Reviews of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006) and related work

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006Moving picture, 5.5 hours)

The contemporary universe was secretly remade to permit the existence of time travellers, aliens and similar oddities, which have yet to be discovered. You see, the creator is an easily bored misanthrope.

Transcendent bishōjo sharing its core concept with Oshii’s “Labyrinth Objects: File 538” (1987). A win for commercial eclecticism. The massive SF exposition barely explains a gigantic genre stereotype: A fairly normal, inert, nameless guy is gradually surrounded by pretty girls with radically different personalities. They are all well disposed towards him for vague reasons, and there’s one male sidekick/mentor who poses no threat of romantic competition.

This typical sexist situation is crossbred with an action adventure on cosmic scales and every crack filled with some eerily appropriate wedge. The episodes air out of order. The first is a vibrant pastiche of atrocious indie tokusatsu. Several scenes are much more realistic than the mainstream average; for instance the main character sits half asleep through some crappy but not comically bad musical performances at the annual cultural festival, an excellent slice of life. The characters dance realistically (para-para style) to the end credits. So much stylish trouble for such absolutely unoriginal core content!

References here: A Certain Magical Index (2008), Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (2017), SSSS Gridman (2018), Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! (2020).

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Nyoro~n Churuya-san (2009Moving picture)

A tiny harebrained SD version of Tsuruya, Mikuru’s friend from the original series, has very brief adventures.

Absurdist super-deformed comedy. 13 episodes, 2 minutes each. The video game is definitely the high point.

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The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (2010Moving picture, 163 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

Nagato is the only member of the classics club because Suzumiya’s school went co-ed. The former tyrant, now studying with Koizumi, never transferred. Asahina does calligraphy. Kyon is the only one who remembers the SOS団. To everyone else, it couldn’t have happened.

Equivalent to almost a full season of the TV series but with a coherent plot. I enjoyed a lot of the stylistic touches, using the same gilded realism as the TV show, as well as overt references to H. P. Lovecraft as a possible deity and Dan Simmons’s Hyperion (1989). However, the plot is a dud.

The premise is that Nagato, being a human-to-computer interface, gradually accumulates errors. These cause her to rewrite reality in such a way that she gets more time with Kyon for romantic reasons. As a side effect, she apparently disarms the cosmic threat of Suzumiya, but she both leaves Kyon intact and sends him a cryptic clue. This is overly romantic and contradictory, like a Spock-centered episode of Star Trek (1966).

While retreading some memorable moments in the established timeline, Kyon is challenged to break out of his unattached, ironic personality, a stereotype of the contemporary light novel genre. He normally provides amusing narration, aware of the show’s pandering without smashing the fourth wall. This time he engages with the problem and almost develops as a character, but it is all for nothing in the end.

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