Haruhi is an amalgamation of a startling number of genres: slice-of-life high school, science fiction, a detective story, ecchi fan service, harem, slapstick comedy, and more. What distinguishes Haruhi from other animes which attempt to bridge so many genres, like, say, Elfen Lied, or SaiKano, is that SuzuHaru works. Stated plainly, from start to finish, Haruhi is coherent. There is a steady hand at the rudder, and the director deserves a lot of props. The plot itself deserves special attention, but no detail. Suffice it to say it takes us in directions we do not expect. The title itself is a misnomer, Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi makes one think of drama, and there is hardly any drama here at all. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised at the unique twists this anime takes, and the liberties taken with the genres it both upholds and lampoons.
is about as faultless as it gets. Comparison-wise it reminds me a lot of the Full Metal Panic series, which shouldn’t surprise me since it was done by the same studio. Scenes are brightly lit when they need to be, extraordinarily detailed. Characters are harem archetypes as far as design is concerned: you have Asahina with her shy face, and large talents, Nagato’s loli cuteness, and Suzumiya’s vivacious, plain-stated beauty. The male characters are boring by comparison, following the harem tradition.
Voice acting is superb. Kyon’s VA first and foremost, since his has the difficult job of both being a narrator and a leading character at the same time. He has just enough omniscience to guide us along, but at the same time enough naiveté to dethrone him as the voice of God. Suzimiya’s voice actress rises to the level of the title character’s ambition, and the rest do their jobs as well as we have come to expect from Japanese voice actors. The music was very good as well, with two songs, from later in the anime, that are both wonderfully catchy, but not saccharine.
Did I mention Haruhi is a harem anime? That’s only about half-true, Suzuharu skewers harem comedies mercilessly, the tone of which is stated from the outset with the hilarious Adventures of Mikuru-chan ‘movie’. Many series treat their characters as ivory towers, with clearly defined qualities, a character’s less than appealing traits are usually caused by some childhood trauma such as abuse or parental abandonment (i.e. Evangelion, 90% of anime). This is not true of Suzuharu, Suzumiya herself is a horrible director, and a really, really crappy graphic artist. Asahina cannot utter a sentence without tripping over her own tongue, and Nagato cannot even string three sentences together. But the strongest character in the series should really be its weakest: Kyon. It is through his eyes that we view this anime, and without his eviscerating commentary, Haruhi would not be half as good as it is.
The thing is, I cannot summarize this anime, I cannot put it into a neat little box, and that is the highest praise I can give to it. The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi defies convenient description; it is a treat; an anime that surpasses the good, and the very good. In five years time we will be discussing this anime in much the same way as we discuss Kino no Tabi, Ghost in the Shell, or a Ghibli movie. This anime is a classic; it’s just too new to be called that. All I can say is: watch it.
Notice: This review covers both seasons, and the movie, and the spin-off series.
Whoever tries to ask around why Haruhi was such a huge phenomenon in the anime community to the point it was treated as a religion, he will encounter a mountain of different opinions, usually contradicting ones, and lots of deep analysis concerning psychology and existentialism. As usual, most of whatever is said is overthinking nonsense, so I will now reveal the truth about what this show is really about.
First and foremost, Haruhi is a school comedy about cute girls doing cute things. It wasn’t the first show doing that, but it was one of the first ones that took advantage of the fidelity offered by the brand new storing technology of Blu Ray. Earlier moe shows were nowhere near its attention to animation, directing, and music composition, because they couldn’t be. As a production, it didn’t simply have a big budget; it was also given a tremendous amount of attention. Compared to everything else around that time, it was moe overdose. The dancing skit in the end credits, the music concert scene, and the constant praising references it was getting in Lucky Star, mesmerized countless of people who, in the typical fashion of casuals, considered the anime the best series of all times, because the colors were prettier than anything else they had seen in their lives. And if that somehow reminds you of Attack on Titan, it’s because the exact same thing happened again with that show.
I too found the animation gorgeous when I first watched it but I didn’t feel anything about that because I freaking hate moe. By today’s standards all that fidelity doesn’t even mean much anymore, since Blu Rays are commonplace and most of everything that comes out looks awesome. And that is why liking something for the pretty colors makes you a tasteless pleb.
