The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan
In a different reality, Haruhi Suzumiya is just an "ordinary" girl (though still maniacally pursuing extraordinary interests), Ryoko Asakura is a domestic goddess with motherly affection toward those she cares about, and Yuki Nagato is an overly shy girl who harbors a quiet longing for Kyon. Can Yuki overcome her fears and finally get her wish? And what if there's a particularly bizarre development standing in her way?
I've a confession: I've been reading the manga version of this story. And my warm-and-fuzzy feeling for the manga is actually exceeded by my affection for this anime adaptation. I expect I'll get plenty of dissent over my final rating, but this is where I see it:
Some sources say that The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan is in the "same" universe as The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya but it's not so; for in the latter Yuki was pathologically shy, and Asakura was- as she's been in most of the other incarnations of this series- just pathological. Yuki HERE is just a somewhat timid girl who likes to play video games. The version of Asakura we have here is one who, because she loves Yuki, is supportive of Yuki's desire to catch the attention of Kyon, but is nevertheless somewhat saddened by anticipation of an empty nest. She's really as much surrogate parent as best friend, and you can, for once, understand her feelings perfectly, and sympathize with her completely.
As far as the character art goes, Kyon is the one who most deviates from the original series- his rather distinctive appearance in the original series (and in The Disappearance of Haruhi) is replaced here with a somewhat generic character design. But this version of him gets just as annoyed with Haruhi's antics as he did in any other version of the show, when she finally shows up. He met Haruhi when they were some years younger - the circumstances of this are the same in all versions of the show- and while he doesn't remember this meeting, SHE does.
Haruhi, for her part, still craves supernatural or sci-fi occurrences, though in THIS universe she's likely to be disappointed. But HERE we also see Haruhi occasionally in reflective and/or sensible moods; she can actually give good advice to Asakura, who becomes something of a confidant in her. (!) And we see, as clearly as any version of the show ever presented it, that Haruhi really does have a warm spot for Kyon in her OWN heart. (But Koizumi's function in the story, and his clinging to Haruhi, seem more puzzling than ever; this version of the show, in particular, raises some questions about Koizumi's sexuality.)
Mikuru's back, pretty much with the same scared-rabbit personality (and giant breasts, which are the central focus of the show's fanservice.) Mikuru's friend and self-appointed protector, Tsuruya, is also back, and there's quite a bit of over-the-top nonsense involving the show's over-the-top personalities, namely Tsuruya, Haruhi, and (sometimes) Asakura (while the quiet ones, Yuki and Mikuru, try to keep a low profile.)
But of course Yuki is the central character here, even if she's by nature rather unobtrusive. Her feelings for Kyon gradually grow warmer, and there are some wonderful moments- with a rather familiar piece (is it the Clair de Lune?) used to set the mood- as she struggles with her own awkwardness and hesitancy to express her own feelings. Somewhere in the middle of this occurs what gives this series its title, and THIS show's Yuki's own personality gets replaced by one that is emotionally deadpan, more interested in reading than gaming, and (at first anyway) not especially attracted to Kyon. But everything in this show is subject to change...
(Yes, Yuki's "replacement" personality resembles that of the Yuki Nagato of Melancholy of Haruhi in some ways, including an interest in science fiction- though of course the Melancholy Yuki was, HERSELF, science fiction. By the way, that Sci-Fi novel THIS Yuki finds "intriguing", James P. Hogan's Inherit the Stars, really IS; I read it back when I was heavily into Sci-Fi, and wish I'd kept my copy. Hogan was, I think, one of the most imaginative of the "hard Sci-Fi" writers.) And that scene at the end of Episode 13 somehow manages to be both sweet, and heartbreaking, at the same time.
So in summary we have here: an Asakura who's nurturing, and because of this finding it hard to let go; a Haruhi who, when she's not pursuing her crazy searches for the supernatural, is actually a pretty compassionate girl (though often in a brash manner); a Kyon who thinks he's unclear about his own feelings, but who's actually more comfortable with Yuki than even he realizes; and the Yuki we see through most of THIS series, vulnerable, filled with affection that's hard for her to express. And underneath it all there's an innocence that's a welcome change from other allegedly "romantic" shows where the parties involved seem to want to play mind games with each other, while causing massive collateral damage to others who REALLY try to love them- I've seen too many shows like True Tears and A Town Where You Live; a show like The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan seems like a breath of fresh air in comparison. (Though the anime story does stop short of where the U.S. release of the manga has gotten to; that was a little disappointing.)
Oh, and that OVA that FUNimation includes in the DVD package? It's the infamous "Endless Eight" storyline though this time WITH an ending, and as is fitting for THIS show, it's a rather Yuki-friendly one at that.
I know some won't agree, but I'm going five stars here. Despite all the antics, there's a cleverness that the rest of the Haruhi series only achieved occasionally (most notably in The Disappearance of Haruhi, which also, interestingly, featured Yuki.) And there's a genuine sweetness, here that I'd never seen before in the franchise; and this is the FIRST time I've ever seen Asakura as an emotionally complex, yet basically decent, person. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: We've got one hot springs scene, complete with some molestation (NOT actually shown) of Mikuru's boobs by her gal pals, but everything's pretty tame, really.
Version(s) Viewed: Region 1 DVD
Review Status: Full (17/17)
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan © 2016 Satelight/Kadokawa
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