‘Having pushed such thoughts to the corner of my mind, I entered high school without a care in the world – And met Haruhi Suzumiya.’
Title: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Author: Nagaru Tanigawa
Published (In Japanese): June 6, 2003
Published (In English): May 7, 2009
Genres: Comedy, Science Fantasy, Adventure, Slice of Life
Note: With the impending release of The Disassociation of Haruhi Suzumiya (in English) I have decided to review all eight of the light novels (so far) in the series. Every Sunday a new light novel review (subjective) will be written for your entertainment. Enjoy?
Summary: Kyon is an ordinary first-year high school student who has given up his fantasies of espers, time travelers, and aliens as he left middle school. However, sitting behind him is the beautiful, intelligent, and eccentric girl Haruhi Suzumiya, who in her class introduction blatantly states her singular desire to meet aliens, time travelers, or espers. Interested, Kyon starts trying to make small talk with her before class, eventually leading to normal conversations with Haruhi. One day, after making a comment about Haruhi’s displeasure with the available school clubs, he finds himself dragged into membership of the newly formed Save the World by Overloading it with Fun Haruhi Suzumiya (or SOS) Brigade. Haruhi quickly claims the Literature Club’s room and its sole member, the silent bibliophile Yuki Nagato as property of the SOS Brigade and “voluntary arrests” the timid but cute Mikuru Asahina and the polite, smiling Itsuki Koizumi as the club’s other two members. As the story progresses, however, Kyon finds that each of these supposedly “helpless victims” are actually agents of fantastic organizations who have been sent to monitor Haruhi, who they explain as having superhuman abilities of manipulating the universe. Haruhi’s unawareness of her powers means that she unconsciously creates a new universe—one more to her liking—and attempts to switch over whenever she becomes bored or otherwise dissatisfied with reality. To prevent this, the members of Haruhi’s club spend their time trying to keep their god-like leader entertained, hold her powers in check, and maintain the illusion of a normal life.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya:
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya… it has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? It’s not to often that we receive English releases of light novels and when we do, they’re usually either A. mediocre or B. a pile of shit. So I’m just getting into anime again after a few years away from it and I find myself perusing through Amazon’s vast array of manga and other such books. With help from Google and YouTube, I find myself staring at this page. Just what have I found, I ask myself? Is this… anime? Well no, it wasn’t, but I was pretty darn close! In my infantile anime state I found that I had seemingly stumbled across a gold mine in the light novel word. Turns out, anime isn’t just a broad definition for Japanese media. But I digress. I ordered the book and within a few days it arrived. I found myself perplexed by the simplicity of it. Twas a thin book that came through the mail that day, a thin book with colored and non colored pictures, a witty inner monologue and a girl who can make my day better just be reading about her. I finished that book in two days. 100 pages a day and not a moment of regret. This was the book that propelled me back into anime. This was the book the brightened my day. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya… yeah, it’s a great book if you couldn’t tell.
In the end, it was the laughably elementary plot that drew me in. A book about a high school girl who has the power to destroy the universe? Sure, why not. I’ll be honest though, I didn’t expect much from this novel. What could I, a western boy of only 11/12, expect from a book about high school children and their supposedly exciting adventures? Just to keep you up to speed with my life and all, I’d only recently recovered from a rough patch in my life and I was simply trying to find my place in the world. I guess you could say my world at the time was cloaked in grey. This book quite literally brightened up my life. This series doesn’t need a complex plot to keep me interested, it doesn’t need depressing cliffhangers that make me want to tear my eyes out and that’s because it just needs to be. Haruhi, Kyon, Kozumi, Nagato and Asahina; as long as they’re in the novels, every novel will be amazing. It’s the light hearted nature of this novel that made it such an interesting read. You want to read something you can just pick up and enjoy instantly? The Melancholy’s got you covered. Every character is well thought out and unique, every chapter compels you to read on and every single thought out of Kyons’ mind is pure gold. Seriously, I could listen to that guy think all day…
But I’ll stop before I totally depress you, I mean, that’s not at all what this novel (or this review) is meant to do! This book is an almost perfect mixture of the science fantasy (and yes, I do mean science fantasy) and slice of life genres. If you’re looking for anything other than that, you’ll be sorely disappointing. Even if you’re not usually into those genre’s though you should at least give it a try! I promise, you wont be disappointed… Unless you’re looking for a novel like Fate/Zero… this definitely isn’t Fate/Zero… or High school DxD… this definitely isn’t that either… although there is some boob squeezing… Ahah! Now I’ve caught your attention! Boob squeezing, aliens, espers and time travelers! This novels got em all! What’s that? It isn’t enough to convince you?! A crazy club, giant blue monsters, the end of the world and moe?! Yeah! That got you didn’t it…
Crazed rants aside allow me to begin my properly begin my review of ‘The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’. Note, from here on out there will be extensive SPOILERS and due to the subjective nature of these reviews, it will include my opinions and thought all the way throughout. Enjoy.
