Series Review

400th Review Special – Anime Hajime Review: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Season One Original Run: April 2, 2006 - July 2, 2006
Season One Number of Episodes: 14
Season Two Original Run: April 3, 2009 - October 9, 2009
Season Two Number of Episodes: 28
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Supernatural
Based on the Series Created By: Nagaru Tanigawa

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

When you realize you are just one person out of billions, you have two options.

One: You accept your situation.

Two: You do everything you can to stand out.

For Haruhi Suzumiya (voiced by Aya Hirano), she chose the latter in a big way.

Haruhi finds normal humans boring. If someone isn’t either an alien, a time traveler, or an esper, then she has no interest in them. The sole exception to this is Haruhi’s completely average classmate Kyon (voiced by Tomokazu Sugita).

One day during a simple conversation, Kyon inadvertently gives Haruhi the idea to form a special club. Dubbing it the Spreading Excitement All Over the World with Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade (the SOS Brigade), Haruhi plans to make the entire world a far more exciting place.

If things weren’t strange enough, they’re about to be. Haruhi manages to gain several members, along with Kyon, to join her Brigade. Little does she know her new subordinates may actually be the result of her own inner desires. After all, Haruhi believing she is at the absolute center of the universe, might not be far from the truth.

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Series Positives

Before I begin, I must say:

Thank you. Thank you to every one of you readers.

As a point of personal pride, I look back on these past 400 reviews – made up of anime series, movies, and more – knowing I have never missed an update. I don’t intend for that to change.

400 isn’t a small number when you look at it alone, but it’s nothing when you realize I haven’t scratched the surface of what’s out there. Every season brings a trove of fresh, new anime for me to (hopefully) cover. Plus, just imagine the sheer number of shows that have been released throughout the years. I assure you, my “To Watch” list won’t be drying up any time soon.

For this 400th review, I’m finally crossing off one of my big ones: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (MHS).

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I have had my eyes on this series since the beginning of this site. Try exploring anime’s corner of the internet – assuming you can stomach the endless stream of porn, bikinis, memes, porn, pointless battle polls, porn, and porn – MHS is almost unavoidable.

From what I have gathered, many people hold MHS in high regard. Naturally, I’ve wanted to learn what the fuss has been about.

Please keep in mind, I’ve been watching anime much longer than I have been reviewing it, and this series was staring right at me for a long time. That then begs the question: What have I been waiting for?

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To be frank, I didn’t know how to go about watching this show.

I am technically reviewing the second season of MHS, which means I am simultaneously looking at the first season as well. Yes, things are about to get complicated.

The first season of MHS aired between April 2, 2006 and July 2, 2006. This run of fourteen episodes was released in non-linear order. The series did not follow a timeline. For example, episode one was actually episode eleven if you were to put it in its proper spot.

The second season of MHS aired between April 3, 2009 and October 9, 2009. This twenty-eight-episode run included the rebroadcasting of the original first season episodes in their chronological order, as well as an additional fourteen new episodes which made up the second season proper.

Still following me?

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Therefore, you need to make a choice. Will you start with the non-linear season one or the chronological season two. I wouldn’t take this lightly. Whatever way you decide to go, I suspect, will have a significant effect on your opinion of this series.

For myself, I ultimately opted to jump straight to season two. Although I had a longer sit, the prospects of keeping track of an out-of-order story sounded like a headache. If there is a right choice, I don’t know what it is. But I will say this: I’m satisfied with the choice I made.

Another thing: You don’t need to watch the original to know which episodes came from which season. The opening songs, ending themes, and animation made it clear what was what.

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Since that distinction is super important for the rest of this review, I will be referring to this series as follows:

MHS season one original episodes – MHS 1.

MHS season two new episodes – MHS 2.

I apologize for the lengthy introduction, but I’m afraid a series like MHS required it. There is a lot to unpack, and I want to be as clear as possible.

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That said, had I only watched MHS 1, I think there would have been problems. MHS (season two) wasn’t a masterpiece. Half of it wasn’t great, and that half was MHS 1. If I were to just review these episodes by themselves, I would use words such as uninteresting, dull, convoluted, and outdated.

MHS 1 made up fourteen episodes of this season, and the first nine episodes (minus episode eight) were from MHS 1. This series did not start with its best foot forward. Besides being a little bored out of my mind, it was here where I noticed the most prominent problem surrounding this series.

