Thursday, October 4, 2007

We love big dreams, right? or my review of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

I'm Rand the great and glorious, so come on, of course I love big dreams! But I got to say I love the Haruhi Suzumiya's SOS Brigade as well. Even if they don't match the biggest dreams of all.

Kyon is an ordinary high schooler who has just overcome his middle school obsession with the supernatural. Unfortunately he happens to be placed in the same class as Haruhi, who's obsession is still alive and well to the point of her scorning all activities outside the supernatural. Haruhi also unfortunately sits behind Kyon and Kyon has the unfortunate habit of talking to her. This eventually leads him to attempting to talk Haruhi out of her fixation in one of the stupidest let's be normal speeches I've ever heard. His main point is the majority of people learn to be satisfied in the world, and only a small minority stay dissatisfied and they change the world. Of course this backfires and prompts her to change her world by forming a club to seek out aliens, time-travelers and esper (ESP-ers). Of course, she makes Kyon her first member.

She steals the room of the Literary club as well as its sole member. She "voluntarily arrests" a beautiful second year student, because all good supernatural stories have some sex appeal. And she invites in a mysterious transfer student. Of course, these are in order, an alien, a time-traveler and an esper. If this all seems a bit too convenient, well, that's because Haruhi's real power is that she can alter reality to suit her whims. As well as to suit sometimes her terrible melancholy.

I can sympathize with Haruhi, I always wanted to start a club to find the extraordinary, I came close to it in high school with John Corp (a name that sounds awfully close to Spreading Excitement All Over the World with the Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade). And I was also infected by that most terrible of melancholies, the melancholy of having extraordinary desires in an ordinary world.

Perhaps that's why I can relate to Haruhi, even if she is sometimes a cruel character (an amazon reviewer was quite disturbed by this). But her cruelty makes sense in a way, it does not stem from a cruel personality, even if she treats people poorly at times she doesn't actually purposefully mean any harm, but rather it comes from an infinite sense of energy and purpose (even if that purpose is perpetually scatterbrained (a charming feature, although sometimes it goes a bit too far and creates some akward transitions in the middle of episodes). And the energy is in the end infectious. It calls to the audience and it's hard not to respond. It also serves to bend the fabric of the show, creating a bizarre episode order (although the general idea, which is to spit up the central arc of exposition over the entire season without using the traditional bit by bit along side event of the week method is pretty ingenious). The extremeness of the characters personalities also seem to fit with this. In the end the entire series projects an intense excitement, as well as the titular melancholy.

In its quieter moments, the show conveys the desperate longing for something extraordinary in the ordinary world. This too is conveyed in the fabric of the show, as the bursts of intense supernatural activities are interspliced with scenes of the characters facing intense boredom (although the viewer is rarely shown this long enough to actually provoke boredom in himself). The fact that Haruhi is always cheated out of the real strangeness of her life by the determined efforts of those around her, adds to a certain pity for her, as her life is defined by that tension between being surrounded by the mundane and wishing passionately for the supernatural. The central arc approaches this tension with the necessary seriousness, but without ever losing its sense of humor. That made me however, sympathize with Haruhi even more, and it almost made me wish that she (unconsciously) destroyed the world to get a taste of her extraordinary.

I can't say I haven't had similar desires, a bit not that extreme. A wish for something disastrous to happen so that I might have a chance to become a hero. A wish for the entire world to be revealed as a fraud. A wish that I could stumble through the looking glass into a world of magic and never look back. I think we all feel that way sometimes, although it is usually manifested in simply a desire to run away to some different place where something so strange that it's almost supernatural might happen. But in the end we rarely run away, because there are too many people we care about, and too many people they care about, and too little solid out there to be worth risking all those relationships. And in the end, we never really want to destroy the world, because all the people we love are here.

At times it reaches slow spots, at times it jumps from topic to topic too fast even for an avid viewer, at times it is too bizarre even for me (the elaboration of the identities of the aliens, time-travelers, and ESP-ers are completely and utterly insane and make my head hurt), but there is so much energy to this anime, so much sincere effort, and characters that while at times cruel, are immensely charming in their exaggerated insanity. And it conveys so much love for supernatural mysteries that seem just right around the corner that it's hard not to become infected by it. And then it's hard not to be struck by the lack of supernatural mysteries, and then it's easy to relate to the melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

All told, this anime gets an 8/10. So far at least, I hear they're coming out with a new season, which it's hard to imagine will be anything other than awesome.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

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