Giving praise to a movie that’s easily the magnum opus of an already excellent (Even factoring in Endless Eight) franchise is too easy. There were so many things that resonated perfectly, so few missteps, that I could write a dissertation on why this is the best non-Ghibli anime movie that’s been released in a long time.
Many people will likely disagree with me on this, but I found Shoushitsu to be a movie that grazed perfection, that almost ascended into the pantheon of classics.
I could say how the nearly three hour length almost never dragged on, how emotional Yuki hits surprisingly hard and shared a desperately needed spotlight for once, and how the thematic elements and Kyon’s monologues will remain as poignant and sharp a decade from now, where this’ll be looked back on fondly as one the most hard hitting movies of 2010. That would be a boring review, and one that’s been done quite a few times before, and nobody comes here to read the exact same thing they could read on a million other sites.
Again, this is a fantastic movie. I was left more satisfied watching Shoushitsu than I was with many recent movies, and I’d recommend this to anybody who remotely enjoys the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise. The negatives that I point out here aren’t gaping holes in the movie or plot. They’re merely loose threads that I felt should’ve either been cut off, or sewn back in to fit with the movie a bit better. Moving on…
Shoushitsu approaches greatness, but doesn’t quite reach it. The elephant in the room is easily the length of the movie. Clocking in at almost three hours, this is easily its worst deterrent, next to its lethargic pacing. It isn’t an action packed movie that moves by in a flash; it’s a slow, melancholic affair that focuses more on the inner thoughts of Kyon as he’s tossed to and fro through the space time continuum.
However, rarely does it feel actually languid. There are enough interesting developments and plot twists to keep one’s interest piqued throughout, and Kyon’s thoughts remain ever entertaining. It’s only in the last forty minutes or so where the pace starts to trip over its own slowness. With the main plot resolved, there’s just some faffing about until the last truly heartwarming scene with Kyon and Yuki on the roof.
It can seem a little taxing, and I felt my patience wearing thin more than once. To be perfectly fair though, I paused the movie countless times to address other issues that rose to my attention, which drew it out another four hours or so.
Thinking about it hard, the only other major gripe I had was how little attention the main characters other than Yuki and Kyon were given, with most diverted to Ryouko in a totally subtle hint at her being more than meets the eye… which would be a little less obvious if she weren’t shown to be a murderous, reality warping, extraterrestrial being out for Kyon’s blood in the first series.
Itsuki and Mikuru were left entirely in the sidelines, both relegated to the roles of disbelievers as Kyon stumbled through the world trying to find out what happened. Haruhi remained important, but not pivotal, but only arbitrarily right before the big plot twist. While Itsuki did prove to have some use later on as someone interested in Haruhi, this was his only semi-important role aside from being a master at skinning apples.
Despite Yuki being a main character, I felt that there wasn’t enough sapped attention given to her. While I understand that this was very clearly Kyon’s movie and his time to assume the role of the main character that drives the series, rather than Haruhi, Yuki was easily the second most important character. They could’ve developed hers and Kyon’s relationship further easily enough, since the times that they did awkwardly try to figure out each other were superb. Yuki’s disbelief and introverted aggression towards Kyon balanced well with his wary, yet slowly caving sarcastic wit. There wasn’t a single wasted moment with the two on screen, and some of the last half hour or so that was spent idling away could’ve been sacrificed to give the two more interaction time.
Even after this movie, I didn’t feel that I understood Yuki that well. She remained an enigma unable to be cracked by conventional means. I think this was intentional, but the expository, albeit excellent, ending song should not have been needed to express her feelings of loneliness and slowly dissolving patience.
Aside from the opening and spare use of the soundtrack during important scenes, there’s hardly any background music used. Not necessarily a huge flaw, but it contributed to it occasionally dragging on in places.
There are two final gripes that I have with Kyon, or rather his treatment. Most of the movie is spent observing Kyon as he walks from Point A to Point B, which makes even the Lord of the Rings trilogy seem outright frantic by comparison. Half of the movie is spent in silence watching him walk, monologuing to himself. Yeah, I’m really reaching here, but I’m trying to find everything that left me even the slightest bit bewildered or dissatisfied at the movie.
He also suffers a lot of physical abuse. He gets punched, kicked, smacked, knocked down, knocked down again, pulled onto the floor from his bed, thrown to the ground, and almost fatally wounded at least a dozen times total through the course of the film. It’s almost painful to watch Kyon desperately try to find his way around, while having everything trying to maim him.
And with that, I can’t think of anything else truly wrong. I wouldn’t call it an absolutely perfect movie, but there’s very little that it can improve on. I haven’t read the source material, but I assume that most of its limitations that weren’t stylistic choices were because of an attempt to remain faithful to the original story. There’s very little here that I can really complain about; I had to wrack my brain for all the prior gripes.
Shoushitsu is great, see it. There’s really very little else that needs to be said. And, reusing the screen, Yuki smiles.