Of course looking nice is far from enough to excuse why so many people liked the show. If it was just typical cute girls, doing typical cute things, in a typical school, it would get old very fast and it wouldn’t be so popular for all these years. In fact, the show wasn’t popular during its first half because most of the audience thought it was one of the same stuff they had already seen in Azumanga Daio or Kanon. It was during the second half when people found out there were crazy stuff going on in it. The loved the supernatural elements it had; espers, and time travelers, and aliens, and gods, and reality warping, and lots of other cool ideas. And to top all that, they were thrown in a school setting, which is the laziest idea to use, but also the most successful one because everybody can relate to something they were part of for at least a dozen years of their lives.
I too liked them as ideas but I was never made to love the show because of them, since they were nothing more than gimmicks. They weren’t semi-independent side stories taking place at the same time, they were figments of someone’s imagination, thrown there just for flavoring the moe. The done to death school setting wasn’t helping me give two shits about whatever is going on, and by now it’s obvious how moe has taken over the industry and sapped dry its creativity, since all they are doing is throwing in cute girls and random ideas that go nowhere.
At least the show attempts to excuse all these random supernatural ideas as a result of boredom. Haruhi made all that happen because she was fed up with her normal life. Which is something that resonated with a lot of young people. Boredom is a huge first world problem, and if you are a person who feels his life has no color, a show with crazy stuff, and dancing and singing, becomes a major attraction. You will sympathize with how the heroine feels, and cheer for her quest to fill life with excitement. No wonder they considered this show to be amazing.
Unfortunately this illusion breaks very easily, once you realize that in her quest to have fun, Haruhi is manipulating people for her amusement. As much as they try to tell us the world is her creation, and she can do anything she likes with it, it eventually comes down to treating people as nothing but toys. This essentially makes her a bitch who cares only about herself. She is like a spoiled kid who thinks it is the center of the universe and everything happens for its amusement. And since that happens to be exactly what a huge portion of anime fans are like, it is something they considered to be positive instead of negative because it became empowerment fantasy.
The show does its best to distract the audience from realizing what a bitch Haruhi really is, by having a non-linear plot in the first season. The events were told in a scrambled manner, thus making it feel like the whole thing was a mystery that needed to be solved by the viewer. Everybody was so obsessed with finding hints or how everything was foreshadowed ten episodes ago, to the point they completely overlooked the simple fact that they were cheering for an awful person who was playing with peoples’ very existence for her amusement. This was one of the biggest revelations the second season offered when it told the same events in chronological order. Since by then the mystery was solved, rewatching the events in a linear fashion just couldn’t hide the truth anymore.
Another trick the show used, which was still new at that time and felt very innovating because of that, was to have the whole thing being told in first person narration, from someone who is not Haruhi. Despite her being the iconic character of the anime, the protagonist is actually Kyon, a male teenager who is narrating most of everything through internal monologues. It’s so easy to excuse anything that happens this way since they are simply thoughts. Nobody can question them because nobody is hearing them in-series. Kyon becomes a foil for the viewer, saying anything he likes and feeling supreme and mighty for acting like a teenager who thinks he can explain everything without knowing much. He is also not far away from a harem lead for being surrounded by cute girls with superpowers, who like him even when there is nothing special about him. He even gets to solve the conflict of the whole series by essentially kissing Haruhi, further making it feel like she is a typical datesim girl who needs a man to fix her psychological issues with his D. Just like Haruhi, Kyon is also a very sympathetic character, because he is someone all males wished they were.
A positive side of the show is how it motivated many people to become part of something. Whether it was cosplaying, music bands, dancing, travelling to the places the show was based on, or even becoming complete idiots who treat Haruhi as the one true god, it can’t be denied that this show drove away the boredom from the lives of thousands of anime fans, and led to the creation of numerous social groups that brought together thousands of people with similar tastes.
On the negative side, the show helped to spread the plague of moeshit, where people are watching anime for escapism and really cancerous themes. Its success was one of the reasons light novel adaptations became commonplace and keep bombarding us with good ideas that are treated in completely lazy ways and are eventually nothing but harems that promote incest and immoral messages.
The legacy of the franchise itself is also full of bumps, making it a shadow of what it used to be. The infamous Endless Eight arc, where it repeats the exact same events for eight episodes in a row, is seen as a very lazy excuse to prolong the series. The sex scandal with the voice actress of Haruhi also tarnished the image of the show because otakus lose interest if they don’t think their favorite waifu is still virgin. The author not writing any more novels for several years is also seen as him having no idea of how to end a story such as this, further proving how the plot was random ideas with no planning. The movie sequel felt great only because Haruhi was absent to the most part. And the recent spin-off comedy is nothing but low effort milking of a dying fandom.
