tek's rating: ½

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, on Chiba TV (and a bunch of other networks)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

Season One
This will contain spoilers, though the important ones don't start until the fourth paragraph. So... I wanted to see this because I had read a very little bit about it in Anime Insider, and I thought it sounded like a cool show, and I thought the title character sounded like someone I could really like. But, it didn't seem like it was going to be on TV anytime soon, here in the States, so eventually I decided to download some fansubs. When I started watching the first episode... I thought I had to be watching the wrong show, somehow. It was rather bizarre... there was this girl named Mikuru Asahina in a bunny costume, and... she was supposed to be a waitress who had come from the future. Uh, she did some work hawking cabbages and stores and stuff, but the real reason she was here was to protect a boy named Itsuki Koizumi, who was an esper, though he didn't know it yet. And there was another girl named Yuki Nagato, who was this alien magician or whatever, who wanted to capture Itsuki to take his power. And she had some fights with Mikuru, who was really rather unsure of herself, and stuff... I dunno, it was just weird, and I might say rather lame, except for one thing... The great part was the voiceover commentary, which pointed out all these lame cliches and whatnot. Nothing in the episode really made any sense at all, but at least it was terribly funny. Then at the very end, we see a group of high school students watching a film they'd made, which is... what we were just watching. So the second episode should explain what the show is really all about....

Although actually, this series intentionally aired its episodes out of order, so the first is really the eleventh (out of 14). Anyway, it's a really bizarre and chaotic series, and watching the episodes out of order just adds to the chaos, which is cool. So I'd recommend watching it in airing order rather than chronological order, at least the first time you watch it. But of course, it's up to you, do whatever you feel more comfortable with. I watched it in airing order the first time, but I definitely plan on watching it chronologically at some point. (When I eventually got the DVDs, I found episode 00 still came first, even though the dubs were in chronological order otherwise.)

Well, the first episode is also sort of considered episode 00 (though as I said, it's the 11th chronologically within the plot), so the second episode is considered episode 01. And luckily, the rest of the series has a different theme song from the lame one from the first episode, which was actually the theme song for the film the students made. (I really like the real opening and closing themes.) Anyway, the series is narrated (as was the film from the first episode, though now I realize his narration about the film wasn't actually in the film... at least I don't think so) by a boy nicknamed Kyon (whose real name is never revealed), who in the second episode meets a new girl who sits behind him in class, named Haruhi Suzumiya. She's kinda crazy, and Kyon finds himself constantly exasperated by her (and yet resigned to his fate, apparently). She's not interested in normal human beings, only like aliens or time travelers or espers or other weird things like that. She finds everything normal to be unbearably boring. And since she can't find any clubs at school that she likes, she starts her own, called the SOS Brigade (short for "Sekai wo Ooini moriagerutame no Suzumiya Haruhi no dan," or "Save the world by overloading it with fun Haruhi Suzumiya's Brigade"; when I watched the dubbed version it was "The Spreading excitement all over the world with Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade"). Of course she forced Kyon to join the club. And she took over the room where the Literary club was supposed to meet, since it only had one member this year- a quiet, withdrawn loner named Yuki Nagato, who seems to do little more than sit and read. In addition to Kyon and Nagato, Haruhi sort of arrested another girl into the club, Mikuru Asahina, because she's very attractive (and very meek) and Haruhi says that in all the stories where interesting things happen, there's always an attractive girl present. (Personally, I find all three of the main girls in the show to be quite cute, especially Haruhi. But Haruhi chooses Mikuru for that role in the SOS Brigade because she's moe and because she has big breasts.) Haruhi will often use Mikuru (or anyone else) very badly to achieve her own purposes, and cause her much distress. Kyon often feels the need to try to rescue Mikuru from Haruhi's abuses, though he secretly enjoys the sexy costumes Haruhi forces her to wear.

