My first real introduction to the Yakuza was someone describing the game as not sexist. Yakuza 0 had recently released in the west to widespread popularity, and all of a sudden a game series that had always been a detail I glanced over in announcement threads had become a college-appartmenthold name. The first and subsequent reccommendations I received for the game were all along the lines of “you have GOT to play Yakuza 0; don’t worry, it’s not sexist.” That’s really weird! While I do unfortunately expect most games to have some latent sexism in them, I would generally go around recommending games with “not sexist” as part of the pitch. Taking one look at Yakuza 0, and it becomes extremely apparent why it’s paired with this tagline. Several years later, I have finally played through both Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami, and I can declare the verdit: it’s not sexist. That doesn’t tell the whole story. Yakuza’s representation of women holds an extremely mixed bag that deserves to be address.
Yakuza 0 at a glance seems extremely sexist. This makes sense as to why the “it’s not sexist” caveat came with every recommendation. The game has you collect cards of scantily clad women, run cabaret clubs, watch women wrestle, I think there’s even an option to watch porn that I never did. To top it off, both Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami feature only two women in their central cast. It seems near impossible for a game this filled with classic scenarios that basically anyone would call pervy. The game decidedly doesn’t end up feeling like porn hub’s front page. I think in a sort of utilitarian way, Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami (hence forth collectively refereed to as Yakuza) end up falling into the category of “not sexist,” but it actually has high highs along with low lows.
Yakuza’s portrayal of sex work is extremely progressive. A disclaimer that I am not a sex worker, so my opinion isn’t as valuable as theirs on this topic. Sex work is everywhere in Yakuza, as you might expect in a series portraying, well, yakuza. A lot of games feature sex work, and most of the time it’s handled somewhere between neutrally and poorly. Yakuza actually manages to portray sex work in a positive light because it humanizes the sex workers. You get to interact with a large amount of sex workers throughout playing Yakuza, and they’re not just objects that men have acquired. These girls are actual characters, they help out the protagonist, have their own desires, and aren’t tied to their job. In Yakuza 0, one side story follows Kiryu helping a dominatrix gain the confidence she needs to perform her job. She sought out being a dominatrix because she wanted to improve her conviction, and she seeks Kiryu for advice on how to do that. Kiryu is happy to help and there’s no promise of sex after, he helps because he’s a good person. The game has a nice mini character arc showing this girl gaining the confidence she needs to navigate life, and it’s viewed through the lens sex work. In Yakuza Kiwami, part of the story has you tasked with finding where your injured patriarch is, and he has been entrusted to the care of a sex worker. The game treats this woman just as any other, she informs you to where your patriarch is, and then you fight some baddies invading the soapland. There’s a lot of characters like this in the game, and it’s refreshing that she’s one of the only ones who’s strictly on your side and helps you out. Throughout the game, you’ll find many examples of the game treating sex work as real work and sex workers as real people, like it should.
Yakuza’s cabarets also give great characterization to the girls who work there. While I won’t be talking about it, there’s also host club, and it’s nice to see both given important characters. Yakuza 0 starts off a bit rocky with showing some girls in a classic objectified scenario, Majima makes it clear that inappropriate conduct with his workers is forbidden and that this behavior is frowned upon. Your first quest as Majima also has you trading girls with another cabaret, but this is subverted when Majima values them as people rather than boiling them down to their looks. The game gives a lot of value to each girl, highlighting how hard they work and their different skill sets. This is shown further in the cabaret club managing sub plot. Yakuza 0 has you interact with cabaret girls and this is really where it shines. If it left it as valuing them for their worth rather than looks, it’d probably not be great, but luckily we get to learn about a lot of the girls who work there. Majima will have mock sessions with some of his workers, and you get to learn about their troubles and help them overcome them. I didn’t get to far into this section of the game, but from what I did play it was clear that these girls were probably more fleshed out characters than most of the main cast.
Yakuza Kiwami also has cabaret girl interactions, and it’s Rina plot is both a highlight of the game, and perhaps the most glaring fault. Rina is a girl a lot of players will meet accidentally when they’re trying to complete the Goromi quest. Drag Majima was no where near the shitshow a lot of cross dressing scenes are, and I’m glad I stumbled upon this character. Upon your first chat with Rina, you find out she’s a lesbian. I love this in general because it’s pretty rare to see gay characters in AAA games at all, let alone in this kind of context. Kiryu keeps requesting Rina every visit (you can’t request anyone else) and they even hang out outside the club. It’s really nice to see Kiryu be so progressive when it comes gay people, with him offering constant encouragement. There’s no prospects of anything other than a fun time talking with her, and talking with her genuinely feels like how my conversations about being gay go. Outside of a bad comment that men shouldn’t be allowed to wear make-up (they are and the ones who do rock it), pretty much all the conversations are great. I wish it could end there, but unfortunately there’s a big finale to this sub-story. In the finale, Rina ends up deciding that the girl she likes isn’t femme enough for her liking, and doesn’t ask her out. She feels like she’ll never be able to find a girl it’ll work out with, so she rather have the best man, Kiryu. Kiryu proceeds to tell her that she’s putting to much stock in butch vs femme and that if she really likes the girl as a person, it might work out better than she expects. This is good advice because while it’s totally fine to have a preference of femme or masc girls, if you like someone beyond that, then it’s worth following your heart. Rina takes the advice to heart, but then things turn for the worse. She decides that she still want a night with Kiryu, and they proceed to a love hotel. Questioning your sexuality and experimenting with a consenting partner you trust is also totally okay, but the game again doesn’t end there. The players are then “treated” to a first-person, live-action, not-sex scene. I think this ruins the finale. Her experimenting was a private affair the players weren’t invited into, and it feels bad that we get to see a lesbian lewd as a “reward” for pursuing her despite her sexuality. Rina then proceeds to proclaim she’s confident she only likes girls and maybe Kiryu should try being gay. There’s plenty of ways to see lewd girls in this game, heck this whole side story is right next to the strip club where you can see almost-naked girls pole dance. This was not the place for tease video, and it turned a very private moment public. Kiryu is not the player; you can only guide what he says between choices he would say, rather than speak directly for him. This was a personal moment between Kiryu and Rina, not the player. Rina’s storyline is still probably my favorite from Yakuza Kiwami, but I wish the developers skipped the “reward” for this plotline.
