Presumably, Kyoto Animation had some spare change gathering fluff in their back pockets. It is the only possible explanation for this aimless bundle of whimsy. Only extremely dedicated fans of the Haruhi franchise will be attracted to The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya‘s and Nyoron! Churuya-san‘s moronic performances. Either that or the industry is relying on generous rich teenagers who would rather fulfil its greatest wish this Christmas by giving it an extra £11 for sub-par work than, say, buy a goat for an African family. After all, the first volume of this came free with the special edition of Haruhi‘s second season, so cash cow economics probably plays a role in volume two’s standalone debut.
But I’m here to talk about the content and not the circumstances of Haruhi-chan and Nyoron, which probably explains my stalling for time. The bulk comprises ad hoc comedy sketches (including the 4-koma variety in Nyoron, for anyone wanting something a bit more ‘cultural’), and the humour mainly flows from Haruhi’s stupidity cranked up to new, disharmonious levels while Kyon gasps or mutters disparagingly in the background. The whole thing plays out like a protracted episode of Family Guy, with everyone repeating roughly the same recitals in arbitrarily shifting contexts. And yet… and yet it is not quite the waste of time I feared it would be.
There are moments enough in Haruhi-chan when the humour strikes the right chord. During these islands of hilarity, the show reflects the clever irony of the original, with Kyon’s bemused asides bringing the most rewards. I will admit they never feel like anything other than happy accident – in the same way someone flailing their arms is bound to eventually hit something, an undirected vomit of four-minute sketches will deliver at least one line in any fifteen minute period that tickles the loins – but we’ll take what we can get. At least, if you pay for this DVD, you should be grateful there is anything at all to relate to.
At worst, we get the endless bursts of inanity that is Nyoron. It represents the height of some fan’s career, to be sure, for it is his or her amateur parody we’re seeing animated in grotesquely scratchy animation. But alas, it plays more on its incongruity than any actual grasp of the mechanics of comedy. In it, some character called Churuya-san, a cutely vapid version of Tsuruya-san, perpetually hunts, eats, dreams about, and wishes for smoked cheese while uttering the catchphrase ‘nyoron’ at every opportunity. The animation is bad; the soundscape makes me wish for silence; the voice acting seems eerily muted. My guess is you had to be there skulking in the Japanese underground circles where it first made its rounds to get it.
I spoke of pennies earlier. A meagre collection of them were used to fund the production. Mostly, the shows look remarkably, if unsurprisingly, low budget (flat, garish colours, perfunctory detail, robotic movements etc), but portions of it offer surprises: Tsuruya’s fight with a mascot in Haruhi-chan comes with strong enough choreography to provide some excitement. Its direction plays with clichés and abuses shortcuts to enhance the fight’s ludicrousness while giving a good sense of progression. As a DVD extra (say, with Disappearance!) these sideshows would have proved highly rewarding, but this separate release makes me sceptical of its appeal to a general audience.