Notice: I will make one review for both seasons and the movie and be done with it. It’s more than it deserves.
Once upon a time, there was a moe schoolgirl, whom was bored to death. So she decided to do lots of weird stuff as means to stop being bored. And WHAM we have the all-famous Haruhi, an anime so big it has its own religion. A newbie trying to figure out what the heck is so good about this show will be pitted against a mountain of different opinions, deep analysis, contradictions, and some really weird links to psychology and existentialism. What is going on and why is this show so famous? I made a list to help you figure it out.
- It’s moe, the new fad on the block.
- It’s well made moe. The production values of the show are simply great. That Haruhi dance and that concert did not become so famous without the amazing animation, lip sync and guitar finger sync. The voice actors did their job well and the songs are catchy.
- It’s moe with some weird stuff in the story. Something about reality shift concerning aliens and espers and time travelers. Typical moe shows are storyless you see.
- It had to do with boredom. The heroine does all she does because she is bored and that felt very sympathetic to most of the audience, which also feels bored with the modern way of life.
- It was unexpected. Most of the audience had no idea what the hell is this show about or why are the episodes airing in non-chronological order. It made it look like some mystery that needed solving.
Yet I must make it clear that this is basically a thought-provoking show for casuals only. By no means will it mean anything to a more sophisticaded audience, since its core idea is very childish. The presentation made it look intelligent but it was still mostly style than substance, so let me analyze the above in a more personal POV this time.
- I am not a moe fan and in fact I dislike the whole fad which has overtaken the industry; a thing which the success of Haruhi helped to establish. At the same time I don’t say it makes the show worse for having lots of it. It is essentially a school comedy and for that reason it needs humor and cute girls. It is as such since the days of Urusei Yatsura and thus it is not a bad thing on its own.
- Having great production values is a plus, no matter the context.
- Having a weird backdrop story is always far more interesting than random storyless events.
- Having a non-linear way of showing those said events makes it harder to be bored as it constantly makes you wonder what is going on with the story.
- Having a context that motivates its audience to do something and indirectly affecting their daily lives is also a good thing, if it’s not overdone. I mean it made so many tens of thousands of people to be interested in going to concerts, or making a band, or cosplaying, or writing their own fan-fiction about the characters, or talking on-line about it for years, or being trolled by it from the producers for years, or mimicking the dance, or touring to the real world sites the anime was depicting, or even making up their own religion. All that led to the creation of numerous social groups that brought together thousands of people with similar tastes and motivated them to do something they like as means to not feel bored. It sounds good to me, especially when it’s done without too much direct product placement. Besides the brand of the guitars, I didn’t notice any other in-your-face attempts for the show to sell a specific item. Cosplay uniforms and figurines don’t count of course, since they are a natural follow up to any series.
- It is very simple to understand and follow on a basic level. Most people want their shows simple and clean, easy going, perky and sympathetic, yet not completely dry of messages and ideology. Haruhi is exactly that.
That all sounds very nice on a meta-series way of thinking, yet if one is to see the show in a more deep level, it will be very easy to see that it isn’t exactly an intellectual show.
- The characters are not complicating in personality and remain as nothing but moe archetypes. They don’t develop throughout the course of the show. Although Kyon and Haruhi realize a few things about themselves, that still does not count as maturity. In fact, the whole appeal of the show is based on them not maturing. The slightest change in any famous cult icon is always its downfall, a thing which the second season proved. That does not make the characters bad but it sure doesn’t make them feel real if they are good only as static caricatures. In fact, it also makes them obnoxious after awhile for not learning or developing and instead just keep pestering you with the same simplistic attitude. They are also quite frail despite their dynamic motions and superpowers to the point you see the girls as typical bimbos in need of some guy to save them.
- The story is not amazing either. The first season made it look mysterious by presenting the episodes in non-linear order when in reality it was just reshuffling the events in a way to shoehorn in lots of silly aimless events and make the core story feel more important. In reality, the basic idea is almost childish and the second season which aired the episodes in proper order, proved how boring it was if it’s watched in a linear fashion.
- The philosophy or even the theology of the show is, just like its characters, very shallow. Each one of them represents an idea that he or she mentions but don’t really do much with it other than mentioning it. All the seriousness of the themes is eventually buried under a ton of fluff.
- The hype and excitement the show had in its early years will feel like a distant memory after awhile and anyone who tries to watch the show today will only wonder where did all that weird follow up derive from? It was from the fandom, ok? If you were not present when it was still hot, you won’t be taken in so easily today.
- Eventually, a combination of the above reasons easily proves how the whole concept of the series is actually very naive and that it is basically appealing for being immature. Haruhi is almost like a bitch in the second season because she resorts to drastic measures in order to spice things and not be bored, something that was hidden when the story was non-linear. She was basically tormenting the whole world for her own amusement! And after the basic mystery was revealed and the infamous Endless Eight arc came to be, not even its easy going, static attitude was enough to appeal to the audience. The interesting premise was all an illusion after all. As for the latest movie being considered great, it is only because it returned to being mysterious and light with the bitch heroine having amnesia and thus not being actually present to piss you off. Of course and it worked!
In effect, this anime is like anabolic drugs. You feel very energetic when you take them but eventually you are messing up your body and mind with drugs. I am not saying it is not an entertaining franchise but at no chance will I consider it a masterpiece in terms of storytelling or characters. I find far more fulfilling series like Ghost in the Shell or Ergo Proxy, things most find boring because they are not easy going and not overflowing with moe and schoolgirls. Of course it has also to do with me not liking storyless moe or static characters and that the show was never aimed at me and thus never had a chance of being appealing. Haruhi is very entertaining for the casual viewers who like that stuff and since I said “casual” automatically means it is not a masterpiece. Fan catering never is; it’s just a high seller of easily digestible works which may win in entertainment by sacrificing many other aspects.
Anyways, not a bad show but surely could be far better. And in case you liked its core idea, check out the titles bellow.
Urusei Yatsura 2nd movie (Beautiful Dreamer)
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 9/10
General Artwork 2/2 (well-made)
Character Figures 2/2 (generic-looking but easily memorable)
Backgrounds 1/2 (normal stuff)
Animation 2/2 (very good for a tv series)
Visual Effects 2/2 (trippy when weird stuff happen)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 1/2 (it seems really complicating at first but then it is revealed it is quite simple)
Plausibility 0/2 (none; too much magic randomness)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 2/2 (cute/funny)
Personality 2/2 (cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (none and don’t fool yourselves to think anything changed)
Catharsis 1/2 (some and only in terms of loose missions being completed)
VALUE SECTION: 9/10
Historical Value 3/3 (all-known)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high if you go easy on it)
Memorability 4/4 (hard to forget it with so much hype around)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10
Art 0/1 (looks nice)
Sound 1/2 (sounds ok)
Story 1/3 (good ideas, shitty presentation)
Characters 2/4 (colourful stereotypes but nothing more)