Monday, 12 March 2007

Review: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

So here it is, the long-awaited review of this most excellent series.

Plot: On his first day at high school Kyon is surprised when, during the mandatory introductions, the girl behind him announces that she has no interest in ordinary humans, and wishes only to meet aliens, time-travellers and espers. This turns most of the class off, but Kyon talks to her. At first her replies are bored and sarcastic, but a spur-of-the-moment comment gives her the idea to start her own club, with the intention of enlivening peoples' lives by finding the things she is looking for. Kyon is drafted, not entirely willingly, into this idea of hers. It soon turns out, however, that everyone in this club has a very good reason to be there.

Review: I love this anime. I'll say that straight off. It is a wacky, weird and wonderful anime series that balances side-splitting comedy with real drama. The plot is superb. Without giving away any spoilers, I will tell you that this anime plays fast and loose with timing, and the episodes are not aired in the order that they happen chronologically. This could have been used as a gimmick, or otherwise completely screwed around with how the anime flowed, but it does not. What it does allow is for us to gain a really good insight into the characters. It is also strange that, of the 14 episodes, only 6 are directly connected to the main plot-line. The rest are all side-stories that broaden our knowledge of various characters. Again, this works really well. I have to caution though, the first episode in the series is a wacky side-story that puts many people off the series altogether. I found it hilarious, and an apt way to begin such an eccentric series, but if you don't like it, don't worry. The entire series isn't like that.

Characters: Every character gets ample screentime, but they are all overshadowed by the main girl herself, Haruhi Suzumiya. I mentioned before how she fast became my favourite character. She is a character who, at first glimpse, seems like she is absolutely insane, with her cheerful misanthropy and desire to meet aliens. However, it soon becomes clear that there is a certain logic to everything she does. When you finally find out what makes her tick, everything falls into place. She doesn't boss people around because she is naturally bossy, she bosses them around because she beleives that they see things the way she does, that life is boring and that must be rectified. She isn't at all embarrased about dressing up in a bunny costume in front of the school gates because she simply doesn't see the point of wasting time with embarrasment. In her view, the crazy people are running the asylum, and she is the sanest of all. She isn't misanthropic and uninterested in humanity because of any flaw in herself or humanity, it's just humanity is generally so boring to her that she wants to meet any interesting speciman it has to offer, and can't be bothered with the rest. Usually in anime bossy, confident, self-obsessed characters are meant to be annoying, but Haruhi is the one exception, mostly because the things I have mentioned above.

While Haruhi is the centre of attention, the other characters deserve their mentions. Kyon, the deadpan narrator, works really well as a subdued, sarcastic foil to Haruhi. Yuki, the quiet, mysterious girl, was also an interesting character, and her revelation is the first genuine surprise in the anime. Mikuru is also pretty interesting, although shy, timid girls who end up in a variety of compromising positions are a staple in anime. Finally Itsuki tends to be a little annoying, although this is at least partly due to the fact his character is supposed to be an annoying suck-up to Haruhi.

Visuals: Superb all the way through. The lines were crisp, the colours were sharp but not gaudy.

Music: Good, but not outstanding. The music complemented the anime pretty well, but not enough that I would want to buy the soundtrack.

Overall: I love this anime. I love love love love love love love love love this anime. I'm forced to admit that most of this comes from the fact the Haruhi Suzumiya is the greatest anime character of all time. Ever. At all. None better. Whatsoever.
9.5/10 Top notch. If they had created a soundtrack that wasn't merely 'good' then I would give this series a perfect 10.

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