Aah, Haruhi. That's all most anime watchers talk about recently. And in that light, I wouldn't be blogging about anime if I didn't say something about her, now would I?
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is not your typical, run-of-the-mill anime. At least, that's what it's trying really hard to put forward. And it does so pretty well, for now. Kyon is your normal, uninterested schoolguy, who once upon a time dreamt of meeting aliens, time-travellers, and ESPers. Feeling that would never come true, he decides to enter high school and live a normal life. A boring one. That is, until he meets a girl in class that specifically only wants to meet aliens, time-travellers, and that's right, ESPers. That girl was Haruhi Suzumiya.
His interest piqued, Kyon finally approaches the beautiful, yet weird girl, and talks to her. Deciding to humour her, Kyon gets caught up in much, much more than he bargained for, starting with Haruhi's formation of the 'Spreading Excitement all Over the World with the Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade' or the S.O.S. Brigade for short. Without reading anything much about it online, I first thought that this was another one of your school life satire and comedy series. Well, I was partly right. What I never expected were aliens, time-travellers, and ESPers. This show is definitely more than meets the eye.
Okay, a little rundown of the characters. The star is definitely Haruhi Suzumiya, the beautiful schoolgirl who has a very bossy attitude, and twisted mind, as one can definitely see in the way she orders Kyon around and 'uses' Mikuru Asahina for her own devices. Kyon is the disinterested schoolguy that Haruhi seems to demand having around and acts as the shows narrator, giving his opinion on everything, showing the viewer the world through his eyes. Mikuru is the blur, moé-like (moé = naive or innocent character, often submissive, and lovable) upperclassman, who turns out to be a time-traveller sent to monitor Haruhi. Itsuki Koizumi is the ESPer who is another member of the S.O.S and is there, again, to monitor Haruhi. And yes, Yuki Nagato, an alien, is also sent to monitor Haruhi. Don't get the wrong idea, in most shows, they're nothing more than your everyday schoolkids with weird personalities, but they are what they are. It seems Haruhi is sort of 'special' in that what she does seems to influence time and space. But the whole time the viewer is left wondering if Haruhi really is special or not, as her powers are never seen directly but more just strange coincidences. No blatant flying saucers here, but definitely sci-fi oriented.
Okay, I guess that explains the science-fiction genre then. What about humour, you say? Well, I find that while generally entertaining, most of the humour and satire present in the series comes from Kyon's actual narration of each episode and his inner thoughts during scenes. Sugita Tomokazu voices Kyon in the Japanese version, while Crispin Freeman voices Kyon in the english dub, and does a really good job at making his thoughts and narration seem natural, no matter how irritated or sarcastic he is trying to be.
Kyon is also viewed as the only 'normal' human in this group that is the S.O.S, but that can't be right, can it? After all, he IS interested in Haruhi and what she does, no matter how much he tries not to be. Haruhi herself is exuberant (most of the time) to the point of breaking. Her antics with Mikuru, and herself included, often has me smiling at its sheer 'twistedness'. A character as vibrant and lively as her is not usually found as the lead of an anime. But, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is trying to be different, and Haruhi is definitely different. If you don't mind listening closely to Kyon's narration, then you'd definitely find things to laugh about.
Another thing to mention is the nature of the series. Do not watch this expecting an episode-by-episode continuation. They decided to do a few arcs of the story together, and this can often get confusing at first. Also, it's best to have a couple of episodes ready to watch, unless you want to risk wondering where you've seen a particular scene before. Although unique, I could have done without this little addition. The story is screwy enough without cutting it up into pieces and randomly throwing episodes at us. For instance, episode 1 is actually somewhere in the middle of the series, while 2 and 3 are linked and 4 is another part altogether. The story follows three orders: Broadcast order, the order that the episodes were aired on Japanese TV. Chronological Order, the order in which the events actually happen. DVD order, the order that the episodes are in, on the DVD release of the series.
I have to say though, animation is definitely top-notch. Well, this was 2006, but it was a pleasant surprise to find a 'school themed' show having exceptional animation like this, everyone is drawn in a way giving that 'easy to the eye' feel.
This has got to be one of the best animes in terms of dance animations, or most known i should say. The Hare Hare Yukai dance as the ending to the first season is probably one of the most well known anime dances around. but you cant just focus on that now. Music isn't the greatest, with not much during the show. Both are catchy, the opening and ending songs give off a bright, cheery atmosphere to the show.
Not everything is perfect in the world of Haruhi though. As funny as he is, Kyon's narration can get stale sometimes. The Endless Eight episodes are another turn-off. The series, up to this point, is basically one crazy ride in preventing Haruhi from getting melancholic, and while okay for now, may get tiresome soon.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya seems to be anything but that. An anime which you will either like or hate, depending on your tastes. But at least suffer through the first episode of 'The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina' (or the eleventh episodes depending on the order you watch) and watch a few more before you make your decision. I'm not going crazy over it, but I find it's definitely one of the better animes.