The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006 broadcast order)

The Melancholy of Haruhi SuzumiyaType: TV Series
Episode Count: 14
Genre: Slice Of Life / Sci-Fi
Vintage: 2006

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 11 Jan 2008

Grade: A
Grade revised 09 Jan 2010 (was B)

When originally aired on Japanese TV, the series was presented non-linearly. It is in this format that I have watched the show and am reviewing it. For the 2009 edition, click here.

Boogiepop Phantom meets School Rumble? Kind of… but not really.

Plot Summary
Told from the point of view of Kyon, an ordinary high school student, he recalls how his life changes when he meets a girl named Haruhi Suzumiya. Haruhi is constantly bored, and ordinary people don’t interest her. She wants to meet aliens, espers, and time travellers, and search for strange happenings. Though Haruhi isolates herself from the rest of the students, Kyon decides to suggest to her that since none of the clubs she had joined were sources of the unusual (she had joined every single club in school at one point or another), she should make her own club. With that, Haruhi volunteers Kyon, and the two set out and form the SOS Brigade, with the goal of meeting aliens, espers, and time travellers, while searching for unusual happenings. The only problem is that they have no members other than themselves. And so begins Haruhi’s quest to recruit more people to join the SOS Brigade…

The Review
Without a doubt, this series was the most talked about in 2007 in the US. With all of the buzz, I was bound to find out something about it, but it remained to be seen if it was something that I would get into. So after reading all of the hype and researching it a bit (without spoiling it for myself), I decided that, yes, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya may well be a series that I’d be interested in. Indeed, it turned out that my method of picking shows was once again a success. It lives up to the hype.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya comes in two flavors: Broadcast and Chronological. For my first viewing, I watched in the original broadcast order, which is non-linear in nature. This is a characteristic shared by a couple of my alltime favorite series, namely Serial Experiments Lain and Boogiepop Phantom. One thing that I enjoy about non-linear stories is that it leaves putting the pieces of the story together to us, the viewer. This series is no different. Add on top of that that it is told in quasi-flashback by Kyon, and this really leaves you without a safety net as you watch. Putting the pieces together as the story unfolds is half of the fun of this series.

The characters in the show are a unique bunch, so I’ll describe them briefly. Kyon is our narrator and co-lead protagonist. He’s an ordinary guy, really. Haruhi is enthusiastic when it comes to the unusual, but other than that, she finds ordinary life an utter bore. Along the way we meet Yuki Nagato from the Literature Club, who is very reserved and quiet, and usually reading a book. Then there is Mikuru Asahina, who is a year ahead of Kyon and Haruhi in school. She’s the ideal ‘cute girl’ (in Haruhi’s estimation), and is almost always on the verge of tears thanks to being constantly forced to do things usually against her will for Haruhi’s twisted amusement. The last major character is Itsuki Koizumi, who is also a pretty normal guy as far as Kyon can tell. He recently transferred to Kyon and Haruhi’s school, and because of this, Haruhi is convinced that this means there is something strange about him.

It is difficult to describe the plot of this series without spoiling anything, but it is a different kind of show with an original story. The characters are engaging, the animation is nearly flawless (Kyoto Animation’s work here), and the plot is not something I’ve already seen many times before. It will be interesting to watch it next time in chronological order to see how things play out that way. Non-linearly, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is equal parts mystery, comedy, and science fiction, with the latter aspect creeping in at the most unexpected of places.

Believe the hype, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a series not to be missed.

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