Despite my blog and branding being named ‘All Hail Haruhi’, a reference to the Haruhism culture surrounding the character of that name, I’ve never directly spoken about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
Feeling like I had to make the Haruhi post that much better than my other works, so as to not let the name down, is likely one reason for this. The other reason is simply because I didn’t want to potentially sour the love I had for that show by rewatching it to death in preparation for such a post. Now that me and the site have matured quite a bit, coupled with some healthy nostalgia for the past, I feel comfortable enough to talk about it, though without the lofty pretense of writing my magnum opus.
It’s difficult to talk about why I think this series is so great because it’s artistry isn’t contained in any singular component. This means I can’t fall back so readily on conventional appraisals like “oooooh it has amazing action set-pieces!” or “the writing is really engaging and keeps you at the edge of your seat!”, stuff that is both easy to disseminate in short but also ramble at length about. However this is a blessing in disguise! Because now I get to bring up all these little points that are hard to incorporate in your typical essay.
Let’s take for example the very start of the show. It’s shown in complete grey scale for the first two minutes of the episode, giving you time to acclimatize you to the fuzzy and unclear perspective it gives you over Kyon, before the world is soon flooded with colour and light at the introduction of Haruhi. It’s such a simple cinematic technique, and yet how often do we actually see it? An ordinary colour filter is used to convey so much about Kyon, his mindset and how he currently views the world, and then the role Haruhi comes to play in that. Above all it serves as a fantastic introduction to the show.
And what about the sound track!? How Kyon’s stoic straight man character is paired with somber jazz backings, only to be interrupted by Haruhi’s high energy, fast-going and often comedic tunes. I won’t pretend it’s revolutionary to match a song to a character, but in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya you really feel the impact of each track. Through clever composition and implementation, you not only catch the vibe of each scene, whether that’s Haruhi’s knowing mischief or obliviousness to her own comedy, but also see how the songs interact with one another.
This is typically a controversial position I have, but I even think the infamous ‘Endless Eight’ is a masterpiece. The premise of it is that the SOS Brigade is stuck in an endless time loop, of which only Yuki Nagato appears capable of noticing, making clear the ominous implication that she’s been consciously living the same day over and over for centuries. Que the endless eight, a series of eight episodes showcasing this repeated loop and how it was ultimately broken. Subsequently this means that if you want an uninterrupted watch through of the show, it will involve watching what is essentially the same episode a total of 8 times. Now at risk of being too esoteric or artsy, I loved this approach so much! It’s just so wonderfully experimental (think of how many time loop concepts you’ve seen where the loops are actually identical) while it still serves the narrative purpose of getting the audience into Yuki’s head space, asking us to share, however temporary, in the monotony she repeatedly experienced for far far longer than the 160 minutes it takes to watch. Yet for those who require an alternative justification for watching, each episode provides tiny differences in events, framing or positioning to be observed and shared with others. Watching the same sequence of events eight times might on the surface seem like the most uninteresting thing to do, but it’s actually super interactive and engaged so long as you’re willing to view it on it’s own terms.
Speaking of controversy, Haruhi herself is the subject of much scrutiny. I’ve heard on many occasions that she’s an awful person and that’s why people shouldn’t watch the show. While I don’t particularly want to make excuses for her behaviour as god-student dictator-in-chief, nor are you obligated to watch anything, this critique misses the appeal of so many of the stories we enjoy culturally. What is the mafia genre if not seeing unethical people bend or outright ignore the rules we are otherwise obligated to abide by? In an era of slavery apologia storytelling, seeing Haruhi use her power (forcefully) to pull off band performances and film bad magical girl shows makes it so much easier to find her entertaining in that mafia-esque way.
As I type this out I have the show playing on the side, revisiting all these memories and little personal satisfactions I take from it, and getting all those warm fuzzy feelings. Now I can’t guarantee you’ll feel the same way I do, it would be remiss of you not to try. If you want to switch your brain off and laugh, this show can do that for you, but if you’re looking for good craftsmanship or experimental techniques it has that appeal too! Even the conversations surrounding the show have flavour, as people create elaborate theories as to whether or not Kyon is actually god instead of Haruhi, or how Haruhism itself became it’s own religion akin to Pastafarianism. Like I said at the start, I can’t write a perfect dissection of Haruhi Suzumiya, but maybe my enthusiastic rambling here can suffice.
Thanks for reading!