So as you see, there is nothing actually thought-provoking in this show; it is style over substance like pretty much everything Kyoani makes. Despite the seemingly complex themes, the characters remain pretty archetypical in behavior. They are defined by a generic school uniform, and some minor accessory like yellow ribbons in their hair. It uses smokes and mirrors to make it seem like it is far more than a typical school comedy with cute girls and random cool ideas, and then lets the audience to be fooled into thinking these illusions are art or depth, when in reality they are elaborate trolling.
I know how many will say that the purpose of any fictional story is to immerse the audience into its imaginary world, but there is a line which separates creative brainstorming from sickening autism, and Haruhi crosses that line way too many times. It is so heavy on empowerment fantasy that it doesn’t simply excite those who are bored, it also makes them do really stupid things in their real lives. Down to it, this show is a pretentious moe comedy that fools people with pretty colors, and superficial ideas.
Urusei Yatsura 2nd movie (Beautiful Dreamer)
Somehow, I find the title Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya quite odd.
n. A deep, pensive, and long-lasting sadness.
adj. Sad, gloomy, or depressed.
Do any of these fit Haruhi Suzumiya? I wonder.
Can someone please enlighten me as to the whole point of this series? Is there even a deeper meaning into it, or is it just what it is? Plot? What plot?
Chronological order or not, it was the same. The release version just made Haruhi, the main character, less immature and selfish.
Seeing as it settled itself at 129th, I thought it was worth watching. But all it did was remind me never to rely too much on ranking. I wouldn't say it was a disappointment; maybe because I just wasn't expecting much from it, based on the summary itself and from other reviews.
With all the scientific terms it brought out, the story wasn't that mind-stimulating. Sure, some aspects were, uh, entertaining but I feel like it was lacking something. There just wasn't anything in it for me to think I'd rewatch it again, and the rewatch factor is something that is very important to me. There were times when I got by one scene after another without really listening; hence, I ended up going back in an effort to understand what the episode was all about. It was just so tedious to watch, to say the least.
So, yeah, Haruhi, I got as bored as you were. Maybe I'll go and start my own club, too.
There were only two things that kept me watching. First, Kyon. Second, I was hoping for something big to happen that would change my earlier opinions. But, alas, up to the last episode there were none. No development in any way, shape, or form, from the whole story line or even from the characters.
Now, is it strange that I consider School Rumble better than The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya?
2 things before you read this review:
1) I (unfortunately) watched the series twice, both in airing and chronological order, so I can compare them.
2) This is not a praise Haruhi review, but rather a review from someone who truly dislikes and despises the show. I tried to include all reasons behind this; so even if you are a Haruhi fanatic, please try to understand why I rated it so low.
Now onto the review.
MAL is the place where I usually decide the new anime series I want to watch. Unfortunately, this sometimes proves to be disastrous - like the case of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Reading the synopsis, seeing the nice graphics and all the hype around it, I really expected something great, intelligent and unusual. Instead, I got a really big disappointment - manifested by a boredom and annoyance overdose.
From what I've seen, there are usually two approaches of the show that Haruhi fans support. First is the parody one - TMoHS is supposed to be a light comedy not meant to be taken seriously, destined purely for laughter. Second states that TMoHS is a deep, subtle and intelligent show that has a lot of hidden meanings. I honestly disagree with both. TMoHS is nothing more than a series that delivers to fans what fans want - exaggerated, cliche characters, lots of fanservice, predictability and little to none plot and character development.
You can't talk about the story without mentioning the really unusual way in which the episodes are aired - and that is, not chronological. I admit, this is an extremely intelligent, even brilliant idea - to hide the fact that the plot of TMoHS is basically zero. Nopes. Nothing ever happens; it's just a bunch of high school and spare time events that some teenagers go through randomly thrown in. That's why, it really doesn't matter in which order you watch the show, since you won't miss anything.
Now, the whole 'God is amongst us' concept could have been really interestingly developed - if it wasn't for the characters.
In my opinion, characters truly represent the poorest aspect of the show. Leaving aside the fact that there is no development in their personalities at all, they are so poorly made, that it's almost as if they were created to be mocked at. In an elegant way, you could say that they are one-dimensional sketches or exaggerated caricatures. In a non sophisticated, yet same true way, you could just call them crappy. Either way, they cut off all the enjoyment the story could have brought. Because they are so simplistic, the viewer is basically able to predict anything that's about to happen in the following 5 minutes with an accuracy of 95% - unless he's an idiot.
