The Last Generation of Haruhi Suzumiya

Back in ’95-96 Akiyuki Shinbo directed a project called Soreyuke! Uchuusenkan Yamamoto Yohko. It was an adaptation of a series of teenage-level science fiction novels written by Takashi Shouji. The project resulted in two OAV series, and later in 1997 a 26-episode TV series retelling the expanded novel story was aired.

Perhaps it’s just how people looked at TV shows and movies back in the 90s, but Yamamoto Yohko didn’t make a big splash. Unavoidably, Akiyuki Shinbo’s … signature directorial style is somewhat hit-and-miss with the crowd, and I think the Yamamoto Yohko TV series is one of the earliest example of this signature style.

(In some ways looking at Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, you can tell that its rather-two-dimensional look works much more successfully with the punches Shinbo pulls–in fact I believe that’s why Pani Poni Dash did so much better with the fans yet Soul Taker was just way out in the left field with a cold but critically acclaimed reception. Yamamoto Yohko shared that 3D feel. All to stretch the animation budget?)

Well the point here, I hope, is to remind or introduce you –I sure do need to rewatch it–to this actually really above average but rarely-heard-of anime series to you. Yamamoto Yohko is twelve years old now, but its faded-out color palette and seeing kids hanging out at arcades are the only things showing its age. The direction is sublime (and resourceful), the OAV episodes are fun, energetic, and charming. The TV series suffers, I think, from being 26 episodes long, but it delivers a solid story about someone much like Suzumiya Haruhi…sans the romantic/Kyon angle.

Maybe that’s where the magic is missing? I don’t know. (Is that just the difference between 90s TV shows and today’s?) But I do know that it’s a fairly timeless TV anime, and is worth watching beyond mere sentimentality. It’s smart, humorous, it keeps you surprised, and the voice acting is top notch.

It’s even got time travelers, aliens, and ESPer-like computers. It is even licensed–at least the two OAV series. The TV series is in limbo–RightStuf has an option which they have not exercised because the sales were subpar. The US release was back in 2001, and it was on both DVD and VHS. You can probably find the DVD super cheap now, if at all.


8 Responses to “The Last Generation of Haruhi Suzumiya”

  • digitalboy

    If the combination of ‘unpopular’ and ‘liscenced’ doesn’t stump me from seeing it, I will definitely watch this in the near future (AKA when I’m done with Marimite)

  • psgels

    Sounds pretty interesting, especially the fact that it’s unpopular high-quality. I actually liked Shinbo’s style in Soultaker, so this may be something to put on my watchlist.

  • DrmChsr0

    HOT SHIT.

    Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko.

    I can’t believe SOMEONE actually watched it. I thought I was the only one who knew of it’s existence.

  • dm

    (Sometimes I feel like I get to almost have the benefit of having a blog without having to do all the work :3)

    I don’t think the series suffers from its 26-episode length at all. I’m in the home-stretch, now, and I don’t feel like any of the episodes have been wasted — it’s true they don’t all contribute to moving the plot forward, but that doesn’t make them “filler” (well, maybe that episode about the “sea” appearing suddenly in space). I’ve enjoyed the ride, puzzling though it may be from time to time.

    I think you’re onto something with the 2D/3D distinction. It’s not that Shinbo is applying the same tricks in Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, but I think the family resemblance is pretty easy to see. Yohko seems so laid back in comparison to his more recent series, however.

  • omo

    (lawl, except I had this one typed up for some time now, and I figured I should post it now that I ran out of things to say)

  • chami

    Yamamoto Yohko was one of those series that I caught sporadically on AXN years ago. I suppose the on-off viewing didn’t help, but I could never figure out that series – now that you guys are plugging it, I suppose I’ll have to go and find a few DVDs to give it another spin. :p

  • dm

    Chami, it’s definitely a series that suffers from sporadic exposure, particularly in the last half, when the main story-arc is throwing off shrapnel in each episode. Viewed as a whole, I’m enjoying it a good deal, but Shinbo is definitely playing games with his story and with the audience.

    Character designs by Akio Watanabe (Soul Taker, Nurse Witch Komugi).

  • DKellis

    I thought I had been hallucinating this show.

    I remember that I didn’t really think much of the OAVs, and was mildly interested by the TV series, up until the last few parts where I couldn’t follow the plot anymore. Also, I was irritated by Yohko’s personality, as well as her interaction with the Big Forehead Girl. I’m not sure why, now.

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