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The recent release of February’s superlative Suzumuiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu is the last of the especially bountiful lot of 2009-2010 theatrical anime features to be released on disc this year, and will undoubtedly be an essential purchase for those unable to attend the movie’s very limited cinema release.

Given the nearly 3-hour-long film’s exposure during its Japanese theatrical “road trip” (such limited releases have long been the norm in Japan for most any anime film not from Ghibli), its few appearances at overseas conventions and theatres such as the NY Anime Festival, the majority of Haruhi fans have likely not seen much of it.

As a result, the pictures here will hopefully steer clear of spoilers:

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As many less devout Haruhi-ists at the NY Anime Festival’s audience wondered, some viewers might be unsure on where exactly in the timeline the movie falls, or what they were expected to have seen before watching the film.

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It is fairly simple: the movie’s events takes place after both TV seasons; having missed all or part of Season 2 is not ideal, but would not make the movie’s events nonsensical as it is mostly a standalone story.

Since Season 1′s TV-only story (and final episode in the “Haruhi order”) is the very last episode chronologically for both seasons, the movie now takes the spot of being the “last” or “latest” piece of the story adapted into anime.

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Kyon’s seiyuu Sugita Tomakazu would have made a tidy sum if seiyuu were paid by the word for these sort of roles – anyone not already familiar with Sugita’s voice will be an expert on it by the end of the movie.

It’s definitely a good thing, then, that he is as great a seiyuu as he is, recalling one fan’s comment after watching the film months ago that went roughly: “I wish I could replace the voice of the internal commentary that goes on in my head with Kyon’s voice!

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A static screenshot doesn’t do the scene above justice at all; Kyon and Nagato’s jaunt here happens to be one of the most well done scenes, in a movie that’s chock full of wonderful art.

Saying it’s an improvement over the TV series’ artwork would be an understatement – the whole movie is simply gorgeous, even more so than the Fate/stay night UBW film’s considerable upgrade over its TV version.

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The quality of KyoAni’s beautifully made background scenery for Shoushitsu particularly stood out on cinema-sized screens – the movie is filled with backgrounds as marvelous as these.

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Nagato’s apartment, quite familiar by now.

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Just as with Nagato, the changes made to Kita-Kouen Haruhi provide more service for fans who are already well accustomed to her usual self.

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Another good example of how lovely the movie’s art looks.

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Anyone who might be ignorant of the story’s plot, but fluent in Koizumi’s stick-figure language shouldn’t stare too closely at the diagrams above…

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“Bamboo Rhapsody” is key here.

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There have been a small number of screenings of the film in the West, either at conventions or as one-night only airings at quirky cinemas, and it is interesting to reflect on the major differences between audiences made up Japanese and western (or rather, American) fans.

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Pretty much any anime film shown in Japan that isn’t from Miyazaki or a Western studio (i.e., Pixar) is mainly attended by fairly hardcore otaku, but despite the nature of the crowd present, this might not be suspected from the audience’s reactions during the film – even at “otaku films”, the Japanese audiences generally took the most Japanese approach of being as silent as corpses throughout the entire movie.

American audiences, being American (and youthful at that) were a world apart, with enthusiastic laughing, applause, hooting, and other signs of approval in great quantity for much of the screening.

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Both styles of screenings have their own strong points, with the Japanese screenings being excellent for watching the movie in peace and quiet with little distraction, while the American audiences allowed for exuberant displays of fan fervor that are also quite fun to take part in.

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There were only a few quibbles most watchers of the movie had, but one that was heard a bit more often than the rest was regarding the length of the movie, and perhaps its pacing during the beginning of the last third.

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It was probably around this point in the film (perhaps best described as “Kyon’s Long Monologue”) that those viewers mentioned above probably felt the effects of the movie’s length.

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In case anyone wonders what the lovely musical track playing through this pivotal scene is called on the official movie soundtrack, it’s entitled “READY,” in a nod to Nagato’s computer’s prompt.

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The “blood dance” is another big highlight of the film, although revealing much more would be entering into spoiler territory.

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Traditionally, Japanese DVD and BD releases tend to lag significantly behind in the bonus material American and Euro buyers regard as mandatory, but the Gentei-ban (limited edition) version of Shoushitsu does include quite a lot of them (such as a BGM disc, pamphlets, postcards, etc.), and both the regular and limited editions have some nice original jacket art:

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The “regular DVD edition’s”  front jacket.

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So far the anime is selling extremely healthily, and looks to be one of the year’s top sellers – it is available internationally now.


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