So let's move onto each one of them.
Haruhi is what every teenage girl would want to be - she's beautiful, she's smart, she's talented and athletic. She could be called either a Mary Sue character or a tsundere - I don't care. Because of all her qualities, her life was probably pretty easy, thus leading her to believe she's special. However, she doesn't want to be special only for herself - she wants the world to know how great of a person she is. So far, so good. Then why is she so unlikeable? Well, Haruhi's way of proving she's something else is definitely WRONG.
If there was one adjective I had to pick to describe Haruhi, then I'd probably choose aggressive. Haruhi is aggressive in everything. Her speech is aggressive, her ideas are aggressive, her way of waving her hands is aggressive, but most important of all - her relationships towards other people is aggressive. She has no value of human morals whatsoever, considering everybody her pawns. Therefore, Haruhi thinks she is allowed to do everything just because she's able to. I honestly waited throughout the whole series for someone to slap her, disagree with her or at least spark the tiniest bit sense of reality into her. Unfortunately, there was no positive development at all. Haruhi started out as a perfect, bossy bitch and ended up as an even more bitchy one, receiving several ego boosts as the series advanced due to her talented, almighty nature.
Yuki could as very well be replaced by a broken alarm clock that rings when it shouldn't or by an old, rusted door and there would hardly be any differences. 90% of Yuki's actions are static - she's just, well, there, reading a book. (The climax of Yuki's passiveness is reached during episode 14, when the viewer is shown 5 minutes in which basically all she does is change the page while voices full of references echo on the school corridor. That's 5 freaking minutes of NOTHING. Yet I, as a viewer, should find this utterly amusing.) The rest 10% of Yuki's actions make absolutely no sense. She's just programming computers or fighting cute aliens while being equally cute, silent and moe.
Mikuru's only purpose in this show is to bring fanservice. Lots and lots, if possible. Mikuru has this high-pitched, squeaky scream and this shy personality which enables her to make all fanboys fall for her. She's like a sickening cute, fluffy hamster that starts squealing every time she's touched (and she sure gets touched a lot, mind you.) Every once in a while, she might give you the unpleasant surprise that she's not actually a commercial item and she can exit her tormented animal state too and be human - by speaking.
I haven't read the original novels so I can't tell for sure what role Koizumi plays in them - but to me, it seems as the creator of TMoHS had, at some point, reached a pinch. He had to create a new character. Therefore, his line of reasoning was probably something like this: "Hey, I already have 3 extremely moe and likable female characters. I should make a guy too, so the female audience would be pleased. Yeah, yeah, I should make a guy - as elegant and charming as possible." Thus Koizumi was born.
Basically, unless you're a crazy fangirl or something similar, you'd barely be able to notice Koizumi - I, for once, kept forgetting his name all the time. To be honest, the only time I acknowledged his existence was when he kept staring at Kyon's hair in the middle of a mole fluttering in the ocean breeze. I thought it was the most irrelevant and repulsing thing TMoHS had brought so far.
Koizumi serves as the voice through which the strange events occurring around Haruhi are explained. Translation: his speeches are long, boring and put you to sleep. When he talks, he talks. When he doesn't talk, he still talks.
Kyon is a sword with two edges. On one hand, he's really sarcastic, being quite innovative to the ordinary guy genre - thus proving to be the only aspect that might seem slightly interesting during the series. On the other one, he's extremely unlikable due to the fact that he doesn't take any action at all - unless forced by Haruhi. Kyon was the viewer's last hope of Haruhi redemption - yet he fails miserably, by making her even worse than how she actually started off.
Art and Sound
Art and sound are probably the only positive aspects of the show. TMoHS manages to create a pretty good atmosphere - the movements are flowing easily, the colors are bright and clean, the background music fits in - even though it doesn't stand out as more than ordinary. The OP and ED are either really addictive or annoying to the core - I'm more inclined to the latter. Voices are OK, the actors managing to catch each character's personality - which only adds up to how you, as a viewer, perceive them. Overall, no major problem.
Zero. Zero enjoyment. I can't quite comprehend how a normal, rational person can watch a show where the characters are horrible and the story is predictable - and, at the same time, enjoy it. Haruhi is a mediocre anime for the masses. It was meant to be liked by all those who want to stand out but have no means of doing so. I honestly expect much more from my anime when I watch it. I want to be hooked or at least slightly entertained. Leave aside the fact that I constantly kept staring elsewhere asking myself 'when will this crap be over?'; I couldn't even grin ONCE throughout the series. That's how uninteresting it was.
