Choosing an appropriate doctrine of Haruhiism.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is an exceptionally popular series, even overseas. It’s one of the only series in North America that has the big three: an official ongoing light novel translation, an official ongoing manga translation and an official anime localization (I can think of Spice and Wolf, but that’s about it). Newcomers to the series may find themselves a bit overwhelmed by the vastness of the media. Where to start? The novels? The manga? The anime? What’s the difference between the 2006 and 2009 series releases, and what’s all the fuss about episode orders?
Anime fan or not, chances are that if you are reading this, you have some working knowledge of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, the light novel series that exploded into a multi-media sensation midway through the first decade of the new millenium. The series, as narrated by the sarcastic highschool student, Kyon, tells the tale of Haruhi Suzumiya, a peculiar girl with reality-warping powers that can only be described as ‘godlike.’ The twist? Haruhi has no idea that she is capable of these things, leaving space-time at the mercy of her subconscious and mental state.
And so the term Haruhiism blossomed among the fanbase, both to serve as a base for “zealous fandom of the series,” and to poke fun at the narrative, as the titular character is essentially “God.”
So how does one go about choosing the most appropriate doctrine for their new faux-religion?
Choosing the Light Novels:
If you want the most accurate representation of the Haruhi-verse by its creator’s standards, you must read the novels. Haruhi started as light novels, so it’s a given that what the author says about the characters is the standard and should be considered the end-all to any questions about the series. Little Brown and Yen Press have released the novels stateside for a several years now, and we’re up to six, with the seventh due to hit this summer. For a newcomer to the series, that amounts to roughly 1200 pages of printed Haruhi material, which is more than enough to keep a new fan occupied for some time. And I definitely recommend it; the localization is very well-written and really captures the random, sarcastic thoughts of Kyon as he chugs along with the SOS Brigade.
Written words are powerful, and in Haruhi’s case, it gives the reader deeper insight into Kyon’s inner thoughts. Existing fans of the series with a particular liking towards Kyon will likely favor this format, since the novels are completely narrated by him. The relaxed nature of the format also gives the new Haruhi devotee the opportunity to proceed at his or her own pace in the novel rather than being shuttled along by a time slider bar.
It’s also the best way to enjoy the series when traveling for extended periods of time; for each novel there are between two and three corresponding manga volumes, so the novels will probably last longer, depending on reading speed.
My personal favorite format. The Haruhi novels are great reads, albeit void of identifiable memes and internet sensations.
- As the first form of media, it is the most up to date in terms of story.
- The “authentic” experience, as told by the original author.
- More insight into Kyon’s thoughts and personality.
- Good bang for your buck in terms of time spent consuming the media.
- “Endless Eight” is only 50 pages.
- Segments that do not contribute to the main plot are more distinct and obvious.
- Long waits between volumes, due to the amount of content each novel covers.
- Currently, only six novels have been officially translated.
- “Unofficial translations” lack the professionalism of the official published work.
- More difficult to find at retail stores than the anime or manga.
Choosing the Anime:
Easily the most accessible format. Grab the full series on disc at most retail media stores, stream it for free from Crunchyroll, or try your hand at other … more dubious sources. The anime series is best-suited for potential fans that want to catch up on the Haruhi-inspired internet memes and jokes. And there are a lot of them. “Classified Information.” The Haruhi Dance. Endless Eight. Mikuru Beam. The list goes on.
It’s also the most dialogue heavy of the three, since voiceover work means lines go by very quickly. The anime has the most character interaction of the different media, often leading to comic situations not explored in other formats. Since the dialogue is spoken, it’s potentially easier to follow or watch without giving it your complete attention, depending on your language preferences and fluency. The soundtrack is also wonderful, and the song inserts are very catchy.
As a mixed blessing, the anime episodes are set in stone as far as time goes. You always know just how much time each episode will take to finish. Good if you’re pressed for time, but you’re at the mercy of the director’s episodic pacing.
Unfortunately, it may be a bit difficult for newcomers to figure out how to watch the series. The Haruhi anime is split into two ‘series runs,’ with the first one airing in 2006. This first run follows the chronology of the light novel series … that is, it’s not in chronological order. The novels themselves bounce back and forth in the chronology, since half of them are collections of short stories. The first series reflects this by introducing episodes in the order that they appear in the novels. While that’s fine and dandy, it might be confusing to watch at first.
The second series, released in 2009, accomplishes two things:
- It is a re-release of the first series, but in true chronological order.
- It adds a handful of new episodes, effectively making it the second season or series.
Unfortunately, many of the new episodes are a creative experiment (often considered a failed one, at that) in presenting the Endless Eight arc to viewers. Put simply, it’s eight sequential episodes that are almost 90% the same story, only each episode is 100% re-drawn and re-dubbed.
But there are also new episodes outside of the Endless Eight arc. This puts the new fan in a small pickle: the second series is ‘complete,’ and easier to follow chronologically, but it does contain episodes that are universally considered ‘bad.’ Either stomach the bad or watch the first series and be confused but more satisfied with its quality.
- The memes are all here.
- The music.
- Join the fandom for the popular seiyuu cast.
- Feature-length film for The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.
- Endless Eight.
- Nonsensical episode ordering and chronology.
- “Season 2” confusion.
- Currently considered ‘on hiatus.’
Choosing the Manga:
By far, the manga is the quickest way for new or existing fans to get caught up with the Haruhi plot. With only two or three volumes incorporating the content of an entire novel, the story moves quickly — even faster if you disregard the art or can absorb the information as fast as you can turn the pages. Since the plot advances at a heightened pace, there’s usually room at the end of each volume for a reasonably-sized bonus story.
On that note, there’s more than one manga series; The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya-chan and The Disappearance of Yuki Nagato-chan are re-imaginations of the original events. For the fan that just has to soak up as much Haruhi content without trying to find doujin and fanfic diamonds in the rough, the alternate manga-verses are the way to go.
For those of us in North America, the manga also has the advantage of having continuous releases without being bottlenecked by long translation periods.
- Continuous updates.
- Several spin-off manga that expand the Haruhi universe.
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya-chan.
- The Disappearance of Yuki Nagato-chan.
- Extra bonus chapters featuring the beloved cast.
- Fastest way to get ‘up to date’ with the series.
- Kyon’s thoughts are mostly lost in the transition.
- Overall dialogue and narrative is weaker.
- Art quality is questionable at times.
How did you choose? Or how will you choose?