Anime Box Set Review: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Ultimate Collector’s Edition

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Ultimate Collector’s Edition includes both seasons of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya anime series, The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya anime shorts, the Nyoron! Churuya-san anime shorts, and The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan anime series. The set also comes with some art cards.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Ultimate Collector’s Edition
English Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: September 13, 2016

Haruhi Suzumiya is the main character of the series. She’s energetic and eccentric girl 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 Kouzumi 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 this 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.

The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya is an original net anime that was produced by Kyoto Animation and released on YouTube between February and May 2009. The episodes are based on a parody manga of the same name. There is a total of 25 episodes for the anime. It should be noted that this series uses chibi versions of the characters from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t terribly impressed by The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya. I didn’t find this parody of the original to be terribly funny or amusing, and I had a hard time making it through all 25 episodes in one sitting. It also didn’t help that the animation style for the first four episodes was different from the remaining 21, so this caused a weird shift in the feel of the overall series.

Honestly, it probably would have been better if there hadn’t been so many episodes produced. When it comes to the content, they were probably trying to aim for the same humor and feel of the manga it was based on. However, since I have not read The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya manga, I can’t say anything about this with any certainty.

Nyoron! Churuya-san is an original net anime that features a super-deformed version of Tsuruya, one of the characters from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. There were a total of 13 episodes of this anime produced, and they streamed on YouTube in February 2009.

To me, this ONA is even worse than The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya. The animation used for this series was very off-putting, and quite frankly, looked incredibly bad. I also hated the voice used for Mikuru Asahina, because it was way too deep for the character. It really stood out like a sore thumb, since the other characters from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya were able to get voices that sounded much closer to their counterparts in the original anime.

Nyoron! Churuya-san basically boils down to relying on jokes about how much shorter Churuya is in comparison to the other characters, and all the bad things that happen to her. Each episode is made up of vignettes, with each one ending with Churuya sighing the same word (“Nyoron”) every time. This running gag wore out its welcome very quickly. The only part I really liked was the music that accompanied the ending credits, because it meant I had made it through another episode.

Even though I thought both The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya and Nyoron! Churuya-san were unfunny, I thought that Nyoron! Churuya-san made The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya look good (which is saying something, because I didn’t think it was good to begin with!).

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is based on a manga series that is a spin-off of Nagaru Tanigawa’s Haruhi Suzumiya light novel series. This spin-off is based on the alternate universe that was featured in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya anime film.

In this series, Yuki is president of the Literature Club, and Asakura is her roommate. Kyon has recently joined the Literature Club, and Yuki has a crush on Kyon. In this alternate universe, Yuki is depicted as having a fascination with food. Asakura is depicted as being friends with Yuki, Asahina isn’t an official member of the Literature Club and is constantly hanging around Tsuruya, and Haruhi Suzumiya and Koizumi aren’t introduced until a few episodes into the series.

The overarching story in this series is Yuki and how she feels about Kyon. But just when it seems like a relationship could develop between these two characters, a major event happens to Yuki that changes the course of the series and ultimately causes Kyon a lot of confusion.

When I watched the first episode of the series, it relied very heavily on slapstick comedy and gags and not so much on telling an overarching story. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much of the humor included here to be terribly funny. It was at its worst when Tsuruya and Asakura declared that Yuki and Mikuru must compete in various competitions. Yuki and Mikuru are both on the shy side, so they don’t do things as Asakura and Tsuruya want them to. This leads to Asakura and Tsuruya demonstrating each competition and ultimately turning it into a competition between each other. This became predictable rather quickly, and the joke got old since there were five challenges shown. Fortunately, the series scaled back the use of the slapstick humor after the first episode.

When I first watched the series as a simulcast, I admit that it was a bit of a rough ride for me as a viewer. Even though the overused slapstick gags were scaled back, it still took several episodes of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan to find its stride and truly interest me. My interest went up a little when Haruhi and Koizumi were first introduced to the cast, but then the series ended up falling back onto light-hearted stories that saw the cast doing random things, and these episodes didn’t have much focus on Yuki and Kyon’s story. When the The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan fell into this rut, I started losing interest in the series. To be honest, I have to say that it almost took until the three-part episode, “The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan” for me to truly enjoy watching the series. Fortunately, when I watched the series again after getting this box set, I found that I enjoyed it much more the second time around.

This box set is chock full of bonus features. On the discs labeled, “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – Seasons One & Two,” there is a behind the scenes featurette for the music video Aya Hirano made to promote the theme song (but the music video itself is not included as a feature), a Guest of Honor intro at Anime Expo 2007, an uncut launch event video, a Nekoman gallery (images that cast members drew), the broadcast previews for the first 13 episodes, a special teaser and ending, an audio slideshow labeled as “Endless Eight Prologue – Summer,” three textless opening songs, three textless closing songs, a “making of” documentary,  the “New Mysterious Discoveries Journey” feature, a location scouting video, as well as various commercials and promo spots. Some of the documentary and behind the scenes features are interesting, although I thought the “New Mysterious Discoveries Journey” feature was kind of annoying. The rest of the features are pretty standard fare.

For The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya & Nyoron! Churuya-san portion of the set, bonus features include: How About Oniguchi? Episodes, Oniguchi Commercials, TV commercials, a retail promo video, and textless opening and closing songs. The Oniguchi items see one of the voice actors dressed up as an oni character in order to promote the release of these two series on home video. To be honest, I thought the Oniguchi concept was rather stupid and ridiculous and didn’t really see how these truly fit in with either The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya or Nyoron! Churuya-san. Of all the bonus features spread throughout the set, I thought the bonus features for this section were the weakest.

For The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan portion of the set, bonus features included an titled, “I Cannot Let Summer Break End,” a textless opening song, a textless closing song, TV spots, and a Blu-ray/DVD promo for this series. The OVA has a nice reference to “Endless Eight,” and I found this to be an enjoyable addition for The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. The other features are standard for what they are.

This is a great box set for fans of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to own. The only thing missing is The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya anime film, but it is easily available separately. FUNimation went to a lot of effort to include bonus materials, even if some of them were obnoxious (such as the Oniguchi material). Unfortunately, the set is out of print and can be quite expensive to obtain from third-party sellers, but it’s worth trying to track down a copy for a reasonable price.

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