The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya is the 10th volume in the light novel series about Haruhi Suzumiya. This book was originally published as two separate volumes (Volumes 10 and 11) in Japan, but the U.S. version combined them into one volume.

The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya
Written by: Nagaru Tanigawa
Publisher: Kadokawa Corporation
English Publisher: Yen On
Release Date: June 1, 2021

This volume includes one self-contained story, and all of the chapters except the last one (which is labeled as, “Final Chapter”), are told as the two separate timelines that began near the end of the previous volume, The Dissociation of Haruhi Suzumiya.

One of the timelines is labeled as the “alpha” timeline, while the other is labeled as the “beta” timeline. In the alpha timeline, a new character makes it through Haruhi’s tests for the potential new members of the SOS Brigade. The characters who were introduced or reappeared in the previous volume (Sasaki, Kyoko, Kuyoh, and Fujiwara) are only important right near the end of this timeline. In the beta timeline, there are no new SOS Brigade recruits, and Nagato falls ill due to interference from the interface that’s the Data Overmind’s opposite. Haruhi focuses on nursing Nagato back to health instead of recruiting new members. Meanwhile, Kyon has a lot more interactions with Sasaki, Kyoko, Kuyoh, and Fujiwara before the end of this timeline.

I appreciated how this volume, as well as The Dissociation of Haruhi Suzumiya, handled the separate timelines. At the beginning of each section, it’s marked with either an alpha or a beta symbol (to represent which timeline you’re reading), as well as a number to tell you which scene you’re reading in each timeline.

As you work your way through The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya, you begin seeing hints that show how the timelines match up between the two, although the characters aren’t capable to picking up on these hints. For example, in the beta timeline, Kyon and Koizumi are waiting for potential new recruits to come to the SOS Brigade’s room, but decide to use a ball and gloves they find in the room to play catch outside instead. In the alpha timeline, as Haruhi is working with the new SOS Brigade recruit, Kyon and Koizumi feel an urge to play catch, but have no idea why. I thought this, as well as other instances of this kind of event, were nice little touches for the reader.

It should come as no surprise that the two timelines come back together before the end of the book. However, I don’t want to reveal how it happens, because that would be providing a major spoiler. All I will say is that I figured out pretty early on who it would have to be that would make the joining of the two timelines possible, but I didn’t know exactly how they would make it work.

Having the two concurrently running timelines could have been confusing, but with the sections for each timeline being clearly labeled, they were relatively easy to follow and to keep track of what was happening in each one.

With how the story was written, I thought these concurrent storylines were handled well and that what happens after they come together works for the type of the stories that the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels tell. My only real disappointment is that the artifact that was found on Tsuruya’s property in an earlier volume is referenced in this story, but we never actually find out anything more about it. There’s also a section near the end where Haruhi receives a gift for the anniversary of the founding of the SOS Brigade, but the reader never gets to find out what it is. I would guess that the artifact found at Tsuruya’s place is the gift, but there’s nothing written in the text to back this guess up. I thought for sure the gift to Haruhi would be revealed by the end of this volume, but it wasn’t, after a big deal was made about it.

As of this writing, this is the final volume that tells the overarching story of the series. The way the ending is written, it’s potentially possible to continue the story from where this left off, but I’m not really sure it would be worth it. I thought the ending of The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya works well as a way to end the series. While there is one more volume in this series, it’s a collection of short stories that take place before the events of The Dissociation of Haruhi Suzumiya and The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya.

As someone who had only watched the anime adaptation of the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels before reading the novels themselves, it was a treat to not only read the original tellings of the stories that were in the anime adaptation, but to also see what other adventures the SOS Brigade had experienced that were never depicted in the anime. After reading the light novels, I discovered that there was so much more to the Haruhi Suzumiya series than what was presented in the anime. There’s actually an overarching story that takes place over the course of a little over a year, and elements and adventures that were introduced earlier in the series played an important role for its conclusion.

If you’ve only watched the anime adaptation of the Haruhi Suzumiya series, I would highly recommend reading through all of the light novel volumes that have been released. You’ll get so much more out of the series, as well as new adventures with Haruhi and the others that aren’t part of the anime adaptation.

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