The plot. So Kyon’s the sarcastic cynic who sits in front of Haruhi during homeroom. She blows him away with her declaration of love for the supernatural and he becomes immediately intrigued. It only takes a few conversations and a couple inspirational words before Haruhi decides to take life into her own hands and search for these enigmas. And so the S.O.S Brigade is formed, with Haruhi at the helm and Kyon as her… well, lacky. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this isn’t the most ingenious plot you’ve ever seen now, does it? What makes this novel special is the characters and their place in the world. The plot revolves around five main characters, Haruhi, the God/potential for evolution/spacial disturbance, Yuki Nagato, the alien, Itsuki Kozumi, the esper, Mikuru Asahina, the time traveler and Kyon, your seemingly normal guy and their adventures throughout a small city in Japan. Initially, I was simply reading the novel because A. Kyon’s inner monologues are awesome and hilarious and B. because I was waiting for the punchline. By the end of the novel I had realized an entire other reason why I’d found it so compelling. Haruhi herself. All the characters are amazing and they really have to be to make up for the seeming lack of plot. I mean, let’s actually look at what happens chapter by chapter and then we’ll get back to the ‘main’ point.
Chapter 1 is all about Kyon meeting Haruhi and the beginnings of the S.O.S brigade. Chapter 2 is the introductory chapter for characters Nagato and Mikuru and the stealing of the computer clubs’ computer… oh and the bunny girl incident also occurs. Chapter 3 is the introductory chapter for character Koizumi, the revelation of Nagato’s identity (as an alien) and the provocative picture incident. Chapter 4 is the first S.O.S brigade outing, Chapter 5 issues more revelations, the creation of the website and the Ryoko Asakura incident and the latter Chapters are all chapters that lead up to the ultimate climax. And what a climax it was (this sentence sounded much, much better in my head). The kiss. This kiss. The KISS? What’s this? Romance in a Haruhi Suzumiya novel? Impossible! Haha, but jokes aside, it was this kiss that sealed the deal for me. It was in that moment that I knew I’d want to read every single novel available and it was in that moment that I literally went to Amazon, placed every single available novel in my basket and ordered them. Just in case you were wondering, I have no regrets. But let’s get back to the point.
I really do love the story in this novel. It’s subtle and Haruhi’s God powers don’t really play too much of a big role until later in the novel. It’s just a novel about Kyon and his daily adventures with the S.O.S Brigade and I like it! It’s everything a light novel should be. The story is engaging but not smothering, the characters are lovable and the ending is satisfying… seriously I really liked the ending of this book. In all honesty I didn’t see it coming. And I like it! The whole ‘Haruhi is a God’ plot point allows for Nagaru Tanigawa to do anything with the story. The thing is, there’s never a dull moment in this novel. Whether that be because Kyon is ranting again or because an alien has gone rouge and almost killed Kyon – there’s always something to keep you on your toes! And that is the beauty of this novel. Simple and clean. Complex and compelling. It’s these four words that can sum everything I’m going to say about this novel. If anything, just buy this novel because the plot is AWESOME. Serisouly, go now, straight to Amazon. Do not falter, my child.
