Think of all the lives saved by plastic knives.

Footage: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Song: "Take It Back" by Barenaked Ladies
From the Album: Barenaked Ladies Are Me
Categories: Drama, Character Profile, Romance

Conventions:
Runner-Up, No Brand Con '08 AMV Contest
TBD, Anime Iowa '08 AMV Contest (Drama)
TBD, Daisho Con '08 AMV Contest

Description

My opinion of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya seems to be a little different from most fans. Yes, it's hilarious. Yes, it has a bunch of fan service and plenty of cute quirks. But I got attached to it because of some deep, lingering philosophies in the series. The futility of Haruhi's take on existence and the notion that someone out there must be above that. One wouldn't watch an episode of Haruhi and consider it as existential as something like Lain, but both series feature a girl pondering their own purpose while unknowingly possessing the ability to destroy everything. Scary how that's overlooked in favor of gratuitous para para dancing.

Although the video doesn't bring up Haruhi's existential quandaries, it was created with that same mentality. That Kyon rather innocently stumbled into his situation and his purpose is to keep this crazy girl satisfied. Kyon's take on the every-boy role in Haruhi's roster of cliches is innovative in a lot of different ways. He's not completely innocent, he's not completely emo, but he is completely trapped. The girl is a god and if she gets bored the world ends.

With enough thought, the intended meaning of the song is likely about the guy saving the relationship from his own villainous imagination. But with the right visual cues it becomes a testament to the futility of Kyon's situation that, towards the end, Haruhi shares. They can't escape their fates and have to learn to enjoy them together... even if that still results in her terrorizing him.

Technically, this video was victimized by all sorts of problems. Several key codecs failed on me, preventing a smooth output that would have gotten it to a respectable-sized avi. As such, the video is not available as a download yet and was sent to conventions in an oversized mpeg container. But it does feature several editing breakthroughs that I was particularly proud of, including a section transforming normal scenes into the "home movie" style of episode one.


Song Lyrics

It's hard enough to notice.
Harder still to react.
Just a stone's throw from the center of our attention,
We all fade to black.

Save me from a villainous imagination.
Deliver me from my friends.
If I said something to make you mad, I will take it back.

It's hard enough to stomach.
But try to look away.
Is this a news report or a trailer for a motion picture?
It all fades to gray.

Save me from a villainous imagination.
Deliver me from my friends.
If I said something to make you mad, I will take it back.

Long lines and warning signs.
Think of all the lives saved by plastic knives.
It's naive, but make believe.
We will never lose if we remove our shoes.

It's hard to keep your mouth shut.
Harder still to make noise.
But we can't have the perfect 20/20 hindsight,
That our fate enjoys.

So save me from a villainous imagination.
Deliver me from my friends.
And if I said something to make you mad, I will take it back.
I will take it back.


Things to Notice

Intro/First Verse - We start out with a page from episode 2 to describe Kyon's life as black and white until he meets Haruhi. Not hard to figure out, but the notes struck coincide with key color overlays of locations integral to the plot in later episodes, starting and ending with exterior shots of the club room, followed by a brief color shot of a road Kyon just passed. I started with the shot of Kyon turning around as the verse began, but that last overlay could suggest that this colorful life is perhaps following him.

- Also of note in the intro- two of the scenes were reversed to keep the left-to-right movement consistent.

- Rather than actually fading to black, which was a tempting option, the montage is from scenes from the first act of episode two showing his fascination with her, culminating in the classroom. I timed the fading to end just after the montage so that last shot actually fades up.

Chorus One - Action/reaction shots are so tricky when music's involved. Getting the shots of Kyon slammed down on the desk right took forever.

- The close-up of Haruhi's smile as the first utterance of "Villainous Imagination" drew a big response at No Brand Con... and is actually from a different episode than the desk-banging incident.