But all of that in due time.

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Although MHS 1 was problematic, MHS 2 was a different story. These episodes were fantastic.

I knew going in that MHS was unusual, and I’ll leave it at that for now. Apparently, MHS 1’s take on the word “unusual” involved messing with the timeline of events. I’ll admit, not many shows are willing to do that. Then again, maybe there’s a reason why. Doing this doesn’t automatically make a series clever. It makes things needlessly confusing.

MHS 2, on the other hand, decided to not rely on a cheap gimmick. This is something I will talk more about in a moment, but I want to warn you now. To better explain why MHS 2 was brilliant, it’s going to require me discussing a few details I would typically stay hush about.

I’ll let you know when that time comes.

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Putting aside the differences between MHS 1 and MHS 2, here is a quick rundown of the smaller, but no less crucial, aspects I liked about this series:

  1. The animation was great.
  2. MHS had a personality of its own.
  3. The voice acting was solid.
  4. This series had excellent setting diversity.
  5. There were some outstanding musical choices.
  6. The visuals and expressions were detailed focus.
  7. MHS created a mood without exposition or talking.
  8. When this series had you, it had you.

I may have said this show wasn’t a masterpiece, but I never said it was bad. It wasn’t anywhere near bad. Not including the really incredible stuff, there were a ton of positive elements that gave MHS a charm uniquely its own. I won’t be forgetting this series anytime soon.

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The SOS Brigade

I want to preface this section by emphasizing that, individually, the members of the SOS Brigade were brilliant. They were all well-defined. If anything, this series could have spent more time exploring each of them further than it did.

The reason I mention this is because every one of these characters added to the biggest problem burdening MHS.

I don’t want there to be any surprises when I bring them up again in a more negative light.

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First, there was Itsuki Koizumi (voiced by Daisuke Ono). Claiming to be an esper, Itsuki was rational and accepting, almost to a dangerous degree. It didn’t matter how dire things got, Itsuki would always have a goofy smile on his face. Due to this, he was the least trustworthy person in the group. I imagine everyone was hiding something, but it was Itsuki who came off as the most sinister. Then again, he was also the most reliable when things went wrong.

Second, Yuki Nagato (voiced by Minori Chihara) took awhile for me to like. When she got there, though, she managed to become one of the most sympathetic characters of the entire series. According to her, Yuki was a humanoid interface created by the Data Integration Thought Entity – a.k.a., she was an alien. She could freely manipulate the “data” around her. This made Yuki indispensable when things were at their worst. However, her quiet, soft-spoken nature made her almost like a room decoration.

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The third was Mikuru Asahina (voiced by Yuko Goto). She was a time traveler from the future, and I always found her storylines to be the most interesting. Poor Mikuru had to put up with the brunt of Haruhi’s antics. Mikuru never dared to stand up to even the most ridiculous demands made by the Brigade’s leader. What saved Mikuru from becoming the annoying wimp character was her current lack of experience. This series made it a point to demonstrate that Mikuru had what it took to be a lot more confident.

The fourth was the titular star herself, Haruhi. I again want to reiterate, I liked Haruhi as an individual character. She was the most extreme instigator I have ever seen. Things got done when she was around because she wouldn’t stand for anything less. Haruhi had a knack of making even the most mundane activities fun. Regardless, there was something about her that was exceedingly dangerous – both for the plot in general and for the series as a concept. That’s why it’s crucial to remember: Haruhi was supposedly utterly oblivious to the full extent of her role.

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Finally, there was Kyon. If it weren’t for Kyon, this series would not have worked. His sarcasm and deadpan delivery – which were incredible – helped anchor this otherwise wild story. He was the only person without a predetermined objective towards Haruhi. Therefore, he could be the dissenting voice. He could push back whenever Haruhi took things too far.

Together, these five made MHS what it was; for better and for worse.

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And this is where I am issuing a SPOILER WARNING. The next section in this review will cover a significant chunk of this series. Although I will not discuss every detail, I will be explaining a few things. Since I was not aware this show would do what it did, I want to at least give you the chance to have the same experience as me.

The only thing you need to know about what I’m about to say is that this stretch of episodes made up the most interesting part of this series. When you get to this point, don’t be mistaken, it will be challenging. I, myself, had trouble getting through this segment, but I maintain that it was nevertheless amazing.

