Chrono-logical: The Art of Order

by krizzlybear

I met a girl named Erika at a club one night. She had curly cherry hair, and wore a pair of leather thigh-high boots that rode her legs in a way that I couldn’t help but notice as we stood next each other as we ordered drinks for each other. It was something that I had told her over breakfast the morning after she had spent the night. I didn’t bother mentioning it when I asked her back to my apartment, but she knew what she was getting into and how she managed to do it.

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. In the most elementary sense, this particular advice given to writers is meant for the purpose of providing structure, teaching them how to keep track of their creations as they are being created, maintaining a sense of pacing and awareness of the important events that further drive the created story. Traditionally, this entails that the story is most easily written and/or presented in chronological order. While this may be true in most cases, there is a point to be made for presenting things out of order.

Those particular stories, such as the one that I used as a prologue to this post (completely fictional by the way; I’m not a fan of thigh-high boots), are placed out of order instead, with a specific goal of controlling the information that is revealed to the audience. This style of storytelling is done to create different effects, whether to maximize the weight of the story at the end of the duration of which it is told, or to frame a broad picture that is presented to the audience via narrative. The possibilities are endless, which makes this technique useful and effective if executed properly.

One recent example of this in anime is the 2012 Summer series, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, also known as Humanity has fallen. The series itself, rife with commentary that admittedly is beyond my own comprehension, is shown out of order. Overall, the critical reaction to this choice seems to be positive, as the ordering frames the main character, Watashi, in an interesting light throughout the series, ending on a highly satisfying emotional climax. Had the episodes aired in chronological order, the gusto would have been lost.

This leads to a problem with anachronology of serial works. When the series runs longer than the creator originally intends, the addition of extra, unplanned content (relative to the rest of the series) often feels out of place; by adding more events chronologically in order, the effect of anachronology unravels and the effect is lessened. This is especially so in adaptations of those works, where only the adaptation is out of order, and the source material is normal. How would one approach the addition of new content to an existing series?

Tokyo MX, amongst other Japanese television stations, seeked to address this issue with the new season of Haruhi Suzumiya by rebroadcasting both seasons together in chronological order, rather than showcasing the new episodes by themselves. This was an interesting decision, considering that the new content did not show up until episode 8, and a barely a month after, Endless Eight aired in its entirety.

Reaction (positive and negative alike) to the new episodes aside, the order in which those episodes were shown nonetheless had an effect on the perception of the new material; as the final month of the broadcast contained only season 1 episodes, the novelty of the second season had long wore off, along with fan expectations that the events of Disappearance would be adapted into the second season.
The emotional pull of the first season, as a result of its anachronistic presentation, was lost in rebroadcast, and by extension, some fan support as well. More consideration should have been put into recreating that same emotional response via anachronism while simultaneously integrating the new content.

Thus, let’s play around with what could have been. Firstly, let’s consider the bitmap order, used for the second annual Endless Summer Haruhi livewatch:

The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina / The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya I
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya I / The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya II
The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya II / The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya
Endless Eight / Endless Eight
Endless Eight / Endless Eight
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya III / The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya III
Remote Island Syndrome I / Mystérique Sign
The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya IV / Remote Island Syndrome II
Someday in the Rain / The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya IV
The Day of Saggitarius / The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya V
Endless Eight / Endless Eight
Endless Eight / Endless Eight
Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody / Live Alive
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya V / The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya VI

With two episodes each day for the final two weeks of Summer 2011, schedule was greatly taken into account, shoving Endless Eight to the weekend, giving the arc’s detractors to go elsewhere on Saturdays and Sundays and the arc’s true fans concentrated chaos at the same time. Particularly interesting episode pairings are Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody and Live Alive on the second last day, as they are arguably the most paramount episodes to their respective seasons. The spirit of the first season’s broadcast is kept by keeping the beginning and ending the same, with Mikuru Asahina 00 in front, and ending with the powerful last two episodes of the original Melancholy arc.

Now, let’s go to the order used for 2012’s Endless Summer, which took place within a shorter timespan than 2011:

The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina, The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya I, The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya II, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya I
Endless Eight, Endless Eight, Endless Eight, Endless Eight
Endless Eight, Endless Eight, Endless Eight, Endless Eight
The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya II, Remote Island Syndrome I
Mystérique Sign, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya III, Remote Island Syndrome Part II
The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya Part III, The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya Part IV, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya IV
Someday in the Rain, The Day of Saggitarius, The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya V
Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody, Live Alive, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya V, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya VI

Much of the same here, except that the shorter duration of the event allowed for more episodes to be packed together on certain days, most notably Endless Weekend. The final day of the 2012 order coincides exactly with the final two days of the 2011 order. Due to the scheduling freedom that shoving all of Endless Eight into a single weekend provided, more liberties were taken to slot the rest of the series in a more logically fluid but still apparently randomized order. The climax of the Sigh arc is allowed to move closer to the end of the list as a result, as well.

If there weren’t any scheduling to take into consideration, that is, a specific is order is advised to someone who’s watching the series for the first time, I would probably suggest the following order, grouped into 4’s like a volume of a DVD:

Disc 1: The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00, The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya I, The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya II, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya I
Disc 2: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya II, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya III, The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya, Remote Island Syndrome I
Disc 3: Remote Island Syndrome II, Mystérique Sign, The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya III, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya IV
Disc 4: Endless Eight, Endless Eight, Endless Eight, Endless Eight
Disc 5: Endless Eight, Endless Eight, Endless Eight, Endless Eight
Disc 6: Someday in the Rain, The Day of Saggitarius, The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya IV, The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya V
Disc 7: Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody, Live Alive, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya V, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya VI

People who would want to watch the show in spurts of 1, 2, 4, or 7 episodes at a time would be able to achieve a similar emotional response to that of the first season’s broadcast order. Of particular note, people watching in spurts of 7 would probably end up watching all eight episodes of Endless Eight, followed by a wonderful run of Someday in the Rain all the way to Melancholy VI.
As for the Endless Eight experience, it’s delayed as far as possible, such that those who watch the series for the first time will have experienced as much of the Haruhi series as possible, allowing them to have a more open mind when watching the highly controversial arc. Those who stick around are greatly rewarded for doing so.

The order in which a fictional work is experienced greatly affects the experience of the fictional work itself. Sometimes this type of experience is forged by the creator, and in some cases, the audience does so as well. It comes as no surprise that inquisitive minds would naturally seek to piece such presented events back into chronological order to gain further appreciation of the original story.

As for Erika, I randomly met her again at a cafe some two weeks later. Consider it a twist of fate then, that she gave me her number after an evening of interesting conversation of the events prior.

“Don’t sweat the details, sugar.” she said, as she slid her number across the table, scribbled on our bill. “It’s not about how it happened, it’s about how you feel now, knowing that you can call me again anytime.”

She pecked me on the cheek and walked away. She wore those same thigh-high boots that drove me wild the first time.

About these ads