Nov 17

Anime of the Week – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Everybody dance now~

Not as famous but still as important to the anime industry as Gainax is, Kyoto Animation (or KyoAni, for short), have been responsible for several of the big hits of the past few years. Between Clannad, Lucky Star and K-On!, they’ve made a bunch of series that, while not liked by everyone, still had a huge impact on the animation industry. But by far KyoAni’s greatest triumph, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was a masterpiece both as an anime and as a story. Along with some of the weirdest directorial choices in history…

Running for two series and a movie (which should finally be hitting the UK about now), Haruhi is based off a series of light novels of the same name, written by Nagaru Tanigawa. The story revolves around Kyon, a standard John Smith of the world, with absolutely nothing of note about him (which, weirdly, is exactly what makes him special), and his relationship with the always energetic, overenthusiastic and exaggerated Haruhi Suzumiya. Who also happens to be God. Not that she knows that.

Bored with her everyday life, Haruhi sets up an “SOS Brigade”, masquerading as student support, but actually an outlet for Haruhi’s creative endeavours. Dragged into the fold include Yuki Nagato (alien), Mikuru Asahina (time traveller) and Itsuki Koizumi (esper). Together, the five go out hunting for the unusual, taking part in various tournaments and challenges, and all the standard slice of life stuff. Or as “standard” as life can be when someone who can destroy reality without realising it is on your team.

And yet, thanks to Tanigawa’s brilliant narrative abilities, the story never gets too far-fetched or insane. The characters, and their relationships and interactions are always the focus, with the story being told from Kyon’s point of view. What results is the tales of a guy constantly being dragged along and coming to terms with there being no such thing as an ordinary life for him, as he acts peacemaker and enabler for the Brigade. And if that sounds boring, well, I’m terrible at describing things. But rest assured its not.

As for the animation itself, it truly is phenomenal. No expense was spared, and it shows, each episode looking and feeling like a movie in itself. The same applies to the audio end, with Aya Hirano leading the voice acting cast, and a bunch of songs that have become well-know by anime fans everywhere (Hare Hare Yukai, anyone).

Back to those directorial choices. Well, for the first season, they decided to air the episodes in a random order. The second season was hidden within a rerun of the first season. With Endless Eight added in for good measure. E8 being the same episode, with slight differences, shown 8 times. The net-rage was palpable (although I quite enjoyed the plot arc).

But yeah, in an industry now more concerned with merchandise sales than actual quality, Haruhi stands out as a beacon of quality. Its a combination of great animation and better plots, despite its self-induced flaws, and is easily worth of a watch. Now if you’ll excuse me, Haruhism calls.

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