Well, the fourth episode (seventh chronologically) is about the SOS Brigade playing a game of baseball, and it's weird because there's stuff going on, and events alluded to, which make no sense because we haven't seen them yet (if you're watching by airdate). But then the next episode picks up where the third left off, with Nagato explaining to Kyon that she's an alien, sent by the Data Integration Thought Entity to observe Haruhi, a task she has performed since she was born three years ago. Until now, things have been pretty stable, until Haruhi met Kyon. Haruhi... is something of an anomaly. Well, humanity possesses the potential for "autoevolution," though Haruhi is... whatever. She's on a whole other level. She's like the source of this explosion of data that occurred three years ago, and her consciousness can control data in the environment around her, even if she's unaware of it. The Integration Thought Entity has been studying her, but is unable to interact with humans, since data entities possess no language. Thus, human-purpose interfaces (androids) such as Nagato were created, to interact with humans. Although for now, it seems best not to let Haruhi know about any of this, and simply continue observing her. Nagato tells all this to Kyon, who she says is the key to Haruhi Suzumiya, that Haruhi somehow "chose" him... but he has trouble believing any of it, or even understanding it.

The episode also sees the introduction of a... um, mysterious transfer student... named Itsuki Koizumi, who of course Haruhi gets to join the SOS Brigade. Oh, and Mikuru reveals to Kyon that she's from the future, and there was some kind of timequake her people are studying that happened three years in the past (from Kyon's point of view), and they cannot travel further into the past than that. Of course, somehow Haruhi seems to be at the center of it all. Mikuru has been sent to observe her, but she can't tell Kyon much more, because it's classified information; but again, he is the key. Kyon also guesses that Koizumi may have something to tell him about Haruhi, and of course he's right. Koizumi is an esper, a member of an Agency that was created three years ago, which has been observing Haruhi. The Agency belives the world is just Haruhi's dream, and it came into existence three years ago. So she's like God, even though she doesn't know it. And most members of the Agency would rather just let her live her life, because it would be dangerous to disturb someone who might destroy or alter the world at will. Of course, just like Nagato and Mikuru, Koizumi believes Kyon to be the key to whatever's going on with Haruhi. He's been chosen by her, the only person she truly wants to be with. Though honestly, if this is the case, it's obvious that Haruhi herself doesn't realize it. For someone she's "chosen," she doesn't usually seem to me to like Kyon all that much....

Anyway, Haruhi finally got around to announcing to the SOS Brigade what exactly it is that the club does, which is to look for aliens, time travelers, and espers, and have fun with them. Or to look for anything strange to happen, really. Rather ironic, then, that she's had so much success, and doesn't even realize it. Of course, she often gets prematurely bored with and willing to give up on whatever bizarre mystery the SOS Brigade is investigating, but by the time everything is resolved, she's perfectly willing to take credit for any achievements or conclusions reached by the others. By the way, are you starting to see some parallels between reality and the student film which would come later? I know I am....

Well, now that you know the basic premise, I don't know how much else I should say, specifically. I don't want to describe any more episodes, but lots of strange and interesting things happen, much to Kyon's consternation. And I should say that I was a bit worried the last episode (6th chronologically) would be anticlimactic, since... well, it wasn't really the last episode. I needn't have worried, as it somehow managed to be incredibly climactic... and then had a nice anticlimax that made it not so weird for the next chronological episode to only be halfway through the series. Chronologically speaking....

Um... I also wanted to say that it occurred to me, while reading the translation of the theme song, that it almost seems as if the writers intended to make a show that fits the often bizarre and inexplicable lyrics inherent to anime theme songs.... And I should say I love the animation and all the music and the stories and the characters and everything. And while I can't imagine dealing with someone like Haruhi in real life, as a fictional character I've totally fallen for her....

