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The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya? More Like Mellon Collie and the Infinite Crisis! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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February 6th, 2008


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10:37 pm - The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya? More Like Mellon Collie and the Infinite Crisis!
So, one day, I came across this icon:



And I thought, "My, who is that cute girl giving me a thumbs up?" So I checked makomk's profile and saw that it was Haruhi from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The name was intriguing, so I looked it up...and it turned out I'd stumbled onto the most popular anime in Japan. The anime is based on a series of light novels (the Japanese equivalent of young adult novels, with illustrations), but there's a manga, and radio dramas, and video games, and...it's a crazy pop-culture phenomenon. Yet, I'd never heard of it until seeing this guy's icon. (And then, later, another one!)

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is about a high school girl named Haruhi Suzumiya...who—unbeknownst to her, but knownst to us—has the power to change reality. (That sounded pretty awesome, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about.) She introduces herself thusly: "I have no interest in ordinary humans. If there are any aliens, time travelers, sliders, or espers here, come join me." To this end, she forms the SOS Brigade (Save the World by Overloading It with Fun, Haruhi Suzumiya's Brigade) in order to seek out and/or attract strange occurrences (all the while not knowing that she is a strange occurrence herself!).

In the middle of this nonsense is Kyon, who is our brilliantly sarcastic narrator. Imagine Avatar if it were told from the perspective of Sokka constantly rolling his eyes at Aang's fun-loving antics, and you get an idea of what the show is like. Kyon's narration is hilarious, no more so than in the first episode, in which he narrates—to his dismay—an awesomely bad movie directed by Haruhi and starring the SOS Brigade and friends. He makes meta comments like "And what's with this pan up?" and "Leaving various mysteries and inconsistencies completely unaddressed, this story has finally reached its midway point." He continues this style during the show proper to a lesser extent, sometimes saying things like, "If anyone knows what's going on, please come and tell me!" The wonderful thing about Kyon is that you get to have the story told from the perspective of the buttmonkey of the group! And the voice actor is great; there's a constant undercurrent of *facepalm* in his words, especially regarding Haruhi's latest crazy idea.

Haruhi herself is adorably obnoxious. You kind of want to hate her, but you can't! Because, deep down, all she really wants is to have fun. She wants excitement. And she has a very strong personality, so the SOS Brigade just goes along with whatever she says.

Yuki is the indispensable silent character of the group. She constantly has her nose in a book. Unsurprisingly, I love her.

Mikuru is a parody of anime clichés with her long hair, high voice, and ginormous boobs. Haruhi specifically recruits her for her sex appeal in one of many hilarious meta comments. She also makes great tea!

Itsuki is a perpetually cheerful dude who totally gets all up in Kyon's personal space.

There's more to say about these characters, but I don't want to spoil too much! It's more fun when you're in Kyon's shoes.

What's interesting about Melancholy is it's kind of stealth sci-fi. Because 90% of the show is like a regular "kids at school" show; for the first few episodes, you might think the show was just about this group of weirdos hanging around after school with the Queen Weirdo. Except the 10% that's left for sci-fi is holy God, so fucking dense, it'll make your head spin. They packed enough sci-fi tropes for half a dozen shows into that 10%. It's awesome.

Honestly, when I looked into the show, I thought it would be A) serious and B) all crazy with the reality-shifting all the time. And even though it wasn't what I was expecting, I loved it nonetheless because it's fucking hilarious. I'm talking multiple LOLs per episode. And the way Haruhi's reality-shifting ability is handled allows for a more complicated storyline, in a way (again, trying not to spoil). And, like I said, when the show goes sci-fi, it takes it to 11. This is the kind of show where a baseball game can determine the fate of the world. Literally.

