I originally posted this on my old Wordpress blog; I’m plagiarizing myself here because I think the tone and style of this essay is a good summary of what I want this blog to look like overall. Fresh content to follow, one hopes.
It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever seen, and they probably could have done better by their fans than eating up over half of the long-awaited second season with a weird groundhog day gimmick.
But, such as it was, I liked it – all eight episodes, watched in two sittings of four episodes each.
A (relatively) prestigious, hugely-marketable animation company doesn’t make an eight-episode plot arc out of one episode’s worth of plot just to troll. Watching Endless Eight from the perspective of “why the hell would they do this?” was the key part in enjoying it for me.
Endless Eight was first a moe slice-of-life show’s indictment of the entire moe slice-of-life genre, and second a defense of that genre. Most people seem to think three episodes was the most they should have done, and that they wouldn’t have minded the plot recycling if it had only lasted that long – which is true, from a standpoint of anime being purely an entertainment medium. It could have accomplished a fun storyin just three episodes but, and I know this sounds like an absurd cop-out, but those next five episodes are what make itart, and where Endless Eight has something to say.
Around episode 5 I realized something: watching Endless Eight didn’t feel any different from watching other anime serially. It didn’t impart the feeling of watching one episode over and over again, even though on a conscious level I knew it was. I think this was on purpose – KyoAni made a conscious effort to get across the natural slice-of-life feeling throughout. The slight variations in events and responses.
To explain better, essentially every moe slice-of-life show is essentially just an application of various occurrences and events to a set of essentially fixed character archetypes. X event happens, Y character reacts in the way the audience expects them to. Mikuru can trip over her own feet a million times at a thousand different locations in a thousand different absurd outfits, and every time Kyon is going to make a shocked face and narrate how adorable he thinks she is to the audience. Just how much difference is there between near-identical punch lines to superficially-distinct setups and near-identical punch lines to explicitly-identical setups?
That was, I think, the message Endless Eight actually got across – it made the implicit repetitiveness of moe shows such as itself explicit, for a period long enough that viewers would have to take notice.
Kyon’s pun, early in each episode, is I think one of the places where the scope of their thesis is most evident: “shimin puuru yori shoumin puuru”/”public pool, more like a pool for the masses”. This sort of jaded commentary, which pervades the entire show, is intended to set Kyon apart as a clever, realistic character; and yet, fed the same variables, he produces the same punch line every time without fail. His jaded realism, like the jaded realism of your average person in real life, only strikes us as indicative of intelligence because it’s acquired that connotation, when in practice it’s just the shape of another archetype.
The second point which I think made this clear was just howrepetitive it was. In Yuki’s bi-weekly briefing, she mentions the sheer number of variations on the week that have occurred – they went twice to the Bon festival more times than they went once, and had six different part time jobs over the 15,532 iterations. But across all eight instances we see, hardly any of these variations appear.
Why? They animated each episode completely separately anyway, so the repetition saved them no time or money. Any changes to the plot that big would have offered tired fans some respite from their irritation. The only possible reason to stay so perfectly true-to-form is that whatever they were trying to get across depended acutely on this repetition.