If you were to ask most fans, myself included, about when they first got into anime, you’d likely hear many respond that they discovered anime when they were teenagers. I remember getting back into the anime scene when I was fourteen, re-watching Dragon Ball Z via the newly released, yet always terrible Orange Brick sets. We passed the box sets around like a drug at school: I bought one set, my friend bought another, and so on. To be fair, it was 2007. How else would we watch this new anime drug?
My Introduction to Anime
In the late 2000s, it was much harder to be an anime fan than it is today, especially in Australia. The best sources were DVDs that could be purchased at JB Hi-Fi. Blu-Ray weren’t a thing, and legal streaming was in its earliest days, with only a few choice shows being available via the Madman Screening Room. That is, if your Australian internet could even handle streaming.
For a poor teenager that went broke buying Dragon Ball Z, that only left one option: downloading. I should note that I don’t advocate illegally downloading in 2019, thanks to the availability of simulcasts for every major series within an hour of airing in Japan. Back in 2008, though, the world wasn’t so blessed. Fansubs ran rampant, the subculture was rife with drama revolving around whether speedsubs or quality subs were better, and failsubs were hidden landmines in the latest episodes of Clannad.
A popular example of a failsub
Luckily for me, I found a little show called The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya while looking for more … let’s call them risque shows. Technically, Haruhi was the third anime series I watched, other than what I saw as a kid. The first two were Girl’s High and Please Twins. Don’t judge me, I was a teenager.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was an eye opener for me. It was already super popular in the wider fandom at the time. For me, a naïve teenager, the series was my true introduction to the anime world.
Haruhi: A History
Haruhi was produced at Kyoto Animation, and debuted in 2006. At the time, the studio was known for the second and third seasons of Full Metal Panic!, as well as the anime adaptation of Key’s popular visual novel Air. They were contracted by Kadokawa to adapt Nagaru Tanigawa’s popular Haruhi light novel series. Under the helm of director Tetsuya Ishihara, the show famously aired out of order in the first season, with the first episode being the odd “The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00”.
After the first season aired, the Haruhi anime saw an interesting lead up to its second season. The new season saw a unique announcement in a national newspaper in Japan on Tanabata 2007 (something that Kyoto Animation still does). Haruhi Suzumiya’s second season was delayed due to production issues. This opened the gates for more intriguing ways to keep the series in the public consciousness. Among these were:
- a live action teaser to Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody,
- the disappearance of the haruhi.tv website, mirroring The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya book,
- hidden code within the website that you could only see if you looked at the source code.
These teases for something greater made everyone raving mad, myself included. I’d just watched the first season of the show in 2008, and knowing there was a second season coming was aching.
The Second Season of Haruhi Suzumiya
A glimmer of hope shot through the community when it was announced that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was going to be rebroadcast in 2009. Was it possible that the new season would air after the rebroadcast, a common practice, or that we’d at least get more news on what’s to come?
Sadly, the details never came. In fact, the Kadokawa Shoten Animation Group, who did the advertising for the franchise, went out of their way to claim there was nothing to announce, making fans like myself quite sad. Strangely, the rebroadcast started with “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya I”, the second episode of the original series, which cemented a new broadcast order.
Our hopes were realized when Japanese TV station Teletama updated its website, listing the series for 28 episodes. While Kadokawa wasn’t announcing anything, this was our first real proof of new Haruhi Suzumiya content.
At this time though, I had no idea that any of this was occurring. I was a fan of the series, yet didn’t have the resources to be in the know for all of its going-ons. The only shows I was keeping up with at the time, news-wise, were Smallville and Doctor Who. I had no way to know when a a new episode was coming out.
Nowadays, if a new series is airing, you’ll know about it well ahead of time. In 2009, Twitter wasn’t as widespread, Facebook was still just friends from school, and YouTube was just vlogs about life. Add onto that the fact that the series wasn’t being streamed, because that only occurred if it was a popular ongoing series like Naruto, and you could easily miss the news.
Until I didn’t.
I learned about the new episode via an illegal anime streaming site while searching for something to watch. I quickly put on “Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody” and watched the episode in god-awful 240p, buffering every couple of minutes.
It. Was. Hell.