When rating, I usually consider two aspects. One is enjoyment; the other is the effort that I feel the creators put into the certain anime. Animation-wise, KyoAni really overdid itself. Plot-wise, it was a total wreck.
Therefore, I really cannot rate TMoHS more than 4 out of 10.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is 2 seasons x 14 episodes of a high-school, slice-of-life comedy anime, with supernatural aspects, based on the novel series written by Nagaru Tanigawa (illustrated by Noizi Itou), which I’ve read. This is one of the most well-known and popular anime in Japan, many other anime have references to this. But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, this is also one of the most controversial anime, though not in the way you might think. The first season of this anime was released in 2006 and the second was released in 2009, but included the first season as it aired. Technically, the second season is just 14 episodes, but it will appear as 28 episodes as it includes the first season. This is why this review covers both, since I watched the both together as it was in the second season.
For an anime of which half is made in 2006 and the other half made in 2009, the animation seems more appropriate for the latter. I.e. the quality of the animation is rather good and is actually fairly constant between the two parts. Both of the seasons look as if they were made in 2009, though this might have been the case if the first season was redone/remastered for airing alongside the second season. I watched it all in 720p. The quality is clear and the backgrounds are detailed, it really does look like a relatively recent anime. Funny considering that some anime which came after the first season and referenced it didn’t look as good. That said, the animation for dialogue and speech is basic at best, the lip-sync is horribly off, no matter which language it’s watched in. Especially in the song scene in episode 26 more on this later.
The style is surprisingly unique in some regards, but has a distinct recognisable style. The characters are very distinct, despite Nagato and Koizumi looking a bit more generic. This is due to the fact that this anime was animated by Kyoto studios, the same studio that made Clannad, Kanon and Air with specific distinctive styles and they also made the anime K-On and Lucky Star, both of which had distinctive styles. If I’m honest, I can see the style of this anime being a mix of the well-known styles of the former group and a gopod dash of the latter, mixing together to make something quite unique. Certain characters tend more to one style over the other, Kyon’s sister seems more like a character from Clannad and Mikuru seems more like a K-On/Lucky Star character, funny since her VA also voiced a character from K-On.
And the usual section on fan-service/pervy BS. What little there is, I’ll let slide since it was also present in the original novels. And you’ll be thankful (if you also don’t like ecchi) that this stuff is not so prominent. Despite Mikuru supposedly being well endowed, this isn’t apparent for the most part while she wears her regular school uniform or maid uniform attire. Similar with Haruhi, who you’d be surprised to find has a more ‘adult-like’ body. Both of them look the roughly the same wearing bunny suits, but only attention is drawn to Mikuru, mainly by Haruhi. Kyon also notifies the viewers that Haruhi is indeed an attractive girl, but his disinterest is due to her personality. Nice to know that Kyon isn’t such a shallow man and his attraction to Mikuru is due to her pleasant personality.
Quick bit off topic: While I read the books for this series, I was listening to a custom playlist of chilled-out instrumental music from the Super Sonico anime’s OST (it was a playlist designed to help me get to sleep, hence the lack of pop/rock). Over time I ended up associating that music with Haruhi Suzumiya, more than I did for its own anime. I couldn’t imagine the Haruhi anime would have any other music than that. Fortunately a long time passed after finishing those novels and I listened to the playlist whilst reading other novels and the effect isn’t as pronounced nowadays.
