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Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, The

Entry updated 21 December 2023. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2006-2009); original title Suzumiya Haruhi no Yūutsu. Based on the Light Novel by Nagaru Tanigawa. Kyoto Animation. Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. Writers include Noizi Ito and Nagaru Tanigawa. Voice cast includes Minori Chihara, Yūko Gotō, Aya Hirano, Daisuke Ono and Tomokazu Sugita. 28 24-minute episodes. Colour.

On her first day at High School, Haruhi Suzumiya (Hirano) announces to her new classmates "I am not interested in ordinary humans: if any of you are Aliens, future men, other-worlders or Espers, please come see me"; fellow pupil Kyon (Sugita) is dragged into her schemes, his snarky misgivings ignored. The school's struggling Literature Club is hijacked – there's only one member, quiet Yuki Nagato (Chihara) – and renamed the "SOS Brigade". Haruhi then recruits shy, cute Mikuru Asahina (Gotō) and "mysterious" transfer student Itsuki Koizumi (Ono), to complete her set of school club stereotypes.

The other three confide to Kyon they're monitoring Haruhi, who three years ago unknowingly caused a (literally) world changing event – though each perceives it differently. Yuki is an alien Android created by the Thought Entity, a factional Hive Mind, worried about the creation of information from nothing; Mikuru is a time-traveller (see Time Travel) from the future, responding to a Time Distortion; Itsuki is from an Esper organization that hypothesizes Haruhi is a god (see Religion) who remade the Universe. Note the trio's affinity with Haruhi's wants list. Their mission is to keep the oblivious Haruhi content so she doesn't accidentally overwrite the current universe.

Episodes engage with Anime and Manga genre Clichés, including sports, crime, Videogames – and sf: Kyon and Mikuru travel back three years (creating a Time Paradox); Haruhi and Kyon share a dream of Haruhi creating a new world, then awaken back in the old world ... probably. An innocuous holiday episode becomes a Time Loop, repeated 15,532 times with slight variations: the viewer only sees eight of them, which is still too many.

The team members' submissiveness, being wary of provoking Haruhi into (unwittingly) changing the world, echoes Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life" (in Star Science Fiction Stories 2, anth 1953, ed Frederik Pohl). The series' sf elements were influenced by Dan Simmons's Hyperion (1989).

Though her dynamism can be endearing, Haruhi's character has its unpleasant side, particularly her treatment of Mikuru. Matters comes to a head when making an amateur sf film: Director Haruhi's bullying of Mikuru, the lead, finally provokes a confrontation between her and Kyon. The filming causes other problems: it blurs reality for Haruhi, leading to talking Cats, Passenger Pigeons and laser eyes: fortunately, persuading her to narrate a disclaimer over the end credits ("This is a work of fiction ..."), prevents the film's sf elements leaking into the real world.

A very enjoyable and amusing series, whose anime and light novel versions were both immensely popular and influential: for reflections on their themes see Nagaru Tanigawa. A subsequent film, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (2010; original title Suzumiya Haruhi no Shōshitsu), was based on the Tanigawa light novel of that name. There were two online Parody series: The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya (2009; original title Suzumiya Haruhi-chan no Yūutsu), with 25 episodes; and Nyorōn Churuya-san (2009) with 13 episodes. There have also been many Radio dramas, videogames, albums and manga spin-offs. [SP]


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