NOTE – This is the second part of my review. If you’d like to read the first part, click here.
NOTE (off-topic) – Happy birthday, Kagami and Tsukasa!
ALTERED SCENES AND PREVIOUSLY UNSEEN FOOTAGE
Director’s Cut and Extended Edition DVDs are all the rage these days. Remember The Lord of the Rings? Peter Jackson padded out all three installments of his Tolkien adaptations for their respective DVD releases, even going so far as to add nearly a full HOUR of unseen footage to the third film. While some arch-purists may take issue with even the slightest tinkering (think of the outcry over George Lucas’ modifications to the first three Star Wars films), I for one am quite pleased with the alterations that were made to the series for the DVD release. Most of the changes are cosmetic anyway, made with the simple objective of rectifying the numerous little inconsistencies that popped up here and there when SHnY was originally animated (e.g. disappearing bags, people left out of the background, curtains left open when they should have been drawn). But far more than just papering over their old mistakes, the producers have actually gone through the trouble of adding a couple of minutes’ worth of fresh footage – including new lines recorded by the same voice cast – based on unused material from the first volume of Tanigawa Nagaru’s light novel series.
Virtually all of the new scenes were derived from the original source material, and the production staff were able to weave them into the episodes so seamlessly that only someone intimately familiar with the broadcast versions could spot the additions. If you’re interested in the details, I’d recommend a visit to this excellent Japanese blog page, which has screencaps of just about every new and altered scene. I should also add that the changes are not nearly on the same scale as that of Peter Jackson’s Extended Edition LotR DVDs, so don’t let your expectations run wild. We’re only talking extra scenes (and very short ones at that), not extra episodes.
Here’s an example using a translated excerpt from the first novel. WARNING: Possible spoilers ahead; scroll down to the next section (after the “spoilers end here” notice) if you’d like to avoid them. The part that wasn’t used in the broadcast version but was added to the DVD version is set in italics; everything else was used in some form in the broadcast version. This is the cafeteria scene where Taniguchi entertains Kyon and Kunikida with stories of Haruhi as a junior high school student.
“You know that one tool where you use plaster dust to draw field lines, right? What’s it called… Anyway, she sneaked into school at night and, with that thing, drew a huge huge symbol in the middle of the field.”
Taniguchi had a mischievous smile on his face— he was probably remembering the incident.
“That was so shocking. I went to school early that morning, and all I saw were big circles and triangles. I couldn’t figure out what they were supposed to be, so I went up to the fourth floor to get a bird’s eye view. That didn’t help— I still didn’t know what that symbol was.”
“Ah, I think I saw that before. Didn’t the newspaper have a story on it? It even had a helicopter view of it! The symbol looked like a broken Nazca pictogram,” Kunikida said.
I don’t remember hearing about that before.
“I saw the article, I saw it. The headline was something like ‘Mystery Vandal Strikes Junior High At Night,’ right? Well, care to guess who pulled that stunt?”
“Don’t tell me it’s her.”
“She admitted it herself. There’s no mistaking it. Naturally, she got called into the principal’s office. Every teacher was there, questioning her on why she did it.”
I can think of an even better example where a substantial amount of text from the original novel that had been left out of the broadcast version was animated for the DVD; namely, a completely new scene where Kyon ponders over the requirements for forming a new school association. (This part was inserted right after the scene in the darkened stairway where Haruhi forces Kyon to help her form a club.) I won’t quote it here – I really don’t want to test the boundaries of fair use – but you can find the scene in Chapter 2 of the first book.
Spoilers end here.
SPECIAL EDITION EXTRAS
Those lucky souls with plenty of idle cash who could afford the special edition DVD – or who, like me, do NOT have plenty of idle cash but are willing to beggar themselves in the process – can look forward to receiving a number of extra items exclusive to the high-end version (apart from the flashy artbox, of course). Leading the pack is an audio CD with the following tracks:
The CD insert contains the lyrics for both songs in romanised Japanese (accompanied by English translations).
Now, do you remember the plain white carton wedged underneath the DVD case? Open it up and tip out the contents.
There’s a wearable reproduction of Suzumiya Haruhi’s trademark yellow-orange ribbon, a small shitajiki (more on this below) and an iron-on HaruhiISM logo.
The shitajiki features two colour illustrations (one on either side), both of which have been previously published elsewhere. Truth be told, I’m a little disappointed – not with the fact that the images aren’t unique to the DVD release but with the shitajiki itself. As far as production quality goes it just doesn’t seem on par with the ones I’m used to getting from Japanese magazines. Even so, it’s a nice extra item and a welcome addition to my trove of SHnY collectibles.
So, was it all worth the cost?
I’m quite sure that it was. In fact, I’m pleased to say that my expectations were exceeded – and believe me, I had some very high expectations for this product. The extra items are a great plus factor, but for me the star of the show is the DVD itself with its re-rendered footage, additional scenes and tons of special features. As much as I admire the a.f.k. fansubs (which I intend to archive on CD-Rs since they’re just too good to dispose of permanently), seeing the people and the stories I’ve come to know and love on a big-screen TV in sharp, vibrant, professional-quality colour and stereo sound truly makes for a wonderful experience. Then there’s the legacy side of things. Pressed CDs/DVDs rate far better for long-term storage than self-burned discs, which means that if the DVD is properly cared for I can look forward to enjoying this series for years to come.
Of course, if you’re in it “just for the show” then the regular edition DVDs are probably a better choice. But the price difference on Amazon is pretty small (US$18 last time I checked); with that kind of margin I’d happily pay extra to get the high-end versions.
So, to round off this unusually lengthy post: although it wasn’t a perfect launch, Kadokawa/Bandai have done a marvellous job with the first special edition volume. Let’s hope they can keep up the good work – or, better yet, improve on their initial success – as the rest of the series is released.
Final verdict on Volume 1: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
UPDATE (08 July 2007): The review for Volume 2 has just been published. Click here.