If you wish to skip this next section, feel free to jump straight to this review’s Series Negatives.

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Endless Eight

The people who made the anime version of MHS had balls. I have never seen a series even attempt what this one did.

MHS made me realize something. I find time manipulation to be both fascinating and terrifying.

If you have seen this show and think I have lost my mind because I am praising what it did, I don’t, can’t, and won’t blame you. By the end of this particular segment of this series, I prayed for it to be over. I was entirely on board in the beginning, but my mind lost focus soon after.

What I liked about this section wasn’t so much what it did, but rather the larger implication and how far this series was willing to go to make its point.

For any future anime out there, if you want to put your characters through an endless time loop, you best not half-ass it. MHS sure as hell didn’t.

Imagine it. Your stuck repeating the same two weeks indefinitely because some potential god-like character, who is unaware of her own powers, wasn’t fully satisfied with her summer vacation. You have no memory that a reset happened, but remnants of your previous iterations linger as uncomfortably vivid bouts of déjà vu.

Aside from a few baseless suspicions, you would never be aware of this. What could be worse?

Well, MHS had worse. There was a character who remembered everything. They didn’t get a reset. They had to experience every single detail for two weeks over and over and over again.

Since this happened to the SOS Brigade, they were able to piece together that something was going on. They even realized their friend was remembering it all. They asked, “How long have we been doing this?”

My guess was about fifty cycles; which I thought would be torture enough. I was a little off.

The actual number was nightmarish.

This horrifying thought was the only thing that kept me going through these episodes. I also didn’t want to skip forward because I felt terrible for that one character who didn’t have that option. Thus, I powered through. Was that rational? Probably not, but think of it from a different angle.

MHS not only succeeded in creating a frightening scenario, but it also gave us a character to feel for.

These episodes were frustrating, and that was by design. This was when the music, the animation, and the characters’ expressions came together to form a sense of dread; all while still being goofy.

Too bad this show was being goofy the same exact way again and again.

How many times did this series repeat itself? Don’t worry, when you see that title screen enough times, you’ll figure it out. And no, that realization will not be fun.

I can’t believe MHS did this. I didn’t think I would ever – EVER – see a show go as far as this one did. I’m so baffled and astonished, I can’t help but be impressed.

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Series Negatives

MHS was like a sandwich.

In the middle, you had some quality meats, fresh vegetables, and a special kind of seasoning you splurged on. Unfortunately, all the good stuff was between two pieces of slightly stale white bread. You definitely won’t hate your meal, but boy, it could have been much better.

MHS 2 didn’t really get started until episode twelve. Also, to be fair, the worst of the opening MHS 1 episodes were only from one to seven. However, the MHS 2 episodes ended on episode twenty-four, and the rest of this series was utterly pointless.

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I’m not even going to talk about the last four episodes. If you want to stop at episode twenty-four, go right ahead. You’re not going to miss a damn thing. Besides, by that point in the show, the problems of MHS had already made themselves known.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little bummed when it turned out that Yuki, Mikuru, and Itsuki were the supernatural beings they claimed they were. Part of me wanted them to be lying because I found the idea of a group full of eccentric personalities to be neat.

Be that as it may, particularly during MHS 2, the characters being who they were worked in this show’s favor, especially when they started dealing with a bunch of otherworldly events.

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That doesn’t change the fact this series had a weak start. For example, there was another character – I won’t say which one – who also turned out to be an alien like Yuki. Unlike Yuki, though, this person’s personality tanked upon their reveal. They were the type of character who pretended they were emotionless and logical, but everything they did was fueled by irrationality.

This was an irritating contradiction, and I don’t like it whenever I see it.

This character then got into a data fight with Yuki, and it was just so boring. Action was not this show’s forte.

The point is, this put me in a bad mood, and then when I hit episode six, I saw what this show was implying, and I was not a fan.

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The members of the SOS Brigade, besides Kyon, only existed to placate to Haruhi. They feared what she was capable of doing. Therefore, they would not stand up to her. This became a problem because Haruhi’s personality had one setting: do.

Since no one was willing to tell Haruhi to slow down or back off, is it any wonder she became a huge brat on occasion? Haruhi saw people as lower than her when she was at her worst. She manipulated, strong-armed, and berated those who so much as hinted at disagreeing with her.

