The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Welcome to the first of hopefully many articles about the many series represented in Weiß Schwarz. These will be split mainly into two parts. One part will look at the series the cards come from, whilst the other will focus on the cards themselves. To start things off we’ll be looking at the series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

Originally a Light Novel, Haruhi shot to fame after the 2006 anime series by Kyoto Animation. It focuses on an eccentric high school girl called Haruhi Suzumiya, who has no interest in the ordinary, instead seeking out the supernatural. She gathers a group around her called the SOS Brigade in order to search for weird phenomena. Told from the point of view of the sarcastic Kyon, who Haruhi drags into all this, it follows the group as they try to uncover the mysteries of the world.

The series is perhaps most well known amongst the anime community in general for its many gimmicks, some a bit more successful than others. The most successful of which was probably the dance number (Hare Hare Yukai) in the closer for the original season, which was soon being repeated by fans all over the world, and it some cases even non-fans. Some of you might remember from a few years back the prison in thePhilippines where inmates were made to do massive choreographed routines of famous songs such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller. One of the routines they performed was the ending dance to Haruhi. Probably the least successful and certainly most infamous gimmick was Endless Eight. During the second season the characters become stuck in a time loop, and sticking true to the title of the arc this was repeated for 8 episodes straight. Whilst there were slight variations in events, all the lines rerecorded and slight changes in art style from episode to episode it was still a massive waste of time and put many people off the series for good.

The other well known gimmick of the series was the way it was originally broadcast on TV. When the first season aired all the episodes were shown out of order, with the story hopping back and forth every week. A two parter in the middle got split with an episode in between and the series finished on an episode from the middle of the chronological order. It made for quite an interesting viewing experience, as the story skipped back and forth across important events, which you wouldn’t actually see until later in the broadcast order. Later on you’d realise why certain things happened in previous episodes as you learn revelations about the characters, and come to work out which order events actually took part in. It certainly made a repeat viewing more rewarding than usual. When the second season aired, things were a little more straightforward, but still not without gimmicks. It initially appeared that the first season was just being rebroadcast on TV in chronological order, a fairly unusual thing to happen inJapananyway.  However about halfway through the run new episodes began to air, since chronologically they sat between the two halves of the first season.

From here on out we’ll be delving a little deeper into the series and spoilers will be inevitable, so if you’ve not yet seen the series it’s probably best to turn away now. (Or go and watch it now.) Although I’ll try not to recount the entire plot in full detail.

In the 1st episode (actually the 11th) through a poorly made student movie we are introduced to the combat waitress from the future Mikuru Asahina, the evil alien witch Yuki Nagato, and the young man with hidden powers Itsuki Koizumi, whose movie identities aren’t all that far off reality. The poorly shot, written and acted movie is narrated by the protagonist of the series Kyon, who points out all the obvious flaws and plot holes of the movie the viewers have probably noticed as well. It’s not until the very end of the episode that you learn this is all just a student movie though, rather than just some awful anime. For many this startling first episode was enough to put them off the series for good and they never saw the actual proper content of the series. For other people this parody of awful films and TV shows was enough to hook them on the show. There were probably also a fair chunk of people who stuck with it mainly out of curiosity as to just what was going on.

After this the first season was split into two types of episodes, the ‘Melancholy’ episodes where we learn about how the SOS Brigade was gathered, and side-stories where we follow them on adventures or doing activities. At the proper start of the series our protagonist Kyon (a nickname whose real name we never learn), is a normal high school boy who’s given up on believing in the supernatural, but his whole world is soon turned on its head when he meets Haruhi Suzumiya. During class introductions she proclaims to have no interest in ordinary humans, and that she is only interested in aliens, time travellers, espers or sliders. This extraordinary claim is emphasised by the sudden shift from black and white to colour when Haruhi has made her introduction.

Forced to sit near Haruhi, Kyon soon ‘befriends’ her, and accidentally inspires her to form a club dedicated to finding the supernatural. Haruhi has soon formed the SOS Brigade, meaning Spreading excitement all Over the world with haruhi Suzumiya Brigade or Sekai o Ōini Moriageru Tame no Suzumiya Haruhi no Dan in the original Japanese. Don’t worry that it doesn’t make any sense. In addition she forcibly recruits several members into it aside from herself and Kyon. There’s the cute, shy, large chested, clumsy upperclassman Mikuru Asahina, pinched from the Calligraphy club to be their mascot. The quiet bookish Yuki Nagato, who as the lone member of the Literature club got absorbed into the Brigade when Haruhi took over her clubroom. Finally the dramatic philosophiser Itsuki Koizumi, chosen as the token mysterious transfer student.