Notably, the show was broadcast out of order...intentionally. Because if you watched the season in chronological order, the climax would occur in episode six, and then you'd have eight episodes with no real arc. So, instead, you get all these little adventures interspersed throughout the main arc (based on the first light novel). The beauty of the non-linear order is that all the stand-alone episodes occur after the main story, so you get all these subtle hints about what's going on before it's actually revealed (peri_peteia would call them secret spoilers). And it puts the audience in a weird space with the narrator because Kyon knows more than you do in those episodes, so he doesn't explain his reactions; you have to interpret them based on what you've been piecing together from the other episodes. It's very cool. (In addition, the "Next Episode" bumpers feature Haruhi numbering the next episode in chronological order and Kyon correcting her with the right order, followed by amusing comments on the next episode. I wish more shows made their own previews.)

A note on music! While Eva and FLCL had a pretty uniform musical style, Melancholy runs the gamut! The opening and ending themes are total J-pop, which means you will hate them immensely the first time you hear them until you get them stuck in your head forever and end up loving them. They're too fun! And the dancing is cute! And they're actually sung by the voice actors (Haruhi sings the opening, and Haruhi, Yuki, and Mikuru sing the ending), two of whom are actual J-pop stars (and yet surprisingly good voice actors!). But the musical score jumps from J-pop to ambient electronica to J-rock to jazz to classical (Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, and Mahler all feature), whatever best fits the scene.

capnnick, to my surprise, was actually going to recommend Melancholy to me because it was "so me." Why? Because, he said, it:
  • is aggressively non-linear.
  • has copious in-jokes.
  • exhibits an unusual level of genre and style consciousness.
  • is made for enhanced experience through multiple viewings.
  • is slightly heady without forgetting to be fun (most of the time).

    I found the first episode to be so very hilarious, but it doesn't really give you an idea of what the actual show is like. By episode five, I loved it SO MUCH. Why did I fall in love with it so quickly? Well, for all the reasons Nick just listed, basically! In addition, the SOS Brigade is a great group of characters, each one a distinct personality. They're like a Bizarro Scooby Gang. I think there's a lot more that can be done with their characters and the concepts that are brought up...which is why I'm so happy that there's going to be a second season! Because early on, I knew fourteen episodes was not enough. I wanted more, more, more time with this gang and their crazy adventures. And more of Kyon's sarcastic commentary.

    Look, I haven't loved a show like this in quite some time. It's just so goddamn fun, and funny, and awesome, and...I think you all should watch it, even though I may have done a poor job selling it. It is difficult to convey in words. Discrepancies may arise during the transmission of data. Regardless, listen.
    Current Mood: happyhappy
    Current Music: Curve - Chinese Burn (Lunatic Calm Mix)
  • (39 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

    Comments:


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    [User Picture]
    From:wolfpilot06
    Date:February 7th, 2008 07:02 am (UTC)
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    It's really funny to watch you getting into anime, just because I love to see your insight on series that either I've watched or my friends have watched (and recommended to me).

    I saw the first episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya a bit ago and was considering diving into it next, after I finish up with Avatar, which I just started watching this past weekend (and how much do I love Avatar? THIIIIIIS MUCH. Actually, more, because Avatar has Sokka and HIPPIES. ^___^)

    And, y'know, it's not even close to being in the same style of FLCL or Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but Full Metal Alchemist is possibly one of my favorite anime of all time. It's incredibly poignant, has wonderful characters, great spots of humor, and made me cry more than once. :P Then again, it's a fairly serious series...anyways, if you want, you should poke into it. :) It's only 51 episodes + a movie long! =D

    **Wolf**
    [User Picture]
    From:spectralbovine
    Date:February 7th, 2008 07:12 am (UTC)
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    It's really funny to watch you getting into anime, just because I love to see your insight on series that either I've watched or my friends have watched (and recommended to me).
    Hee, well, I'm glad you're enjoying it!

    I saw the first episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya a bit ago and was considering diving into it next
    Do it! Was this post not convincing enough?!

    after I finish up with Avatar, which I just started watching this past weekend (and how much do I love Avatar? THIIIIIIS MUCH.
    Yaaaaaaay!! It's about time! And, dude, you're not even to the really awesome parts yet.

