Monday, 6 February 2012

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Premise

I started watching Haruhi Suzumiya first out of boredom, then out of intrigue, then finally out of interest. It took a while for me to realize I kind of liked it, but it was worth it up until that point.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, I'd like to say, is a slice of life kind of Anime (I.E, a series based around the amusing lives of High Schoolers.), but I'm not sure it even counts as that, the story goes to too many places to be considered a slice of anybody's life. The story chronicles the life of a seemingly ordinary high school student named Kyon, if that shockingly generic summation leads you to believe that this Anime is yet another generic high school anime, you'd be quite wrong, as Kyon, unlike a lot of protagonists, is not a loveable idiot or a shrinking violet kind of nerd, instead he's a sarcastic, 'seen it all' kind of character, whose morbid curiosity with the eccentricities of fellow classmate Haruhi Suzumiya leads Kyon to becoming friends with her.

After their meeting, Kyon learns of Haruhi's goal in life, to befriend an alien, a time traveller and/or a psychic and hang out with them, of course, none of these exist as far as either of them know, but Kyon nonetheless inspires Haruhi to form a school club around her obcession. After gathering three students for their club, the main cast is assembled.

What I like about the cast is that they're not merely generic Anime character archetypes, they're several generic Anime character archetypes, making them oddly distinct. All of them have their obvious tells, but also have completely different tells. I wish I could be more specific with this, but I had nothing spoiled when I watched this anime, so I'm trying to keep that to a minimum, because it'll certainly improve the experience.

What I can tell you though, is that all 13 episodes are all full of colour, character and warmth, yet in parts with a surprising amount of realism, along with a few twists that I myself barely believed when I was watching it, along with an ending I totally expected, but was definitely satisfying.

When I first attempted to discern which Anime I would write about, my choice was either this or Lucky Star, both are similar genres, have similar setups and even similar characters (I suspect because they were both done by Kyoto Animation.), but I decided to talk about this one because if I were to talk about Lucky Star in full, I'd mostly be talking about how the art's a nice change, the characters are funny, but there's no real shockers in it, whereas Haruhi has all that and much more. Lucky Star has a more laid back story where not much of anything goes on, which can be better for some viewers, but not for others. I personally like both, but I like a good story which is why Haruhi wins for me

The Art
Quite unusually, the art is pretty detailed for such a short and lower profile anime, the bright colours and lighting are what makes the world of this series come alive. If this series had a dark, grim tone to it, the visual aesthetic would be rather distracting for me, but the look goes with the tone of the characters and story, that is to say, not a bad bone in either. The animation is always something I rarely have much diverse criticism for when it comes to Anime, lots of shots where the only animation is the lip flaps on the speaking character, and the occasional fluid and dynamic shot, though in fairness, there are more of those than I expected, which is definitely a point in its favour.

One thing I did want to talk about with the art though, is the fact that there's art at all. If you were to recount the introductory episode to somebody without telling them it was an anime, they might think that, besides the Generic Anime Cliche characters, there's little reason for it to not be live action, as everything that happens could quite reasonably be filmed. But that isn't the case at all, the animation and the art, neither more than the other, help add to the surreality of the series, despite it's seemingly ordinary setup, and as I said before the way everything looks helps it to come to life much more than if it were literally live action. It kind of reminds me of Simon Pegg's TV series Spaced, I always felt that would've been improved it it were animated, you may not get this but watching Haruhi Suzumiya I definitely get some cartoony, Spaced vibes from this series.

If you're looking for a new Anime to get into, look no further, my one critique I can think of of this Anime is that it's definitely not for people who've never watched other Animes, it's length and Japanese-y tone make it more of a series you'd watch in between other series. But, I doubt that wouldn't be a problem since most people who have heard enough about it to watch it are no doubt well travelled in that area.

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