Please note that in opposition to my usual reviewing style, this entire review does contain spoilers.
On the first day of high school a beautiful girl named Haruhi Suzumiya introduces herself as having “no interest in ordinary humans”. She asks for any aliens, time travelers, or espers to join her. Watching her weird behavior is Kyon who sits in front of Haruhi and is the only person who talks to her. Because of Kyon, Haruhi gets an idea to start her own club. Forcing Kyon, Nagato, Kouzomi, and Mikuru, to join her club. But everything is not as it seems as strange things start happening around Haruhi. Nagato reveals herself to be an alien, Kouzumi a esper, and Mikuru a time traveler from the future, all assigned to look after Haruhi and observe her for their own reasons. Nagato because she believes Haruhi has the potential for auto evolution, Mikuru because she thinks Haruhi is the cause of a massive time distortion, and Kouizumi because he believes Haruhi is basically God.
[Review Begins Here]
For the first 6 episodes The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya appears to be really promising tackling issues of Religion, God, Evolution, and what is unknown to us humans. And for the first 6 episodes it does a fantastic job of both exploring the philosophy of these topics, as well as drawing you in, with its interesting characters and dynamic subject matter. “O.K. Kyoto Animation, (I say after watching episode 6) you have a fantastic show with really good characters, and interesting subject mater”.
“What’s episode 7 going to be about? What? Baseball? O.K. it’s normal to have filler after a big plot arch.”
W”hats episode 8 about? Finding a guy who’s gone missing… 9? A beach episode?”
“10? A continuation of the beach episode?”
“11? School Festival?”
“12? Playing a Video Game?”
“O.K. Kyoto you have an insanely popular series on your hands, how are you going to close off your anime that had its first half devoted to exploring philosophical concepts? An episode about a guy going to buy a heater… does the heater have any underlying philosophical meaning? No? It’s just because the guys are cold? And nothing else happens in this episode? O….K….”
“So Kyoto, the popularity of the first 6 episodes was enough to warrant a second season. What’s going to happen in that? 9 episodes that are literally exactly the same, except in one of them Kyon will be wearing a different hat.”
I honestly can’t tell you how much better this series would have been as just a 6 episode short with the same amount of production budget with better animation, better character designs, and more impressive CGI. I can’t help but be reminded of Star Wars here. First half was good, and the second half was made purely for money and was terrible; except this scenario would only work if the second half was stretched out into 20, 30 minute episodes and a 3 hour movie.
For the most part the animation for this show is fairly average, having no definitive style or character design. But when the animation is let out of the chains of high school drama anime, and moves into the strange and weird stuff like Nagato’s battle with Asakura, or the space ship battle episode it will look very, very nice. And ya, there’s an episode where everyone battles in spaceships. Perhaps the earlier Star Wars comparison does hold some weight after all.
The Op has some very nice animation in it, and a devilishly catchy song to go with it. My two favorite scenes in the Op where when Haruhi runs through what is presumably her mind, and when the camera does a close up on Haruhi’s eye to revel galaxy’s inside, as both are very impressive visually.
Now I don’t usually mention the Ed because most of the time the animation studio assigns about as much importance and animation quality to it, as they do to random civilian #257 walking down the street. But such is not the case with Haruhi Suzumiya. And to review Haruhi without mentioning the Hare Hare Yuki is a crime in 23 states and Cuba. But the thing about the Hare Hare Yuki is that it’s just O.K. It’s a catchy song with some nice visuals that I’m sure were very hard to animate, but still don’t think it’s near as good as the Op, and the Op isn’t all that fantastic to begin with: not even beginning to compare to Stein;Gates’ or Gosicks’. My point is that I don’t see why fans of the show seem to like the Ed more than the Op. It just makes no sense to me, when the best thing about a song is that it inspired the only genuinely funny and interesting scene in another show.
As for Haruhi and Kyon, both are very interesting characters that play of each other fantastically, with Kyon being the straight man to Haruhi’s madness. The English dub is really good, as is the Japanese sub, and it really doesn’t matter which one you watch. As to which one I recommend however, I would say the English dub. But my biggest problem with the show are the side characters, Nagato, Kouizumi, and Mikuru. Each one of these characters has about one personality trait, and almost no other personality outside of that. Nagato is the shy book type, like Shiori from The World God Only Knows, Mikuru is the moe blob just there to provide fanservice, and Kouizumi is the guy who stands in the background going along with whatever weird thing is going on, and all the while smiling like what Miketsukami from Inu X Boku SS must have been like in his high school years. These characters are O.K. enough I suppose, but with 3/5 main characters having as much personality as a brick wall, it falls on Kyon and Haruhi to carry the show.
But as I feel I must, I want to once again mention the first 6 episodes and remind you just how amazing I thought they were. If your happy with a fantastic plot and story and some filler afterwards then this show is for you, but if you’re hurting for money to an extent where you can only buy one or two DVD’s and want full value and enjoyment for your money, I can think of seven or so anime off the top of my head I would rather buy for the same price. But overall I don’t think The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya lives up to all the hype that surrounds it. Remember, you can email in recommend anime for future reviews, by mailing your suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org.