The melancholy of haruhi suzumiya - character development and great directing
It had been, about what, two or three years since I first watched Haruhi? Possible even longer ago than that. Honestly, I'm not sure exactly when, although it doesn't really matter that much either. Point being, I'm working on a list of my top 30 favourite anime, and when I sorted my MAL list by score, I saw that there was one show I had a rated a 9, but hadn't watched in a long time. That show being Haruhi. Now I had only watched all of season 1, I tried to complete season 2 a few times but I never watched all of it. So, I decided it was ample time for a rewatch of an old favourite. I probably woudn't like it as much, but hey, how bad could it be? Well, to my suprise, it wasn't bad at all. Instead, I found my fifth 10/10.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a 2 season (14 episodes per season, 28 episode total) long TV show adapted from a series of light novels produced by Kyoto Animation and directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. It follows Haruhi, an eccentric high schooler who decides to start a school club called the "SOS Brigade," where she and others search for supernatural beings, mysterious phenomana, and laze around in the clubroom drinking tea and playing board games. Unbeknownst to Haruhi herself is the fact that she's an all powerful God who can wish things into existence. In order to keep Haruhi from realizing this knowledge, the other members of the SOS Brigade (Kyon, a normal person, Mikuru, a time traveller, Yuki, an alien and Itsuki, an esper) desperatly attempt to stop her from falling into boredom or experience negative emotions, as such outbursts could accidentally end all of reality as they know it.
At its crux it's a slice of life show, just... a weird one. As previously stated a lot of the show is just spent relaxing in the clubroom, but they also go to cafe's, do summer activities, help troubled students, play video games or blackmail the computer club with sexual harrasment claims in order to make them hand over an expensive computer. You know, normal things. Because you see, Haruhi is a bit of a nutcase herself. She's brash, self centered, seemingly unaware of most social norms, and generally just does what she feels like. And a lot of the show is spent on her developing as a person, which is exemplified during the "The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya" episodes where Haruhi decides that the SOS Brigade should make a movie for the cultural festival at their school. In the episode "The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 4," she becomes more and more obsessed with her vision, and pays no heed to what Mikuru is comfortable with, even going as far as sneaking alcohol into Mikuru's drink so that she can drug her up for a kissing scene she would obviously disagree with otherwise. When Kyon steps in to tell her that what she's doing is wrong, she has an emotional outburtst. This, as well as the last episode of The Endless Eight in which Haruhi berates Kyon for suggesting the SOS Brigade cooperate on finishing their homework without consulting Haruhi first, and most of the show in general, all help characterizing Haruhi. In the last episode, Haruhi shares an umbrella with Kyon, and acts cheerful around him, only suprised about the fact that he's wearing her cardigan while sleeping, which is very different from how she would have acted earlier in the series. And well... now seems like a good time to talk about the whole, broadcast order vs chronological order.
When Haruhi aired on TV back in 2006, the folks over at Kyoto Animation decided to air the show out of order, shuffeling the episodes. This was most likely done in order to have the show end at a more exciting point, heightening the drama and ending it with an emotional scene. Because if you were to watch it in chronological order, the way I did, and which is the way the DVD boxsets and streaming sites list in, episode 14 is smack in the middle of The Endless Eight arc. Doesn't make for a very satisfying ending. However, if you consume the show as one 28 episode long show, you don't really get that problem. I also prefer chronological order for the reasons I stated in the previous paragraph, if you were to go with broadcast order, then the episode "Someday in the Rain" would be episode 9 of season 1, completely removing it as the great emotional moment it is. If you were to go with broadcast order, for season 2, the last episode would be "The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 5," which, while it works as an ending, doesn't have anywhere near the sense of closure that "Someday in the Rain" has. To summarize my point, watching it chronologically strengthens the emotional crux of the series, as well as making the viewer experience Haruhi's character development, instead of the jumbled mess you end up with in broadcast order, where "Someday in the Rain" happens late season 1.
I've mentioned it here and there, but now I'm gonna discuss the infamous 'The Endless Eight.' So, we all know what a time loop is. However, most works which use this plot device will only show the characters going through the motions a few times, then realizing the true nature of their situation, before finally, a resolution is reached. Haruhi laughs at those works, because they are weak. Because Haruhi, has the exact same episode (with minor differences in terms of outfits, dialouge, and activites per episode) eight times. Full 24 minutes, OP, ED, the whole package. In the second episode of The Endless Eight, Kyon gets a call from Mikuru and Itsuki, who tell him that he's trapped in a time loop. It isn't before the eight and final episod the arc that Kyon manages to break free from the time loop by telling Haruhi that he still has something left to do. A lot of people don't like it. But those people are wrong, because it's so good! This is such an insane idea, and yet they did it anyway! A time loop story, but the viewer also trapped and experiences the same things as the characters, how cool isn't that! And yes, I did watch all eight episodes. They're all great, and highly enjoyable. The Endless Eight is also the reason why I think season 2 is a 10, while I consider season 1 to be a 9.
The last episode I wish to discuss is "The Day of Sagittarius." Not because it holds that much importance either narratively or in relations to any character development, but it's just so cool. The plot is that the computer club has developed their own computer game, and in an attempt to get back the computer Haruhi stole from them, decides to challenge them to a match in their own game. The computer club then loans them four new laptops so that all the members can play, promising them t hat if they win they will be allowed to keep them, and then five days of practice ensues. What I love about this episode isn't that it's just "wooh they play a video game," it's all the refrences to old space opera anime. There's Gundam, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and of course, the greatest one itself, Space Battleship Yamato. It's just a ton of fun, really.
It may seem like I've talked about a lot in this post, but trust me, this is just scratching the surface of what there is to talk about when it comes to Haruhi. There's the sequel movie which I have yet to watch at the time of writing, there's the light novels themselves, and there's a lot of unadapted content there, there's the spinoffs, and that's just the official media! While Haruhi may not be nearly as popular now, it was immensly back in the late 2000's. The cultural impact of this show is another thing with just as much to be discussed. So I ask, dear reader: please watch Haruhi. It's really, really darn good, and I love it a ton. The character development, the character designs and all the different outfits that Haruhi wears throughout the show, the voice acting, the fact that in "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 4" the character Taniguchi sings a word over and over again, and in Lucky Star it's refrenced in one of the ED's, really just how Haruhi relates to Lucky Star as a whole, and I'm going to stop there, because there's is just so much to love about Haruhi. I haven't decided on which spot it falls on between one through five, but it is my fifth 10/10, and I feel really happy being able to say that.