The world of MHS was always on the brink of annihilation because the person with their finger on the trigger wasn’t aware there was even a gun in the first place. What about that scenario made it okay to let that person do whatever they wanted?

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There was a scene in MHS 2 where Haruhi absolutely crossed a line. Not only was she unreasonable, but she was hurtful. The three supernatural beings just took it. They refused to do anything. Thankfully, Kyon stepped up to stop her.

But since no one had ever done this, Haruhi devolved into a spoiled child who didn’t understand why it wasn’t okay to treat other people like her personal toy.

For full transparency, even though Kyon’s initial annoyance was justified, he also went – or at least, was about to – go too far in this scene. The difference was, Kyon realized he made a mistake and tried to make the situation better. Haruhi did no such thing.

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Haruhi may not have gotten what she wanted, but she never acknowledged she was in the wrong. If anything, she was the victor of a game that shouldn’t have gotten so out of hand. Then this series ended.

Well, that’s not entirely true. There were then four BS episodes, and then this series ended, but I stand by what I said.

I left MHS noticeably unsatisfied.

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Final Thoughts

I’m not done with this series. There are still things I want to know. Luckily, there may be a way to get the answers I seek.

There exists a sequel film, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, and eventually, I plan on reviewing it.

Until that day comes, what to do with this series in the meantime?

There were good things in this show. There were SO many good things in this show. You cannot mistake this series to be anything else. I am both amazed and bewildered by what I saw. For that reason alone, I urge you to check this one out.

However, don’t fall into a trap. Weird and different doesn’t always equate to good. Just because a story tries to do something else doesn’t mean it will do those things right.

In the end, though, I would have to say: Yes, I do recommend The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – the second season that is. Moreover, I must insist you go into this series ready to think.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

And if you liked what you read, be sure to follow me on my social media sites so that you never miss a post or update. Also, please share this review across the internet to help add to the discussion.

I’m LofZOdyssey, and once again, thank you all for these past 400 reviews. Here’s hoping to another 400 more.

I’ll see you next time.

Post Editor: Onions

7 comments

  1. Dang, 400 reviews! I know you’ve done more now, but that is impressive 🙂

    Ok, so I had a LOT of thoughts while reading this so let me just toss them out here in no particular order.

    First, this series really is a product of the times, and to me it is very clear that you weren’t around for that (in the fandom I mean). You also didn’t seem to have the historical context. To be clear, I don’t think that is a bad thing, if anything that let you be more “objective” with your review.

    Still, it felt like by not having any nod or mention of this was kind of weird. Haruhi is responsible for a lot of the modern landscape when it comes to anime and light novels. Not a big deal, but the lack of conversation here was felt by me.

    Next up was when you were talking about Endless Eight. While that’s hard to sit through, I agree that it is really well done. I would have hated to do that as a weekly watch, but in modern times this was kind of a fun rite of passage kind of deal. I don’t think I would want another show to execute /exactly/ like this, but conceptually it is interesting.

    Speaking of, have you seen Stiens;Gate? If not, you need to get on that! Trust me, based on your reading here, you WILL enjoy that. Might be a bit slow for your liking to start, but stick it out, you will not be disappointed.

    I see that you have watched the film, but a glimmer of thoughts here would have been a nice tease. I think the series really services the film, because my goodness, that film is GREAT! Easily the best series related film, full stop!

    Those were the major things, I got interrupted part way through reading and writing this so I suppose I’ll leave it at that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually have not watched the film. I intend to but I just haven’t found the time (and it being one of the longest, if not the longest anime movie is not helping matters).

      As for “historical context,” while I do agree it is important in terms of fandoms, I try to focus more on how series work within their respective stories. Looking at how an anime has shaped the medium’s landscape I think works better in a retrospective than in a review.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, you mentioned “revisiting” the film in the review proper so I thought you had seen it. My mistake. Trust me, you will not be let down by the film and I’m glad I didn’t spoil anything when talking here.

        Let’s just say, Endless Eight pays out in a major way for the film, which was just incredible and unexpected in all the right ways.

        I suppose I understand your thinking for context. That’s probably just a matter taste and style for how we write. I tend to be pretty broad in my approach while you seem to be more narrow.

        Liked by 1 person

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