- In the second and third verses, the entire "deliver me from my friends line" is dedicated to the remaining members of the SOS Brigade. Originally, that was the plan with Yuki, but as the lines hadn't been uttered yet, I couldn't see the logic in cutting to Yuki quite yet. Thus, establishing scenes of the club room. Incidentally, all of the cutaways involving Yuki quietly indicate her complacency with Haruhi's antics, often at Kyon's expense.

Verse Two - The lead-in to the second verse is chock-full of examples of timing the in-scene action to the music instead of simply using the rhythm for cut/fade cues.

- Both camera flashes have a frame or two of black video to emphasize the white flash as a transition.

- And thus begins the "torture Mikuru" part of our show. This was obviously the most fun part of the job... especially since most of it used simple cuts.

- After the montage of Mikuru abuse, Kyon's only response is to pull up the naughty pictures on the computer. Like I said, not completely innocent.

Chorus Two - I'm a baseball fan, so I didn't hesitate to throw in some symbolism about Mikuru striking out and Kyon hitting a (very clumsy) homerun.

- The theme this time is Mikuru in four different costumes... and not necessarily hating them. Note that the timing of these scenes cut straight on the quarter-notes, as opposed to Yuki using the piano accents for guidance.

- And the verse ends with Kyon hitting a homer, appeasing the god, and all is well... which lets us add to the complications.

Bridge - I wasn't sure about being so obvious with the "long lines" referring to Haruhi's past revelation, but it's so important to understanding her character. Plus the clip synched up just beautifully.

- The "lives saved by plastic knives" line was jaw-droppingly perfect. I would have liked a shot of Haruhi smiling at the corpse better-tied to that episode, but that was a priceless face. The following shot of the guy waving the fake knife was one of my greatest feats- in the original clip, he was talking. The left half of that scene was a static frame while the right half was in motion.

- Almost as much as the band scene itself, the falling action from that episode, where Haruhi ponders life after her big performance, was one of the key moments in the series for me. Her conversation with Kyon was pretty telling, and were go-to shots at this stage in the video. Kyon's walking also synched up nicely with the rhythm with no real manipulation.

- Up until now, there had been no supernatural phenomenon in the video. Like it was just a story about a boy dealing with an eccentric girl. But that's not the case, and here's where it gets tricky. After a freaky shot tied to Yuki's explanation, several scenes of strange goings-on or Kyon in clear danger are filtered to look like the home movie from episode one (effects added: cropping, decreased color saturation and added "noise"). Followed by a shot of Kyon letting all that sink in.

Verse Three - I was both really looking forward to and really dreading the band scenes and trying to get them to synch up with the sudden reintroduction to the guitar and the brief drum hits.

- I'm a huge fan of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," and was convinced that wasn't mentioned in the series arbitrarily. Thus, when the line's talking about Kyon's fate, and he's at the concert next to Itsuki in costume, I'm flying with it.

Chorus Three/Ending - Now pulling out all the stops, we can get a little more surreal with Haruhi's imagination and Kyon's friends, including the imagery of their ships colliding.

- Itsuki's cutaways, again relating to his tolerance of Haruhi, are also timed to different cues- the guitar riff that wasn't in the first two verses.

- I did not want to show the kiss. It's too easy to focus on and is a bit distracting from the real point. But Kyon's build-up to that, and her initially spurning him, is visually interesting, especially with cutaways showing him being obedient.

- The ending of the song starts with the exact same shot as the one the video opens with, only now it's in color, Kyon is lugging something with purpose... and it's raining.

- Rather than pad out the ending with the same kind of shots that were included, I used Audacity to surgically remove two bars (about fifteen seconds) of the song in advance. Audio manipulation can sometimes be as critical as video manipulation.

- That final shot, where everything seems to be going fine until she yanks the umbrella away, was a surprisingly poignant final moment, especially as I was originally a "broadcast order" advocate. Watching it chronologically changes the focus on a lot of things, particularly with the last episode. The looks of desperation on Kyon's face were both cycled a few times. While I'd normally go with a frame hold (as I did to end my Laputa video), the cycling keeps the rain in motion and Kyon still.