The place Yakuza stumbles in terms of sexism the most is it’s cast of characters. There’s only three prominent women featured throughout the two games, Reina, Makoto, and Haruka. Every other woman is either an optional side character or just in the story for a scene or two. Makoto and Haruka are both central to the plots of their games. I do like both of their characters, but I also wish they weren’t treated as objects by most of the cast. They both start off as helpless things in need of protecting who are worth large sums of money because of objects they own. Over the story they get more characterization, but I wish their starting point had already had some character to them. Reina is actually feels like a real character from the start, rather than an object turned into a character. Don’t get me wrong, Makoto is a badass by the end of Yakuza 0, and I love Haruka with all my heart. I don’t know how many women Yakuza there are in 1988 and 2005, but I imagine it’s at least more than the two we see. The two we do see, one is actually great as she is an extremely strong fighter who teaches Kiryu the beast style, which subverts the usual tropes for women fighting. The other is a doctor, which is also great. No one mistakes her for a nurse or thinks twice about her taking medical care of someone so important in such a stressful scenario. Why do the women end there? Just momentary glimpses that are great. The game is no where near realistic. Kiryu shoots down helicopters cars and manages to not kill anyone, is the star of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, takes down armies of men on his own, becomes a real-estate tycoon, and the list goes on. Even if you took a hard stance on the gender accuracy of the yakuza, there are tons of important, powerful characters that aren’t Yakuza, none of which are women. The exception might be Yumi, however most of the game she’s treated as a helpless girl. Kazama setting up the scheme grants her the momentary power, rather than something she built up herself. There’s tons of important characters from prominent club owners to underground informants who all could have been women. There’s an exception that “The Forger” is a women, and this moment is played as a plot twist, and the character only exists for maybe 5 minutes and has 3 lines total. I do know that in the most recent entry, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, there are two female party members. I don’t know what roles they play or how prominent to the story they are, but I am hopeful that this pushes the series in the right direction.
There’s plenty more examples of good and bad things, but I don’t think it’s worth getting into detail. I’ll list of a few things I mentioned earlier just to not leave them as loose ends. The telephone card collection quests I think ends up being sexist. You just collect pictures of naked girls, give them to a horny guy, and he gives you cash. The wrestling I don’t find sexist. The women’s outfits are pretty akin to what you imagine men’s outfits are. They show a lot of skin and vaguely provoke an idea. The women perform legitimate wrestling moves; it’s not like they just flail around. Yakuza also definitely has a problem with body diversity in women. The men of Yakuza have quiet a bit of body diversity across the cast, but adult women are all petite, great curves, light skin, very “conventionally attractive.” Body diversity is a problem in all media, and Yakuza doesn’t escape that problem.
The final verdict on Yakuza ends up being it’s not sexist. I wouldn’t go nominating it for any awards on women’s representation, but it does fair significantly better on average than a lot of other games. It might even be the AAA game with the best written lesbian where being a lesbian is central to her character and not just as a one off romance scene with the main character. I look forward to how the future games give further development to Haruka’s character (I assume she’s in them) and am hoping the series will surprise me with some more prominent women characters.
Yakuza 0 released in the west in 2017 (in Japan in 2015) to widespread critical acclaim and noteriety, something that hadn’t graced the series in the west previously. This makes total sense; the game serves as an entry point to the series, since you don’t have to know any of the previous’s story. The game has a revamped combat system, a great localization, a release on the PS4, the most adopted console of it’s generation at the time. Everything was right for it’s success, and the game delivers with fun gameplay and an amazing story. Many players came out wanting to continue the story, but in the west the next entry is the first entry released 10 years prior on the PS2. Yakuza Kiwami (henceforth referred to as Kiwami) makes perfect sense as a game to make following the success of 0 (granted it was released before 0 was even released in the west, but I imagine the series also got a boon of popularity in Japan as well). Kiwami serves to retell the original’s tale with a more fleshed out story and updated gameplay and graphics. Everything should’ve been in Kiwami’s favor, so what went wrong? Yakuza 0 is considered by a lot to be the best entry in the series, and Kiwami generally ranks in the top half. Why couldn’t Kiwami, knowing the shortcomings of Yakuza 0 and the original, go onto surpass that.
Kiwami’s major fault is really simple to me; the game is just too difficult. Now a difficult game isn’t a bad thing, nor is it an issue that a game is more difficult than it’s predecessor. The main issue is this difficulty really makes the game feel like a slog to play. Now the game’s difficulty is a really interesting thing because the reason Kiwami is so difficult compared to Yakuza 0 actually stems from a lot of improvements it made on it. Yakuza 0 was probably a bit too easy for it’s own good. Most street fights could be beaten through button mashing with no strategy. The story fight segments and bosses serve to be more difficult, but I rarely died at all. Most of the time I did die, it was because I didn’t realize my health was low entering a battle, and dying respawns you at full health anyways. Kiwami set to make major gameplay improvements over Yakuza 0, but all of these slightly increased the difficulty which ends up stacking up.
