How relevant is The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya?
A hallmark of good writing and good art is its ability to deliver a universal message that addresses human nature. It strikes a tone that is neither approving or condescending of that nature and simply captures human nature in its original state. A good story is one that doesn’t interject its own values onto the writing but simply lets the characters explore their own nature in contrast to the world around them as the story progresses. Whether that nature is flawed and the character is unable to overcome their own internal or external conflicts is irrelevant. If a character finds the ability to overcome conflict that too is also irrelevant. The story needs to present itself in a way that is genuine and lets characters triumph and fail according to that character’s nature in the given circumstances. How does The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya rate in terms of relevance to today and in terms of good writing?
While written years ago, the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya captures elements of good writing and compelling characters. We follow the perspective of the character of Kyon, a realist who doesn’t believe in the world of magic, fantasy or science fiction. He couldn’t be more different from the girl in class who sits behind him who spends all day wishing something unordinary would happen to her such as wishing espers, time-travelers, and aliens to announce themselves to her. Haruhi wants a world where something interesting or exciting could happen to a world that is boring and plain for her. The two couldn’t be more different in their view of reality, or so it seems on the surface.
Kyon is warned by classmates not to get involved with Haruhi, who constantly changes her hairstyle every day of the week and has dumped every boyfriend she has ever had in under a week. She is eccentric. Despite all this warning about Haruhi, Kyon slowly befriends her asking her if she changes her hairstyle because of the aliens, espers, and time-travelers. She is ecstatic that someone notices and “understands” why she is doing that. Ironically this casual conversation becomes a turning point for Kyon and Haruhi as classmates to friends and club members, though Haruhi does both forcibly. She takes over a club room from the literature club, manipulates a situation to blackmail the computer club into giving her a computer, and forces other students to join her SOS brigade.
Once the minimum requirements to create a club are finished, Haruhi charts a course as the club president that pursues her dream of finding these espers, aliens, and time-travelers. Of course the students she has collected around her have no way of actually doing any of this, unless they are the very thing that Haruhi is looking for. Kyon gets dragged into the middle of Haruhi’s fantasies, accommodating her will and wishes to an extent. But as luck would have it, the other club members are in fact aliens, espers, and people from the future. Each provides proof of their being aliens, espers, and time-travelers to Kyon that is compelling. While each of these has their own competing agenda for observing Haruhi, all agree never to reveal their hidden nature to her. The reasoning for doing so seems to be preventing the upending of the universe for factions that see her as the “god” of the universe.
This twist forces Kyon to play along who is caught in a situation beyond his control but has to keep up appearances that everything is normal in front of Haruhi. Kyon and Haruhi, while different in their outlook to reality, are actually two sides of the same coin. Kyon, the realist, can’t believe in something magical or out of this world until he is proven otherwise. He takes facts and reality for what it is at face value. Haruhi on the other hand, while knowing the world is an utterly boring place, rejects the idea that there can’t be anything else and that there must be something more. Ironically in this story she is the one who is correct, while in the real world outside of the fiction of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya such things don’t exist.
While the story of Haruhi Suzumiya on the surface appears to be about just everyday high school students and the crazy antics of Haruhi, it presents an alternate reality to the real world with the fiction of the story. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya isn’t about there being aliens, espers, and time-travelers as much as it is a story of growing out of adolescence and accepting the world for what it is; it is about the perception of the reality of the world we live in and finding your own meaning to a world that is otherwise devoid of meaning. In other words in the world is a blank canvas, the characters paint it with a meaning that is all their own.
Kyon and Haruhi are compelling characters telling their own stories, while only being able to view those stories through Kyon’s perspective. Each character faces their own struggles that are independent of each other, but are still intertwined with each other. Kyon has to face the reality that there are aliens, espers, and time-travelers. Haruhi, while living in that reality, is only left hoping that it is real and fighting to prove they exist to make her otherwise boring world a more interesting place. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya addresses a universal reality of human existence on this planet, with which both Kyon and Haruhi struggle with. The conflict all begins when a girl wishes there was something more than the plain reality of this world, defying the reality that aliens, espers, and time-travelers don’t exist. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya makes a strong case for its relevance.
I am looking forward to how it is wrapped up in its final OVA.
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