For this entry, it is time to explore an anime series which many have viewed as a classic. Growing up, many of us hope to form our own unique place in the world and change it for the better. In many cases such dreams are unobtainable, but what if you could change the world in any way simply by wishing it to happen? This question is explored in the subject of my next review. The series is The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
Kyon is an average teenager who is getting ready to start high school. He has accepted the belief that all manner of supernatural or fantasy things don’t exist in the world and the life he lives is pretty ordinary. This changes when he meets his new classmate Haruhi Suzumiya who is anything but ordinary. Haruhi is on the search for time travelers, espers and aliens. Kyon is soon reluctantly recruited to join her quest. Kyon soon discovers that his life will never be the same and the extraordinary beings which Haruhi is searching for are closer than they realize. The story follows Kyon, Haruhi, and the companions they meet along the way through their high school adventures which prove to be anything but ordinary.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or Haruhi as I will refer to it throughout this review is a prime example of the awesome creativity that you can find in anime. This type of idea or concept you don’t find elsewhere. I have seen this show on many essential anime lists and after viewing the series, I can understand why. For this review to keep with the unique nature of the series, I will address the categories in a different order than I usually do. I will start with the animation this time around.
The animation for this series is quite nice considering that this series is a few years old at the time of this review. One would expect a very weird animation style based on the story premise, however the animation style is quite grounded in reality and is appeasing to look at. The animation is especially nice when you consider the age of the series. The character designs are quite nice as well and are not too extreme. The animation is not unique or really groundbreaking, so if you are looking for that look elsewhere. I personally was so engrossed in the story that it really didn’t matter to me whether the animation was unique or mindblowing or not. I thought the animation looked great and the series gets top marks in this category.
As for the soundtrack, the opening and closing themes were quite energetic and are among my favorites. The themes really fit the crazy and energy filled nature of the series which was a real nice touch. The really good theme songs are ones which work well with the series and these certainly fit the bill. It helps too that the songs are all so dang catchy. You just can’t help but feel better after hearing the music. The musical soundtrack has some memorable tunes to it, particularly the main theme and Haruhi’s theme are addicting and fit the theme of the series. However, the music does from time to time fall into the background and really take a back seat to the action on the scene. It does it’s job for setting the mood perfectly, but as a stand alone soundtrack it’s not the best I have heard. The rest of the components for this series work so well though that it doesn’t need to be. As for the voice acting, both English and Japanese casts do a superb job with the characters. I had quite an enjoyable experience watching the series in both languages and you can’t go wrong with either. The series dialogue is very important to the impact of the scenes in this series and both groups delivered it very well. Each character had their own distinct personality portrayed well and one gets the sense of who they are quite easily. You can’t go wrong with either cast.
One of the best components and most controversial parts of the series is in fact the plot. The plot of Haruhi does not really contain an overarching story but all of the episodes are connected. The stories can really be best described as science fiction meets slice of life meets mystery. The series can go from a concert one episode to a murder mystery or a time travel story the next. Many series would suffer from this but not Haruhi. The change of setting and story is really what makes this show work. This is a fast paced series for the most part, so blink and you miss it is a common thing. Every story does have a purpose however and during each adventure you do learn pieces about the world and the circumstances of the characters. The plot does advance just not in a traditional way. Many series would suffer from this, however in the case of Haruhi however the ride is so much fun that it doesn’t matter. This series is fun to watch without a doubt. It reminded me of the type of imaginary adventures that we as kids would come up with. The only difference is that these are actually happening to the characters. I think this is the main appeal of the show, the fun adventures and the willingness to enjoy life and think outside the box. Having fun and embracing the unknown and absurd id the theme of the series. In the end you get to share in the fun and sometimes bizarre adventures of Haruhi and her friends and it worthwhile.