Most of the gameplay improvements end up hurting Kiwami because the difficulty increase was not accounted for. For the basics, Kiwami’s enemies are just harder to beat. They attack you mid combo much more often and utilize weapons much earlier and more frequently. This is overall a positive change because fighting enemies that throw their fists up but not out isn’t really engaging.
Kiwami also revamped the Heat system. In Yakuza 0, you start the game with three heat bars that each have different effects. Heat attacks did major damage, being able to one hit knock out a lot of basic enemies, and you could throw one out at basically any time if you had a single bar. This system was confusing and made the game very easy; it was in need of a change. I like the idea of balancing the latent benefits of extra damage and speed from having heat bars filled with doing super powerful attacks, but this didn’t really play out in Yakuza 0. Honestly heat attacks were just cool, so my main goal was trying to see if I could set up new ones I haven’t seen yet. Kiwami revamps this entire system. You start off with a single heat bar that grows when you fill out the skill tree. You can’t do heat attacks without any set up anymore either, you have to either have a specific scenario arise, or you can force it by grabbing an opponent or an item. These changes are both good, but it makes the game much harder. You can’t store heat well beyond the one bar anymore, meaning if you get punished after finishing the combo, the drop in heat will likely remove the possibility to access an attack at all. A common strategy in 0 was to knock out a basic enemy using a combo or 2 and fill your three heat bars all the way up, and then use multiple heat attacks in a row on the remaining enemies. Now you’re lucky if you can even execute a full combo without getting punished, and even when you do avoid any hit, you only have your one bar, plus some additional segments. These are changes I do like; they make the game more interesting. It’s also worth noting that a majority of heat attacks are reused from Yakuza 0. This isn’t a problem, but I would’ve liked maybe one of the more common attacks to have been replaced with something new. It’s also very apparent if you play Yakuza 0 and Kiwami back to back. The problem is that they make the game harder, and then the enemy difficulty increase compounds with the heat bar changes.
Kiwami revamps the skill tree in a positive way, which also lead to the game’s difficulty increasing even further. Yakuza 0 has it’s skill tree spread out among it’s three styles. Kiwami changes this to spread three skill trees among heat actions, the three styles, and your stats. Kiwami also has a fourth tree for it’s fourth style, but that’s not important right now. This change is great because Yakuza 0’s system tended to either have you get minor buffs to every style or a lot of buffs to one. This left you with less interesting styles or less variety, not a great trade-off. The skill tree revamp also changed how you acquire skills. In Yakuza 0, you spent money you earned to buy skills from your tree. These skills were expensive, so it meant you ended up acquiring a large amount of funds through the game. Kiwami changes it to using an EXP system instead. This change leaves you with very low funds for a majority of the early game. Money was generally a non-issue in Yakuza 0 outside of the skill tree system, but Kiwami’s early game really has you strapped for cash. Besides it being a bit weird narratively that you go from being a billionaire in the 1988 to basically broke in 2005, it also just makes the early game harder. You can’t afford to buy a bunch of health drinks, which you’ll need more of because the game’s difficulty increase. You’ll also have trouble buying and repairing weapons and spending money on various side-quests, endeavors, and passtimes. They also changed it so the stores don’t sell the best health drinks anymore, meaning you’d have to waste time running to the one store that does sell them if you don’t want to waste so much inventory space. Overall, I again, think these changes are good. Separating cash and experience serves to make cash a more interesting resource. You can’t just buy a bunch of max heals whenever you want to anymore. It’s just makes the game much harder, and you really need health drinks a lot more in this game. I basically never went out of my way to buy them in Yakuza 0, the game gives you quiet a lot for free. In Kiwami, I’m constantly filling my entire inventory with any healing items I can get my hands on. One change I think would really have helped the game would’ve been auto healing after battles. I get it’d make eating at restaurants pointless, but they actually already went to have eating at restaurants give experience as well. I thought this feature would’ve been great in Yakuza 0, and it would help to alleviate the difficulty just a bit since I wouldn’t have to waste my precious healing items on healing for battles that I can’t get to a restaurant before facing.
The Majima Everywhere system further serves as a great feature that increases the difficulty and makes the game a slog. Majima makes a return as a reoccurring enemy in some of the best sidequest in all of Kiwami. His fights are fun and varied as he utilizes his three styles from Yakuza 0 against you, and occasionally he even pulls out a whole new style. Building up the Dragon of Dojima style through battling Majima is a great idea to, as it’s an interesting incentive and makes you constantly want to try out the new abilities you’ll get. There’s a huge problem with the Majima Everywhere system, and it’s that Majima is really everywhere. Sometimes you’ll fight Majima, then go to a place and have a Majima encounter, and then leave the place and immediately fight Majima. Majima increase his health and damage with every battle, so once he gets past two full bars of health it gets pretty hard to take him out. It requires a lot of resources to battle Majima, and the game asks you to battle him 50 times(!!!) just for one branch of rewards. I don’t even know how many battles it’d take to get to SSS rank with him that’s required for the longest branch. I love the sidequests and I much rather battle Majima than random enemies, but it’s just so many. If they cut the requirements in half, I think I would’ve love seeing Majima every time. The more unique encounters are always still a blast, but I feel like they’re a bit soured by how often the random ones occur. It’s also very apparent that Majima’s styles were meant to be battled with and not against, especially the slugger and breaker styles. Waiting for Majima to finish up his 3 different spin attacks in a row to finally get a chance to attack isn’t very engaging. This is exasperated if you fight him in an area with few or no items, as those are generally more effective against his harder styles. It’s also of note that Majima Everywhere seemingly replaces Mr. Shakedown from Yakuza 0. This is a smart change as the amount of cash you have is low and can’t be easily spent, and instead you have a fight that rewards you major EXP. Mr. Shakedown can be avoided, however, but Majima locks onto you and forces a fight. The only way to avoid majima is if other enemies spot you first, which can get very annoying if you’re intentionally trying to battle Majima. Majima Everywhere adding a constant repeating boss battle is a good idea, but it makes the game much harder and more repetitive.
