May 10th, 2010

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The third wish is always the most important

One thing I've noticed over the past year due to visiting some anime-centric websites is that the US has a lot to learn when it comes to marketing. Sure, people here complain about over-consumerism and how companies will feed that impulse by branding everything in sight. This means that if there's a disney movie out, you can be sure that not only will there be a slew of merchandising available at Toys R Us featuring the characters but you'll also find that there's a McDonalds happy meal toy with it, a version of that movie 'on Ice', infinite soundtracks and direct to video sequels on cds/dvds, and dozens of other things besides. All of that might be true but it's a teeny tiny, and laughably insignificant, slice of what the Japanese have managed. Just the other day I read something where they were selling little bottles of apple juice marked with a particular anime girl's picture in a container meant to look like a specimen bottle. The bottle came along with a paper cup with writing and hash marks that made it look like one you use to collect urine samples. I shit you not. Specific anime characters from popular franchises grace the packaging of the weirdest and most nonsensical crap, ranging from packages of pickled turnips to toilet scrub brushes. Maybe it's simply that hot properties are more fleeting there and you have to make your money while you can, even if that means approving anything and everything that puts some yen into your pockets.

When you consider that that level of marketing is the norm, you pretty much take for granted that there must be heaps of more prosaic tie-ins as well. If there's a successful tv show, you can all but guarantee that there will be OVAs and movies to follow. The thing is, the company knows they have their audience hooked and often these media attempts leave a lot to be desired much like the more nonsensical marketing tie-ins. Anime movies in general have left a lot to be desired in my experience. I've watched around a half dozen Naruto movies, 3 Bleach movies, 2 Ranma movies, and a bunch of others which I can't name off the top of my head. What they've all had in common is that none were truly excellent, though a couple were entertaining enough. That's all changed with the Haruhi Suzumiya movie.

To start with, this film was _3 hours_ long, which is just unheard of nowadays. I was forced to watch a translated cam version of the movie since it's still out in theaters in Japan but even then it was possible to see the quality and requisite time and effort that must've gone into it. This might certainly explain why Kyoto Animation was so late with a second season to the anime since it must've taken a herculean amount of effort to get this movie out.

I went into this not expecting much and was pleasantly surprised at every turn. The plot was gripping and the pacing excellent. At no point in the three hours did I feel the urge to 'look at my watch', which may just be a miracle given my past track record. The story was good enough that it's almost a shame that it's tied to a particular franchise rather than being a stand alone. You really do need some background information to understand what's going on, but that pre-requisite will almost mean that some people will decide to pass on it.

Part of what I really liked about the movie is that the surprise twist really caught me unawares. I hadn't read into the plot of the film before I decided to watch it so it was one of those few times where I went into something completely blind and I never saw the shocker moment coming.

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Anyway, I think that this is the best anime movie I've seen hands down so far. I imagine it'll only be better once it comes out on dvd/blueray and I manage to snag a copy that isn't tilted at a 10 degree angle and has people walking past the screen.