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The Phenomenon of Haruhi Suzumiya!
The latest craze that’s sweeping Japan is Haruhi mania, and there seems to be no stopping it! Novels, comics, TV shows, and endless merchandising. Now, the fandom is making its way over to the U.S., with the release of the first manga volume a few weeks ago, and the much-anticipated novel coming out in a few short months. Want to know what the buzz is all about?
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Volume 1
Author: Nagaru Tanigawa
Art: Gaku Tsugano
Age Rating: 16+
Release Date: Out Now
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Novel
Author: Nagaru Tanigawa
Art: Noizi Ito
Price: US$8.99 paperback, US$14.99 hardcover
Age Rating: 13+
Release Date: April 2009
The book that started it all—the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya light novel. This book, originally released in 2003, centers on a slightly odd girl and the people who surround her. She, Haruhi Suzumiya, has an obsession with the abnormal and the ability to make her dreams a reality. Without spoiling too much of the plot, she manages to fulfill her wish for aliens, time-travelers, and espers, without even knowing it! However, with this unnoticed power also comes uncontrolled havoc. Haruhi also has the power to destroy the world and remake it as she wishes. The bad thing is…she doesn’t know she can! Dragged along on Haruhi’s madcap adventures is the SOS Brigade, or the "Save the World by Overloading It with Fun, Haruhi Suzumiya’s Brigade". This Brigade is comprised of Kyon, a normal boy who accidentally befriended Haruhi, Yuki, a stolid, soft-spoken book-lover, Mikuru, a beautiful and hapless upperclassman, and Itsuki, a mysterious transfer student. With Haruhi as their chief, they’ll go on a search for supernatural beings, in order to make this world more fun! Part of the appeal of this series is Haruhi’s stubborn mindset, and her single-minded dedication to getting her Brigade into all sorts of odd situations (i.e. going on hunts around town for abnormal beings, stealing a computer to make a website, etc.). The varied cast, playing off and reinventing established stereotypes, fits the role they play, as Haruhi’s sidekicks and henchmen, perfectly. But the real shining gem is Kyon, the narrator and Haruhi’s friend. He has sworn off believing in aliens, time travelers, and espers. Once he meets Haruhi, his entire life turns on a dime. His perspective on the actions occurring around him is like a breath of fresh air during a 100 meter sprint. The art, while sparse and spread out, is light and airy, and fits the superficial tone of the book.
This franchise has spawned, among other things, two manga series, one of which is still running. This is the series that Yen Press has licensed part of for distribution in the U.S. Even though it’s a faithful adaptation of most of the first novel, it still can’t really convey the overall feel of youthful energy. I mean, sure, it can stand alone as a great manga, but as an adaptation of something awesome, it really can’t compare. I would have like Noizi Ito to have done the art, in order to give it a more wistful feel, but Gaku Tsugano’s art is functional. The character designs are not the best, and they vary from the illustrations in the novel. Itsuki actually looks like a male version of Haruhi, and Ryoko is just a long-haired, slightly sweeter Haruhi.
The novel is what sparked the explosion; the manga is just an effect. The manga can’t convey the language used in novel, which paints a picture in itself, grasping at something beyond the limits of human intelligence. I’d really recommend the novel over the manga, but the manga is worth picking up in the interim between now and April. Not only has Haruhi and her SOS Brigade spawned a manga, but also an anime, a plethora of video games, and several audio dramas. The anime is currently available in the U.S. by Bandai, but none of the games for the Wii, PS2, PSP, and DS or the audio dramas and CDs are available stateside. There are also a multitude of figurines and other merchandise available only in Japan.
To pull it all into perspective, Haruhi Suzumiya is to the Japan what Naruto is to America. It’s a franchise of epic proportions that draws people in, regardless of gender or age. It’s one of those magical series that defies genre boundaries, because it simply encompasses everything. Even though we have to wait a few months for the official release of the novel, it’ll be worth the wait.
Review made possible by review copies provided by Yen Press and Little, Brown.