Nagato’s Disappearance was teased on the official Haruhi website over a year ago. It’s finally here! But will this spin-off be love at first sight or is it bound to leave us feeling a bit melancholic?
It’s worth noting that the demographic for a spin-off series is comprised almost entirely of people who are already fans. If you watched Haruhi and just couldn’t get enough of that deadpan, monotone, personaltyless alien that was Nagato Yuki, well…this isn’t really her.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We enjoyed Haruhi (the first season anyway) and the stoic Yuki of that series had enough character in her own right. It’s just that this isn’t her. This anime takes place in an alternate universe where Haruhi never creates the SOS Brigade and Yuki isn’t an alien. Instead, she’s just a shy human girl who wants desperately for senpai to notice her.
So when we say it’s not Yuki, we don’t just mean that it’s not alien Yuki. It’s not her as in it’s a different personality plastered into her body. She’s being run by a completely different brain. It’s a rom-com disguised as characters we know to sell copies of something we probably wouldn’t have watched otherwise. You can chalk her up to being “innocent,” but this version of Yuki is unobservant, obtuse, and in many ways just stupid. Socially retarded doesn’t begin to cover how inept she is and the show’s way of conveying this is to have her blush and fidget like every other “shy” girl in a Japanese romantic comedy.
While the series is fairly unoriginal, it does have high points. It’s difficult to admit, but there’s a good bit of effective comedy. It’s unfortunately bolstered by slapstick scenarios and intentionally bad animation, but a laugh is a laugh. If they can get it on the cheap, they can’t really be faulted for it. The scenes are reinforced with a decent music score ranging from sweeping instrumentals to upbeat jazzy tunes. There’s also something that sounds like old made-for-TV Batman music smashing into beach party jams. Somehow it all works. Best of all, it knows when to stop and just let us see and hear what’s going on without trying to push us into predetermined emotions.
Plenty of the old cast are around to be recycled. Asakura reprises her role as a yandere, this time as Yuki’s best friend and presumably without the intention of trying to stab Kyon to death. She acts as the coy, knowing foil to Yuki and does her best to play matchmaker between Yuki and Kyon. Surprisingly for the genre, the male crush doesn’t seem totally oblivious and disinterested. It’s nice to see Kyon being aware of some of Yuki’s emotions and trying to be close to her despite her awkwardness.
Tsuruya is back, fang and all, along with her new bestie Mikuru. Their role in the pilot can only be described as an utterly pointless time-killer aside from showing us they exist. Mikuru has such a huge fanbase that it’s probably an impossibility that she won’t have plenty of screen time. Tsuruya and Asakura pit Yuki and Mikuru agaist one another (and against their wills) to fight for whose after school club Kyon will be in. Nevermind that he’s already a member of Yuki’s literature club and has no intention of changing.
The whole premise of the pilot is simply that Yuki wants to throw a good Christmas party for the literature club (which contains no one but her, Kyon, and Asakura) for the sole purpose of creating a nice memory with Kyon. In her newfound oblivious fashion, Yuki overdoes things by going all out and failing to understand she’s planning the party like a wedding. And where is Haruhi through all this? Other than having a scene in the credits, she makes a small cameo crossing a street past Yuki. This is just to tie her to the series while giving us all a chance to hear Yuki say she doesn’t know Haruhi so all the people from that camp can have their hopes crushed early.
As far as romantic comedies go, Disappearance seems very average. The selling power is based on whether you want to see someone who looks like Yuki — but isn’t really Yuki — crushing on a guy we all know had no interest in her while Haruhi was in the picture. If those two aspects don’t make the whole thing kind of sad, it’s a passable pilot. However, it’s relying on the franchise name to garner viewership when it wouldn’t have been on the radar at all otherwise. If you can’t get enough of the Haruhi multiverse and want to live out your fantasies of seeing Yuki having more emotions than a doorknob, you’ll probably enjoy the series. For the rest of us, it won’t be anything special.
Recommendation: Skip it.
Title: The Disappareance of Nagato Yuki-chan (Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoshitsu)
Original Source: Manga
Source Publisher: Kadokawa Shoten
Director: Junichi Wada
Writer: Touko Machida
Music: Tatsuya Kato
Run Start: 04/2015
Review Date: 04/2015
Episodes Reviewed: 01