Anime Monday - Haruhi Suzumiya

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I can't believe I've never at least mentioned this series. When I first heard about it way back in the day, I didn't give it much thought. I'd see videos of the characters dancing around in the ending theme song, but I didn't think it would be something I'd like. To be fair this was before I was really into anime, and it was a time when anime really wasn't that common. Anyway one day during my senior year of high school I decided to finally give it a try. I looked up the first "real" episode of the series, and then spent the entire day watching it. Really wishing I would've checked it out sooner...

The Story of Kyon:

First of all what a lot of people might not realize, the girl named Haruhi is not the main character of the show. In fact she's somewhat of a major pain. The very first episode opens with a young man discussing his life up until that point. He reminisces about being a kid and how the world seemed more "magical" back then, but he also goes on to say that he stopped believing in such childish things like aliens, time travelers, and espers a long time ago. He also he never believed in things like Santa Clause as a kid, and that has since accepted the fact that he lives in a boring normal world. This is the main character of our story, a young man who has never been named.

"Kyon" as they call him (it's not his real name) starts his first day of high school, and is ready to begin his daily boring school life. He expects it to be exactly like his old school, and really that's about it. It's just school, there's nothing special about it. He'll go to class each day, maybe make some friends, and then in a few years he'll move onto college. A simple life that everyone has to go through at some point. Yep, it would be easy. Or at least it would've been if it wasn't for Haruhi Suzumiya.

After introducing himself to his home room class, Kyon sits down and waits for the next student to take their turn. This time it's a girl with long dark hair, who also instantly catches Kyon's eye. At first glance she seems like your typical high school girl, but the words coming out of her mouth were anything but normal. "I'M ONLY INTERESTED IN ALIEN, TIME TRAVELERS, AND ESPERS, IF YOU'RE NOT ONE, THEN DON'T TALK TO ME!" While not an exact quote, it's pretty close. This girl is nuts, and she has no interest in the "normal world." Kyon of course laughs this off as a joke and asks her about it, but he soon realizes she's dead serious... And that he should have never got involved.

Despite seeing just how crazy she is, Kyon becomes somewhat interested in Haruhi (as does the rest of the school). This is when rumors about her past activities start spreading, and Kyon sees just how crazy she really is. She's amazing at sports and is the best player in, well, everything, but she refuses to join any sports clubs. She'll go on dates with guys just to break up with them on the same day after she's tired of them, and she's been known to do crazy things. At one point she broke into her old school at night, and drew strange symbols allover the school ground. It seemed like she had help from "someone," but she never admitted to this. The more Kyon hears about her the more interested he becomes, but his better judgment tells him to stay away. Too bad the seating arrangement didn't let him.

Since Haruhi sat behind Kyon the two would speak to each other once in awhile, but it wasn't until he asked her about the clubs she turned down that things started to change. "Clubs are boring" was her response, followed by a rant about how stupid and boring they really were. Of course this is when Kyon mentioned to her the idea of making her own club, but he really didn't think she'd go through with it. That is until the next day when she randomly slammed his head off of her desk, and then drug him upstairs. "You are going to help me." This is what sealed Kyon's fate.

The SOS Brigade:

Haruhi was serious about forming a club, and she was willing to do anything it took to do so. She hijacks the literature club room and forces the shy quiet girl to join the group, she randomly abducts the "cutest" girl she can find and uses her body and "photo evidence" of sexual assault to secure a computer from the computer club room, and grabs the first strange transfer student she can find. For whatever reason this was her idea of a "perfect" group of people in a club, and poor Kyon is forced to go along with it at every step. He honestly just wants out, but it's too late to turn back. Even if he tried to run Haruhi herself would no doubt beat him nearly to death and drag him back against his will. She was crazy, and Kyon had accepted it. Although maybe she wasn't as crazy as she might've seemed.

As it turns out the members of the SOS Brigade are not as they seem. Kyon is a "normal" human, but each of the others seem to have some weird secret they are hiding. The early episodes of the show focus on each character and who they really are, and also reveal secrets about Haruhi herself. This is when Kyon finds himself living in the world his kid self wished for where monsters DO exist, but as a young adult he wants nothing to do with it. Of course this has to remain secret from Haruhi, because she unknowingly has the power to shape the world.

