Endless Eight continues forever

Alright guys, I know you’re probably sick to death of Endless Eight, and have put that glorious chapter of your life behind you. However, right as Endless Eight ended, C76 began, I had to go home, and then I had to move up to Boston for school. It’s been busy, and I never got a chance to properly note down my final thoughts on what is perhaps the most creative and frustrating stunt pulled by any TV show in a long while.

I wrote about this a while ago (while making reference to 2ch rumors that were quickly debunked) and my feelings haven’t really changed. It was brilliant, but frustrating as all hell. However, one thing I didn’t really touch upon was the degree of artistic merit Endless Eight holds as an artistic experiment. SDS put forward one angle to which this madness could be approached a while ago, but rather than it being an experiment around not changing your story for a long period of time, I see it as an experiment in interpretation. That is, many different teams’ interpretations of the same story. I couldn’t tell you how many animation teams worked on Endless Eight. I do appreciate a.f.k. subtitling the credits, but I was far too lazy to read them. Judging by the many different artistic and directorial styles across the episodes, I’m willing to bet it was something like four or five different teams working on different episodes. Someone, please correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve never taken an animation class, and I don’t have superpowers like other people. I’m just guessing as to how to this stuff works!

Anyway, in my eyes, Endless Eight was an experiment to see how different groups of people interpreted the same story. What approach would they take to the story? The straightforward, somewhat generic approach? The trippy, weird, and strange approach? The utterly hopeless approach? One thing I loved about Endless Eight was how while each episode was scripted more or less exactly the same, each episode carried its own distinct tone, and how these episodes were ordered one after another provided great buildup to the ending. Could this story arc (if you can really call it that) have been shorter? Sure. I would have liked it if they cut out all the lesser episodes and just kept both the trippy ones and the hopelessly depressing ones. I think 8 episodes was going overboard. But, you know? I have to hand it to KyoAni. For a studio which is held in such high regard across the otaku community, them doing such a thing was ballsy as hell. I applaud them for their bravery. It’s the stupid kind of bravery, but I enjoy wacky artistic experiments, so I have very few sour feelings towards Endless Eight. I mean, I did watch it two times over.

The best part of this whole thing? All of Mikuru’s different outfits and swimsuits.

But that’s not all! This entry is not over! While I’m already at it, I figure I’ll put together a guide of the Endless Eight episodes I feel are worth watching, and the ones you can skip without missing any neat direction or nice animation.

First Cycle: What’s notable about the first go-around of Endless Eight is that there’s no big reveal. The episode progresses like a normal slice of life episode, and the only thing that strikes you as odd is the episode title. While the episode isn’t extremely notable for its direction or animation, I feel it opens up the arc well.

Second Cycle: This is the episode where the issue of the time loop is revealed for the first time. I liked this episode because of the constant overdone lighting, and the characters’ almost ridiculous (but hip as fuck) outfits. I don’t remember any real striking storyboarding or direction beyond the overdone lighting, but I think this one is worth watching.

Third Cycle: The only thing I can come up for with this one is that it was pretty generic, and the animation didn’t strike me as particularly stunning. You can skip it.

Forth Cycle: Idiots often say that the new Haruhi episodes look too much like K-ON!, as if that’s a bad thing. Well, those people probably wouldn’t like this episode, because it’s the most K-ON!-looking of them all. That said, the only real notable part about this episode is that it had some great (albeit red-herring) imagery of clouds and paper airplanes. Those little touches do well to give the episode a slight hint of melancholy, but aside from that, I feel this episode is somewhat skipable. I do like that cloud imagery, though.

Fifth Cycle: I really liked this one. The animation was very well rendered, and the direction was wonderfully strange. Certainly one of the better approaches to the material. The best part was how they do the last scene, with the “camera” moving around in a circle to the ticking of Kyon’s clock. I say watch it.

Sixth Cycle: This one had some weird cutting here and there, but it’s more or less generic and not that interesting. I think you can skip it.

Seventh Cycle: I liked this one so much I wrote an entire blog entry about it. In this episode everyone involved in this whole thing–both the characters and the staff–are going nuts. The direction is crazy, while at the same time depressing as all hell. Watch it.

Eight Cycle: The end. The animation is very well done, but the severe lighting effects seem a bit toned down. The direction is pretty solid. I mean, it’s the end, so you kind of need to watch it.

So, according to me, all you’re missing with Endless Eight is (maybe) three episodes. Clearly I’m too much of a stupid otaku.

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9 Responses to Endless Eight continues forever

  1. says:

    Commercial TV productions are inherently devoid of artistic integrity. Nice effort though.

    Haruhi (and possibly future KyoAni series) looking more like K-ON is a good thing though, as the animation in that show was more dynamic and organic than anything else by the studio.

  2. serial says:

    I think I agree on how memorable which episodes are. We talked about this a while ago, but I couldn’t remember the order of the episodes… Which is, I think, one of the weaknesses of Endless Eight: In the end, as a body of work, all the episodes together become “generic”. You need to look at them separately, each, to get some good stuff out of them.

    Episode 2 is the one in which Kyon starts the episode without his shirt, right? The outfits were crazy, man…

    The fifth and the seventh are definitely my favorites, too.

  3. wah says:

    While I will not disagree that all anime projects are started due some commercial interest, I think the creative teams involved in making the actual shows do have creative aspirations sometimes. I mean, just look at SHAFT.

    Well, it’s no surprise that the episodes begin to run together :V

  4. mt-i says:

    >The best part of this whole thing? All of Mikuru’s different outfits and swimsuits.

    Must be why I lost interest halfway through (aside from the fact that 4 was enough for the pomo stunt to get apparent and then old).

  5. Omi says:

    I have to say, I really like the “guide” you put together for Endless Eight. I was recently having a discussion with an acquaintance of mine about the “second season” (or whatever KyoAni is calling it) of Haruhi, and how he dropped it after a few episodes of EE. Since he was complaining of its length, I tried to find the best episodes for him to watch, so as to shorten the over-all viewing time, but found it hard to do, considering that each episode has too much merit to be left out, and that the overly-dramatic finale doesn’t make sense or carry the same impact as it does without suffering through the preceding 7 episodes. Maybe pointing him in the direction of this blog will allow him to get some ideas of which episodes he wants to watch…

    …then again, some people just don’t understand art.

  6. wah says:

    I think the end works if you only watch two or three episodes before hand.

  7. dm says:

    I don’t know. Someone with a bit more creativity and originality could have done a great deal more with the concept of “eight takes on the same story” and produced eight completely different ways to tell the same story. This was a basically mediocre approach to that concept — none of the eight experiments wandered very far from the Kyoani standard, which undercuts the whole experiment.

    This same experiment in the hands of Anno, Shinbou, or Production IG would have been a stunning tour de force.

    I think I’ll stick with my original theory that Kyoani’s approach to Endless Eight is really just a commentary on the animator’s plight, faced with one Key adaptation after another. The costumes change, but the story remains the same.

  8. wah says:

    I don’t think I ever said the experiment was a success. I think some of the better episodes are little successes in their own, but all together it’s not so hot. Read my other entry for more in the way of critical impressions.

  9. moritheil says:

    I was so amused that I made a song about it.

    Tomino talked about the formulaic, the “safe bet,” and how it’s eroding the quality of anime. I wonder if he would have approved of this as stupid bravery, though it doesn’t really seem to have gone all the way. Dm already said it above:

    “This same experiment in the hands of Anno, Shinbou, or Production IG would have been a stunning tour de force.”