Any Joe Schmoe on the street could tell you without question that Harry Potter is a publishing phenomenon, but if you asked him about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, he’d look at you like you were a crazy person. While Pottermania is perhaps a whole other monster, it’s still no small feat that the Haruhi light novels managed to sell over 4,300,000 copies in Japan alone. Finally (albeit a few years behind the bandwagon), we are getting the full taste of all that is Haruhi here in the States, and it’s about damn time!
So far, there are nine Haruhi novels and soon to be ten, four of which have already been printed in English. The books follow the (mis)adventures of the SOS Brigade, a ragtag after-school club that was created by the beautiful but eccentric Haruhi Suzumiya. The purpose of the club is to unearth paranormal phenomenon such as the existence of aliens, time travelers and espers, which, unbeknownst to Haruhi, are exactly the sorts of individuals that populate the rest of the brigade. The reason for their presence creates a sort of chicken-and-the-egg scenario, since Haruhi is also the unwitting creator of the world that we live in, and they have come to make sure that Haruhi remains content with the way things are so that she doesn’t end up re-imagining things to fit her ridiculous whims. But are they there because they were sent, or has Haruhi’s desire to meet aliens and the like exactly what drew them to her in the first place? Apathetic skeptic, Kyon, the club’s lone normal member and our cynical narrator, isn’t too sure he believes a word of it, but whether he likes it or not, he’s been sucked up into the Haruhi whirlwind, and it is doubtful he’s going to be let off any time soon.
Of course, like anything popular in Japan, the novels were adapted into both a manga and an anime. The manga pretty much follows the books faithfully, though the art is a little simplistic and loses the edge that having Kyon as the narrator gives both the novels and the anime. Kyon’s disinterest in just about everything that has to do with the SOS Brigade is what makes him the best kind of narrator, as he is able to make unbiased observations about his surroundings while still revealing much about both himself and others in what he chooses to comment on. The anime keeps this aspect rather faithfully, thus far covering the first five books in the series. Season one, which covers The Melancholy, The Sigh and The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya, goes further to add a twist to things by intentionally airing the episodes of the first season out of order, which makes for a bit of confusion since things don’t happen linearly, does create a more climatic end by saving the most definitive moments for the end. Though the second season, which follows The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya, wasn’t quite as strong as the first, hopefully we will also get that and the absolutely stunning film, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, on American shores in the near future as well. The production value on the serialized anime was amazing enough, but the film’s animation will literally make you pee your pants. It is that good. No, seriously.