Haruhi Suzumiya re-viewing: Melancholy I&II

Earlier this year, the Japanese cable station AT-X re-ran the entire Haruhi anime series beginning with the 28 TV episodes and ending with the movie. Today, they have begun airing the TV series again, and I thought it would be fun to tag along. Joining me on this re-viewing is Yumeka (star anime blogger) and Goggen (K-On! fan supreme). We’ll watch two episodes per week (the same that will be aired) and submit our comments on those episodes. Let’s begin with the first two: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya I/II! (ultimatemegax:Koizumi, Yumeka:Haruhi, Goggen: Mio)

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya I

: It has become a habit of mine to, whenever I re-watch something I’ve already seen many times, try to get into the mindset of a first-time viewer. Try to wipe the slate clean and look at it as though it was brand new to me. From that perspective, Melancholy I never ceases to intrigue me from the get-go. “How long you believed in Santa Claus…” I think most viewers would agree that Kyon’s opening words make for one of the most peculiar and intriguing beginnings any series could hope to have, and for me, the entire episode keeps that feeling going. If you go into it completely spoiler free, you’d be forgiven for concluding after episode 1 that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is merely a quirky high school comedy full of oddball characters, albeit a highly entertaining one. It’s to the series’ credit that it so seemingly effortlessly keeps the viewer hooked from the start in spite of the fact that several episodes pass before it even lets the viewer in on its basic premise.

: The episode that begins it all and one of the few that has no sci-fi activity. What’s great about Melancholy I is that anyone watching the series for the first time in chronological order may be fooled by the first two episodes (well, most of the second episode anyway) into thinking it’s just a high school comedy anime with a snarky, sarcastic male lead and an energetic, eccentric female lead. But even amongst anime of this genre, Haruhi already excels in its first episode, having a refreshing style via Kyon’s hilarious narration and Kyoto Animation’s above-average emphasis on setting and character expressions. Their unique, atmospheric style can already be seen in the first episode with such scenes as one where Kyon watches Haruhi throw a rock at the building while talking with Taniguchi and Kunikida, and how the show begins in a gray scale until Kyon first meets Haruhi.

: Honestly, the most impressive portion of this episode involves the first five minutes. We hear the infamous introductions of Kyon and Haruhi and get our first glimpse of the amazing OP song/animation. Kyoto Animation did a wonderful job showing the huge shift in excitement from Kyon/Haruhi at the beginning of the episode to the end where only Haruhi is excited at the prospects of a new club. The introduction of Mikuru and Yuki and their non-verbal movements were spectacularly done. A good episode (with a few complaints) to start the series.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya II

: While Melancholy I has more or less unobjectionable, good-natured fun, things get a bit out of hand in Melancholy II when Haruhi reveals one of her bad character traits, at least at this point in the story; obliviously manipulating others to get whatever she wants. What she does to Mikuru and the Computer Club president is a bit extreme, but the mood of the series still remains light and fun, and the fact that Haruhi is so cheerful about everything rather than malicious, doesn’t make it too hard to keep going with show’s flow after that. Another crazy but less tyrannical Haruhi antic ensues later on with the infamous bunny girl outfits. But it’s not until the last part of the episode that things shift to seriousness as the major crux of the story begins to reveal itself…

: Truthfully, this episode is why I’m timid to show this series to others. The extortion of the computer by blackmailing the Computer Society President is a really great example of how Haruhi changes throughout the series, but it’s a real turn-off for a new viewer. Other than that, the episode continues to emphasize how energetic Haruhi is compared to when she first entered high school. There’s not as many fast cuts as there were near the end of the prior episode, but KyoAni continued to emphasize her actions.  You really felt bad for the CS president and Mikuru. And at the end, we have a great cliffhanger from Yuki. That’s a good switch from the novels to have as a cliffhanger to keep you wanting more.

: While Haruhi’s method of “procuring a state-of-the-art computer” doesn’t exactly portray her in the most sympathetic light, I can’t say I don’t find the whole scene hilarious. Episode 2 continues the wacky high school comedy feel from before, right up until the twist hits at episode’s end – or should I say, the beginning of the twist. As we know now, Yuki Nagato’s confession is but the tip of the iceberg, the full revelation is left for next week. In between Haruhi’s cheerful visit to the Computer Club and the mood shifting cliffhanger, there’s the introduction of the bunny girl costumes and the genesis of Mikuru’s forced cosplay tradition – both iconic parts of the franchise in their own way, I suppose one could argue, but not my personal favorite aspects. The “screaming behind the door” scenes have gotten old for me, I must admit. And watching this episode again I wonder why, after she tells him to address her as “Mikuru-chan”, does Kyon forevermore call Mikuru “Asahina-san”?

And so that’s the first part of this re-viewing. Next week we see the full story behind Yuki’s existence, introduce a new Brigade member, and almost get killed by the lovely class rep. Stay tuned!

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5 thoughts on “Haruhi Suzumiya re-viewing: Melancholy I&II

  1. Thanks for putting our posts together so nicely ^_^ The avatars are cute!

    Haruhi’s computer-stealing plan is also a reason I’m hesitant to show the series to anyone who’s not well versed in anime already. I think its more tolerable read than watched though, so maybe reading Melancholy over watching it would be better for certain newbies ;)

    And yeah, why doesn’t Kyon call Mikuru by her first name after she asked him to? My guess is that he’s trying to keep distance from her, either because of her time-traveling background and/or Haruhi wouldn’t like it if he got that friendly with her. Or maybe he just feels weird calling his “senpai” by first name even though she doesn’t act like much of a senpai.

    • I thought of the avatars and thought they would perfectly fit for who said what instead of text.

      Unfortunately, that scene in Melancholy II stays on my mind as I’ve recommended the series to a few people and it’s what always worries me. Agreed that it’s more visually striking than written.

      I think Kyon doesn’t call Mikuru by what she told him due to the generic male character and his crush. It’s the stereotypical “I’ve got to treat her with respect at all times” and that overrides her direct wishes. Considering he’s never called Nagato by anything other than that, I doubt he’s thinking about Haruhi’s wishes.

  2. Funny, I actually found the extortion (and the other molestation scenes) worse in writing, perhaps because I imagine them as real people rather than anime characters when reading. But they actually toned the scene down in tha anime as in the book Kyon is holding the camera, Haruhi tries some even more offensive stuff on Mikuru and Mikuru keeps sobbing for like an hour.

    • There are some scenes where they’re more impactful visually than in plain text. I feel the Mikuru scene is one of the bigger examples along with the Asakura scenes and the entire Day of Sagittarius episode.

  3. Pingback: Off to Anime Expo ’12 | 毎日アニメ夢

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