The Chronology of Suzumiya:

The thing about the Haruhi Suzumiya anime is that it's an adaptation of a novel series, and like the original novels it's not completely in order. In the initial run episodes were shown in a random order, and required the viewer to watch the entire season to understand what was going on. The show actually started with an "Episode 0" which was a very weird one for those not knowing what is going on. In the 2nd main novel in the series Haruhi decides that the SOS Brigade needs to make a movie for the school cultural festival. This movie ends up being a horrible mess of a home video, and makes no sense what so ever. During this time however Haruhi starts to lose touch with reality, and parts of her movie start to come true. Laser beams start shooting out of character's eyes, cats begin to talk, etc. The world is a mess, and this can be seen in the movie's finished product as well. This is what Episode 0 was, an animated version of the movie they created in that book. Haven't read the book? You won't understand a thing.

After that the show jumped into the first novel, but showed each chapter in a random order. Different characters were introduced at different times, and their stories were uncovered completely out of order. There were also random episodes that were short stories from the 3rd and even 5th novels, but these were stand alone stories that did make sense. Eventually the school cultural festival itself was shown (with some students watching the SOS Brigade movie), but the second novel where they make the movie was completely skipped over. Once everything was said and done the anime told a semi complete story, but also skipped over a lot. But then things changed.

Years later Haruhi returned to TV with a reairing of the original anime. This time episodes were put in the correct order so even newcomers could actually follow the series' events. It was nice to see the show come back, but what people didn't expect was the brand new episodes inserted in the middle. Yep, rather than being a reairing this rerelease was classified as a "second season," and finally filled in many of the blanks the original run left. This began with an episode where Kyon finds himself in the past with young Haruhi at her school, and ended with the horrid "Endless 8" chapter... While the story itself was a cool idea (a groundhogs day never ending time loop), the fact that we had to watch the same episode animated eight different ways was complete overkill. Putting that aside though the second season also included the entire second novel, and lead the series up to a movie adaptation of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya -- something that I'd consider one of my favorite anime movies of all time. Sadly this is where the anime version of the series currently ends, with no signs of a future...

The Novels:

Despite stopping at technically the 6th book (a few of the stories such as Endless 8 came from book 5, and others from book 6), this is not the end of Haruhi. There are currently 11 novels in the series, and there still isn't a definitive ending. In other words it's still technically an ongoing series, with plenty left to be animated. The question is, will it ever happen? Really the chances look pretty slim.

Should You Watch It:

Haruhi is not a show for everyone, but it's also a show unlike many other. Rather than being your typical high school slice of life anime, it focuses on a character who is caught up in something he wants nothing to do with. He WANTS to have that boring generic slice of life life, but he's not allowed to. He's stuck in a world where aliens are watching, time travel is possible, and different secret factions filled with people with super powers exist. Haruhi herself is a time bomb who will do anything to get what she wants, and because of her special power it's not completely safe to interact with her. Causing her to fall into a bad mood could result in the end of the world, or even the creation of a new one. This causes endless suffering for Kyon, with no foreseeable way out. So again, it's not like your typical high school anime.

If you are looking for something different, then Haruhi might at least be worth checking out. Every episodes is unexpected, with Kyon getting himself caught up in multiple crazy events. Although Endless 8 drags on seven episodes too long, at least you have the option of watching the just first and the last episode to see the end of the time loop. (Something I couldn't do as I watched it weekly...) Then you have the movie which is a perfect ending to the first part of this story. It brings together so much of what makes Haruhi so great, and is one of those movies you can easily watch over and over again. That is assuming you liked the series.

So bottom line is, if you're tired of seeing the same old type of story, then yes. Check it out for sure. If you're REALLY against high school based stories, this still might not be for you, but I'd recommend at least giving the first episode a try. You never know it might surprise you.

Where to Watch:

Sorry but at this time your only option is buying the series for yourself. That being said it has been popping up on Netflix in multiple regions, so it may be available for some of you.

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