The difficulty isn’t the sole reason Kiwami ends up not living up to Yakuza 0. In Yakuza 0, switching between Majima and Kiryu not only provided variety in scenery, story, and characters, but also gameplay. Kiryu gets an extra style giving you four different fighting types to utilize, but that’s still down from the six offered in Yakuza 0. The loss of the two most unique styles, slugger and breaker, isn’t helping either. Furthermore, Dragon of Dojima starts off completely useless, and it bares major similarities with brawler. Dragon of Dojima’s main draw is the variety of ways it interacts with weapons. This bears similarities to thug from Majima’s kit in Yakuza 0, but it works to worse effect here. The weapon play complimented an already useful style Majima had. Thug served as a good way to deal with singular threats and it was the only style Majima could grab in. Dragon of Dojima utilizing weapons further makes it feel useless, since the weapons override the style’s moves anyways. Switching to Dragon of Dojima to then pull out a weapon does add benefits, but I’m not really using the style when I do that. The only other notable thing the style offers is charged finishers, but that’s taken from Rush in Yakuza 0, and it more complimented Rush rather than defined it. I’m sure Dragon of Dojima gets better and more interesting, but it just too much grinding to get the style up to par.
The game also feels like it increased the encounter rate. In Yakuza 0, I’d encounter random enemies once or twice while traveling between points of interests. In Kiwami, it feels like once or twice per street. I can’t confirm this, so it might just be that longer battles make it feel like this is happening. Kiwami also added a run button which is supposed to make enemies notice you more, but even walking slowly I seem to get swarmed by enemies. This is a bad change if it exists and still a big problem if it just feels like it exists. There’s already an item you get pretty early on that increases encounter rates if you need more of them, and you can always bump into random people and hope they’ll attack you. The default encounter rate should be pretty low. It feels really weird that so many people just randomly want to beat Kiryu up. I end up trying to run away from most encounters and not doing the optional one because of this, when I did basically every optional fight in Yakuza 0. This added onto the Majima Everywhere system can end up just getting from place to place feel like a massive pain.
The side stories in Kiwami also pale in comparison to Yakuza 0. The variety of sidestories in Yakuza 0 were vast, ranging from silly endeavors like filming Michael Jackson’s Thriller video to more serious ones like helping a guy propose to his girlfriend. Pretty much every side story knocked it out of the park in Yakuza 0 with it’s comedy, storytelling, variety, and so on. Kiwami’s fair much less well. A majority of them are just Kiryu getting scammed, he beats up the scammer, and the scammer gives you money and promises to never do it again. This is repeated for the first ten or so side stories I found in a row. There are some stand out ones I’ve encounted: the matchbox girl story is really sweet, the lesbian cabaret girl’s storyline (despite it being minorly problematic with the unconfortable not-sex scene) has great characterization for both Rina and Kiryu, and the one where Kiryu jumps in thinking he’s protecting a girl leading to a series of misunderstandings is quiet funny. It also seems like the pocket car side story line would be great had I played pocket cars at all in Yakuza 0. I imagine most of the side quests are take from the original, which is why they’re probably not as engaging. The writing on them isn’t just not up to par, it isn’t there at all. A homeless man asks you for booze, you get him booze, side quest over. There’s really nothing to most of these. It’s sad to see the side stories go from a huge highlight to empty padding.
The story of Kiwami is also extremely similar to Yakuza 0. Both stories feature two main macguffins. One is something that’s worth an exorbitant amount of money, and the other is a helpless girl who’s in possession of said item without having originally understood it’s worth. The story follows our protagonist trying to protect the girls while all the yakuza hunt them down. Both games have Kiryu expelled from the Tojo clan at the start of the story due to a murder he didn’t commit. It might be unfair to call both Makimura Makoto and Haruka macguffins since they do develop into actual characters in the later sections of each game they’re featured in, but they both start off as one. This is obviously more a fault of Yakuza 0 than Kiwami, since Kiwami is a remake of a game that came first, but it hurts kiwami none the less. I wouldn’t tell anyone to play Kiwami before playing Yakuza 0, since there’s a large amount of references to Yakuza 0’s plot in Kiwami. This has the unfortunate effect of making Kiwami seem very samey when played directly after Yakuza 0, but worse. I wonder if there’s a more optimal playing order, so the similarities in the plots don’t stand out constantly, but you’re not spoiled on any major events that happen.
Overall Kiwami is a game I really think could have been superior to Yakuza 0, but ended up being a lot worse. They staff clearly understood a lot of the flaws of Yakuza 0 and how to address them, but they didn’t see the bigger picture. Kiwami clearly needed some additional system that both made the game easier and added more variety to the experience. The adherence to the original game’s mission and story beats definitely hurt the game overall as well.
I just finished playing the game Out For Delivery, and it really deserves some acknowledgement. I’m gonna talk through the events of the game, so if you don’t want to be spoiled at all, I suggest you just play it.
Out For Delivery is a 42 minute playable documentary following a food delivery courier. It takes place in Beijing on the day before lunar new year, which also happens to be the day Wuhan first shut down because of COVID-19. This was obviously a coincidence, but it ends up adding a lot to the game.
