Monday, October 19, 2015

Review: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Lately I haven't felt like doing a lot of reading - which is oddly inconvenient, considering I now have more time to read than ever before. But I recently took a day trip to Toronto in order to visit a friend, and I decided to grab a book off my shelf at random to take with me for the commute, which consisted of a bus, train, and a short subway ride. I wanted something that was a paperback, so it would be easy for me to travel with, and nothing too thick so that it would fit in my bag. I can't remember exactly if I had any other motivation for picking up this particular title, but one guess I have might be the bright red cover XD Either way, I'm glad I chose The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to pull off my shelf and finally read.

To give some background, this title also belongs to an anime and manga series, created by the same author. Before these were created was this novel, the first in a series which were later translated into English. When I was younger I was certainly aware of the existence of this anime series - it's kind of hard to be interested in anime or manga as a hobby and to have internet access and to not be aware of the heroine known as Haruhi Suzumiya. To be honest, I've only seen about 5 or so episodes or so of the anime. I'm pretty sure I picked up this book during one of my trips to my favorite convention, Anime North, and it's been sitting on my book shelf ever since, until this trip to Toronto where I decided to pick it up again, and I was not disappointed in that decision. It was a fun and very compelling read that made my trip to Toronto and back fly by, and I haven't been so gripped by the events of a novel in quite some time.
Here is a summation of the plot, without giving away any of the big plot points of the first novel that introduces the reader to the Suzumiya's universe: The main character is not Haruhi, but is actually Haruhi's male classmate, Kyon. Now, Kyon is a very ordinary male student enrolled at a public high school in Japan, who in his youth willed for the existence of aliens and time travelers and espers (tbh I'm still not entirely sure what exactly an esper is), but has since then has grown up and has become comfortable in the predictability and routine of everyday life. And then comes the beginning of his first year of high school, and the girl behind him stands up to introduce herself and says, "Haruhi Suzumiya. From East Middle School. I have no interest in ordinary humans. If there are any aliens, time travelers, sliders, or espers here, come join me. That is all." That day is the beginning in an insane chain of events that lead to Haruhi forming her own school club known as the S.O.S Brigade, where Kyon is the first member. Haruhi then proceeds to drag (and I do mean drag!) other members into the fold until there are 5 people that make up the Save the World by Overloading it with Fun Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade.

The other members consist of Yuki Nagato, the former sole member of the Literary Club. The club room is quickly commandeered by Haruhi and Yuki spends her time quietly reading at the table, so she quickly becomes a fixture of the room and an official brigade member. Haruhi then (forcibly) brings in a senior student, Mikuru Asahina, who quickly becomes known for her adorably innocent face and her giant rack as Haruhi proceeds to assault her and take advantage of her in a hilarious way when she forces the older girl into various adorable costumes, such as a bunny girl or as a maid. The final members ends up being what Haruhi labels as the "mysterious transfer student" that arrives after the brigade has been formed, Itsuki Koizumi. Once the five members are formed, Haruhi makes it her mission to seek out extraordinary creatures - aliens, time travelers, and espers alike - and proceed to have fun with them.

Throughout this novel, Haruhi is without a doubt the most interesting character to observe, and it's not even because of her outgoing personality, or her seemingly random and often destructive tendencies. The second, much more secret mission of the S.O.S Brigade, is to keep Haruhi happy - because she might unknowingly destroy the universe. I can't say more than that for fear of spoilers, but I can say that even with Haruhi's desire for the abnormal and the extraordinary, she might be a closer example to a normal high school girl than you might think, and as Kyon gets to know her he gets to learn the more human side of her that she would rather deny in her desire to be different than all the normal, ordinary masses surrounding her. And the people she surrounds herself with in the S.O.S Brigade, seemingly picked out by Haruhi at random, are more complex than they would appear on the surface.

This novel was very compelling, and I found the story light yet gripping. I even ended up ordering the next novel in the series, and I'm hoping its just as compelling as the first novel in the series. I can't wait to write about it here for all of you :)

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