felt very disconnected and at times sort of depressed at what I was watching. Haruhi playing with Mikuru and sort of treating her as a toy in season one felt like fun and a bit whimsical. Haruhi comes across as someone vaguely innocent in that she doesn’t quite get anything she is doing is wrong and just does it. In season two the things we see her do over the five episodes just seems inherently mean spirited and sucks any enjoyment out of the room. I think the moment I stopped having fun completely was a scene where Haruhi just starts beating on Mikuru with a plastic bullhorn (and another scene with Mikuru sobbing silently for nearly three minutes just further makes it all harder to watch.) Even the other characters seem to change in mood after this and it just comes across as very uncomfortable and unpleasant to watch.
The video quality on the disks isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible. The disks are encoded interlaced. The video quality for the disks often jumps around. Often it looks alright, sometimes it looks bad, sometimes it looks good. High motion scenes like in the opening credits often have the video quality look downright horrible at times. Colors often bleed through lines even in scenes with little to motion. These look to be source problems rather than problems with these specific DVDs, but without the Japanese disks I can’t be sure. On the plus side colors often appear vivid and bold, even if the quality isn’t the greatest.
The audio on the disks is fine. There is nothing extraordinary or negative about either audio track. English and Japanese both get a 192k Dolby 2.0 track. The English track has audio that is a bit louder. Other than that there really isn’t much to say about the audio. It’s perfectly serviceable and relatively average with no problems.
The dub is quite good. Everyone is back from the first season. If you liked that dub you will like this one. If you hated it, nothing will convince you otherwise. I quite enjoy the Haruhi dub. I think Crispen Freeman as Kyon provides a great anchor that helps you get sucked into the material. It’s just to bad him and the cast didn’t have better material to work with this time around.
Extras on the set feel lengthy, but are actually quite empty and sort of vapid. For this section I won’t be going by disk, but rather by the extras themselves, since many are split into pieces disk by disk. First we have the expected clean Opening and Closing. Both songs are quite catchy and it’s nice to get the clean video versions. After that we get a short two minute prologue to Endless Eight. It’s basically just Kyon narrating over a few pictures. This feature isn’t dubbed, and is only interesting in that it basically adds two minutes of content of some sort to a season devoid of it.
Next up are promotional videos. You have two and a half minutes of commercials for the series. Nothing really interesting there outside of seeing how they marketed it in Japan. We also get 90 seconds of retail promos for the DVDs. I imagine these were played in anime stores to advertise the DVDs and they are sort of neat to watch. We also get 21 minutes of ‘promos’. By promo I mean… we see a girl sitting in a classroom and every once in awhile a narrator says the name of the show or the girl slightly moves. It’s not animated, and the girl isn’t even wearing an outfit that resembles the uniform of the school in the show. I’m sure there is a point to these, but I have no interest in paying attention to them for that long to try and figure it out.
The bulk of the extras are made up of a few final video extras. We have around 80 minutes of location scouting. It was sort of interesting to watch for a couple minutes, but then I just sorta skimmed. The only thing I found of interest here is Minoru goes scouting with them to locations again. And then it is on to… 40 minutes of behind the scenes of an Aya Hirano music video… 40 minutes. This is just boring, with a shiny pink border (literally.) It might have been interesting if the music video was on one of the disks, but if it is then it’s an easter egg and I don’t have the patience to look for it. The final extra is 4 ASOS episodes that equal around 15 minutes. These are promotional minisodes that Bandai made to advertise the show online. These are basically trash. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ones from season one but at least got some amusement out of those. These they are just trying way to hard. They try to just throw a large number of extras at us and hope it makes up for lack of anything real… it just doesn’t work.
…Oh yeah… I almost forgot… We also get a CD with full size Opening and Closing songs. It’s a nice little disk if you enjoy the songs.
The second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is an utter mess. Haruhi fans will likely find this season a disappointment at best. Bandai giving it a premium price based on the franchises popularity with very little content likely won’t help matters. It’ll be interesting to see how well it does…
Show: D (It’s just not enjoyable. Any small moments of enjoyment just get utterly crushed.)
Packaging: D (Disappointing packaging.)
Video Quality: C+ (Video isn’t terrible and isn’t great. It’s watchable. May be source issues.)
Audio Quality: B (Sounds fine. Both tracks are equal in quality.)
English Dub: A- (Dub is good. Material hurts it though.)
Extras: C- (A mass of extras where nothing really stands out.)
Overall (not an average): D+ (Haruhi used to be fun. This isn’t. The lack of a quality product suggests Bandai knows it and didn’t spend the time to make the product look better than its content.)
Gallery and copyright information under ad. All caps are lossless PNGs taken in MPC-HC, feel free to request more. (Caps are sized 853×480 so as to display properly on computer monitors, they were modified to this resolution via Photoshop CS4 as MPC-HC takes screen captures at 720×480 on the disc. Having the caps be 853×480 makes them appear at the properly intended aspect ratio.)
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is available to watch streaming for free at Crunchyroll. Season One and two seasons of minisodes are available. Season Two isn’t currently available for streaming.
This show was reviewed using an early copy purchased at an anime specialty retailer.
This DVD is labeled to work in Region 1.
Luckily the upcoming movie is far far superior to season two. Got to see it at the American premiere. Great great fun. Try and survive season two for the movie, since it references the events in season two quite a bit at times…
Put it down here because it would have been cruel to put it up there with the season two stuff.