    Full Metal Alchemist is possibly one of my favorite anime of all time.
    It's rachelmanija's favorite anime of all time, and she made a pretty good argument for it. It's in my mental queue for later; though 51 episodes is a lot in comparison to other series!
    [User Picture]
    From:latropita
    Date:February 7th, 2008 07:09 am (UTC)
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    They're like a Bizarro Scooby Gang.
    YES. Awesome.

    Except the 10% that's left for sci-fi is holy God, so fucking dense, it'll make your head spin.
    Yeah, that that fucking beginning speech of Yuki's. Holy shit, no kidding I can't process information, Yuki. Slow down.

    I think you all should watch it, even though I may have done a poor job selling it. It is difficult to convey in words. Discrepancies may arise during the transmission of data.
    Hee.

    But the musical score jumps from J-pop to ambient electronica to J-rock to jazz to classical (Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, and Mahler all feature), whatever best fits the scene.
    I am really liking the music so far. And Shostakovich is one of my favorites!
    [User Picture]
    From:spectralbovine
    Date:February 7th, 2008 07:14 am (UTC)
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    Holy shit, no kidding I can't process information, Yuki. Slow down.
    Seriously!! I had to keep rewinding. And she does that every time.
    [User Picture]
    From:chocotaku
    Date:February 7th, 2008 07:19 am (UTC)
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    Then whatever you do, don't ever start watching Lucky Star. >:3
    [User Picture]
    From:spectralbovine
    Date:February 7th, 2008 07:22 am (UTC)
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    My brother is watching that. He says he doesn't want to keep watching, but he can't stop.
    From:hobviously
    Date:February 7th, 2008 07:50 am (UTC)
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    Hey, those things that are so you are also so me! But I see my anime buddy has already begun, and I am not able to watch presently anyway. Alas, earwax.
    [User Picture]
    From:spectralbovine
    Date:February 7th, 2008 07:55 am (UTC)
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    She's on episode 7 already! That is the powerfully addictive nature of this show. But I am sure she will be willing to watch it again, with you!
    [User Picture]
    From:the_narration
    Date:February 7th, 2008 07:54 am (UTC)
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    I wish more shows made their own previews.

    Pretty much every anime series does their own previews, but some get more creative with them than others. I seem to recall reading that Trigun was the first series to start getting all introspective and philosophical with theirs rather than just saying what happens next episode. Cowboy Bebop's are always a conversation between two of the characters.

    I've downloaded the fansubs of this series, and I'm going to watch it as soon as I've got six and a half hours to spend, because I know once I start I'm not going to be able to stop.
    [User Picture]
    From:spectralbovine
    Date:February 7th, 2008 07:58 am (UTC)
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    See the above comment. latropita started tonight and she couldn't stop. Episode 7 already. (And I, too, was always..."But I can watch ONE MORE EPISODE tonight!") Luckily, though, because it's so non-linear and full of stand-alones, it's a little easier to walk away from if you need to.

    (And I know anime shows make their own previews; I meant regular, non-Arrested Development shows.)
    [User Picture]
    From:jenepel
    Date:February 7th, 2008 10:20 am (UTC)
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    I think you all should watch it, even though I may have done a poor job selling it. It is difficult to convey in words.

    I don't know, I think you did a pretty good job. I've seen very little anime, and yet from this description I'm really thinking I might want to search this one out and try it.

    (BTW, I don't think you know me - I friended you at some point b/c several times I had links to your TV posts from various places - GGMM, dragonfly, etc - and thought they were interesting. So, um...hi!)
    [User Picture]
    From:spectralbovine
    Date:February 7th, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC)
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    Hi! And I'm glad my post was convincing! Let me know what you think. I think this would be good for someone who hasn't seen a lot of anime because it's stylistically fairly normal (unlike FLCL, which is really out there).
    [User Picture]
    From:behindpyramids
    Date:February 7th, 2008 12:53 pm (UTC)
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    OH MY GOD!

