key/visual arts has nothing to do with this series. Jun, a writer for key, is writing the scenario for this, but thats it. And he is doing it for P.A works, Key as a studio is not involved.
that said, I'm expecting good things, seeing his work on Clannad and kanon in particular, but we'll see. so far its interestingly different, enough for me to keep following it,... for now. I do agree it seems to be going in the right direction so far.
And yes, take Haruhi, make her undying, and give her command of a brigade of undying highschoolers, and you get the female protagnist of this show. There are other simalarities among other characters, but she takes the cake