A decade ago, the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise was the biggest thing around. Not surprisingly, its popularity led to a number of spinoffs getting licensed with today's selection being the most recent. Does it manage to capture some of the original's off-beat charm or is it just a pale copy?
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF NAGATO YUKI-CHAN (Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoshitsu), by Puyo, based on the light novel series by Nagaru Tanigawa and character designs by Noizi Ito. First published in 2009 and first published in North America in 2012.
Yuki Nagato is a painfully shy, insecure high school who spends her days getting boss around by her friend Asakura, hanging out in the literature club room, and pining from afar for her classmate Kyon. She gets her chance to finally confess her feelings when they decide to throw a Christmas party. Will Yuki summon up her courage in time or just die of embarassment yet again?
I have to be completely honest: I've never quite understood what the big deal with Haruhi Suzumiya was. I tried to watch the TV series back in the early days of my anime fandom, but it never quite clicked with me and I gave up after 3 or 4 episodes. I certainly never read the original light novels, nor did I watch the movie adaptation of one of those novels that this particular manga takes inspiration from. As such, I'm judging it more as a stand-alone work than I am as to how well it does or does not work with the rest of the franchise. That's a problem because this manga leans entirely on the reader being familiar with these characters from elsewhere.
There's only a cursory amount of character building here because Puyo presumes that you already know what they're like normally. At most they get a trait or two; others get nothing at all other than 'vague niceness.' The most obvious example of the former is the title character herself. She's meant to be sympathetic with how shy, insecure, and lovesick she is, but it's taken to such extremes that she comes off like a dopey, moe Eeyore. Kyon is a great example of the latter. The snark that defines his character normally is gone, and all the reader is left with is dull, vague kindness. Much like Evangelion, a lot of what defines the cast and story of Haruhi Suzumiya is their eccentricity and the sci-fi hoo-doo around them. Without those qualities, the cast here feels like nothing but pale shadows.
It also means that there's not much of a plot to follow. Most of the volume concerns Yuki and her friends trying to keep their club together and preparing for a Christmas party. It's pure slice-of-life material but it's not the least bit enjoyable because it's delivered in the sleepiest, most sluggish manner possible. It's hard to feel your heartstrings tug when you would get more excitement from watching the clouds roll by on any given day. Again, the only reason anyone would care about this series of non-events is because they were already familiar with the source material or the franchise in general. There's nothing here for people who don't already know it, and without that emotional investment there's nothing left to get out from it.
The artist, Puyo, is a veteran of the franchise. Sadly, that's because he was the mastermind behind the Haruhi-chan manga, the comedy 4-koma spinoff that's mostly remembered for memes about smoked cheese. It certainly shows, as while this is meant to be a serious work the character still retain a lot of the simplified chibi style he used there. He certainly tries to make them emote and to build some cozy atmosphere, but it's all so dull visually that it's hard to care.
I don't think anyone who already wasn't a Haruhi fan would care about The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan. Even if they were attached to these characters or this ship, they would do far better to watch the film that preceded this or even the TV show adapted from it than to bother with this dull snooze of a manga.
This series is published by Yen Press. This series is complete in Japan with 10 volumes available. 9 volumes have been released and are currently in print.