I believe the main themes of the game to be about the plight of being a courier. Food Delivery is something a lot of us use often, even more so now, and I think generally gets taken for granted. The stereotype “Pizza Delivery Boy” is not really an accurate reflection of the job in the world we live anymore. With every restaurant on Grubhub, UberEats, Postmates, what have you, the job is significant more arduous. While you get a look into the monotony of the job during the delivery, the themes really shine through from the dialogue captured between. You see them complain about the physical labor, long hours, lack of pay. There’s a lunch break scene where if you looking at the right conversation, you’ll see courier complain about how he can’t even afford his lunch. The situation ridiculous because these people deliver food all day, they shouldn’t be worrying about if they can afford to eat. They do, however, because the cost of living is so high. You’ll catch someone complaining about their mortgage payments. It all comes around to the problems with urbanization, where the cities have all the jobs, but the jobs don’t pay for the cost of living. I see this clearly having searched for jobs and apartments in NYC and the wages and rent really don’t match up. The game makes you empathize with these workers, and I think their low wages is a global issue that needs attention.
I want to touch on the COVID-19 aspect of the game. This isn’t a game about COVID at all, it’s only mentioned in the very beginning. This is the very beginning, so actual knowledge about the situation isn’t widespread yet. Still you see Beijing, one of the most populated cities in the world, really empty. You still see facemasks everywhere, it really captures how the city environment changed during 2020. The increased reliance on food delivery really just makes this strengthen the main themes of Out For Delivery, and it serves as a really interesting snapshot of the start to the pandemic.
I also want to touch on why I really appreciated that this was a game. It’s a documentary, so it has very little user interaction. You can look around, zoom in, and interact with a phone that shows you the delivery status, subtitle logs, and narrative contexts. I think if this was a simple movie on youtube, it wouldn’t really be as successful. The reason it works is because I understand that this is a boring job, but you still get a 42 minute tour of Beijing and get to look around at the sites. The exploration aspect helps carry your interest through this experience without hurting the main themes. The player helms what they want to look at, and it really feels like you’re there with the courier, rather than watching their job in a video. It’s not a game you’re gonna play 5 times in a row, but that’s the point. Doing these routes over and over is what the couriers have to go through. This game still definitely isn’t for everyone, but it might be more appealing than it first seems.
TL;DR – Out for Delivery is a great look into what video games as documentaries can achieve. It deals with the struggles a courier faces, and captures an important moment in history at the same time.
Coming off my third rewatch of the Haruhi Suzumiya anime, I thought it’d be fun to rank every episode and give my thoughts on them. I’ve only ever seen the show in chronological order, so, for the most part, this is going to speak exclusively to that watch order. I’ve also only seen it dubbed as a whole. This is mostly a fun exercise and I’m sure my own opinions will change on a moment to moment basis.
28. Endless Eight VI
I think anyone can tell you that if there’s a worst episode of Haruhi Suzumiya, it’s in Endless Eight. I don’t know if most people would agree that it’s Endless Eight VI in particular, but across all 3 of my rewatches I watched Endless Eight through and found myself feeling like Endless Eight VI was the low point. Full disclosure, I love Endless Eight. I think it’s masterfully done with each episode the gang starts figuring things out moments and moments sooner. I will speak more to everything, so why is Endless Eight VI so bad? I think it’s the only moment in the arc that’s regressive. Coming off Endless Eight V it feels like we just took a step away from getting the solution. I’m sure one could agrue it’s to show how each loop isn’t as important or successful as the last, but I think that was already thoroughly conveyed through the skipping of loops. We weren’t being shown certain loops because they just weren’t as interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if VI and V were swapped somehow. So of all the Endless Eight episodes, this one stands out as the worst by far, and probably the only episode I’d say you could remove and Haruhi would be better.
27. Remote Island Syndrome (Part 1)
The most surprising thing on this list might be the bottom isn’t a dump of Endless Eight episodes, but honestly, the Remote Island Syndrome episodes are the low point of the series for me. They’re not bad by any means, but, compared to the rest of the series, I think it just falls flat. It might just be because I love murder mysteries and this one is (purposefully) flawed. The first episode I feel like is worse than the second by a small margin. I suppose it’s supposed to be character building moments, but I don’t actually see it. Haruhi doesn’t see major character development for any characters until much later in the series.
26-24. Endless Eight III, IV, and VI
Now I know I said I love Endless Eight, but even I have to admit that a large amount of people don’t. If you were to take out 1, 2, 3, etc. episodes from the show, even I’d probably pick a bunch of Endless Eight episodes first. I love these episodes, but in terms of overall impact they’re the smallest. The subtleties is what really makes this arc shine, but the offering of Haruhi episodes is so good that Endless Eight is left in the dust. Since we luckily don’t have to remove any episode, we’re good! These episodes do stand on their own the least even if I love the collection of episodes called Endless Eight.
23. Remote Island Syndrome (Part 2)
Of the two Remote Island Syndrome Episodes, I definitely like Part 2 a lot more. Who doesn’t love a good detective spewing out revelations moment, and Kyon and Haruhi’s acting was very fun. I do want to take a moment to complain about the biggest flaw to the mystery. The room shouldn’t have been locked. So Tamura apparently was woken up by the banging on the door and went to lock the room because he was afraid of his brother. The problem is they were only banging on the door because it was locked in the first place. Now obviously the murder didn’t actually happen and Koizumi could’ve just pretended the door was locked. My main issue with this is that when Kyon and Haruhi are revealing all the clues to show the murder mystery was just a game, no one mentioned it. It’s not a huge thing, but the episode already stands pretty low anyways.
22. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya II
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya II serves as the episodes that defines the initial state of Haruhi as a character. We learn this girl is wild and impulsive and totally willing to extort and abuse people for her own benefit. It’s might be crucial, as the computer actually serves a lot of plot necessity and the computer club shows up a lot, but also I still hate watching the blackmail scene each time. It’s uncomfortable, and that’s the point. It’s still uncomfortable though.
21. Mysterique Sign
Mysterique Sign stands out as the only episode in the entire show where the SOS Brigade performs club activities. We get another cool supernatural event that showcases Haruhi’s, Nagato’s, and Koizumi’s powers. The visual spectacle is exciting (for those who don’t mind giant camel crickets and scarabs). This is the kind of short story that works well to shape out the show. I do want to complain quickly about how in Chronological order, there’s a line that Kyon says that doesn’t really make sense. He comments about how Nagato isn’t really a person and is more of an “accessory to the room.” It’s one thing for Kyon’s snarky and apathetic inner monologue to say things like that even after The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya, but having him say that directly after Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody feels really bad. Obviously Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody wouldn’t be produced until much later, and Nagato’s character development hasn’t really begun yet. It’s still something to note that sours Chronological order especially since overall that’s probably the better order for looking at Nagato as a character.
20. The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya
The necessary baseball episode of the series, The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya is probably among my least favorite baseball episodes. Maybe I’ll have to make that list someday. The point is I love baseball episodes, and this isn’t an exception. The stakes and tension surprisingly are done extremely well and the jokes are on point. It’s probably important to note this is the first showcase of Nagato’s powers in Broadcast order, and looking at it through that lens it’s definitely a good introduction. Overall it’s definitely a fun episode, but it doesn’t leave much of an impact in the show overall.
19-18. The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya I and II
It only feels natural to group these two episodes together because as a whole they serve as the inciting incidents of the Sighs arc. We learn in The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya I that the gang plans on making a movie and we watch them go collect equipment. Overall it’s the setup for what to come and it’s fun seeing everyone react to what their class is doing and doing a movie on top of that. The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya II is where we get the real inciting incident which is the abuse of Asahina by Haruhi. This moment sets the stage for how the arc will play out and the struggle for main cast to keep up with Haruhi’s outlandish selfishness. These episodes are very foundational, but still rather uneventful overall.
17. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya V
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya V introduces us to closed space and the shinjin. It’s definitely quiet a site to behold, but I think the eminent danger isn’t as impactful coming off seeing Asakura and Nagato’s fight. It’s still cool and we need to know about all this for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya VI to work as well as it does, but the episode is really just Koizumi talking to Kyon about theory in a taxi. I do love me some theory like I’ll hapily take more episodes that are just that, but it still doesn’t show as one of the greatest haruhi moments.
16. The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00
The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00 serves as fun payoff for the Sighs arc when watched in Chronological order. It’s fun to hear Kyon’s snarky narration/commentary and how he has to piece all the random bits and pieces together. It’s very satisfying that all their struggles paid off into something that’s enjoyable. Now I do want to talk a bit about Chronological vs Broadcast order for a bit. I haven’t and can’t see the show for the first time in Broadcast order, but for those who do, this serves as a basic introduction to the characters and how they work in season 1. Mikuru Asahina is a time traveler, but that’s not really important. Yuki Nagato is some sort of alien witch thing. Itsuki Koizumi is an esper but his powers don’t work until one very specific moment in the end. This comes across for me as more of a joke poking fun of the show itself. In the light novel, this chapter also comes after The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya, so I’m inclined that was the original intention. Kyoani saw an opportunity to use it to introduce the characters, and I really hope it worked.
15. Endless Eight I
Endless Eight I, without the arc that follows, I think still stands up as an above average romp. It’s really the peak of watching the characters we love have some fun, kind of like a better version of Remote Island Syndrome (Part 1). Now looking at it as foundation for Endless Eight, I think it also works really well. I know watching this I was like wow I want to do all that. It looks like they have more fun than any friend group could reasonably expect. It makes me want to take the most of any summer. So seeing all this and understanding that this wasn’t enough really helps to show how dire their situation is and just how high Haruhi’s expectations of Kyon are.
14. The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya V
The wrap up to the Sighs arc, The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya V is a nice wrap up to the shenanigans of the gang’s movie making endeavors. We get some more insight into how the side characters view Haruhi in terms of her role and powers and the conflicts that create within them. I do wish they were a little more external as we only get the characters each talking to Kyon rather than Asahina and Koizumi having direct conflict, but I suppose that need a lot more time to not destabilize the whole entire group. Setting up the framework for the future conflict is great, and one day I’ll read the light novels and see how it plays out. I do think that if there’s ever more anime adaptation that covers the conflict, this episode will shine even more since it acts as sort of a transition into episodes that don’t exist. The end of the episode shows Kyon explaining to Haruhi who in the group is who. The scene in and of itself is great, but I do wish it as a bit more clear that it happens after The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya VI and it’s what Kyon refers to as his fault in The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya II.
13. The Day of Sagittarius
The day of Sagittarius is a mixed bag of an episode. The gang focusing on playing a video game for a whole episode isn’t exactly the best setup and the computer club episodes tend to be the weakest offerings of the show. The episode also is very fun in how it goes the extra mile to make fun of big space battle anime. The visuals actually still hold up really well despite the large amount of old CG. This episode also serves as a crucial character moment for Nagato as she does multiple things on her own volition and makes choices solely because it’ll make her happy. These moments really help transition the show from Sighs into Disappearance. It brings focus back to Nagato and away from Haruhi, which makes sense as Haruhi is relatively absent from Disappearance. In terms of Haruhi, this episode can be read kind of both ways with it being regressive and progressive for her character. It seems weird coming after Live Alive that Haruhi would immediately offer up Nagato and Asahina as folly for a bet. At the same time, the fact that Haruhi wants to make the stakes even, is willing to give back the computer, and even offers up herself as well could show that she has grown as a person. People don’t change in a day and Haruhi likely would still be all conflicted over The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya IV and Live Alive. I can see either reading of Haruhi’s actions as valid, and it’s another thing where Broadcast vs Chronological order come into place. This Day of Sagittarius comes before any major character moments for Haruhi in Broadcast order, while it comes directly after them in Chronological. It’s possible the growth is there but it’s shown at a moment it doesn’t shine so that it fits in both orders.
