Anime Spotlight: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Updated)

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is based on a light novel series written by Nagaru Tanigawa and illustrated by Noizi Ito. The anime adaptation was produced by Kyoto Animation and was directed by Tatsuya Ishihara.

The anime first aired on Japanese television from April 2-July 2, 2006. The series was later rebroadcast in Japan in 2009, and 14 additional episodes were added to the series for the rebroadcast. When the series first aired in 2006, the episodes were aired in a nonlinear order. However, when the series was rebroadcast in 2009 with the additional 14 episodes, the episodes were shown in chronological order. There was also one film produced for the franchise called The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.

Bandai Entertainment held the North American rights for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. However, Bandai Entertainment went out of business in 2013. As of this writing, FUNimation Entertainment holds the North American license for the franchise.

Haruhi Suzumiya is the main character of the series. She’s energetic and eccentric and is viewed by many of her classmates as an oddball. At the beginning of the series, she starts a new school club called the SOS Brigade. Since Haruhi can’t stand boredom, she’s always coming up with things for the SOS Brigade to do. Three years prior to the beginning of the series, Haruhi wished she lived in a world with time travelers, espers, and other interesting things. However, Haruhi doesn’t realize that she has the power to change the environment around her as she pleases.

Even though Haruhi is the main character, the story is narrated by her classmate, Kyon. Kyon is basically the “normal” member of the SOS Brigade and the “straight man” of the series; he’s also the first person that Haruhi recruits into the SOS Brigade. Haruhi’s demands of him and the SOS Brigade tend to annoy Kyon, but he’s also bewildered by her. In the series, there are hints dropped that Kyon might have some romantic feelings toward Haruhi.

Yuki Nagato is the next person that Haruhi enlists for the SOS Brigade. She’s rather quiet but can speak at length if it’s needed. Unknown to Haruhi, Yuki is a bibliophile humanoid interface who is responsible for monitoring Haruhi.

Mikuru Asahina is literally dragged into the SOS Brigade by Haruhi. Mikuru is one of the older members of the club, and she’s a soft-spoken girl that Haruhi enjoys dressing up like a doll. Kyon will often look at Mikuru and comment on how she looks, which makes Haruhi jealous. Unknown to Haruhi, Mikuru is a time traveler.

Itsuki Koizumi is the final member added to the SOS Brigade, and he is the only other male in the group outside of Kyon. He’s a rather carefree guy and is always smiling. Unknown to Haruhi, Itsuki is an esper.

As the series progresses, Kyon learns the truth about Yuki, Mikuru, and Itsuki, as well as about Haruhi’s power.

My first exposure to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya came from seeing the first episode of the series on YouTube. I admit that by the time I finished the first episode, I didn’t really understand why the series was so popular.

About a couple of years later, I decided that it would probably be a good idea to expose myself to more of the series, so I could give it more coverage at BellaOnline’s Anime site. I placed a hold on the first volume of the single disc releases for the series through my local library system and watched it. By the time I finished that disc, I decided that while I still wasn’t a fan of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, I thought it was better than I had originally given it credit for.

A few years later, I got FUNimation’s Blu-ray release of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya as a Christmas present and realized that it was a much better anime than I had given it credit for. Since FUNimation’s release has all the episodes in chronological order, the story made much more sense. I consider myself a fan of the franchise now, and I’m glad I gave this series another chance.

But there is one downside to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: the eight-part episode, “Endless Eight,” which deals with the characters being stuck in a time loop. I found these eight episodes to be a very tedious viewing experience. Each episode is a different time in the time loop, but there is very little difference between some of the episodes, so it almost feels like you’re watching the exact same episode more than once. Even with the second watch I had for the series, I just couldn’t appreciate these eight episodes any better than I did the first time. It’s just very tedious.

If you can overlook “Endless Eight,” then The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a good anime series. And while this franchise may not be nearly as big as it was back in 2006, it still has its fans and admirers.

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