Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu Review: The Whims and Escapades of a High School Girl
My school’s anime club has been watching two anime, one of which is Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, better known as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. While we actually have yet to finish it, I went ahead and watched through the entirety of season 1 during Thanksgiving break. Indeed, I know I am very late in watching this, but as the cliche goes, better late than never. Haruhi’s a series that pretty much any anime fan has at least heard about, and while it definitely hit its prime popularity a while back, it’s still quite well-known today. As I am quite fond of Kyoto Animation works for the most part, I was excited to finally watch through Haruhi after all this time. While I wasn’t quite as blown away by it as I had expected to be, it was still quite a fun watch. That said, more than anything it’s The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya that I’ve heard such great things about, so I’m aware that I have not yet seen all that Haruhi has to offer by any means.
The story follows Kyon, a fairly ordinary high school boy who does not believe in the supernatural. However, what he imagines will be a typical life is radically changed when he involves himself with a strange girl named Haruhi Suzumiya. Haruhi announces right away that she has no interest in average people and wants only those in the vein of aliens, time travelers, or espers. Kyon does not have the same interests as Haruhi, but he is quickly dragged into Haruhi’s crazy schemes, much to his dismay. Haruhi, eager to find a means to pursue the supernatural, starts the SOS Brigade. Along the way, three individuals join the group. The quiet and book-loving Yuki Nagato, the shy and awkward Mikuru Asahina, and the formal and polite Itsuki Koizumi all go along with Haruhi’s crazy adventures. However, these characters are not quite as they seem, and Kyon comes to realize that he may have ended up with more than he bargained for.
One interesting thing about Haruhi’s story is that there are two methods of watching it: broadcast order and chronological order. Ultimately I chose to go with broadcast order the first time around since that’s my general policy to begin with and I figure that this is the way the original fans watched it anyway. I can certainly say that broadcast order was very confusing and many things made very little sense to me early on, though there was a fascinating appeal to watching in this manner. While Haruhi’s story is relatively simple and straightforward for the most part, this is masked in part by broadcast order, as many aspects of the Haruhi world remain unclear and unexplained for some time and this requires the reader to attempt to piece things together to have a grasp of what is taking place. The mystery element is much stronger this way, as many revelations about Haruhi’s character and the Haruhi universe itself are given quite early chronologically but aren’t given until much later with broadcast order. As such, Haruhi’s existence seems to be quite the enigma and while it is easy to get the gist of what has taken place, not everything is confirmed too quickly and this is interesting in itself. I also feel that broadcast order helps in spacing the story out, as I felt that while the episodes were largely enjoyable, quite a few felt like filler in the grand scheme of things. The Melancholy arc feels the most plot-oriented and many of the other episodes don’t quite have the same impact. While this is minimized by the fact that Melancholy’s conclusion is saved until the end of broadcast order, it makes me wonder how enjoyable it would be to have a block of filler-esque content following Melancholy’s exposition. Of course, it is also true that I have yet to see the second season and thus cannot account for how that would influence the flow of the other season 1 episodes. Once I get around to rewatching Haruhi, I will most certainly give the chronological order a try, and I feel this will be for the better as it will help me to put everything into perspective in regard to time upon seeing it all for a second time.
