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.

List: My Favorite Anime From the 2000s

I’ve already made a list of my five favorite anime from the 1970s and 1980s, as well as a list of my five favorite anime from the 1990s. So now I’m going to follow it up with this list, which is my five favorite anime from the 2000s (2000-2009). What’s very interesting to me about this particular era is the fact that I began writing about anime for BellaOnline in September 2007, so near the end of this particular decade is when I started seriously delving into anime. At the time this list is posted, I will have written about anime on the Internet in some way, shape, or form for a little over 11 years. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long already!

But, like I do with my lists, it will be presented in alphabetical order, rather than being  a Top 5 list.

Fruits Basket

This is one of the earliest anime series I delved into when I first started writing for BellaOnline, and it’s also the first shojo anime that I watched and reviewed for the site. Having Fruits Basket as the first shojo anime I truly paid attention to, it set the bar pretty high for me when I review shojo anime. The only drawback to this series is the fact that the manga was still ongoing when the anime was in production, so the story of the anime doesn’t truly end. The ending of the manga was much more satisfying.

For those who don’t know about Fruits Basket, the series focuses on a high school girl named Tohru Honda. She’s orphaned after her mother is killed in a car accident, and she went to live with her grandfather. But when her grandfather’s house needed to be remodeled, Tohru ends up living in a tent in the woods. Unknowingly, she is camping out on property near the home of one of her classmates, Yuki Sohma. Yuki and his cousin, Shigure, offer Tohru a place to stay in exchange for cooking and housework. And when Kyo Sohma appears the house, things get a little crazier, especially after Tohru discovers that the Sohmas have a secret. 13 members of the Sohma family are possessed by the 12 animal spirits of the Chinese Zodiac, as well as the spirit of the cat that was left out of the Zodiac. The members of the Sohma family that are possessed by the curse transform into animals when they are hugged by a member of the opposite gender, are under a great amount of stress, or are weak in any way. Tohru promises to keep the family’s secret, and she is allowed to keep her memories instead of having them hypnotically erasing them.

Inuyasha

Inuyasha is another anime series that I started delving into during my early days at BellaOnline. It was also the first anime adaptation of a Rumiko Takahashi manga that I had watched. The setting of feudal Japan fascinated me, and the relationship that develops between Kagome and Inuyasha, as well as Miroku and Sango’s relationship, was interesting to follow. When I first saw Inuyasha, it was before Inuyasha: The Final Act had been created and aired, so the ending for the original anime was a little disappointing. But with the follow-up series, I appreciated how all the loose ends were tied up, and that audience got an actual conclusion for the story.

Kagome’s jumping between our world and feudal Japan made for interesting plot situations, especially since Kagome would end up missing a lot in school. It got even better, of course, when Inuyasha found a way to come into the modern world. Trying to hide his ears in our world made for some good humor.

There was also a strong villain in Naraku, and the resurrected Kikyo also became quite the obstacle for Inuyasha and Kagome. Honestly, I thought a lot of the characters were wonderful, and I’m glad that the anime version of their story got the conclusion that it deserved.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

If you asked me a few years back if I would have ever considered this title to be among my favorite anime from the 2000s, my answer would have probably have been “no.” For my first exposure to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, I was stuck having to watch it in the original broadcast order for the first series, and then later seeing the second series. With viewing order, a lot of the story wasn’t in chronological order, so it made it hard to follow. When I was able to watch the series again after FUNimation put out their release of it, I was able to see it in chronological order. Being able to see it in the proper chronological order, I realized that the anime was a lot better than I had initially given it credit for. Unfortunately, I have to dock a few points from this series due to the Endless Eight arc.

Outside of Endless Eight, the story of Haruhi Suzumiya and her interest in aliens, espers, and time travelers is actually rather fun to watch. And Kyon as the “straight man” is just perfect.

Millennium Actress

This film by Satoshi Kon uses the same idea of psychological storytelling as his other works, but it’s not in the same blurring of fantasy and reality as Perfect Blue and Paprika. Millennium Actress instead focuses on a blurring between memory and reality. The execution of the story is very well-done, although there are a lot of layers to the storytelling, and you really have to watch it more than once in order to pick up on details that you may have missed the first time you watch it.

The story of the film is done in the style of a “play within a play.” Genya Tachibana is working on a documentary about a famous actress named Chiyoko Fujiwara, an elderly actress who has withdrawn from public life. As Genya talks with Chiyoko, we see the story of her life from her teenage years to being a middle aged superstar; the flashbacks that appear are interspersed with segments from Chiyoko’s films. While Chiyoko’s life takes place surrounding World War II, the characters in her films span from the Sengoku period to a futuristic space age.

One of the big elements of the story has to do with a dissident artist that Chiyoko helped to escape from the military; she became attracted to him, but he had to flee. However, he left behind a key to his suitcase, and Chiyoko wants to find him. She initially became an actress in order to have the opportunities to travel and try to find him.

Noein: To Your Other Self

Noein: To Your Other Self is another anime that I was first exposed to early on at my time writing about anime for BellaOnline. The sci-fi angle really grabbed me, especially the exploration of the concept of parallel universes.

