In anime, one of the key questions we should always ask ourselves when viewing adapted works is: does this anime adaptation add value to the experience?
This question brings with itself a whole subset of questions. What can we do with anime? How far can we stray from the original? Can we add in various details, should we leave some out? Is it truly for the better?
I have a vague memory of some CEO or what have you not proclaiming that anime serves as advertisement for the manga it adapts. He is right, a lot of times. It’s difficult for a straightforward adaptation to trump the manga. Why would I watch the advertisement when I can read the original?
It is not quite the same with light novels, for obvious reasons. The advertising prospect comes naturally, but anime is given a chance to shine here. As we all know, the amount of adaptations of light novels have increased over the years. Some very recent ones that spring to mind are Index, Katanagatari, OreImo. These three adaptations display varying ways of portraying a light novel.
The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi is a straightforward adaptation but adds more to the experience. At key moments in the story will the directorial staff indulge in their own creative touches. What struck to me as the more powerful but subtle motive is Kyon’s legs.
Heavy spoilers to commence…
Kyon’s legs are fundamental
There are a few moments where we literally zoom in on the foundation of our main character. At the beginning, when he walks towards the clubroom. During his downfall, when he fails to find class 1-9. During his uplift, when he finds Haruhi. And once again at the ending, when he walks towards the clubroom. There are several more examples but these are probably the important ones. In any case, they all fall synonym to Kyon’s state of mind. None of this emphasis can be found in the novels…
…although they do tell you just how masochistic Kyon really is…
…and they do play a little bit with who’s wearing the pants and who’s wearing the shorts.
Replacing your foundation
The penultimate climax where Kyon’s mirror image aptly restrains his other self with just his feet, hands tucked away. This mirror-Kyon is rather cynical but he’s laughing at the end.
There’s a passage in Haruhi where Koizumi states that Haruhi has an unexpectedly normal mind. What he means is that she believes still in the law of gravity or the sunrise and set, the things we take for granted, which is why both of these keep occurring (don’t cite me on this, I lost the passage).
Kyon is throwing away his mundaneness and chooses for abnormality. He wants to believe in Santa Claus and chooses to do so. He defeats the constrain of his common sense, throws it off his feet and stands magnificently on his own. He comes to term with his own beliefs.
Pray to your god…
…on bare feet.