A good mix and most importantly, the tunes seem to portray the right mood and seem much attuned to the ongoing animation shown in those sequences. The intro sounds like Haruhi's personality in song form. A good bit of sound design and we haven’t even got to the main anime yet. The soundtrack in the main anime itself varies a bit, but if I’m honest it wasn’t too memorable. It does have a mix of genres and tries to use them where appropriate. Oh and there’s even a possible reference to K-On, as there’s an all-girls rock band playing during the school festival episode. But what was surprising, was that the song wasn’t in Japanese in the English version…
This anime is available in both English, Japanese and even French! The animation let’s down all of the voicing here, regardless of language. The movement of the mouth matches neither audio, it’s just opening and closing in the same shape. Both audio are interesting, we’ve got some great voice actors from the Japanese side, Dasiuke Ono as Koizumi and Minori Chihara, one of my favourite Japanese VAs as Yuki Nagato. We even have the interesting Minoru Shiraishi as Taniguchi, this guy… The entirety of this anime is referenced by Lucky Star where these Daisuke Ono, Minori Chihara star as themselves as well as characters like Haruhi and Nagato making cameo appearances. It’s similar for the English VAs, Johnny Yong Bosch and Wendee Lee voice Daisuke Ono and Aya Hirano respectively, as well as Wendee Lee obviously voicing Konata. Unfortunately for all the concentrated talent shown by the Japanese VAs, I found that the English was better in that anime, despite the perfect role of Minoru Shiraishi voicing a character with the same name as him and going all out for some comedic outro songs. Same goes for Tony Regal, the corresponding English VA. This anime is good in either language (since they don’t make much of a difference) and I was very impressed by Crispin Freeman’s voice as Kyon. I feel like this is his best role yet. It helps that the same studio made these anime, probably explains why these two anime are so well intertwined.
Of course Haruhi Suzumiya is voiced by none other than Wendee Lee, known for roles including Bulma in Dragonball, Konata Izumi/Haruhi Suzumiya in Lucky Star, Hatsuho Kazami in Please Teacher, Inko/Sumire Kano in Toradora and Miho Karasuma in Witch Hunter Robin. Kyon is voiced by Crispin Freeman, who has voiced Jeremiah Gottwald in Code Geass, Holland Novak in Eureka Seven, Kirei Kotomine in the Fate series, Togusa in Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C, Tomokazu Sugita/cameo Kyon in Lucky Star, Joseph Carpenter in Read or Die and Amon in Witch Hunter Robin. Itsuki Koizumi is voiced by none other than Johnny Yong Bosch, famed for the role of Lelouche Lamperouge in Code Geass, having also voiced Renton Thurston in Eureka Seven, Ryuunosuke Uryuu in Fate Zero, Michael Garrett in Gun X Sword, Daisuke Ono in Lucky Star, Yu Narukami in Persona 4 Animation, Brock in Pokemon Origin, Rossiu Adai in Gurren Lagann, Yuusaku Kitamura in Toradora and Haruto Sakaki in Witch Hunter Robin. Mikuru Asahina had the recognisable voice of Stephanie Sheh, she voiced Kaguya Sumeragi/Anya Alstreim in Code Geass, Mikuru Katsuhara in Eden of the East, Eureka in Eureka Seven, Illyasviel von Einzbern in the Fate series, Yui Hirasawa in K-On (watched fairly recently), Akira Kogami/Hikaru Sakuraba in Lucky Star, Yui in Sword Art Online and Kinon Bachika in Gurren Lagann. Yuuki Nagato was clearly voiced by Michelle Ruff, having voiced Euphemia Li Britannia in Code Geass, Martha Mackenzie/Aoi Tohsaka in Fate Zero, Bevel in Gargantia, Carmen 99 in Gun X Sword, Tsukasa Hiiragi/Minami Iwasaki/Minori Chihara/cameo Yuki in Lucky Star, Koishi Herikawa in Please Teacher, Yoko Littner in Gurren Lagann and Yurika Doujima in Witch Hunter Robin. Of course the side character of Taniguchi was voiced by Sam Regal, who of course voiced Minoru Shiraishi and has also voiced Shirou Emiya in Fate Stay Night. Tsuruya/Kyon’s sister is voiced by Kari Wahlgren, Ryouko Asakura is voiced by Bridget Hoffman, Kunikida is voiced by Brianne Siddall and Computer Research Society President is voiced by Dave Wittenberg.
Of course, the titular Haruhi Suzumiya might be considered to be the main character. Haruhi is an eccentric and wild high-school girl. As Kyon has mentioned, she is quite attractive and perhaps the perfect girl, she is so smart that she aces her exams and is so athletic that she excels at any sports or athletics she tried. But then the important bit: her personality is not something most folks would be willing to put up with. Her quirkiness resulted in her never turning a guy down, when they asked her out. But the relationships never lasted very long as she quickly grew bored of them, the shortest relationship lasted minutes and the longest a few weeks. Haruhi is an individual who finds the regular world boring and would love it if weird things happened and wants to meet the likes of aliens, espers and time-travellers. Yet, she is actually thinks very realistically, she knows (or thinks) such things can’t exist. She is a very bossy individual and likes to order others around, she’d like to think that the world revolves around her. As such, she tends to treat other people very badly, especially Mikuru, who she constantly abuses.