The series takes place 15 years in the future, where a violent battle is taking place between two “timespaces”: La’cryma and Shangri’la. La’cryma is a possible future of our own universe, which is 15 years in the future from where the main characters of the series are. In this timespace, all beings have been transformed into quantum beings at a macro level due to an incident that occurred in the past. There is a group in this timespace known as the Dragon Knights, who protect La’cryma from Shangri’la and enter into other timespaces to find the Dragon Torque. It is believed that the Dragon Torque is the key to stopping Shangri’la’s invasion. Shangri’la is a dimension that is intent on the destruction of all space and time. This timespace was created by a being known as Noein.

The main characters of the series live in present day Hakodate. At the beginning of the series, a 12-year-old girl named Haruka Kaminogi and her friend Yu Goto are about to run away from home. Before they can leave, they meet Karasu, a member of the Dragon Knights. Karasu believes that Haruka is the Dragon Torque, and it appears that Karasu is Yu from 15 years in the future. The series follows Haruka, Yu, and their friends as they find themselves getting mixed up in the battle between La’cryma and Shangri’la.

Not only did the parallel universe concept intrigue me, but I also really came to care about Haruka, Yu, and their friends. Not only was I interested in the present day characters, I was also interested in their parallel universe counterparts and seeing how they differed from each other.

Crunchyroll Adds The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Anime

Crunchyroll has added The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to its catalog. The stream is available in the United States, Canada, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Netherlands. All 28 episodes are available in the chronological order of the 2009 series, as they are on FUNimation’s streaming service.

Crunchryroll previously streamed both series in 2010 and 2011.

Source: ANN

FUNimation Announces New Licenses at Otakon

FUNimation announced several new licenses acquisitions during the company’s panel at Otakon.

The company has acquired the license for:

  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (both the 2006 and 2009 series)
  • The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya
  • Nyorōn Churuya-san
  • Lucky Star and its OVA
  • the Strike Witches film
  • Steins;Gate Fuka Ryōiki no Déjà vu

In addition, FUNimation also acquired the home video rights for the following anime:

  • D-Frag!
  • BlazBlue Alter Memory
  • Riddle Story of Devil
  • Freezing Vibration
  • Unbreakable Machine-Doll

FUNimation has also acquired the home entertainment, digital, and broadcast rights to the Black Butler – Book of Murder OVA series.

Yen Press to Publish Three Haruhi Suzumiya Anthologies in One Volume

Anime News Network is reporting that Yen Press will be releasing a 528-page single-volume omnibus for three Haruhi Suzumiya anthologies. This collection of manga and illustrations by various artists will ship on October 28, 2014, under the title, The Celebration of Haruhi Suzumiya. The anthology will retail for US$26.00.

Kadokawa Shoten published the three anthologies in 2009 under the titles Suzumiya Haruhi no Kyoen, Suzumiya Haruhi no Shukusai, and Suzumiya Haruhi no Kenran. A fourth anthology, Kyon to Koizumi no Sainan, centered around the characters Kyon and Koizumi.

Anime DVD Review: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Second Season

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Second Season DVD box set was released by Bandai in 2010. This box set includes four DVDs and one CD. The four DVDs have 14 episodes of the series spread across them, as well as various bonus features, while the CD contains the opening and closing themes that appear in these episodes.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Second Season
English Publisher: Bandai
Format: DVD
Release Date: September 14, 2010

The 14 episodes in this set were produced for the 2009 re-airing of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in Japan. The first episode in this set is “Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody,” which sees Mikuru taking Kyon back in time three years to help a younger Haruhi with a project she’s trying to do. Unfortunately, Mikuru loses her time traveling device, and they must enlist the help of the Yuki of that time period. Of the three stories that make up the 14 episodes in this set, I thought that this was basically the best one.

Next is the eight-part episode, “Endless Eight.” All of the SOS Brigade except for Haruhi realize that they have become stuck in a time loop, reliving the same two weeks of summer vacation; they theorize that Haruhi doesn’t want summer to end for some reason. Unfortunately, when they return to the beginning of the two weeks, they forget that they have already experienced these same things; however, Kyon and Koizumi sometimes experiences flashes of déjà vu.

This eight-parter is the most tedious portion of this DVD box set. Each episode is a different time in the time loop; unfortunately, 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. For me, it didn’t help when I watched this set that I needed to watch four to five episodes a night, so seeing four different versions of the same story with only minor variations in one night made for a boring viewing experience.

The final five episodes are all five parts of “The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya.” This tells the story of how to SOS Brigade made the film that was shown at the school cultural festival; the film itself was seen in the series as “The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00.” After plodding through “Endless Eight,” this was a nice change of pace. And since it tied in other episodes I had already seen, this made for an enjoyable viewing experience.

There were quite a few bonus features included in this set. The first disc includes the textless opening, while the second disc includes the textless ending. The first disc also includes the DVD credits. TV commercials for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya can be found on the first two discs. Promotional spots are on all four discs.

