This weekend we have a review of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I’ve previously reviewed the first novel in the series, and the english translation of the  second novel will be coming out later this year. The series is currently re-airing on Japanese TV, with the second season of episodes being inter-spersed in the series. So, before the new season is licensed for US release (it’s still airing on Japanese TV, having finally gotten out of the Endless Eight arc) we’ll be getting ready with the first season of the show.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Aya Hirano as Haruhi Suzumiya
Tomokazu Sugita as Kyon
Daisuke Ono as Itsuki Koizumi
Megumi Matsumoto as Kunikida
Minori Chihara as Yuki Nagato
Minoru Shiraishi as Taniguchi
Natsuko Kuwatani as Ryoko Asakura
Sayaka Aoki as Kyon’s Sister
Yuki Matsuoka as Tsuruya-san
Yuko Goto as Mikuru Asahina

Animated by Kyoto Animation
Written by Fumihiko Shimo, Joe Itou, Katsuhiko Muramoto, Nagaru Tanigawa, Shoji Gatoh, Tatsuya Ishihara, Yutaka Yamamoto
Based on the novels by Nagaru Tanigawa
Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara.

Premise

Kyon is an ordinary high school student, who fully intends on having an ordinary high school experience. Unfortunately for those plans, he finds Haruhi Suzumiya sitting behind him, who is not interested in anyone except for aliens, psychics, time travelers, or inter-dimensional sliders, and then ends up causing her to get out of her shell and start a club at the school – which he gets drafted into being a founding member of.

Note: There are two orders the episodes of this series can be watched in – Haruhi Order (which is the order in which the episodes were originally broadcast), and Kyon Order (the order in which the events of the episodes take place chronologically and within the series of novels), so named by the episode numbers given by Kyon and Haruhi in the “Next Time on..” trailers. For purposes of this review, I’m watching this in Kyon order, as this is the order the episodes are for the Japanese and US DVD releases and, as this is the order in which events take place in the novels, it is the creator’s original vision.

High Point

While the show loses some of the dramatic pacing it had in Haruhi Order when it was put in Kyon Order for the DVD release, the characterization is better in Kyon order, with more noticeable character growth, especially for Haruhi and Yuki, who are also the characters who had some of the greater character development in the novels as well.

Low Point

The problem with Kyon order is that while it has a better character arc for most of the cast, as far as the tension of the show is concerned, it peaks 4 episodes in, and the proceeds with another 8 episodes of denouement. It’s not that the latter 2/3rds of the show is anti-climactic, or everything after episode 4 is stand-alone and can be skipped, but if you’re watching the show in Kyon order, you may be disappointed with the pacing. On the other hand, I’ve heard from people who’ve watched the show in Haruhi order first, that Haruhi is considerably less likable when you watch the show in Haruhi order, because her character development isn’t as clear.

Nudity and Violence

There isn’t any nudity, though there is some blood, and there is some rather frank sexual dialog from Haruhi about Mikuru.

The Scores

Originality: The show is an adaptation of a novel series, but a fairly original one. 4 out of 6

Animation: The animation quality is, in general, excellent. There isn’t a particular episode where I found the animation lacking. 5 out of 6

Story: The episodes are well written, and the humor in them is in general spot on, with only a few incidents where I’d say that the humor depended on prior knowledge of anime (as opposed to having a second layer of humor to those who were knowledgeable about anime). 5 out of 6

Voice Acting: The voice acting is excellent, with Kyon’s VA playing the deadpan snarker excellently, with Haruhi’s VA doing a pretty good range with the character as well (she would later go on to play Misa, a radically different character, in the Death Note anime). Of particular note is episode 0 – the Student Film episode (which goes first in both episode orders). Intentionally acting badly can be difficult to pull off. They succeed fantastically at doing this. 5 out of 6

Emotional Response: I originally found Haruhi rather annoying, but by the end of the series I found her significantly more likable. I generally liked Kyon and Yuki from the beginning, and the show kept them likable, while Mikuru and Koizumi stay in about the same place for me for most of the series – maybe they’ll get some additional development in the season that’s currently airing right now (I’ve heard they get additional development in later novels). 4 out of 6

Production: The sound design and music in the episodes are pretty good. It didn’t blow me away, but it wasn’t so bad I was wincing either. It was kind of in that sweet spot where I don’t notice it (which is not a bad thing). 4 out of 6

Overall: This is one of the best anime series of the decade. 6 out of 6

In total, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya receives a 33 out of 42.