Unbeknownst to Haruhi she has actually managed to gather around her a small group of people that are exactly what she’s looking for. Mikuru is a time traveller from the future, sent to observe Haruhi, because she’s linked to some sort of anomaly from 3 years ago, which prevents time travel to before then. Yuki is an artificial humanoid interface sent by the Integrated Data Thought Entity (she’s basically an alien), to observe Haruhi for her ability to create data. Itsuki is an esper, sent by the Organisation, some of whom believe Haruhi to be God, to observe her and prevent the destruction of the world. They all in turn reveal their identities to Kyon and the special status of Haruhi and her abilities to alter the fabric of reality. However Haruhi herself can never know their true identities or her own nature, since the fabric of reality may become undone should she learn that the supernatural phenomena she seeks actually exist.

By the time the first major arc has drawn to a close Kyon has had to face the murderous intents of a classmate, an alternate reality where Haruhi’s anger is represented by giants made of energy trying to destroy the world, and nearly seeing Haruhi rewrite the whole of reality.

The second half of the series focuses on the much more mundane everyday activities of the group, such as going on a weekend break, playing computer games against another club, playing baseball or taking part in the school’s cultural festival. As you might expect the presence of Haruhi helps to spice up all these events, with the weekend break turning into a murder mystery or the fate of the world hanging on the result of the baseball game.

As mentioned before the 2nd season slots into the middle of the first season, and is basically split into 3 segments. Firstly we find out what the events of 3 years ago were, secondly the infamous Endless Eight, and finally we see exactly how their student movie was put together. Unfortunately even excluding the issue of Endless Eight going on far far longer than it should have done, I felt the 2nd season was a bit of a let down compared to the first, never managing to muster quite the same interest from me until the final episode. It also didn’t help that Haruhi did some horrible things to Mikuru during the making of the movie.

Finally (at least for now in terms of the anime at least), there’s the movie The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, which finds Kyon trapped in a world where he never met Haruhi at High School and everyone is normal, which you would think by now is the dream Kyon has wanted all along. Once again, for me at least, it just didn’t quite hold up to the first season, despite all the extra high production values. Maybe it was because the movie’s basically ‘Kyon talks to himself for 2 hours’, or maybe it was because I’d had raised expectations with everyone building it up to be the best part of the series. Although maybe this is more true for the books. Whatever it was I personally felt a little disappointed by the movie.

The series overall has many positive appealing points to it though. Throughout it is generally a well made and polished series, as expected from Kyoto Animation, although it does suffer from slight K-On-ification in character designs during the 2nd season. The series is an odd mixture of genres, mostly being a sci-fi high school comedy, but can change to other genres such as sports or mystery from episode to episode which can keep things exciting. It does help to already be an anime fan / sort of an otaku going into the show, because there are many references to things or parodies of things that you won’t necessarily get otherwise. Some are more obvious, like a mention of trying to reduce the opponent’s MP during the baseball game, whilst others are a little bit more obscure, like the scene from Remote Island Syndrome which is done with the mannerisms and actions straight out of the Phoenix Wright games.

For me there were a few stand-out scenes/ episodes throughout the series, but some of this is probably biased by my like for Yuki. In the episode The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya IV, the scene where the true identity of Ryoko is revealed when she tries to murder Kyon and Yuki intervenes was one of my favourites during the first viewing. It was striking how the normally so distant Yuki suddenly threw herself into harms way to protect Kyon, all the while maintaining her normal taciturn expression, even whilst impaled on metal spikes. The battle between the two Artificial Humanoid Interfaces is quite a contrast to the school life of most of the other episodes. We also get the first hints that Yuki might be more than just an emotionless machine.

Another more Yuki-centric episode I enjoyed was The Day Of Sagittarius, but for reasons beyond just that. Having grown up watching Star Trek I could appreciate the parody of these types of shows when the SOS Brigade imagine the rather rudimentary strategy game they are playing as a full scale space battle, with them each in charge of their own fleet. The episode ends on a shining moment for Yuki as she simultaneously micromanages her entire fleet (a game option considered too difficult for normal players), and rewrites the game’s code to overcome the cheating on the part of their opponents. It finally seems Yuki has found something she enjoys beyond just reading.

The concert scene of Live Alive was on first viewing hugely surprising (although once you know it’s happening you can spot the hints throughout the episode), and still holds up as one of the best of its kind in a TV anime. You can see that a lot of time and effort was put into making sure the scene came out just right.

Unfortunately the 2nd season only really had one scene that stood out for me, towards the very end of the season. This was when Itsuki revealed that the representatives of each of the factions (aliens, time travellers and espers), might not be being completely truthful about the information they’ve told Kyon in order to serve their own purposes. This makes you wonder that things might not be as innocent as they appear on the surface, although I’m not so sure there’s been any follow up on this yet. This might be in the novels I’ve not yet read though.

Overall The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a fun series with very high production values.  However it’s obviously not for everyone, and has done some very stupid things like Endless Eight. It’s given us some memorable characters and spawned legions of devoted fans, but these can be double edged swords. Many people are put off by the sometimes rabid fandom, and some just don’t see the appeal of the characters, many giving up on the series because they simply cannot stand Haruhi herself.

You can read about some of the cards based on this series here.


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