I’d been waiting for so long for a new episode, and this was how I was going to watch it? No way! I had to find a better way.
That’s when I turned to fansubs. I wanted to watch more of the show that I fell in love with a year and a half prior. Whatever it took.
The Excruciating Endless Eight
The rebroadcast of Haruhi Suzumiya continued on after “Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody,” with season one episodes airing until that one fateful day in June 2009. The first episode of “Endless Eight” was about to hit the airwaves. For those unaware, “Endless Eight” was a short story from the light novel, much the same length of previous short stories in the franchise. It should have been adapted into one, maybe two episodes. But, no, it was eight painful episodes, which aired weekly with no knowledge of when it was ending.
Spoiler Warning for the plot of Endless Eight
“Endless Eight” is the story of Kyon reliving the last two weeks of summer vacation. This occurs because the titular character of the show, Haruhi, subconsciously feels like she’s wasted the vacation and doesn’t want it to finish. It only comes to an end when Kyon finishes his homework with the rest of the group. While most of the characters “reset” to the start of the two weeks, Yuki, being an “humanoid interface”, felt all 15,532 loops.
To the credit of Ishihara and the team at Kyoto Animation, the staff animated every episode uniquely. This meant having different animation, storyboards, and vocal performances. It also meant that they would have to make each episode, while having the same base content, feel refreshing for all eight episodes. To put that in real-life terms, for two months – eight weeks – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya season 2 aired the same content, just remixed. That meant downloading 8 episodes, while praying that the loops would end.
“Endless Eight” is the reason I got so invested into anime and its fandom. While yes, the whole idea behind “Endless Eight” is crazy, the fact that a company (well, several companies, which formed the production committee) pulled it off was astounding to me. I needed to know why. As I’m sure everyone else did.
With every “Kyon-kun, denwa!” (“Kyon! Phone!”) uttered, more and more people jumped on (and off) the endless train. Memes were created and spread, including an alternate version of the Downfall meme, and theories were crafted. Some thought the arc would only last 3 episodes, others thought 9 was a good number. Both 4chan and 2ch were going off their rockers at the limitless episodes. It was both glorious and frustrating at the same time.
But I was invested. I participated in the conversations. I cried when others cried. I laughed when others laughed. I loved Mikuru’s hair in the 15th episode. We all survived the biggest troll from an anime series ever. And we did it together.
I didn’t learn how “Endless Eight” came about until a few years later. Thanks to a translated interview from UltimateMegaX with the directors of the series, “Endless Eight” was only supposed to be three episodes with “The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya” adapted within the second season. When the higher ups wanted the arc to be a feature film, there was nothing left to adapt from the light novels that wouldn’t make sense without having already seen “Disappearance”, so the eight-episode “Endless Eight” was born.
I’ll never forget the end of Endless Eight. Not only was it odd that a sixteen-year-old high schooler was wishing for some homework to be done, but I was actually on holiday when the last episode was released. My family was staying in a caravan park outside the Gold Coast, and the concept of ‘free Wi-Fi’ didn’t exist at the time. So, I had to fork over $20 of my hard earned pizza driver money just to access the internet to be able to watch the final episode. I’d been on edge for eight weeks waiting for the arc to end, after being excited for over a year waiting for a new season. I was going to watch the episode, whatever it took.
I admit that it wasn’t my finest anime moment. Still, it sure felt great to see that homework finished.
Finishing the Endless Homework
Ten years on from “Endless Eight”, I look back on those eight weeks with fond memories of a simpler time. Thanks to the arc, I learned how to source anime news, started participating within the community, and even started my own anime blog. This turned into a YouTube channel, which gave the opportunity to move to Japan, where I am now, writing this feature. I’m sure that without “Endless Eight,” I would be here as well, it just helped to accelerate the momentum.
I appreciate “Endless Eight” for what it was. I’ve watched it again in its entirety three more times. Once it came out on DVD, and twice to force others through it. I still feel that watching the whole of “Endless Eight” gives you a greater understanding of Yuki’s character in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya film, which makes a fantastic film even better.
I can’t help but wonder how others remember Endless Eight and what it meant to them, because, as you can tell, it meant a whole lot to me.
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