12. Endless Eight II
I think for most people coming into the show not knowing the full extent of Endless Eight, Endless Eight II is such a great moment. The confusion into shock into intrigue all happens seamlessly. The reveal might stand out as one of my favorite moments; I really like time loop shenanigans. Overall technically this episode isn’t any better or worse than most of the others, but I think the fact that it’s the first makes a big impact. There’s a good reason people say to watch Endless Eight I, Endless Eight II, and Endless Eight VIII. Endless Eight II just works really well as the introduction to the arc and a starting place for the development to come.
11. The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya III
The tensions rise as mishaps happen as the gang continue to shoot their movie. Haruhi’s demands for the actors (Asahina) has gone past what reality can ask for and she shoots lasers from her eyes. The supernatural spillage from Haruhi is a great compliment to have the internal struggles that Kyon and Asahina take form and pull Koizumi and Nagato into the conflict. This episode really defines Sighs as an arc and justifies it’s existence. I definitely find Sighs to be the weakest among it, Melancholy, Disappearance, and Endless Eight, but The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya III still shows how the arc is still genius and stands alongside everything else.
10. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya III
The big exposition dump of the seires, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya III is still fascinating. This episodes defines the three main side characters of the show, and it pulls it off really well. The main bulk is spent talking about Nagato and it’s show with all these interesting and dynamic angles and visuals. Koizumi and Mikuru get more of a small personal chat, but I think that helps establish their characters all really well. Nagato is this otherworldly presence with amazing powers. Koizumi is this knowledged man of mystery but is still ultimately human, and Asahina is really just another human who can happen to time travel. We also get the first brigade outing which already helps take Nagato a notch down from super computer to a person with wants and needs as she is glued to library books and needs help getting a library card. The dichotomy of the two sides of Nagato is extremely important as the series explores her character, and this episode is a great showcase of that.
9. Someday in the Rain
Someday in the Rain is a really interesting episode. It has no significant events occur and spends long stretches with us just watching Nagato reading while a radio faintly plays in the background. It might be my pretentious showing that I love this episode so much, but the atmosphere it creates is unmatched. It feels cozy. It winds down things from the rest of the series. It is the final episode for us Chronological Order watchers, and I think that’s where it works best. Haruhi is a story about high schoolers in a club having fun. The stakes are ginormous, but I think Someday in the Rain really helps ground the show to what it is at it’s core. It’s about Kyon, and it’s about Nagato. It’s about Haruhi, Koizumi, and Asahina. The outlandish journey the gang went on was second to the time they spent together. Heck, Haruhi only sees the show through the lens in this episode, since she’s none the wiser to the mishaps of the gang. While most shows ends with the huge climax, as Broadcast Order season 1 does, I honestly can’t imagine a better last episode. The somber note and cozy winter vibes say farewell to the series better than any big revelation. I also should speak to the episode as a setup for The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. I think the mood established in the episode carries over perfectly into the movie itself. It’s been a minute since the last big event took place and winter coming in with Christmas around the corner helps establish why Haruhi takes a backseat in the end since she’s preoccupied with something that’s very grounded in reality. It also shows great motivation as the nice calm environment established here is what Kyon hopes to return to, rather than if it came straight off of something like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya VI. I imagine this episode would be amoung the least liked if Endless Eight didn’t exist, but I think it serves the series extremely well.
8. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya VI
The climax of the series, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya VI really delivers. Everything built up through the Melancholy arc comes to fruition in this episode where the stakes and drama run high. The visual spectacle is great and it really helps define the series moving forward. Putting the climax only 6 episodes into a show is a bold choice that’s not scene in Broadcast Order, and luckily I do think it pays off thanks to The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya delivering another high stakes climax later. Every single side story the gang goes on has this underlying tension that if they don’t handle things, this will happen again. I think it makes every episode that comes after it better, and that’s something a good episode does.
7. Live Alive
Live Alive stands a crucial character defining moment for Haruhi. Coming off the growth she saw in The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya IV, Haruhi both does something out of her usual character, helping people with no ulterior motive, and digests the feelings that came from it. It feels great after seeing Haruhi abuse her friends so much throughout the show actually learn from her mistakes. On top of Haruhi’s growth, this episode gave us two amazing bops and lots of other fun moments like Nagato telling actual futures or Koizumi preforming a solid 6/10 in his play.
6. The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya IV
I really can’t believe that one of my favorite episodes of one of my favorite shows is focused on the main character almost assaulting a woman. If The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya VI is the climax in terms of worldly stakes, The Sighs of Haruhi Suzumiya is the climax in emotional stakes. Haruhi throughout the series has been more of a force of nature and less of a person, and the other characters really treater her as such. Kyon justifiably snapping over the drugging and abuse of Asahina is one of the first times she’s really shown how her actions are effecting those around her. Nagato, Asahina, and Koizumi really can’t do anything to stop her because they’re not allowed from their respective groups. Kyon is the only person who treats Haruhi as an equal, and even he generally holds back because of the unknown consequences. Kyon needed to snap at some point, and him doing it solely on behalf of Asahina who couldn’t for multiple reasons really fleshes out his character. Kyon always looked out for the others but never on such a scale where it was really a core part of his character. The fallout of this moment really helped ground Haruhi. We get to see her get into a slump as she contemplates her actions. From this moment on Haruhi starts caring about others starts to see the value in maintaining these interpersonal relationships. Without this episode the show as a whole really lacks the emotional development of Haruhi and Kyon. With it, we actually have fleshed out characters that we see and understand.
5. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya IV
For a lot of people, I imagine The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya IV is when the show turned from good to great. Asakura being a personable and very murderous version of Nagato is the kind of juicy juicy plot twist we all love. The battle between Asakura and Nagato is a huge highlight of the series as a whole. The visual spectacle and action are top notch. It’s great to see that all the stuff that the side characters were discussing is all true and we’re going to have to deal with it at some point. I do wish that the fight was the entire episode, or at the very least in the 2nd half. It’s a bit jarring to immediately put the breaks on and talk to the adult Asahina right after, but no matter what it’s still a true joy to watch.
4. Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody
Of all the side stories, none really capture the spirit of the Haruhi series quiet like Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody does. Throughout the show we keep hearing about this event that happened 3 years ago, and, while it’s implied that this isn’t the event, it’s super cool to go back to this and recolor the events of the series prior. We get to know a lot of Haruhi’s reasons for acting, like why she looks for time travelers, espers, and aliens but not sliders. This is also really the only Asahina related episode in regards to time travel. Koizumi and Nagato are prevalent throughout the Melancholy arc and other episodes, but Asahina is just a normal girl for the most part. It’s great to explore this essential part of her character. Seeing how the oddities of these events are then further fleshed out and paid off in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody is critical to the universe of Haruhi Suzumiya and make the episodes before and after it much better.
3. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya I
It seems pretty evident that I tend to favor the climactic eventful episodes over the foundational one. So it’s surprising that I ended up putting the very first episode so high up. This episode establishes Kyon as a character through one of the best intro monologues ever. Kyon is an odd character because it takes the classic pervy, snarky, apathetic main guy and has him feel like a real person with good qualities and flaws that I want to follow. I love that he acts genuinely different around everyone he interacts with and yet he feels like one cohesive character thanks to his inner narration. If we weren’t introduced to Kyon through a monologue about how he’s antithetical to the events to come, I think he’d seem fragmented or incohesive. He acts the way he does because he’s both the opposite of Haruhi and jealous of her. This drives his main actions and then how he treats all the different characters results naturally from his motivation and outlook on the person. We become deeply intimate with Kyon’s way of thinking so it makes sense that he’s a good guy with Asahina, caring towards and dependent on Nagato, and both rude and chummy with Koizumi. All of Kyon’s great character comes from how well he was established in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya I.
2. Endless Eight VIII
I’ve mentioned loving Endless Eight multiple times, and I think Endless Eight VIII ends the saga perfectly. I’m sure the relief of finally getting Endless Eight over with is huge plus for everyone who hates it, but as someone who loves it, I think the relief comes in just as strong. I love the way conversations we’ve heard every time about homework and how Kyon didn’t do it and doesn’t do it because time resets is the key to breaking free. The fact that the cicadas pay back the favor of being released despite Kyon really not expecting them to is both poetic and funny. Anytime Kyon gets a big monologue in an important moment is a huge plus for me. The way that we see so many Haruhis walk away at the end is one of my favorite shots in the whole show. The cinematography and animation is really what sells Endless Eight to me, and Endless Eight VIII shows it extremely well.
1. Endless Eight V
An episode of Endless Eight being the best episode of Haruhi? An episode of Endless Eight between III and VII being the best? Well Endless Eight V I think really shines as exactly what makes Endless Eight good. The ending sequence I think really drives in the monotonous horror of the situation. Watching Haruhi stand up to leave multiple times and just watching Kyon plop into bed while the camera spins like a ticking clock are both amazing moments and showcase the great cinematography of the arc. The subtle touch necessary to actually make Endless Eight work on any scale should not be overlooked, and it’s in full showcase in this episode. Going from Endless Eight II to III to IV to V you really can feel like the gang is getting closer and closer to solving the issue. They realize things faster and with more lucidity. Of all the middle episodes, Endless Eight V is the peak. People famously skip episodes III-VII and I definitely understand why, but I would tell anyone who doesn’t want to watch every episode to make sure V is one they hit. Endless Eight V showcases the struggles much better than any other, and I would even say it’s worth watching over Endless Eight II.
0. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Now I know The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya isn’t an episode, and that’s why it’s number zero. If the movie was split into 20 minute chunks though, I imagine I’d put every chunk at the top of the episode list. How can you talk about the Haruhi Suzumiya series without talking about the Disappearance arc. Granted I have talked about it multiple times, but it’s just so good. The emotions, the animation, the everything like agrhhhhhh I love it. It’s great how it gives payoff to Endless Eight and Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody in extremely satisfying ways with the recreation of the world and the solutions to fix it. The insight it gives into Nagato is amazing because she finally makes the full transition from computer to person. Honestly I think it’s fair to say the show as a whole is about Nagato rather than Haruhi. We also get the peak Kyon monologue with “Kyon’s Choice.” It’s great payoff towards all the character development Kyon received over the series. It’s quiet fitting that only Kyon’s snarky commentary making fun of himself can show how ironic his words were compared to his actions. The movie deserves way more than just a little blurb, but regardless it’s the best part of the Haruhi Suzumiya anime.