So, did you ever think that the wildly popular anime The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya would be better as a by-the-numbers cutesy romance? Then The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan was tailor made for you.

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan takes place in a reality similar to that of the Haruhi feature film The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya—i.e., a reality where Haruhi isn’t quite literally the center of the universe. In this world, everyone is normal—no one is a time traveler, a slider, an alien, or a psychic.

[Image: Statelight | Tokyo MX]

Instead of following the wacky adventures/romance of the eccentric Haruhi and her straight-man Kyon, this time the story focuses on Nagato Yuki: a shy girl who, despite being the president (and sole member) of the Literature Club, does nothing but play video games.

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Upon learning the club will be disbanded without new members, she recruits this universe’s version of Kyon—and soon finds the club invaded by Haruhi even though she doesn’t even go to Yuki’s school. As the club continues to grow, its members find themselves going on adventures of the “normal life” variety; and Yuki struggles to confess her love for Kyon—even as Haruhi starts to fall for him herself.

[Image: Statelight | Tokyo MX]

For the most part, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan is yet another school life/slice-of-life anime centering largely on “cute girls doing cute things” as its main appeal. The first half focuses on the club as it engages in various activities—studying for tests, a Christmas party, a club vacation—and the growing attraction between Yuki and Kyon.

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Up until the midway point, this anime really lives or dies on if you have seen The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or not. If you have, it’s always interesting to see the characters you know and love in new situations with different histories and/or personalities. Deciphering what is different and what’s the same—and why—adds a whole extra meta-level of enjoyment to the show.

Of course, if you have never seen The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, there is much less in this anime to grab you. It is nothing you haven’t seen before in a million different anime—and done better in many of them. It’s just a cliché school-life romance between a shy girl and an oblivious guy. The show doesn’t really progress beyond this until it hits the titular event: “The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan.”

[Image: Statelight | Tokyo MX]

*Spoilers Begin*

After an accident, Yuki has a complete personality shift—basically being given the quiet, anti-social personality she has in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. She remembers her life up until this point, but it seems like the memories belong to someone else. And while she tries to live as the old Yuki would have, her closest friends soon figure out what has happened.

With this comes the anime’s grand quandary: how to treat the new Yuki. The new Yuki is a vastly different person, but not a bad one. She has different interests and preferences but, at the same time, still values her friends—and comes to love Kyon as the old Yuki did, but for her own reasons.

[Image: Statelight | Tokyo MX]

From the start, Kyon and the others know that the new Yuki’s time is limited—doctors say she should be back to her old self eventually as her mind sorts everything out. This basically puts the new Yuki in a role similar to that of a person with a terminal illness. And worse than that, the rest of the cast has mixed feelings as they know that the “death” of the new Yuki will also be the return of their friend. So, even as they befriend and try to do right by the new Yuki, there is always some hope within them that her “death” will come soon.

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Kyon faces the grand romantic tragedy of all this as he falls for the new Yuki and then is forced to try to move on and have a normal friendship with the returned original Yuki—who is basically both old friend and a girl sharing the face of the one he loved. And best of all, while there are no easy answers, there is an ending resolution that is equal parts heartwarming and comical.

*Spoilers End*

[Image: Statelight | Tokyo MX]

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan really feels like two stories. The first is a cliché slice-of-life school romance best enjoyed by fans of the The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Then the second story uses a slightly fantastical element to show a tragic romance. Altogether, it makes for an uneven anime, but one that ends on a high note with some well-built romantic drama.

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The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan aired on Tokyo MX in Japan. It can be watched for free and with English subtitles on Funimation and Hulu.

Top Image: Statelight | Tokyo MX

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