Genre(s): Comedy, School, Supernatural, Sci-Fi, Drama
Age-Appropriateness: 13+ (mild language, crude humor, occasional violence)
TheAwersome Rating: 8.2 / 10 (Got its own fun thing going on)
Premise: Kyon, your typical high school student, has long given up his belief in the supernatural. However, upon meeting Haruhi Suzumiya, he quickly finds out that it is the supernatural that she is interested in—aliens, time travelers, and espers among other things. When Haruhi laments about the lack of intriguing clubs around school, Kyon inspires Haruhi to form her own club. As a result, the SOS Brigade is formed, a club which specializes in all that is the supernatural. Much to his chagrin, Kyon, along with the silent bookworm, Yuki Nagato, the shy and timid Mikuru Asahina, and the perpetually smiling Itsuki Koizumi, are recruited as members. The story follows the crazy adventures that these four endure under their whimsical leader, Haruhi.
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: This has quite a different flavor from the previous KyoAni shows that we’ve watched but was certainly enjoyable and had its own unique vibe to it. A good amount of episode content is everyone getting dragged around by Haruhi and enduring her brash and forceful personality, but underneath is some good solid character bonding and growth. You’ll also get blindsided by occasional moments of intense anxiety, dread, and full-on jibblies every now and again, so this keeps you on your toes. There’s a sprinkling of risk-taking regarding storytelling and TV show convention, which may or may not have paid off. We found ourselves getting pretty attached to the characters and were able to quickly get over the initial “Oh my gosh you’re annoying” that some of them have.
TLDR: An interesting and unique show that’s a mainstay of anime history, for better or worse.
There is a movie, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, that will be reviewed next week.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the arc that this show is probably most known for, but it is spoily so here we go, SPOILERS!!
|| The Endless Eight. You can’t really have a good sci-fi/supernatural show without at least some form of a time loop episode thrown in, right? Everybody loves a Groundhog Day to some degree. Well, KyoAni said “you want a Groundhog Day episode, do you? Okay fine! How can we make that experience really hit home?” Then we get to watch everyone experience essentially the same episode of realizing they’re in a time loop and trying to figure out how to break it eight times. To be fair, each episode has minor differences, from outfits, line delivery, motifs, camera angles, etc., but we essentially get the same episode eight times. No, we don’t repeat the same events eight times in an episode. Eight episodes are nearly identical. Understandably, a lot of people didn’t like this. Harbour and I didn’t mind it too much, it was fun to try and hunt out the differences and piece together what, if anything, they meant. Is it Stockholm syndrome? Maybe, I won’t deny that, but I at least appreciated having a shake up in the usual conventions of storytelling. || END SPOILERS.
Another common issue with this show is it has itself a garbled-up watch order. When it first aired, the episodes came out in a specific order that framed the story a certain way, though it was chronologically out of order and pretty difficult to follow. When it was rebroadcast in 2009, they put it in a much more chronological order, the same order that it is on the Blu-ray and on Funimation. This way is a much easier way to get the flow of everything, though once you get to the final episodes, you’ll see the appeal in a different watch order.
This appeal in different watch orders gave way to specific named watch orders, such as the “Kyon” route (chronologically from his perspective), the “Haruhi” route (the same from hers) and people began experimenting with all the different ways to experience the show while shuffling the watch order. So much so, that Haruhi fans actually solved a mathematical problem known as finding the lower bound of a superpermutation of n symbols. The question was posted in the /sci/ board of 4chan as “’The Haruhi Problem’: if you wanted to watch the 14 episodes of the first season of the series in every possible order, what would be the shortest string of episodes you would need to watch?” Published versions of the proof in journals cite “Anonymous 4chan poster” as a primary contributor for discovering it.
While I did truly enjoy Haruhi, I will acknowledge that it’s not some amazing pinnacle; it suffers from a lot of anime tropey nonsense including Haruhi’s frequent sexual harassment of Mikuru into compromising outfits, pictures, etc. But I feel it gave continued permission for big-name studios to experiment with story-telling. The way that Kyon acts also as a narrator (and his attitude in doing so) is emulated strongly in the Monogatari series, which shares the same music composer, Satoru Kousaki. The Monogatari series as a whole feels to have taken the Haruhi vibe of narration, music, and dialogue and expounded on it. I doubt the Monogatari Series would be what it is had not Haruhi come first.
This is definitely one worth watching, if for nothing else, it’s worth it for the movie.