Encountering ‘The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’
Ashley Jo Will
One of my husband’s favorite sets of novels is the Haruhi Suzumiya series, written by Nagaru Tanigawa and translated from Japanese to English. There are ten volumes total and the first is titled, “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.” According to the back cover of the edition I read, more than 4.5 million copies have been sold in Japan and are now available to read in English. Although not under the radar in Japan, it is probably under the radar in Wyoming. The story’s popularity has spawned various manga adaptations and an anime series as well. What sets the novels apart from the manga is the ability to be inside the narrator’s mind throughout the story because of the story’s first-person narrative. The narrator is a boy named Kyon who is about to begin his first year of high school. He laments his boring life and wishes that his life was more like a television show with aliens, time travelers, monsters and more.
Kyon says, “I wanted to be the one who used my courage, intelligence and trusty laser gun to fight against villains from the future trying to change history for their own gain.” The young boy tries various means to fulfill his dreams. Kyon watches for UFOs but doesn’t see any. He intently stares at his pencil but he is unable to make it move. Kyon even glares at his classmate hoping to read his mind. After completing junior high, Kyon stops believing in the seemingly impossible and attempts to live the life of a normal schoolboy. Soon after high school begins, Kyon discovers that he will not be able to escape thinking about espers, aliens, and time travelers. On the first day of school, during introductions, the girl behind Kyon says, “My name is Haruhi Suzumiya. I graduated from East Junior High.” So far there is nothing unusual about the girl’s introduction but she then goes on to say, “Normal humans don’t interest me. If anyone here is an alien, a time traveler, slider, or an esper, then come find me! That is all.” Kyon isn’t sure whether to laugh or not. The pretty girl behind him looks completely serious.
A few days later, Kyon attempts to initiate conversation with the girl behind him. He uses Haruhi’s introduction as a conversation starter but Haruhi says she is not interested in talking to him since he is not an alien. Kyon is not the only one who tries to talk to the mysterious girl. Other girls try to talk to Haruhi about a popular television show but Haruhi is not interested and conveys her irritation. Taniguchi, a boy who had been in Haruhi’s class three years in a row, notices Kyon attempting to talk to Haruhi and tells him to give up. Taniguchi says that Haruhi has never seemed normal. In junior high, Haruhi drew a huge symbol in the middle of the school’s field leading classmates to speculate with many theories such as she was trying to attract aliens, summon monsters, or open a portal to a different world. While Kyon had grown out of hoping that paranormal creatures were real, it appeared this girl sitting behind him had not.
Taniguchi also warned against becoming romantically involved with Haruhi because her longest known relationship was only a week before she became bored. Nonetheless, Kyon cannot help himself from keeping an eye on Haruhi and noticing her peculiarities. For instance, Haruhi changes her hair style depending on the day of the week. She also changes for gym class without caring if guys are present rather than waiting for them to exit the room. Haruhi also tries out every club without joining any. Soon everybody in school knew her name as the weird first-year girl. Kyon doesn’t give up talking to Haruhi and tries a new way to initiate conversation. This time he asks Haruhi about her differing hair styles. Haruhi answers this time with a real response and Kyon is pleased with his first conversation with the girl next to him in class. Another time, Kyon asks Haruhi about her apparent trouble with choosing a club to participate in. Haruhi laments that there are no unique clubs in the school and says, “If I like a club, then it’s unique. Otherwise it’s plain.” Kyon says something that gives Haruhi a brilliant idea. She decides to create her own club despite not knowing what activities will be performed.
Haruhi takes Kyon by the hand and takes him to a room labeled as the literature club meeting place. There is one girl in the room who barely takes notice of Haruhi and Kyon. Her name is Yuki and her nose is perpetually buried in a book. Kyon asks Yuki if she minds if her one-member club is taken over by Haruhi. Yuki claims she doesn’t mind and somehow becomes a member of Haruhi’s club which is named the Save the World by Overloading it with Fun Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade or simply known as the SOS Brigade. This club with an absurd name still doesn’t meet the school’s club requirements. The details of club activities are not known and a minimum of five members are needed. Kyon is tasked with making a website for the club. Meanwhile Haruhi finds a cute girl named Mikuru to enlist as a member and forcefully drags her to the club’s meeting room. Kyon says to himself, “Man, she’s so cute that I’m getting dizzy!” Haruhi believes that moe characters are important in any story. These characters are often cute girls who invoke a need for protection by the reader or audience. Haruhi uses Mikuru as a club mascot by dressing her up in sexy outfits to attract the attention of others in the school as she hands out fliers about the club. Haruhi has no qualms with touching Mikuru inappropriately and placing her in compromising situations. Yet Mikuru continues to show up to the club’s meeting room as if it is her duty and she has no other choice. Kyon, as well as the reader, will find out exactly why later in the novel. A fifth member of the group is still needed and Haruhi is intent on finding a mysterious transfer student. Haruhi is in luck because soon a transfer student named Koizumi arrives and the determined club leader recruits the kind young man to be part of her unusual group.
With all five members in tow, Haruhi announces what the purpose of her club is: to find aliens, time travelers and espers, and befriend them. Kyon finds himself searching town with the SOS Brigade for any signs of anything suspicious such as portals or aliens disguised as humans. The reader finds out with Kyon that evidence of the supernatural is much closer than he thinks. A time traveler, esper, and alien are found in Kyon’s school. Kyon also learns that the state of the entire world is in flux because of the inherent power of Haruhi and Kyon may be the key to its stability. Haruhi’s melancholy resulting from the mundane world around her gives Haruhi the ability to perform godlike powers and Kyon must harness Haruhi’s abilities without Haruhi realizing her own strength. Kyon once dreamed of having an unusual life like a television show character. Now fortunately or unfortunately, depending on the danger of the situation, Kyon receives his wish. The internal dialogue of Kyon narrating is my favorite aspect of the novel because the reader feels just as much confusion and disbelief as the young man. There are ten books total to read concerning the adventures of the SOS Brigade to be read in this order: “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”; “The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya”; “The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya”; “The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya”; “The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya”; “The Wavering of Haruhi Suzumiya”; “The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya”; “The Indignation of Haruhi Suzumiya”; “The Dissociation of Haruhi Suzumiya”; and “The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya.” Come encounter the dangerous melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by reading the funny, entertaining, and thought-provoking novel “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” which can be checked out in the young adult section at Rock Springs Library of the Sweetwater County Library System as well as the other volumes of the series which I just listed.