There are several “Location Scouting Videos” spread out over the four discs, with each one running around 10 to 11 minutes in length. During the videos, some of the anime crew do location scouting at a school, a temple, a shrine, a cemetery, a deli, a pond, a market, and a sports center. I usually appreciate these kind of features, because it’s near to see how closely the anime ends up resembling the location that’s being scouted. Unfortunately, these were shot in such a way that the camera is moving around more than necessary; this made for rough viewing for my husband, who has motion sickness. These are a good feature, but they would have been better if there wasn’t as much needless movement of the camera.

There are also several “Behind the Scenes of Aya Hirano’s Music Video” segments spread out across the four discs. Most of these segments run from about three to five minutes in length. During the segments, you see Aya shooting footage for the video, a photo shoot for the single cover, a rehearsal for a live performance of the song, and the day the single was released. These segments will probably hold the most interest for fans of Aya Hirano; if you’re not a fan of Aya, these may bore you.

The second disc also includes an “Endless Eight Prologue.” This is a slideshow featuring still images from the episodes where the SOS Brigade did some activities over the summer before hitting the time loop. Kyon narrates over the slideshow, to give a basic recap of what happened before the start of “Endless Eight.”

The fourth and fifth discs include episodes of “The New Adventures of the ASOS Brigade.” These were live-action pieces that feature the English dub actors. Unfortunately, these episodes are just as bad as the original “Adventures of the ASOS Brigade” that were included in the releases of the first season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

This is a box set that I can only truly recommend for fans of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya who must own all of the episodes of the series. And if you do watch this box set, be sure to watch it in small doses so you only have to sit through a couple of episodes of “Endless Eight” at a time; if you try to watch as much of it as I did in one sitting, you’ll probably either want to cry or fall asleep out of boredom.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Second Season that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Anime DVD Review: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Vol. 4

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Vol. 4 is a DVD that contains three episodes of the series. The episodes on this disc can be seen with an English dub, or with the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Vol. 4
English Publisher: Bandai
Format: DVD
Release Date: November 6, 2007

The first episode on this disc is about the annual school culture festival. Somehow, Haruhi has managed to make an agreement to get her film screened during the festival. Haruhi also makes a surprise appearance at another event taking place at the festival.

The second episode sees the Computer Club challenging the SOS Brigade to playing against them in a strategy computer game that the Computer Club developed in order to get the computer back that Haruhi had essentially extorted out of them earlier. The game is a science fiction game, and the sequences about the game feature several references to Space Battleship Yamato. As a fan of the Yamato franchise, I really got a kick out of this episode and giggled quite a bit at the references.

The last episode on the disc sees Haruhi making a deal with a shop owner who had helped to sponsor Haruhi’s movie for a heater. Kyon is sent to get the heater from the shop; while he’s gone, Haruhi makes Mikuru go through a crazy photo shoot. This was technically the last episode of the series, but it definitely doesn’t feel like an ending. In all honesty, with the type of series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is, I don’t think it really needs a true ending or conclusion.

Overall, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is an enjoyable enough series. While I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favorite anime series, I wouldn’t exactly be adverse to watching it again if I’m given the chance to.

As for the actual DVD, there are several extras included. First, there is a Nekoman Gallery that runs for 26 seconds; unfortunately, there are only two drawings included in this gallery. The Nekoman drawings were made by the cast members for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

Next, there are two “Making of Haruhi” documentaries included; both of these focus on Aya Hirano, the voice of Haruhi Suzumiya. The first one sees her promoting her second single, while the second one follows Hirano as she gets a tour of Kyoto Animation, the studio that produced the anime series for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. These are decent for what they are, and Hirano comes across as an energetic and sweet person.

There are two “TV Previews” included, and I believe I finally figured out why the TV previews don’t match up with what was seen on the disc. When I did some research on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, I discovered that there are three different ways that the series is seen. The first is the broadcast order (which is nonlinear and referred to as the “Kyon order”), chronological order (which is referred to as the “Haruhi order”) and the DVD episode order. The “TV Previews” seem to follow the chronological order, which is different from the DVD episode order.

A “Special Ending” is included; however, I can’t really see where anything is different from the regular ending. The only difference was that the “Special Ending” is a textless version of the ending credits.

There are three “Adventures of the ASOS Brigade” episodes included, as well as an “Anime Expo 2007 Guest of Honor Intro.” The “Adventures of the ASOS Brigade” episodes were just as unimpressive as the episodes that appeared on the earlier discs. The Guest of Honor Intro runs for roughly two minutes, and has narration accompanying stills from the anime series.

A “Special Teaser” is a promo for Lucky Star that incorporates elements from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya; unfortunately, I was rather unimpressed by this teaser. There are also four trailers for other Bandai Entertainment properties, as well as credits.

If you like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and haven’t added the series to your home video collection, you could either purchase the single DVD releases for the series, or you could pick up one of the box sets that was released for the series. But with Bandai discontinuing distributing products in North America, it’s best to try to locate these DVDs sooner rather than later.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Vol. 4 that I checked out through the King County Library System.