The plot is considered controversial in some circles for a couple of reasons. The first one is that there are two ways to watch the series, either in the broadcast order or in chronological order. When the series initially aired, the episodes were aired out-of-order intentionally. This was the way in I watched the series and I enjoyed it actually. It is a gutsy move to do this but it fits the series rather well. Haruhi is a melting pot of genres and also has a lot of energy, so why not jumble up the story? I had fun personally making the connections as the series went on. Sure the characters may refer to instances which had not occurred yet, but it added to my interest and curiosity. The second point of controversy is the infamous Endless Eight story arc which some people love and some hate. The story involves the characters getting caught in a time loop and repeating the same two weeks over and over again. Throughout the eight episodes, the story is the generally the same with minor differences in animation and dialogue. I personally enjoyed Endless Eight and think it should be watched completely at least once. I know this may not sound appealing to all people but this is a cool story arc if you think about it. It is interesting to notice the minor changes between each episode such as different lines or the changes to the characters clothing and actions. There is also the huge mystery as to why they are trapped in the loop and the series does drop very minor clues along the way though the reason is not what you would really expect. It is certainly unique, and the main reason why I suggest you check it out. Also the story arc really fits the series tendency to break from the norm in terms of story telling. If you haven’t noticed a common theme of Haruhi is breaking the mold and it does it with this arc.
Of course the story would not work nearly as well without a great cast of characters, and Haruhi delivers on this. The cast of characters is very complete and really make the series enjoyable. I will focus on the two characters I have already mentioned Kyon and Haruhi. Kyon could be considered the main protagonist of the series as the show is seen mostly through his perspective. Kyon also serves as the narrator and provides some colorful commentary on the events around him. His commentary is always delivered with a sarcastic tone to it. It is both a major source of the humor to the series and a nod to audience that insanity which is being witnessed is in fact happening. His perspective also is the perspective of the audience since he is the only member of the group that could be considered normal. In many cases the commentary is delivered in a critical or sarcastic An unwilling participant to the events surrounding him, Kyon is usually along for the ride with the group despite his protests. He does protest a lot though it is not whiny. He is a great character and one of the better male protagonists in an anime series. I enjoy the fact that he doesn’t take a back seat in the series to the other characters, he is an equal to the rest of the cast. Kyon is more relate-able simply because he is not an extraordinary individual. This is why he is a great character.
Haruhi, the other main character I will discuss is one of the most interesting characters that you find in any anime. Haruhi can best be described as a know it all bundle of energy. She is not afraid to be considered unique and weird and will do whatever it takes to get what she wants. Despite this, she is not an evil character, she just forgets sometimes the impact her actions have on others. There really isn’t a method to her madness in many cases and that is what is so appealing about the character. Haruhi represents the free spirit which we all have as youth and lose as we get older. The only difference with Haruhi is that she has not lost that spirit in contrast to Kyon who really sees the world at face value a least to start with. She does some things which could be seen as mean in some cases, but in the end she is a good character. Haruhi is one of my all time favorite heroines because of the spirit and energy she possesses. She chooses to determine her own view of the world, not let the world decide how she sees it. Also the fact that she might have some extraordinary abilities herself doesn’t hurt things either. There is a reason why the character has such a devoted following and why she is among the all time greats.
The other three main cast members, Yuki, Mikuru, and Koizumi also deserve mention. They round out the cast quite nicely and form an excellent supporting cast. Each character gets plenty of screen time and contribute a lot to the plot and feel of the series. You can’t go wrong with any of the characters.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is one of those series which I agree is among those essential anime series which everyone should check out particularly for those who like a good science fiction or slice of life series. The series offers a little bit of everything from comedy to mystery to sci fi elements. The cast is quite memorable with some of the best characters in any anime series. The story is unique and energetic and will keep you guessing throughout the series. The animation and sound are worth checking out and they only add to the experience of the show. This series is certainly a must see for any anime fan and I am glad to have had the opportunity to check this series out. It is certainly one of my favorites and I hope that you give this series a shot. This series has my highest recommendation and I would recommend purchasing the series if you can find the Bandai release or when Funimation releases the series.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is available for streaming at this time tho hopefully it will appear on Funimation’s streaming service in the future. Some vendors do have the Bandai DVD releases for sale as well. Funimation now owns the rights to the series and there is no announcement for a re-release at the time of this post. For another take on the Haruhi universe, I also recommend checking out The Disappearence of Nagato-Yuki Chan which is available on Hulu and Funimation. A review of that series will come in the future. So until next time, this is Railgunfan75 signing off!
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