Season Two
Before I begin talking about this season, I want to establish a real-world timeline. Season one aired in 2006, in Japan. I don't recall when I first watched the season as fansubs (normally I would check my facebook history to see if I'd posted about whatever I'm trying to recall the timing of, but this would have been before I started using facebook, apparently). But checking my order history on Amazon, I find that I ordered volume 1 of season 1 on DVD in October 2007, volume 2 in February 2009, volume 3 in September 2009, and volume 4 in December 2009. This was when Bandai was distributing the series in North America, and to this day it remains my favorite DVD box set ever, not just because I'm a fan of the series itself, but because I love the design of the box and all the extra stuff that came with each volume. (Altogether the set cost me about $200, which is why it took me so long to collect just four volumes. And it probably seems like a hell of a lot of money for just 14 episodes, but once again, I love the bonus swag, so I think it was totally worth it.) As for season two, I ordered that on DVD in March 2012 (again from Bandai, but this time without a cool box or any swag, except a CD with the opening and closing theme songs). And then somehow, as eager as I was to watch it, I didn't get around to doing so until spring of 2019 (which is when I'm writing this). As for when the season actually aired in Japan, that was in 2009. Unlike season one, this time the show was broadcast in chronological order. However, it's still not as straightforward as most shows, because the episodes of season two actually take place during the time frame of season one, and rather than just airing season two by itself, both seasons were aired, so that the season 2 episodes could be seen in the proper context of the overall story. (Not that that affected me, since I only saw the season on DVD, and didn't bother rewatching season one at the time.) I also want to mention that the North American license for the series is now held by Funimation, and I guess they released seasons one and two together, mixing them in chronological order of the series as a whole. (I mean, I think that's what they did; I haven't actually seen the Funi DVDs, of course.)

Anyway, the first episode (once again, out of 14) is set between episodes seven and nine of season 1 (chronologically). Btw, this season screws up episode numbers that I mentioned in my review of season 1, but I don't feel like going back and correcting them. They remain accurate for season 1, even if not for the series as a whole. In this episode, Mikuru takes Kyon three years into the past, where he meets a younger Haruhi. It doesn't seem like the Haruhi of the present remembers him from that encounter, but it's possible that meeting him subconsciously caused her to "choose" him in the present. Or whatever. The next eight episodes are set after episode ten (chronologically) of season 1. They're all titled "Endless Eight," because the main characters are all caught in a time loop, in which events change only very slightly each time. However, the time loop repeats over 15,000 times, so it's a good thing we only had to watch eight of them. (It is mentioned that there were some greater differences in some of the repetitions, though for some reason we don't see any of that. The ones we see involve all of the same events.) One could find this tedious, but I didn't really mind it. Partly that's because... even when events didn't change between episodes, the perspective did. (I.e., they didn't just reuse the same animation over and over, we see things from different angles, and whatnot.) Still, it was a relief to get back to new stories. The final five episodes of season two are all titled "The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya," and are set between the Endless Eight and episode eleven (chronologically) of season 1 (i.e., before the first episode of season 1 by air date). These five episodes are about the making of the SOS Brigade's student film. Luckily, time is now progressing normally, so the events of each episode are different, even if they're all basically about the same thing. So... after season two was completed, there were still four episodes of season one to re-air, but again, that didn't affect me.

I'm not sure what else to say, except that the final episode of season 2 (24th of the 28-episode series) at one point involves a cat, the speech of which Kyon and his friends can understand. And some of what the cat had to say reminded me very much of something I wrote long before this series existed, so I definitely enjoyed that bit. Oh, also I guess I should say there are some revelations about differences of opinion concerning Haruhi's nature, between Mikuru, Yuki, and Koizumi (or at least between each of their respective organizations). That seems like it was setting up some potentially quite interesting future stories. (That might be addressed in the feature film "The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya," but I'm not sure, since I haven't seen that yet.) So... anyway, I enjoyed season two mainly because I was already such a huge fan of season one, the premise and all the characters. I don't think it was quite as good as season one, and I shudder to think what anyone who'd never seen season one would think of it. But I definitely liked it, and I'm glad I've finally seen it.


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