For starters, sorry the episode image is not the image most people want when discussing this series (you know, the ones where Haruhi and Mikuru are dressed in bunny-girl outfits). While that image is more iconic for the show, this one actually brings up a topic that’s more pressing, both for the episode and the show as a whole.
The show has not aged the best in the decade since it’s release. While not really cringe-worthy for the most part and still looking fantastic (for as much as my feelings on KyoAni are mixed, I cannot deny their excellence at creating good-looking shows), there is one aspect that has only gotten worse as time marches on: Haruhi’s treatment of Mikuru. Granted, this started in episode 1 (where Haruhi explains why she forced Mikuru to join by saying that it’s because of her breasts while groping her breasts in front of Kyon (nothing but the classiest caliber of entertainment here)), this episode is where every viewer should start feeling uncomfortable with this. In no uncertain terms, throughout the series, Haruhi will continue to sexually harass Mikuru, including actions which I’m pretty sure count as actual molestation, and it will be played as a joke. This is not helped by the fact that Mikuru’s character is meek, quiet, and submissive, so she wouldn’t speak up against it even if she wanted to, making this even more frustrating. And Kyon, OUR PROTAGONIST, will only stop her at a certain point because he’s, um, “enjoying the view.” The end result is basically a near-never-ending, unfunny harassment joke (again, if not an outright rape joke).
I bring this up because this episode is anchored around three events, two of which involve the sexual humiliation of Mikuru. The first, which is partially where the image above comes from, is when Haruhi decides she her club needs a computer and extorts the computer club out of their newest one. Her method: grab the club president’s hand, make it grab Mikuru’s chest, take a picture, toss him on top of her, take another picture, and tell him that she’ll release pictures of him going after Mikuru is he doesn’t comply. And when the rest of the computer club speaks up against it, she says she’ll say, in no uncertain terms, that they ganged up and gang-raped Mikuru. Again, this is played for laughs. It gets the club a new computer, but it’s through such an awful method. I should point out that, although it’s played for laughs, this is one of the few times where Kyon’s commentary during Haruhi’s actions is negligible, only popping in for her comments that are not involved with this action. This is one of the few times in the whole series that we see him kind of dumbstruck and silenced at her, at times, awful actions. And it’s all for an unfunny joke.
The second event in the episode is the bunny-girl outfit incident I alluded to earlier. Haruhi buys two bunny-girl outfits, one for her and one for and UNWILLING Mikuru. The two wear them and hand out fliers at the front gate until the staff, wisely, stops them. While not as overtly bad as the earlier extortion event, it is still clear that Haruhi is still harassing her into doing this (and possibly doing other things while the two of them are changing. Again, she could theoretically be doing actual molestation for all we know). This leads to Mikuru asking Kyon if he’ll marry her if she can’t get married in the future (and for that weird, anime-ish cliche, I give an extended groan). I recommend the ANNCast episode where they discuss this series, if for no other reason than Zac expressing interest in there being a lost episode where Haruhi is lowered into a squad car for her treatment of Mikuru. If nothing else, this reminds me that 2016 was so different than today.
The third major event in this episode is Kyon meeting with Nagato at her apartment. It’s set up earlier in the episode with a book she lends him, but it’s this event that closes the episode. The meeting’s purpose is for Nagato to declare that her and Haruhi are not normal and that Nagato, specifically, is an alien. Now, as a disclaimer, I’ve seen this show before, so I know everything that will happen. That said, that is kind of a plot twist that comes out of nowhere……..
Or, at least, it would if not for episode 00. As I mentioned in my write-up for that episode, it’s purpose is to set up events and character dynamics that will occur in the series proper. Without it, the only set-up for this is Haruhi’s declaration back in episode 1, which would be flimsy, at best. While I’ll go more into it later, what makes this adaptation work is framing, including how this first season was constructed as compared to the light novels it’s adapting.
Overall, this episode is an improvement from episode 1, but that’s mostly because stuff finally happened this episode. However, that 90% of the episode is centered around Haruhi sexually humiliating Mikuru will be difficult for many viewers to watch, especially in the age that I’m writing this. Still, if you can stomach that, then this is a pleasant little story with a weird ending.
FINAL GRADE: B+