I was originally going to write this post a couple of months from now (for a reason I’ll explain later) but with the recent news that the Haruhi manga series will be ending on its next chapter, I decided that now would be just as good a time…
For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of the Haruhi Suzumiya series and it’s been my favorite anime and light novel for over six years now. It’s one of the only series I liked enough to blog episodically, I wrote a very praising “Remembering Love” post about it, I spent weeks participating in a fan translation project for novels 10 and 11 when they first came out, I flew to San Francisco just to see the US premiere of the movie, and I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on Haruhi merchandise over the years. Even though it’s been a long time since the series became wildly popular in 2006 with its first anime adaptation, there were still many good years after that to be a Haruhi fan, even up until just a few years ago with the much anticipated movie release in 2010 and novels 10 and 11 in 2011. But 2012 and 2013 have been really empty for the franchise…and the outlook for future anime or even novel releases is looking rather dismal.
As for why the future of Haruhi seems bleak, first off is one of the big questions that tends to come up whenever there’s been discussion about it since the movie came out: “When are they gonna make a third anime season?” Though technically the rebroadcast in 2009 wasn’t an official second season, what people basically mean when they ask this question is when Kyoto Animation is gonna make a new Haruhi anime series to continue adapting the novels past Disappearance, novel 4, which has since been the last Haruhi anime material we’ve seen. The answer to that is one of the first strikes against a good future outlook for the Haruhi series, especially on the anime side of it.
As we know, Kyoto Animation provided the animation for the Haruhi episodes and movie, and it’s arguably the anime that hoisted them into popularity back when it came out in 2006. But just why haven’t they made any new Haruhi anime in the 3+ years it’s been since the Disappearance movie? There’s plenty of novel stories left to adapt – the TV series and movie have only covered novels 1-4 and some of 5 and 6 – so it’s not like they don’t have enough material for another anime season or two. And I’m sure they know that the series still has a big fan following and anything with “Haruhi Suzumiya” in its name is sure to make money…so why no new Haruhi anime, KyoAni? The answer to that has to do with how KyoAni has changed as a company in recent years. When Free! was first announced, my friend and fellow blogger ultimatemegax wrote a great post detailing this change in Kyoto Animation since they made their first anime, Full Metal Panic! in 2002, up until their announcement of Free! in 2013.
To summarize, this big change came when KyoAni decided to hold a contest in 2009 for novel, manga, and other scenarios to be published by them, eventually leading to their anime release of one of those stories, Chuunibyou, which they held both the publishing and animation production rights to. This meant a bigger eventual revenue for them as opposed to their previous works in collaboration with other companies like Kadokawa (Haruhi, Lucky Star, Nichijou, and Hyouka) and TBS (the Key series and K-ON), who took a much bigger portion of the profit from these titles. This trend continued with their next new series, Tamako Market, with KyoAni owning a bigger portion of the rights and thus gaining more profit despite Tamako Market not being all that successful. Now we have Free!, with KyoAni being the main rights holder and original creator, which again means they earn a lot more revenue than if they were to make an anime for a title already owned by another company. And now their next new anime series is going to be Kyoukai no Kanata, based on a light novel from their own publishing arm, KA Esuma Bunko. So it’s not hard to see the trend here of KyoAni making anime strictly for their own IPs and thus earning more overall profit for themselves than they did producing anime series for other companies’ titles. Since they’re earning more money this way, why go back to their pre-Chuunibyou titles like Haruhi and earn less profit? This is all good news for Kyoto Animation and their successful growth as an independent anime company over the years, but bad news for their fans craving more Haruhi anime from them.
Alright, so what if Kyoto Animation isn’t interested in Haruhi anymore? Why doesn’t another animation studio make more Haruhi anime then? It’s sure to be a hit after all. Well, that leads to the second strike against a good future outlook for the Haruhi series – the original creator/author himself, Nagaru Tanigawa.