The characters are quite a colorful bunch, though I do feel that there could have been more in terms of development. Kyon, while certainly the most average of the bunch, is quite a likeable character. Kyon is very easy to relate to and while some might appreciate being involved with SOS Brigade type situations more than others, it is often quite easy to connect with Kyon and sympathize with him as he is dragged into troublesome ordeals. Kyon is the cynical and sarcastic narrator, and his remarks are often some of the most amusing parts of what takes place. In contrast, Haruhi is an upbeat, excitable, and eager personality that cannot stop exploring for something exciting. If nothing else, Haruhi is an entertaining character to watch and she does add a lot of spirit to what takes place, even if what she’s doing is far from logical. Nagato, my personal favorite in the cast, appears expressionless and yet has a lot to offer the series. Not only is Nagato quite amusing with her emotionless demeanor during comedy scenes, but she is also closely involved with the more serious events of the story and proves to be very reliable on many occasions. Nagato’s interactions with Kyon were just as enjoyable as Haruhi’s and I’ve heard that said interactions play a huge role in Disappearance so I have high hopes for that. Asahina is a decent character, though it seems with the exception of a few important scenes, much of her screentime is dedicated to comic relief with either her clumsiness or her mistreatment by Haruhi, usually both in fact. Then there’s Koizumi, who I’m pretty fond of. While Koizumi isn’t quite on the frontlines as some of the other characters are, he still plays quite an important role and has some good scenes. Not to mention his interactions with Kyon typically tend to be hilarious. Or perhaps it’s just that I really enjoyed his Edgeworth impressions with the Remote Island Syndrome arc? Anywho, these are the stars of the cast, and while there are a decent share of other characters, most of them aren’t nearly so important in comparison. Those five are pretty likable, though I do feel there wasn’t nearly as much development as I would’ve liked. There were some great moments with that, however, and this is only the first season so I imagine there’s more to come.
It’s interesting how I’ve been aware of Haruhi for so long yet only just recently got to it. Haruhi seems to be Kyoto Animation’s big hit, yet it wasn’t until after I’ve acquainted myself with a few other KyoAni works that I actually got around to Haruhi. While I can’t say all of the KyoAni works I’ve seen are exactly like Haruhi and it’s hard to say how much Haruhi has shaped the future works of the studio, it’s interesting to note that every single anime I’ve seen from KyoAni has a school setting and the cutesy moe style to some degree. I imagine that the success of Haruhi probably played a huge role in KyoAni focusing on such series, which I can’t say is a bad thing. Even though all those KyoAni series fit into the previously mentioned mold, it would be inaccurate to say that they are a bunch of Haruhi clones. Some of these series definitely have more connections to Haruhi than others, though I do feel each of them has something to help it stand out. Surprisingly enough, while I did enjoy Haruhi a good deal, it’s far from being one of my favorite KyoAni series. I would place it above series such as Hyouka and Kyoukai no Kanata, but I gathered more enjoyment from Clannad (which was to be expected anyway), Chuunibyou, and Kanon. I suppose what really put those three above Haruhi for me were probably the drama and character development, two things that I really tend to love. Such elements were expected from Clannad and Kanon due to my attachment to Key series, but Chuunibyou was quite a pleasant surprise. I found that Chuunibyou is quite similar to Haruhi in a variety of ways, though Chuunibyou’s themes were very different and that certainly made it stand out as a series. Hyouka also shares some similarities to Haruhi as well, though it lacks the supernatural element and gives much more focus to the mystery aspect. I actually haven’t seen all too many KyoAni series, though I’ve seen enough to say I’m a fan and it was interesting to compare a work such as Haruhi from the other anime by this studio, some of which are considerably newer.
Haruhi was an enjoyable watch, and while I can’t say it was the most groundbreaking of series entertainment wise, it certainly has its value and I can see why people enjoyed it so. It’s an easy series to get into and considering when it was made, it did quite a bit to influence some of the series that would succeed it. The story was engaging at its best and even the comedy filler material was enjoyable, though it is one of the more comedic, high energy school series with that touch of supernatural so I suppose it might be too much to ask for a particularly complex story. The characters were likable overall, though development was pretty limited and there were only a few (great as they were) moments where growth could be seen. Of course, like mentioned before, this is only the first season. While I can’t say my hopes for season 2 are especially great (Endless Eight seems more than intimidating), it’s Disappearance that I truly have great expectations for and it’d be much too early to make a quick judgment on the series with this in mind. Having finished season 1 of Haruhi, I would rate it an 8/10, though I do hope that the later installments can bring the series to even more greatness. If what I’ve heard about Disappearance all this time is true, I have no doubt they shall.