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Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Stories of the Top 80 Anime: Haruhi Suzumiya

9. Haruhi Suzumiya leaves the shonen action series behind and returns to 'school life.' However, it can't quite be compared to 'slice of life' series like K-On!, because it relies more on the crazy nature of its sci-fi setting and characters for its plot and drama than its everyday school life.

The author of Haruhi Suzumiya, quite simply, is a genius. He is a creative and imaginative genius that describes a world of all powerful gods, distinctly inhuman aliens, non-paradoxical time traveling that actually makes sense, and how a normal human would end up interacting with them all. It isn't just 'handling' these people, he also has to think about the subjects they bring up, like how to heal Yuki Nagato in Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, or Haruhi's troubled heart in Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Haruhi has a true problem, something that needs to be addressed: How can a human feel special or important anymore, when surrounded by so many millions of people, a faceless face among endless faceless faces, noticed by none, noticing none?

Her speech about being at a baseball game and realizing how many people were there with her, filling that massive stadium, and how she was just a puny ant lost in a sea of humans, really does fill the listener with melancholy. The solution was Kyon's kiss for Haruhi. But I think everyone has to think long and hard for their own solution to this problem. As population density increases, as jobs become redundant due to other workers outcompeting you or machines outcompeting you, the ability to get lost and ignored in the big city is ever-more-apparent. How will people continue to matter as we move into the future, as populations swell to 9 billion or even higher, as our votes are a meaningless proportion in the face of a billion co-citizens, like the democracy of India? In cities, like in space, no one will hear you scream. Nothing you do could ever attract attention, because there's just too many people to notice little ol' you.

Haruhi Suzumiya makes you think, it's also hilarious, because all of the characters are such perfect foils to each other. The extremely cute and appealing Asahina is foiled by the plain and emotionless Nagato. The lazy and realistic Kyon is foiled by the manic and unrealistic Haruhi. But somehow, by combining all of their powers, they manage to form a SOS-dan, a club dedicated to having fun, the whole is more than the parts.

In Disappearance, Kyon is given a choice to go back to an 'ordinary' life without any super powers, or stay with the crazy and dangerous world he lives in with erratic gods that must be kept happy lest they destroy the world, and he chooses the crazy and adventurous one. I love the philosophy in Haruhi. Tough choices like this are everywhere. Like whether or not its better to repeat something you know is good, or move forward into something novel, just because it hasn't been done before, without knowing whether it will be as good as what has already passed. Endless Eight is an interesting philosophical question -- is there a reason to go beyond summer vacation with your friends? Since we are talking about a God here, there's no fears of entropy or anything decaying while the world is reset. It's a flawless system. The only question is whether it's truly better to only have summer vacation, or if the whole cycle of life is better, with work and child-rearing and old age and ultimately death. In Haruhi, Kyon has to choose. These things aren't decided by fate, because the characters of Haruhi are all so strong that fate, reality, no longer has any hold on them. They have to choose everything for themselves. Immortality or death? Kyon has to actually choose, because these things are no longer determined.

Haruhi Suzumiya took the world by storm when it came out, and continues to be a best-selling brand. Kyoto animation, the same company that animated Clannad, animated Haruhi, the art style is gorgeous and the music and voice acting is also top of the line. Everything about Haruhi's production value is perfect. The only problem with Haruhi is how short it is. This is especially frustrating given they needlessly made 8 full episodes of a short story, endless eight, which could have been told in 2. As short as Haruhi is, a full third of it is a boring joke by the animators. That's unforgivable. The way to improve Haruhi is for the animation team to stop playing jokes on its audience, like chronologically messed up releases and nonsense boring repeat episodes, and just narrate the story as written in the books. There is plenty of source material left in the books for the anime to continue. The Indignation of Haruhi Suzumiya would make a wonderful movie or third season, and then there's Disassociation and Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya after that. Haruhi has not yet reached a decent ending point, all the characters and their lives and their troubles are still up in the air. Kyon hasn't romantically settled on any of the three girls. Haruhi, as it stands, is too frustrating to truly enjoy. Hopefully the future will correct this. If it does, maybe it can go up in the rankings. Its potential, with such a great plot, characters, setting, voice acting, music, art, and animation, is, after all, unlimited.

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