But the real main character here is the guy who sits in front of her in class: Kyon (no second name given). Of all of the various quirky characters, Kyon is the only ordinary person and the one who values reason and logic above all else. He asks the questions that should be asked and in essence, I think this character was written to represent the reader (in the novels). That said, he does have his own personality and he is eventually persuaded to believe things he normally wouldn’t believe. He’s a bit cynical and not very enthusiastic. He wants to do what he can to keep things normal and to keep his friends from getting hurt, he wants to avoid bad things. According to the other characters, this ordinary nobody guy, is somehow one of the most important characters of all. Is the voice of reason valued that much?
The first of the strange characters to appear, is Yuki Nagato, a petite girl with short purple hair and glasses. She falls into the quiet and serious stereotype. She’s always found in the clubroom reading books (that’s all she does, probably a bibliophile) and does not display emotions, speaking in a monotone voice. And what is crazy is that she claims to be… something akin to an alien. A ‘humanoid interface serving under the data entity overmind,’ here on this planet to merely observe and report data on the mysterious individual known as Haruhi Suzumiya. She rarely has any input of her own unless asked and only wears her school uniform unless otherwise instructed by the likes of Haruhi. Despite all this, she acts shy and is rather protective of the group. Kyon manages to help her integrate into the group better and she’s often pulling crazy behind-the-scene stunts to stop disasters from occurring.
The second of the strange characters to appear is the beautiful and cute Mikuru Asahina. Quick disclaimer, it seems from this anime is if she is a junior to Kyon and Haruhi in the year below. Considering that they meet her in their first year of high school (they can’t have high school juniors!), this is nonsense. Mikuru is a senior to Kyon and Haruhi. She has a cheery and kind personality, she’s the sort of person who wouldn’t hurt a fly or be too assertive on anybody. Rather, she’s the opposite. She’s weak-willed and shy, which makes her the prime candidate for abuse. Haruhi often dresses her up in uncomfortable and arguably inappropriate cosplay. Stuff like a maid costume, a skimpy bunny suit and even a waitress costume. Haruhi is also trying to force her to be the ‘moe’ character of this anime, even instructing her to trip and spill tea over Kyon. Due to how attractive she looks and apparently having huge breasts (though she barely looks different to Haruhi when they wore skimpy bunny suits), she’s something akin to the school idol, complete with guys being jealous of Kyon for getting to hang out with her so much in the typical BS anime fashion. So what’s so weird about her, she seems like the most normal of them all right? Yeah she pretty much is a normal human being… except she claims to be a time-traveller from the future. She won’t tell Kyon or the others anything, since she is under orders not to. Instead, she’ll use the word classified. What’s even weirder, is that there’s an older version of Mikuru apparently from further in the future. She is a more mature and taller individual and unlkike her younger self, she is more calm and in control. It goes without saying that she is even hotter than her teenage self.
Finally we have Itsuki Koizumi. This character takes quite a while to appear in the story and is that sort of attractive, in-control guy who is always smiling and calm. One can’t imagine him ever getting angry or upset, and he’s no different when he tells jokes, leading to quite a few misunderstandings by Kyon. He thinks it’s best to let Haruhi do what she wants, so he’s always on hand and complying to her demands with a smile. He’s almost like a ‘yes-man’. What special about him? Koizumi claims to be an esper (being with supernatural powers), but apparently his powers only work in certain places, at certain times, during certain conditions. Yeah… even Kyon caught onto how convenient and unrealistic this sounds.
Onto the less important characters. Kyon’s little sister, who goes by the name of… ‘Kyon’s little sister.’ That’s right, this somewhat common side character doesn’t even get a name (it was the same in the novels). She’s the typical little sister character, at times she’s annoying and at other times she’s cute. She appears to be an elementary schooler who likes cats. She also gets along well with Haruhi, funny since Haruhi tells Kyon to be more like his little sister. She’s also capable of being very annoying. Just regular little sister material. Speaking of the cat… it’s shown in the intro (and outro) of every episode of this anime, yet he’s only in the last few episodes… kinda nonsense that, but it makes sense given the his appreance in the plotline If this anime were to show more of the plot, then we’d see more of the cat.
Tsuruya is the very quirky and jolly rich girl. She’s got that annoying tone of voice and she laughs at most things that Haruhi and the guys do. She’s that overly positive sort, who you can’t imagine ever getting upset and she’ll happily go along with what Haruhi says. Honestly, I’m surprised they aren’t best friends. She’s like a more energetic and slightly loud and annoying version of Koizumi, except without all the esper weirdness and reasons for submitting to Haruhi.
