Uguu Re-read! The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Light Novel)

I have no interest in ordinary humans

I have no inter­ests in ordi­nary humans.

If you guys have been fol­low­ing this blog since my ear­ly high school days (back when I had a sense of humor. 2006? 2007? Man, I don’t even know how long I’ve been around in the ani­me blo­gos­phere any­more), you may know that not only am I the biggest Card­cap­tor Saku­ra geek out there, but I’m also a gigan­tic Harui­ist. It’s the clos­est thing I have to a reli­gion besides maybe my strange fas­ci­na­tion with Buddhism.

Well, any­ways. There’s scarce­ly ever any new mate­r­i­al for Suzu­miya Haruhi nowa­days. Tani­gawa Nagaru has­n’t writ­ten a new nov­el in over three years. Kadokawa has­n’t issued any new ani­me adap­ta­tions by Kyoto Ani­ma­tion because he has­n’t writ­ten a new nov­el in over three years. I’m def­i­nite­ly going to watch the The Dis­ap­pear­ance of Naga­to Yuki-chan ani­me adap­ta­tion when it airs, but it… just isn’t the same.

The only thing that remote­ly sat­is­fies my crav­ings is re-read­ing the light nov­els and re-watch­ing the ani­me. So… here I am. Might as well write about it.

Haruhi's signature harrassment at its purest

C’mon, change into the bun­ny girl out­fit already!

I’m going to go over the T~L~C~ stuff first because, hon­est­ly, it’s rare for me to praise a trans­la­tion of some­thing that’s even… remote­ly relat­ed to ani­me. It’s a very spe­cial moment, indeed. Yen Press’s Eng­lish release of the light nov­el is fan­tas­tic. It’s true to the orig­i­nal Japan­ese text, that’s for sure, but it’s clear that they hired tal­ent­ed writers/editors to make it flow just as well in Eng­lish. Despite the series being very… “ani­mu”, as most peo­ple would put it, Chris Pai treat­ed it to a very high-qual­i­ty trans­la­tion that’s no dif­fer­ent from trans­la­tion qual­i­ty you’d find for a “seri­ous” Japan­ese book like Musashi. Mean­ing there aren’t any trans­la­tions like “fox udon” or some oth­er stu­pid shit that you would find it a typ­i­cal ani­me fan­sub, offi­cial sub, scan­la­tion, etc. It acknowl­edges that it’s Japan­ese, but it’s not obnox­ious­ly fanat­ic about it. And it’s decent­ly lit­er­ate Eng­lish read­ing mate­r­i­al that goes some­what beyond the read­ing lev­el of its tar­get audi­ence, with­out being too uptight about cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences like a true Muhri­can, or impos­ing an out­sider’s “style” onto the translation.

The wit­ty and cyn­i­cal writ­ing that belongs to Tani­gawa Nagaru and Tani­gawa Nagaru alone is retained as best as it could be in Eng­lish. I praise the gods and god­dess­es at Yen Press for that. The trans­la­tion is extra­or­di­nary, and way bet­ter than what Bandai Visu­al USA pro­vid­ed for the Eng­lish dubbed/subbed release of the anime.

From my many expe­ri­ences of gath­er­ing Japan­ese read­ing mate­r­i­al at Kinoku­niya, I’ve learned along the way that light nov­els are, well… light. Very light. As in they’re fuck­ing tiny as shit. They’re essen­tial­ly pock­et book­lets in that regard. The Eng­lish edi­tion upscales the pages from 4.1″ x 5.9″ to 5.5″ 8.2″’, so the occa­sion­al black-and-white illus­tra­tions nat­u­ral­ly lose some their qual­i­ty, but it isn’t notice­able unless you have the eyes of a hawk. My col­lec­tion of Eng­lish Suzu­miya Haruhi nov­els are made up of the hard­cov­er edi­tions, only because they retain the cov­er art from the orig­i­nal Japan­ese print. The paper­back edi­tions aren’t… bad for what they are, I sup­posed, but they real­ly only exist so that peo­ple who are aller­gic to ani­me would even con­sid­er pick­ing it up at a Barnes & Noble to begin with.

The Melan­choly of Haruhi Suzu­miya is the first vol­ume of the series, and is the ani­me adap­ta­tion’s nake­sake as a whole. The only nov­el-based por­tion of the ani­me that isn’t called by that title is the movie, which was based on The Dis­ap­pear­ance of Haruhi Suzu­miya. In terms of this nov­el, the ani­me adap­ta­tion (which I also love), is extreme­ly faith­ful to it, and not to a fault either.

