09th Dec2020

‘The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’ Review

by Xenia Grounds

When you’re a kid, you imagine a lot of things. We fantasise about epic adventures around things like time travel and supernatural beings like ghosts, espers, aliens. However, most of us grow out of these fantasies because we learn to live with everyday reality bound by the laws of physics. This is an anime that is about all of these eccentric fantasies and brings them to life in hilarious and joyous ways.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya centres around Kyon. On the surface, Kyon is a pretty average high school student (minus the fact that we never learn his real name. Kyon is a nickname). Life for him gets a lot more interesting after he meets Haruhi Suzumiya. Haruhi is far from your typical girl. To quote her directly, “I’m not interested in ordinary people but if any of you are aliens, time travellers or espers, please come see me. That is all.” Her peers don’t question her abilities or intelligence, they shy away because of her bizarre attitudes except for Kyon. His simple curiosity of her leads him to become the only person who can tolerate her although he later comes to regret getting involved. Haruhi is highly vulnerable to something we call boredom so she chooses to create her own after-school club called the SOS brigade. The purpose of this club is to find things that would make life more interesting like aliens for instance. However, little does she know, how close to home those very things are.

The anime goes out of its way to show how Haruhi is the weirdest girl you could ever meet but it also establishes she is the unknowing God of the universe. Case in point, her club is filled with the exact people Haruhi wants to find and captures some common anime tropes. Mikuru is the time traveller cute fan service girl who is forced to wear so many sexy cosplay costumes due to Haruhi’s demands. Itsuki is the mysterious transfer student and esper while also being the most passive aggressive character in the entire series. Finally, we come to Yuri who is a cyborg alien and emotionless Rei Ayanami archetype who acts as an observer to Haruhi for an alien hivemind of sorts but is the strongest of the three and gets some of the flashiest fight scenes. Kyon himself doesn’t have any power outside of his massively relatable and loveable sarcastic wit. They all share a purpose of making sure Haruhi ever finds out she’s God because…would you trust that girl to not wipe out the world we know and everyone on it just because she could? Didn’t think so! Wisely, they keep her in the dark but they also have to keep her entertained and given Haruhi’s bizarre tastes, the storylines get very interesting like a timeloop, a baseball episode, a murder mystery and video game space shooter adventure to name a few.

Fascinatingly enough, for a show that can be as crazy as it is, the thing that really throws it off-balance is the episode order. During release, it was shown out of order so you have two valid ways of watching this anime. You can watch it chronologically or the way that the developers intended. With release order, you’ll be out of the loop with certain things that the characters are talking about but there’s a stronger climax because it’s built-up since you see what has happened after it. In chronological order, there’s no build-up as the climax happens close to the beginning and it ends with ‘Someday in the Rain’ which mostly consists of a still camera shot and it’s arguably a very boring end for a series with so much insanity.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was brought to us by Kyoto Animation and was one of their staples in showing the style they would become known for in the likes Kanon and Clannad. Haruhi’s performance during the cultural festival is one of the most masterful animated musical scenes that you could ever see. Speaking of songs, the ending theme is another thing worth noting. On the surface, it would be your traditional upbeat slice of life credit song but Kyoto Animation had the characters perform a dance sequence to it. It’s been so popular with fans that it has been brought back again and again in other Kyoto Animation series.

On the subject of the dub, it does get a lot of things right. The most important part being Crispin Freeman as Kyon. Now while Haruhi is brought to life incredibly well by Wendee Lee and the other actors do a great job too, the character that really had to be performed exactly right was Kyon. This anime is filled with Kyon’s narration and follows his perspective at all times so if this went wrong, this would become a chore to listen to but Freeman perfectly nails this character so the dub and sub are on equal territory here.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is one of those animes that is too important to be ignored. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s the best anime ever. It has flaws and I’ll have to explore an infamous set of eight episodes due to that. That said, it’s a celebration of what anime can stand for. It shows how highly crazy the genre can be but also provide some high brow discussions around what it depicts. If you consider yourself an anime fan, this show is a must-watch.

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