Kyon’s two other friends from class, i.e. his ‘normal’ group of friends are Kunikida and Taniguchi. Honestly, Kunikida is a very shallow and dead character. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t get very many lines or much screen time. What I can tell is that he’s just a normal guy who is a bit on the sensible side of things. If Koizumi were quiet and didn’t do much, then he’d be a lot more like Kunikida. The other character is the typical jerk best friend. Taniguchi seems to always be perving over chicks and is always pointing out to Kyon that he’s a lucky bastard to hang out with so many cute girls (just 3?), heck he’s jealous of Kyon and upset that Kyon isn’t ‘sharing.’ Yeah, the pervy dumb guy, that’s Taniguchi.
So The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina has a shoddy plot to go along with the abysmal sound design and terrible camerawork and visuals (which look like they were filmed by a kid with a cheap aged camcorder). The story is full of plot-holes and constantly changes tact, so many things happen for no good reason, it’s like a child up with the story, even the narrator has no clue what’s going on. I feel sorry for the guy for trying to inject sense and reason into such a mess…
Oh wait, wrong review…
Ahem, firstly I will mention that season 2 of this anime is both seasons of 14 episodes combined. Which is why many folks will watch both of them together. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya seems to be your average slice-of-life, high-school comedy and in many respects it is just that. But in reality, there’s an underlying plot full of unexplained mystery and strange occurrences. One of the great things about this story, is the narration by Kyon who is essentially voicing the viewers concerns as to what is happening here, as well as being a character himself. This remains the same from the books, but there’s something else the anime tried to do in order to ‘represent’ the books well. Of course, much like the books the biggest issue with the overall plot is that it never ends and many important things are never explained or remain a mystery. So don’t expect this anime to be conclusive.
The first controversy: the order of the episodes aired in season one. Why would they even consider this? The novels were for the most part, multiple tales or events in each book, with exceptions for a few of the books. Each tale is akin to a different arc of epiodes in an anime, but beyond the first introductory tale, the order is non-chronological. Of course, in the books each tale would be completed before moving onto the next one which could be set before or even long afterwards. The anime tried to do this by airing the episodes in a non-linear order for season 1. Except it deviates from the book since the first tale spans multiple episodes and they are jumbled up more here. Movies and other anime have done this, and some of them have done it well (including these books). But here, it doesn’t do the anime any favours. The creators of the anime figured this out, so when they re-aired the first season along with season 2, they aired the episodes in perfect chronological order. None of that shuffling of the arc like the novels, which was done well IMO. If you want to know what the order is, I recommend this page, which explains everything. This order thing is minor compared to the next thing, considering other anime have had a non-chronological order, yet almost no other anime have done the following.
The second controversy: The Endless Eight. Usually, the books are more detailed with longer depictions of the same plot. And of course more stories. No doubt this anime wouldn’t be able to depict every single arc from the books, but surely it would make an effort. While anime have been known for adding the small thing or a single episode here or there… no anime has essentially rerun the same episode almost 8 times! The book only depicted the equivalent to the last episode in this repeat. A lot of fans were upset, not only because of being expected to watch essentially the same episode several times, but also because this took up 8 episodes out of a 14 episode season! That’s more than half the episodes! Think of the other stuff they could have shown had they just limited the arc to just a couple of episodes, if not just the one. No excuses, this wasn’t creative and the gamble failed. It’s such a shame. 5 of the other episodes were taken up by the arc preceding the school festival in season 1, fleshing that out but honestly taking a bit too long with it. No wonder the 2nd season didn’t do as well as the 1st, which managed to depict many more arcs in the same length.
This anime is a much loved and popular comedy anime, rightfully so since it does the comedy well and the incomplete story isn’t so bad with the unique and fun cast of characters. But some gambles and bad decisions let this anime down. I’d recommend this for fans of high-school comedy and those who like slice of life. But I’d also ask for cynics to give this a try, the wonderful narration by Kyon seems to voice many valid concerns of the viewers. Me personally… it was okay, but I wasn’t expecting much since I’ve read the books already and knew of the flaws beforehand. There is a sequel movie, based upon a later arc in the books. But of course, had season 2 been done better, it might have been in the anime already, even if it took a few episodes.
Family-friendliness Rating: 3/5 (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 7.5/10 (higher is better)