When Tanigawa first started writing the Haruhi novels and publisher Kadokawa started releasing them in 2003, for a good three years they were released at a consistent rate of two novels a year. But things started to change after that when there was only one new novel in 2006 and one in 2007…and then novel 10, which was originally scheduled for a 2007 release too, got delayed indefinitely. So 2008 and 2009 went by, and still no new novel in those two years. Then in 2010 we get the first chapter of novel 10, but not the complete volume until mid-2011 (along with novel 11 in a double-release), four years later than originally scheduled! Tanigawa apologized for the delay but couldn’t offer any reason for it other than lack of motivation. So it seemed like maybe now he was inspired to get back into writing the series again after putting out a double release after such a long time…but once again, here we are over two years since then and still no word about novel 12 other than the fact that it’s being worked on (supposedly). And due to all the delays, the Haruhi manga series that had been following the novels pretty closely (except for having the occasional filler story) for the past eight years finally caught up with the novels, so rather than have its own version of how the story continues, it was decided to simply end the manga series. So pretty much the only reason Kadokawa would have for trying to get a new Haruhi anime made at this point, whether by KyoAni or anyone else, would be to promote new Haruhi novels they’re publishing, but with Tanigawa being so slow and inconsistent with his writing in recent years, they have little incentive to focus on Haruhi now as opposed to their other currently popular series that have more consistency.
With its animation studio, KyoAni, its publisher, Kadokawa, and even its original creator, Nagaru Tanigawa, lacking interest in the franchise for the past couple of years, the future of my favorite series is not looking favorable. The reason I was originally going to write this post in November is because that’s when novels 10-11 are going to have their official English release, meaning the English releases have finally caught up with the Japanese releases and thus it may be the last new Haruhi release I’d have to look forward to for who knows how long. But now that the manga series is going to end, I figured that was a better sign for the “beginning of the end.”
But it’s not my nature to be overly pessimistic even though the odds of Haruhi regaining its former glory are clearly stacked against it. I’ve come up with a few possible scenarios I think could play out for Haruhi in the coming years:
Best Possible Scenario:
- Tanigawa gets novel 12 released, and then subsequent novels needed to complete the series without having any extreme delays like he did with novels 10-11. Unless he gets a new spark of inspiration to write the way he used to, he should probably try and finish the series before too long. I think 15-16 novels should be enough to wrap up the story’s subplots, character development, etc., without seeming rushed, assuming he starts heading towards a conclusion in novel 12.
- For whatever reason, KyoAni decides to start making Haruhi anime again (even if it’s just to please the fans, maximum profit notwithstanding) and animates all the rest of the novel stories, starting either before or after the final novel is published.
- The manga resumes once the novels are completed and continues adapting them until the end.
- Tanigawa gets novel 12 released, and then subsequent novels needed to complete the series, maybe with more delays than we’d like but he eventually gets it done and ends the series a bit rushed but somewhat satisfyingly, perhaps at novel 14 or later.
- Another respectable anime studio animates all the rest of the novel stories, starting either before or after the final novel is published, and do a decent job even if they’re not on the same level of quality as KyoAni.
- The manga resumes once the novels are completed and continues adapting them until the end.
Worst Possible Scenario:
- Tanigawa continues to have long delays with novel 12 and subsequent novels, decides to abruptly end the series earlier than he should have (volume 13 maybe?) and thus it feels rushed with too many loose ends, or worse, he just plain loses all motivation to continue the series and it never gets finished.
- Either no new anime studio decides to adapt the rest of the novels, or the one that does doesn’t do a good job of it.
- The manga does or doesn’t resume.
My “Best Possible Scenario” is the least likely, especially the part about KyoAni animating the rest of the series. But at least the “Okay Scenario” is likely…though the “Worst” one may be just as likely =/ But I won’t say that all hope is lost for Haruhi just yet. Tanigawa did write a short story for the Haruhi Hyakka artbook that came out just a few months ago, and even though it was just a short filler story, at least it shows he still has the series in mind. Even if there are some delays, hopefully he will finish writing the novels and give them a proper, satisfying ending before too long. At this point we’re more likely to see a new Haruhi anime once the novels are done, and if that’s the case and it’s not KyoAni, hopefully another anime studio will do good by it.
Lack of new material, waiting in vain, and continued delays and inconsistency are what make fans turn away from something and find a new favorite. So far that hasn’t happened with me and Haruhi yet, though the last two years have been testing my loyalty as a fan. The series is still currently my favorite despite all this, and that little optimist inside of me still wants to believe Haruhi will eventually get the satisfying novel ending and concluding anime adaptation it deserves.