I only just watched Haruhi but I’ve been hearing about Endless Eight for years. I’ve heard the memes, been told to skip most the episodes, and seen plenty of people claim that it ruined the show for them. Given all that, I was expecting something that was absolutely awful, so it came as quite a surprise when I not only enjoyed it but loved it. In fact, I believe that it’s probably my favorite part of Haruhi aside from Disappearance. Such a strong claim needs justification but I fortunately have plenty of reasons for liking it so much.
The most common defense of Endless Eight is that it puts you in Yuki’s shoes, making it easier to sympathize with her actions during Disappearance. I certainly do believe this is true. The knowledge that she had to live over 500 years seeing the same thing time and time again does make her actions more understandable. Of course she’d be willing to change the world in order to remove all of its supernatural elements
But I don’t think that’s justification on its own. After all, the novels didn’t need that for Disappearance to work and Endless Eight isn’t worth it just because it conceptually adds to the series. I certainly do think that it’s a cool idea to put the viewer in the shoes of the one seeing the time loop but I don’t think it had to be done across eight episodes. Shows like Steins;Gate and Re: Zero sell the time loop just fine without taking that approach. No, Endless Eight is not good because it’s cool in concept. It’s good because the execution is brilliant.
When discussing Endless Eight’s execution, we obviously need to begin with the production. Endless Eight is in no way a lazy approach. Every single scene is reanimated and as far as I can tell, they all have different camera placements, clothing, and other details that make each episode a unique product. It’s a bit harder to notice, but this is also true for the script and voice acting. They don’t differ a huge amount, but they do subtly change each time. Kyon is the best example of this since his monologuing makes it clear how the delivery of lines changes ever so subtly. Even if you don’t actually enjoy it, you can hardly claim that this was just KyoAni being lazy.
Endless Eight is really a fantastic demonstration of the influence that directing has on how you perceive a show. It definitively debunks the idea that writing is all that matters. If you’re able to keep paying attention, every scene comes across differently in each episode. As time goes on the episodes become increasingly strange and introspective despite covering the same material. In many ways, Endless Eight shows how much thought has to be put into adaptations, especially adaptations of light novels. The second and seventh episode of the loop are totally different works in many significant ways and evoke very distinct moods. It’s quite impressive that the show managed to make me feel like each episode was new even when the broad strokes were the same.
It’s also worth pointing out that the episode which gets repeated is a damn fun one. Sure, it might just be a montage of various summer activities but that’s pretty great. I’ve got a certain fondness for the cast at this point, at least whenever Haruhi isn’t being awful, and it’s gratifying to see them enjoy themselves. Of course, liking this episode is somewhat dependent on your interest in the cast and your feelings towards slice of life anime but it really worked for me. Had it been a more boring episode I’m sure I would’ve felt much differently about the whole arc.
Because of the clear difference between every Endless Eight episode, you begin to notice different things. Some of these things are noticed because the show itself calls new elements to attention each time but some of it is just focusing on elements that you didn’t catch previously. You’ll notice different things at the pool, or the festival, or the roof.
This reflects the many small things in life that you could notice but don’t. There’s plenty of things we could pay attention to or see out of the corner of our eyes but time is limited so we only catch certain things. Endless Eight gives us the opportunity to pay attention to way more things than we would if it were only one episode. This is valuable in demonstrating just how much there is to notice in life, which has exponentially more things going on than an episode of anime.
As time goes on in Endless Eight, it starts to become funny as well as sad. The deja vu moments get more and more intense and make you feel much worse for Kyon than you would if you weren’t forced to sit through so many repetitions. At the same time, lines get funnier and funnier purely because they’ve been said so much. I started laughing at the bike scene or the scene where Koizumi explains what’s going on, not because of any inherent humor in the show but just because there’s some joy in the absurdity of it all. This mix of sadness and humor is oddly compelling and it made me more and more eager to see the next episode.
In many ways, I’d liken Endless Eight to fighting a difficult boss in something like a Souls game. In games like this, the gameplay itself is inherently fun, much as the base episode for Endless Eight is fun. As time goes on and you die against the boss again and again, the gameplay doesn’t get less enjoyable but there is some frustration and sadness mixed with the entertainment. However, that doesn’t mean you want to quit and you keep going until you eventually beat it. The catharsis of beating the boss makes all the gameplay — which was fun but somewhat frustrating — worth it in the end.
Endless Eight is the exact same. I can’t say I was never frustrated or anything. It was certainly somewhat annoying and sad to see Kyon continuously allow Haruhi to walk out of the restaurant, dooming them to another repetition. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the process of watching it and it all became worth it when Kyon finally figured out what he had to do in order to stop the loop. I can’t think of any anime I’ve watched recently that delivered a moment as satisfying as the conclusion to Endless Eight. I can say outright that, had I skipped episodes, I would’ve enjoyed the final one much less.
I totally understand why people don’t like Endless Eight. A lot of people probably disliked the base episode. For some, the time investment simply isn’t worth it. And others have a harder time enjoying things that they’ve already seen. But I love rewatching shows and I love shows which take risks in order to deliver an interesting experience. I’m aware that Endless Eight came about due to production shenanigans but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great decision. I’ll always cherish the fact that I watched it. It demonstrates the ability of KyoAni and proves that my adaptation philosophy is correct. I wouldn’t remove it even if I could and I believe that everyone should at least try to watch the whole thing. You might hate it but there’s the chance you’ll love it as well.
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