The final episode of “The Sigh” – respectively the last new episode of the 2009 rerun of “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” – happens to be the best one of that “new season” of sorts, finely crafted and well directed with lots of nice animation work and a good script by Tatsuya Ishihara (director of Clannad, Air, Kanon and Haruhi) himself. I have to admit that I wasn’t fully satisfied with most new episodes, not only due to the “Endless Eight” arc, but I rarely had the feeling that they gave everything they got like in the original Haruhi or their other major works. Not that “season 2” was much worse in terms of quality and animation, but especially during “Endless Eight” I felt some kind of inappetency in their work in comparison with their other anime which clearly show that they had fun in making them as you can see the carefulness and attention to details everywhere. The episodes after “Endless Eight” were better, especially #23 and #24 are on par with most of the first season.
Episode #24 has the quirkiness and imaginativeness that I love about most of their works, the writing is well thought out with Kyon’s usual funny commentary and the animation does well in making the characters and their traits believable. Take for example the last conversation in that episode between Kyon and Haruhi where he sort of “plays” with Haruhi by telling her that Itsuki is an esper, Mikuru a time-traveler and Yuki an alien. You can tell by Haruhi’s body language and facial expressions how her anger is building up to the point where see flies into rage and leaves the table.
This episode is directed by Taichi Ishidate [石立太一], a truly talented Kyoani staff member. Like most other directors he started out as animator and did key animation for many projects, beginning with Kiddy Grade, Inuyasha and Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu. He is a skilled effect animator so he did a lot of work on such scenes, especially his combat scene in FMP: The Second Raid #12 is worth a watch. He uses digital/computer effects quite extensively in many of his scenes to intensify the hand-drawn (effect) animation, his animation and episodes of the original TMoHS are also a good example for his style. Ishidate directed and created the storyboard for episodes #7 and #10 plus he animated some parts in both single-handedly, to be exact the fight against the giant bug in #10 and following outstanding scene with great effect work in #7:
More recent work includes his episodes of K-ON! (#4 and #9) and he animated the wonderful pre-opening part of the first episode which is very lovely in the way the animation expresses Yui’s character, I uploaded it on youtube by way of illustration:
His approach on framing is not only visible in the episodes he directs, but also in the way he creates the layouts for his key animation. He tends to move the characters a lot over the screen and does well in conveying the depth of space by altering the distance to the “camera”.
But to come back to Haruhi 2009 #24: his background as skilled effect animator shows also in the way he directs his episodes as they are skillfully processed and full of interesting animation, which make for a visually rich experience. He’s very successful in establishing different moods in a single episode and likes to use inventive compositions, here some screenshots of Haruhi #24 for visualization:
Now and then he does key animation for the episodes he directs, though this time he left that to other animators like Nao Naitou (even credited on second position in the key animation credits) who is one of Kyoani’s most talented up-and-coming animators and frequently working on episodes directed by Ishidate or Touko Takao. There are also some other Kyoani talents like Shouko Ikeda (character designer of Haruhi) and some relatively new key animators in the credits, here’s the full staff list of this episode:
Screenplay: Tatsuya Ishihara
Episode Director/Storyboard: Taichi Ishidate
Animation Director: Saiichi Akitake
Assistant Animation Director: Futoshi Nishiya
Key Animation: Fumie Okano, Nao Naitou, Emiko Nakano, Masatoshi Tsuji, Nobuaki Maruki, Rika Oota, Shouko Ikeda, Yoshiaki Urata, Natsumi Tada, Yukako Nakagawa, Taichi Ogawa