…Let’s not for­got that they’re still very dif­fer­ent medi­ums, though.

The source mate­r­i­al is a series of books. And Kyon’s the nar­ra­tor. They did a decent job with Kyon’s humor­ous nar­ra­tion in the ani­me, but as it’s a visu­al medi­um, they could only por­tray so much of it. So to a greater effect, in the nov­el, you get a lot more of Kyon’s insights and thus more frame­work to make infer­ences about his char­ac­ter. One of my dear­est friends, who had also read the nov­els, once brought up a good point to me: it’s entire­ly pos­si­ble to inter­pret Kyon’s char­ac­ter in dif­fer­ent ways just by going with what they show you in the ani­me, which is min­i­mal com­pared to the nov­els. The ani­me does­n’t show as much of Kyon’s hilar­i­ous­ly piti­ful pruri­ent remarks, for one.

And although the ani­me is quite faith­ful to the nov­el, there are a few dif­fer­ences you’ll spot once you decide to read the orig­i­nal books. In this vol­ume, Kyon’s the one that begrudg­ing­ly takes the incrim­i­nat­ing pic­tures of the Com­put­er Research Soci­ety pres­i­dent “assault­ing” Miku­ru, where­as the ani­me makes him look bet­ter by hav­ing Haruhi doing all the black­mail work. There’s already a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter inter­pre­ta­tion to be had there.

World-destroying PMS

Hey, Kyon. What is that thing?

It’s not a dense read by any means, but the first vol­ume man­ages to suck you in with a lik­able cast that will stick for the rest of the series. The char­ac­ter inter­ac­tion and dia­logue real­ly gives the light nov­el the pol­ish it needs to be a fun and light read, includ­ing Kyon’s inter­nal mono­logues. His nar­ra­tion is wit­ty and hilar­i­ous, and it’s sur­pris­ing how lit­er­ate Kyon is and how much he rea­sons with him­self philo­soph­i­cal­ly despite being a rather “book dumb” fresh­man in high school who fre­quent­ly com­plains about quizzes and how bad­ly he does on them. Your enjoy­ment of the char­ac­ter and how he presents his point-of-view might affect how much you enjoy the books over­all. If you can’t stand Kyon, you might not being able to stand read­ing the orig­i­nal light nov­els. Com­mon sense, yay.

Kyoto Ani­ma­tion may have butchered what was in the Chu­u­niby­ou demo Koi ga Shi­tai! light nov­els, but once upon a time they made a faith­ful ani­me adap­ta­tion out of Suzu­miya Haruhi that worked, albeit only rocky in small dos­es if you ignore End­less Eight. Six episodes of the ani­me were equiv­a­lent to the entire­ty of the first vol­ume of the light nov­el, and are almost exact­ly the same as what was shown in the light nov­el to an amaz­ing degree. The only dif­fer­ence is, as I point­ed out ear­li­er, are the absence of most of Kyon’s nar­ra­tion, even though they man­aged to get a sur­pris­ing amount in there. Oth­er­wise, both are god­damn fine starter arcs to end all starter arcs (if you don’t take the ani­me’s shuf­fled TV debut into account). The build-up and pac­ing is great, and the cli­max of Haruhi near­ly reshap­ing the world in her sub­con­scious and Kyon’s sub­se­quent solu­tion to the con­flict is just some­thing that sinks in. Like the oh-so-cyn­i­cal view­point char­ac­ter, you know you’ve been dragged into some­thing insane. But as insane as it is, it’s fun, and you’ll let the cute bull­head­ed brigade leader pull you around for a bit longer.

Though I have the feel­ing that the very basis of the Suzu­miya Haruhi series may have the poten­tial to rile up the mod­ern youth of Amer­i­ca, whose minds are influ­enced by ideas that have a dis­turb­ing sem­blance to a rad­i­cal per­spec­tive of an oth­er­wise old and noble move­ment I‑shall-not-name. The syn­op­sis of a girl’s mood-swings caus­ing the world to go into dis­ar­ray and orga­nized groups of super­nat­ur­al weirdos des­per­ate­ly try­ing to main­tain the nat­ur­al bal­ance may be tak­en at face val­ue and offend the over­ly sen­si­tive spe­cial snowflakes of today. But I digress.

See you next time in this new series of posts, where I dis­sect The Sigh of Haruhi Suzu­miya. Cheers!

Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu Vol. 1


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