The characters. Let’s start with our main character, Kyon. Now Kyon isn’t his real name. In fact even by novel 11 we still haven’t been informed about his real name, but, let’s be honest, it’s not that big of a deal. Kyon is one of my favorite character ever. Fullstop. In all honesty though, that’s probably because me and him are so alike. I too have an inner monologue that runs through my head in class (and in everyday life)… now if only I could spice up my life with a God, an alien, an esper and a well endowed time traveler… oh and I should probably start paying attention in class… my grades are starting to suffer… Anyway, before we talk about Kyon’s good points, I’d first like to talk about his sole bad point (in my opinion). Why isn’t he more appreciative of the awesome things happening around him? He’s surrounded by three hot girls (one of which he finds annoying and the other he simply sees as a dull ornament), he’s meeting awesome people left and right and he’s doing all these cool things but all he can do is complain? Sometimes it’s funny but other times I find myself confused as to why he’s become so agitated. Sure, I understand that he’s a cynic, but the guy needs to lighten up! Enjoy yourself man, because once you’re out of school (and I’m sure this will addressed in future novels), you’re going to be bored out of your mind! Now on to the good things… actually I think I’ve already praised Kyon enough in the former paragraphs so I might just leave you with that thought… Oh! And one more thing. Kyon, give Koizumi a break. You mentally assault the poor guy every five minutes and he’s only trying to look out for his and yours’ best interests. Sincerely, Chris.
Speaking of Itsuki Koizumi… yeah, he’s alright. He’s definitely my least favorite out of all the characters so far. His only purpose is to keep Haurhi happy and I guess that’s the point. Even though she doesn’t know he’s an esper and even though she doesn’t know she’s a God (I should probably have mentioned earlier that she doesn’t know she’s a God… it’s kinda important), Koizumi must still try to appease her by agreeing with everything she does, no matter how derogatory. Yup. That’s a pretty good summary of the Koiz meister. When he originally appeared I was like ‘oh crap, looks like Kyon’s got some competition’… I was wrong… so very wrong. You see, if you view everything that happens as ‘if anything badly effects Haruhi and Kyons relationship, shit is going to go down’, then you gain a greater understanding of why things are happening and when things are going to happen. Koizumi poses no threat because Haruhi simply prefers Kyon, even if she does go out of her way to push him away. As I said, Koizumi is my least favorite character in this novel, simply because he isn’t given enough character time. I loved his ‘final’ interaction with Kyon when the world was ending, it perfectly sums up their relationship. They’re somewhat close, as in, they’re both going through the same things but Koizumi seemingly has it worse. He has to give up his life and time to look after a girl who could technically destroy him at any time… when you look at it like that I kinda feel bad for poor old Koizumi… But I digress, Koizumi is a good character who, with a bit of character development, could become a great one.
Yuki Nagato. As of now, Nagato is nothing more than Kyons guide through this weird new life of his. I like her character but as she stands at the moment, she might as well be a robotic interface… actually that’s kinda what she is but let’s not delve too deeply into that. Her best moment is definitely the ‘waiting outside the train station’ moment. I felt really bad for her. Not only had Kyon left her outside waiting, but her dandere personality meant that I felt even worse but it made it seem as though she was bottling it all up inside. I know you have feelings Nagato! Kyons just gotta dig a bit deeper to find them.
Mikuru Asahina, sex doll extraordinaire. Mikuru is Kyons dream girl. If Haruhi really is the clever God Koizumi says she is, why would she present the guy she seemingly likes with a girl more suited to his tastes? I dunno… Anyway, Mikuru is just simply adorable, everything she does is cute and I think that’s the point. Hell, even Haruhi says that the entire reason she brought Mikuru into the Brigade is because they needed a ‘moe’ character (and because they needed a time traveler to complete the set). Mikuru is used many a time to A. entice members into the club by wearing provactive clothing (this tactic is a failure) and B. supply a reason for Haruhi to end the world! Yup, it’s Mikuru’s fault that Haruhi almost rewrites everything because Kyon just can’t keep his eyes off of her. Now I’m glad that Kyon is no Makoto (from School Days), having sex with anything that moves ‘n all, but the guy should really take a step to confessing his love to Mikuru (or Haruhi)… on second thoughts the world would probably end if he confessed to the former, so let’s just forget about that… Anyway, Mikuru is an interesting character who, like almost every character in this first novel, suffers from a lack of exposure (not that kind of exposure you pervs). Thing is, that’s okay. If you’re going into this novel looking for ‘complex’ character and dark, heart wrenching stories, you’re looking in the wrong place. You’ve got Fate/Zero for that after all. Mikuru, along with every other character in this novel, is a high school student with a twist, and thank God it’s not a dark one… like, seriously, I’m starting to get bored of the whole ‘every high school character in anime has dark past which makes them cry every five seconds’ cliche, it’s just unnecessary! And that’s why the character in this novel are so great! They don’t overwhelm you and they don’t make you want to cry. They keep you interested by being the extensive bunch of quirky characters that they are and that’s awesome!