    A SHOW I'VE ACTUALLY WATCHEED!!!!!! *throws confetti*
    [User Picture]
    From:behindpyramids
    Date:February 7th, 2008 12:54 pm (UTC)
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    My excitement affects my spelling. XP
    [User Picture]
    From:raelee
    Date:February 7th, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)
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    You had me at non-linear.
    [User Picture]
    From:spectralbovine
    Date:February 7th, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
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    I thought I would have had you at "Sokka."
    [User Picture]
    From:punzerel
    Date:February 7th, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
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    Aw, now you made me want to watch this. And I haven't watched anime in years..hum hum hum, I will have to dig this up.
    [User Picture]
    From:spectralbovine
    Date:February 7th, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
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    Yay! I was so worried no one would care, but I seem to have said something right! It's so much fun.
    [User Picture]
    From:daynr
    Date:February 7th, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC)
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    I'm not sure I can take on anime, but I'm persuaded to try. Avatar completely won me over, even if I have to deal with the childish bits (and Aang can bug), so bring it on.
    So, um, how do I go about this exploration? When, you know, I have time some time far far in the future.
    [User Picture]
    From:spectralbovine
    Date:February 7th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
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    Awesome!! As I said above, I think this would be okay for a first anime because it's stylistically pretty regular (and the art is very nice).

    For exploration, it's best to download a fansub. I recommend afk, because it includes helpful cultural notes in addition to the subtitles. (There should be a dub floating out there too, if you want to ease into it, but I don't know what it's like. As I said, the Japanese voice cast is pretty great.) I don't know whether the DVDs are Netflixable, but the problem with the DVDs is they put the episodes in chronological order, so to watch it properly, you'd need all four discs at once so you could keep switching.
    [User Picture]
    From:capnnick
    Date:February 7th, 2008 10:38 pm (UTC)
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    I was mentioned! My life is complete.
    [User Picture]
    From:glasseseater
    Date:February 8th, 2008 04:30 pm (UTC)
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    you must have done a good job selling it because it took me a lot to get over the whole, ughgodthoseeyes.

    also, I think someone may have already beat you to the best Cowboy Be-Bop livejournal entry title.

    I expect you to prove me wrong.
    [User Picture]
    From:spectralbovine
    Date:February 8th, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC)
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    I...don't know that I can beat that.

    Also, what's wrong with the eyes? They're anime eyes! They're all huge like that! But I'm glad something I said got you past the eyes.
    [User Picture]
    From:electricmonk
    Date:February 9th, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC)

    non sequitur

    (Link)
    So I just started watching Dexter, right? And I was afraid I wouldn't be able to stop thinking of Michael C. Hall as David Fischer?

    He had me in about three seconds. God damn, he's good. Also creeeeepy.
    [User Picture]
    From:spectralbovine
    Date:February 10th, 2008 10:22 am (UTC)

    Re: non sequitur

    (Link)
    He's pretty fucking amazing, yeah.
    [User Picture]
    From:honeybunnylilb
    Date:February 10th, 2008 03:47 am (UTC)
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    Has anyone ever told you that you are verbose, yet entertaining?
    [User Picture]
    From:spectralbovine
    Date:February 10th, 2008 10:23 am (UTC)
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    Perhaps not in those exact words, but it does appear to be a common sentiment among people for reasons I don't quite understand, although I am very appreciative.
    [User Picture]
    From:foresthouse
    Date:February 11th, 2008 04:49 am (UTC)
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    OMG I really want to watch this now. Is it a DVD thing? How much? Oh, I'm so broke. Dammit!!
    [User Picture]
    From:spectralbovine
    Date:February 11th, 2008 05:34 am (UTC)
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    Ha! I'm glad I got you excited! You might be able to find it on DVD, but it's probably best to download a fansub, if you have the capability. Pop me an e-mail!

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