Published on February 10th, 2014 | by Isaac1
Reluctant Anime Reviews: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
We here at The Website of DOOM pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of pop culture. Our staff handpicks and laboriously crafts the quality content that reaches your computer monitor. However, researchers in the lab have found we have a deficiency in anime-focused content. This is mostly because a lot of anime is creepy, and nobody at DOOM wants to go near it.
Fortunately, “want” has nothing to do with our new project. We drafted (read: forced) resident hermit, and part-time artist Isaac to watch anime. The programs will be selected at random using a highly sophisticated process, and he will be forced to watch them from beginning to end, no matter how weird they are, how uncomfortable they make him feel, or how likely it is the police will show up at his door. After his viewings, he will provide us with an article reviewing the program he just watched.
As to why we feel Isaac is the right man for this job, the answers are quite simple. Isaac has a somewhat strong history with anime of all kinds, and therefore is more likely to survive the mental thrashing this project is sure to cause. Secondly, he wasn’t doing a whole lot. Took us four weeks to find him in the air ducts, sleeping in an elaborately constructed nest of carpet squares, printer paper, and pencil shavings.
So without further ado, please look forward to the first installment of a feature we like to call…
RELUCTANT ANIME REVIEWS
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
The plot of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is perfect for what it aims to do. The story focuses on Haruhi Suzumiya: an eccentric high school girl who unconsciously has the power to bend the world to her will and can create strange situations, time loops, and alternate dimensions. On her first day of high school, she introduces herself by saying that normal humans don’t interest her, and that any aliens, time-travelers, or espers should talk to her. Kyon, (the boy who sits in front of her, and whose perspective the story is told through) is strangely fascinated by her odd ways. Haruhi appears bored and melancholy (as the title suggests) for the first few weeks of school, trying out every club, and feeling dissatisfied. Through idle chat, Kyon gives Haruhi the idea to start her own club, and is forced to join. Thus, the SOS Brigade is born.
In addition to Haruhi and Kyon, the members of the SOS Brigade are: Yuki Nagato, a seemingly emotionless girl who loves to read books; Mikuru Asahina, a shy, mild mannered girl with a weak will; and Itsuki Koizumi, a confident boy who suddenly transferred from another school. In reality, the three other members hold mysterious secrets. Yuki is a “humanoid interface” for an inter-dimensional thought collective with the power to rewrite the data of the physical world. Mikuru is a time-traveling agent from the future, and Itsuki is an esper: a psychic capable of entering enclosed bubbles between dimensions, and fighting the giants that appear there. They have all been sent to the school to keep an eye on Haruhi, the one they believe to be the cause of strange phenomena. Yuki believes that Haruhi has the power to create data from nothing; Mikuru believes that Haruhi has fractured the timeline, and Itsuki and the foundation of espers believe her to be a godlike figure, capable of influencing the world with her desires, and creating the “enclosed spaces” to vent her frustrations. Of course Haruhi knows nothing about her abilities, and just acts on her own whims. What follows is a mostly wonderful deconstruction of anime tropes on a small scale, but once viewed as a whole, falls apart.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’s first season is out of order. Why? Because it can be, I guess. After trying to watch a few episodes in the original aired order, I stopped because it was stupid and served no purpose. So I started over, watching the first season in chronological order. To be honest, I liked it. The animation is beautiful, and the comedy is hard hitting. The last episode chronologically is boring, but that would be my only big gripe. If I had stopped then, I would have had a more pleasant review for you. But no, I had to force myself to watch season two. And boy, did it ruin the entire series for me. Because as I watched the second season, something dawned on me…
Nothing of consequence happens in the entirety of two seasons. Now I’m aware that the show is based off a series of light novels, and stuff actually happens in those, but shut up, I’m talking about the show, and the story that is told in the show. The Nothing™ happens because the second season takes place during the first season (wacky.) But as an effect, I already know where these characters will end up, and I know that nothing happens, so the entire second season becomes a slog. From there, I begin to look at what I watched as a whole, not as small story arcs and one-offs. I didn’t like what I saw. The overabundance of fanservice comes off less as comedy and more as pandering, and in trying to be subversive as a parody of anime tropes, it suffered the most of all.
It’s anarchic cotton candy: sweet and enjoyable, but ultimately sticky, unfilling, and full of fluff. After a time, the simple characters become grating on your nerves. The overall lack of character development makes the jokes predictable over time, since it’s such a simple code to crack. Kyon’s cynical everyman is entertaining to a point, but most of the show’s personality falls to Haruhi… who I hate down to the very basis of her character.
I’m serious. Haruhi Suzumiya may be one of the most evil characters I’ve ever seen. Her antics are supposed to be wacky, eccentric and free-spirited, but they just come off as cruel, selfish, and downright traumatizing. The show asks me to be sympathetic to a sociopath that shows no remorse. In the first 2 or three episodes, she forcibly strips Mikuru down, puts her into a sexy bunny costume, and forces her to stand outside the school handing out flyers. Later, Haruhi physically forces the captain of the computer club to grope Mikuru while she takes pictures to blackmail him into giving the SOS Brigade a PC. She makes Mikuru wear a maid and nurse outfit in the clubroom for no other reason than, and I quote: “She is our mascot.” Everyone in the SOS Brigade just accepts this, fearing they will upset Haruhi, causing disaster.
The one time Kyon gets mad at Haruhi, it’s for first drugging Mikuru so they can film a kissing scene for a Arts Festival project they’re making. and then smacking Mikuru’s head repeatedly for no reason. Kyon almost hits Haruhi when she says that everyone is her toy, and since she is the SOS Brigade’s leader, they should all just do what she tells them. Later, Kyon is scolded by Itsuki for losing his temper, and that he should feel bad for abandoning Haruhi, because she thought he would support her in whatever she did. In the end, Haruhi has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, no character development, no real personality, just quirks.
You may be asking, “Isaac, what could have possibly driven you to perform a complete 180 on this show?” The answer is simple; Endless Eight, Parts 1-8. Never before have I witnessed a program show this much open contempt for the audience. Endless Eight literally punishes you for being stupid enough to watch. For, you see, Endless Eight is the same episode. 8 times. In a row. Things change from episode to episode to trick you into thinking something may actually happen, but all that ends up changing is clothes and a couple of swapped pieces of dialogue. This is not charming. This is not subversive. This story arc single-handedly destroys everything good about Haruhi Suzumiya in one fell swoop. It finally sets in how terrible a person Haruhi is, how tired and boring the characters are, and how little impact anything has on the story. All that is left are solid jokes that have nowhere to go because the people delivering them fill you with anti-laughter with their tired shticks. After Endless Eight I couldn’t care about the story arc after… or anything before, for that matter. Endless Eight retroactively destroyed any fondness I had for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
The thing that enrages me the most is that I liked this show, I really did, but I came into it blind. Nobody warned me about Endless Eight. However, now that I have finished the series, I’ve been told to try again and read the novels. And I may, someday. But right now, I am filled with a righteous fury that can only be quelled by a semi-coherent rant. So, if you want to watch The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, go right ahead, but I will not be held accountable if you don’t listen to me. ‘Syour own damn fault.
This has been a Reluctant Anime Review.
NEXT TIME ON RELUCTANT ANIME REVIEWS: Dragon Crisis.