And so we’ve finally arrived at the star/God of our show, Haruhi Suzumiya. A seemingly eccentric girl, with eccentric tastes in men and many exotic hairstyles. Yes, this is the girl we’ve all grown to love. At first I thought she was unnecessarily moody and came across as a loud and obnoxious character that I’d quickly come to hate. I’d say it took roughly 5-10 pages of Haruhi before I fell in love with her character. This is the kind of person that I’d want to marry, y’know? She’s an idealist and a realist, mixed in with a bunch of crazy and an ass load of shouting. Kyon simply views her as an annoyance but I think she’s the most interesting character out of the bunch (excluding Kyon of course, I mean, he’s on a whole other level). The moment I knew I’d love her was the moment she gave her little speech about the insignificance of people and their place in the world. She just wants things to be more exciting and I think that’s something everyone can relate to. You know why this book is so interesting? Because this group of five extraordinary people (well four because, well, y’know, Kyon’s just a normal guy after all) is going out and doing all these simple but amazing things, things that people can only dream of. Want to meet the even better looking future version of the girl you like (who also shows you her cleavage, revealing a star shaped mole?!), Kyon’s done that. Want to go into another realm where a blue giant is destroying everything? Koizumi doing that pretty much everyday. Want to meet an alien who really like serving tea? Nagato. WANT TO MEET A GIRL WHO IS CONSTANTLY GETTING UNDRESSED AND THEN DRESSED AGAIN INTO EXTREMELY REVEALING CLOTHING?! Mikuru Asahina does it pretty much every day after school. It doesn’t seem like much, and to be honest it probably isn’t, but it’s the comical simplicity of this novel that makes it so appealing.
Haruhi is Haruhi. At least, that’s what Kyon thinks. There isn’t much romance in this novel (or in this series in general), but when there is, it immediately makes everything better. It’s the scarcity of its presence within the novel that makes the ‘dream scene’ so much to gratifying. We see hints of it throughout the novel and we also see Kyons ignorance of these hints. Admittedly they are rather vague hints but come on Kyon! Don’t be that guy… Anyway, when the kiss came I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting it. Maybe a confession of love? Maybe even a hug and some tears? But a kiss? Nope. No way. And then it happened and my heart soared to new heights. Now it’s usually at these points that I begin to ravage every word with my eyes in an attempt to find out what happens next, but in this case all I could do was bookmark my page, hug the book to my chest and run around the house celebrating… yes, that’s the kind of guy I am.
So before I finish off I should probably give you a quick overview of the awesomeness (and talk about anything I missed out). The Ryoko Asakura x Nagato fight was amazing. Surprisingly, it doesn’t feel forced at all. Want to throw some action into a slice of life, adventure novel? Why not! The battle was so gratifying and came out of nowhere… And that’s how it should be! I found myself asking myself ‘just who put that letter in Kyon’s show box?’. My original thoughts were Asahina, but Kyon quickly dismissed that idea. And then we found out it was Asakura. And then we saw her attack Kyon. And then we saw Nagato get impaled. And then we saw Nagato’s awesome. And then it was finished off with a comical moment involving Kyon and Tanaguchi. That’s how you do an action scene in a novel like this! Thumbs up to Nagaru Tanigawa!
The first S.O.S Brigade outing? I loved the romantic tension between Haruhi and the two other girl when the both got picked to patrol with Kyon. The sexy pics of Mikuru and Kyons’ perversion? Loved it. Bunny girls? Awesome. Espers fighting giant blue monsters? That’s great! Yup this is The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and I don’t regret a thing.
So, basically, what I’m trying to say is… buy it. Stop reading this now a buy it. It is is no way a masterpiece and in no way did it take the world of literature by storm (well technically it did in Japan and it’s also technically the most popular light novel series out of Japan so…), but it’s definitely the best in it’s genre and if you’re into this sort of thing, I’m surprised you haven’t read it yet. Now for those of you who have seen the anime and are thinking, ‘huh, well there’s probably more detail in these novels and I’m expecting great things’, don’t. I mean, expect great things ‘n all, but don’t read it ‘looking for more detail’. The anime is an almost perfect adaption of the light novel and nothing was missed out, not even Kyons’ inner monologues. If you’re looking for a great, light read, then you’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking for a deep, dark and alluring story, go away. Haruhi is Haruhi. And that’s all there is to it.
Unused Images (from the novel):