The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Title: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya aka Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Company: Kyoto Animation
Format: 14 episodes
Dates: 3 Apr 2006 – 3 Jul 2006

Synopsis: Kyon isn’t the type of person who would believe in such things as aliens, time travelers or espers. However, on his first day of high school, he meets an eccentric girl named Suzumiya Haruhi, whose greatest desire is to meet one of these supernatural existences. Kyon becomes intrigued by Haruhi’s unusual behaviour and one day inadvertently gives Haruhi the idea of forming a club dedicated to tracking down bizarre phenomenon, a club Haruhi names the SOS-Brigade.

The Highlights
Animation: Arguably the most fluent animation to grace the small screen.
Cinematography: Impressive.
Comedy: Witty and often satirical; second to very, very few in anime.
Characters: Haruhi is extraordinary.
Finale: Anti-climactic; a victim of the episode order.
Convention: Not in this anime.

“Conventional”: everything that Suzumiya Haruhi is not. Suzumiya Haruhi is a rare work, acclaimed in many circles as an anime revolution… though this is perhaps an overstatement. But, when even something as basic as episode order is violently turned on its head, there’s no doubt that this is a unique piece; so much so that nothing else in anime can make for a fair comparison.

The thing that has always astounded me most about Suzumiya Haruhi are its visuals. I really can’t see how anyone could argue that Kyoto Animation isn’t currently at the absolute pinnacle of television animation after seeing the fluent and vibrant nature with which each and every character is brought to life. All characters move with a vitality and energy that perfectly matches their respective personalities and portrays with crystal clarity their mindsets, motivations and emotions in every scene. But it’s not just the near spotless animation which impresses; the directing and cinematography are extraordinary, barraging the audience with unconventional effects and camera techniques, creating the perfect atmosphere to absorb the audience into its compelling story, no matter the mood.

The comedy is brilliant. Arguably, only Azumanga Daioh rivals Suzumiya Haruhi in terms of wit and consistency of humour. The first episode in particular worked brilliantly as a very sharp satire, not only on anime, but the fans who try to emulate it. The rest of the episodes had a near impeccable hit-to-joke ratio; very few attempted jokes fell short of the mark. What really put Suzumiya Haruhi in the top flight of comedies, though, is that the best jokes of the series were so memorable (and rewatchable): Mikuru’s introduction, Itsuki’s “SECOND RAID”, and the brilliant Phoenix Wright homage. This unforgettably unique brand of comedy worked fantastically as a hook and did a terrific job of creating a very entertaining show.

Discussing the characters is pretty much discussing Haruhi. Her inescapable and eccentric presence truly dominates every scene she’s in. With the exception of Kyon, the rest of the cast can be accused of being comedic devices… which isn’t something to complain about too much, since they certainly all contributed to the laughs. Kyon’s role as a sarcastic narrator was well-played, and the manner in which it was used, not just as an ongoing comedic commentary on Haruhi’s eccentric behaviour, but also as a window into his mind, was well done. But, there’s no question that this show was all about Haruhi, and the subtlety with which she developed was extremely commendable. No forced background, no cheap sudden changes from a single event – Haruhi was shown to be a very complex character, and her evolution was highlighted purely through excellent storytelling and subtle gestures.

I was disappointed with the last episode to air. I found it rather uncharacteristic of Suzumiya Haruhi that this episode would focus on a plot-centric conflict (and one that really didn’t impress) when the best of this series had been the episodes that had focused on her as a character, such as the ones that came later in the chronology. The true chronological ending was a far superior episode and an infinitely more fitting and profound ending for Suzumiya Haruhi.

People talk about the sickly state in which modern anime is in. I can’t see it; not while convention-shattering anime like Suzumiya Haruhi are being made. Gorgeous aesthetics, top-notch comedy and an unforgettable lead character makes this, with the exception of the final episode, an experience unlike any other in anime. Kyoto Animation‘s triumph will likely be talked about for a very long time to come.

The Rating: 9

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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