The case in question is Remote Island Syndrome
Part 1 and 2
I was a reluctant The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya watcher a bit after the hype had subsided slightly. These two episodes are what made me like the show enough to remember it fondly. These episodes contain classic murder mystery tropes as well as a bit of character growth on the part of Haruhi.
It is interesting to look back on the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya if for nothing else to remember what a phenomenon the show was when it came out in 2006. It seemed like Haruhi was everywhere then. You could not go to an anime convention and not see someone doing the Hare Hare Yukai dance all day and it dominated the discussion of anime in general. While Haruhi Suzumiya has hardly disappeared from the otaku consciousness its presence was greatly diminished by the infamous Endless Eight. So it is nice to look back on the mystery in one of the more iconic episodes of the series and recapture a bit of the magic of the first season.
The gang travel to a mysterious island which they were invited to by a one of Kozumi’s acquaintances. Once there, a storm rolls in cutting them off from the mainland. And there is a locked room murder. Sound familiar? Whether through unlucky circumstance or the wishes of Haruhi for just such an occurrence, they must solve the case.
Itsuki and Kyon start the episode being a bit worried that the island they are to is going to be a major problem with an adventure craving unknowing goddess like Haruhi. Since she seems to be in the mood for a mystery a small private island would be the classic place for a closed-circle murder mystery to take place. Sure enough while everything seems to go well eventually a storm conveniently rolls in and the worst case scenario occurs.
The closed-circle mystery is one of the most well-known tropes, made most famous by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. The number of suspects is severely limited thanks to being cut off from the rest of the world due to some unforeseen circumstance, often weather related. Though this mystery bears little other resemblance to that notorious story minus the until-recently deserted island part of Haruhi’s adventure. For good trope-y measure they threw in a “suspicious” butler and maid as well as a surprise guest at the mansion.
There are a few aesthetic choices throughout the episode that lend an atmosphere to the case. The creative staff go out of their way to establish normalcy on the island with the group heading to the beach and generally having a good time, but by using odd and sever angles everything just feels a little off. This combined with Kyon’s (correct) worries that things will go wrong puts you on edge for the other shoe to invariably drop.
One of the reasons this episode was highly talked about was the fact that when Haruhi delivers her final denouement it is a subtle but clear homage to the Phoenix Wright franchise that was just taking off at the same time. When Haruhi is laying out how everything went down the dialog is essentially the same as what you would read in the original novel but her physical actions (that were not really described in the original) mirrors the physicality of Phoenix Wright when he is in the courtroom. Several of the other characters like Itsuki reflect the actions of characters like Edgeworth. This homage quickly became the talk of the Internet when it came out as they increased the conversation about both series that were all ready quite popular at the time.
For me, this episode was the ultimate who has the power to make things happen, Haruhi? Kyon? Or both? The major mystery of the series if you ask me. It is possible that after creating the murder, Haruhi realized the only answer was one she didn’t want thus flipping things around to be a harmless game.
I enjoyed that Haruhi’s evidence was mostly catching slips of the tongue or people knowing information they shouldn’t. These are the ones I always look for during mysteries, too.
Also if Haruhi did go and invent an outside culprit that would put the character count at 11 on the island.
To Haruhi’s credit she figured out both the “real” crime and the pretend one.
One final note, there is a nod to Detective Conan as the case neared conclusion with the culprit appearing as a shadow figure.
The question of who is the actual person creating the weird phenomenon in the Harhui universe has always been one of the biggest questions fandom has had with the series. As far as I know the latest and possibly last book, The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya, has still has not answered that question but the book does not come out in English until November 19th.
Overall it is two fairly well constructed little mysteries in one. The first mystery can be seen as what if the murder was real and the second one is the mystery when it turns out to be an elaborate deception. All the evidence for both scenarios is well laid out with a good adherence to Knox’s Rules. The clues are neatly laid out with even the occasional subtle pause to punctuate key pieces of the mystery. If anything they sort of softball parts of the mystery for the audience but this is a detective story in a comedy show as opposed to a case file in series solely devolved to solving crimes.
Overall all it was a nice episode that really was refreshing to come back to and see that it held up as well as I remembered it did. Haruhi was a series that played with several genres and it was good to see that the mystery series was one that it tackled well.