Haruhi-mania seems to have settled a bit since its initial burst of crazed popularity. Does this franchise deserve all the hype? Today, I have a look at volumes 2 and 3 of the manga series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Vols. 2 and 3
Nagaru Tanigawa, Gaku Tsugano, and Noizi Ito
Age Rating: 16+
Why has Haruhi Suzumiya been acting so strange of late? So…melancholy? Unable to locate any supernatural beings (even though they’re right there in the club room), Haruhi’s frustrations turn violent. What’s Kyon gotten himself mixed up in this time?!
The SOS Brigade gets browbeaten into entering a baseball tournament to help their fearless leader stave off boredom. But Haruhi has no intention of losing…and she’s ready to pitch a fit if her team doesn’t step up to the plate!
The craziness gets kicked up to 11 in volume 2, when Haruhi’s “melancholy” threatens to destroy the known world. Starting with a visit from Mikuru (but not the Mikuru we know), and ending with a shocker of a revelation, this direct follow-up to volume 1’s storyline answers many of the questions we had, poses new ones that are more confounding than the last, and drags us along for one rollicking ride. Volume 3 isn’t quite so earth-shattering plot-wise, but the shorter vignettes provide more of an insight into Haruhi’s power, the past, and the big picture. From an extremely crucial baseball game, to a bewildering trip through time, volume 3 packs a powerful punch.
Vol. 2 deals with the wrap-up to the “Melancholy” story arc, and what a wrap-up it is! The very fabric of space itself is in jeopardy as Haruhi’s depression begins to take its toll on the world. Kyon begins to come to terms with the odd hand life has dealt him, and by the end of the book, starts taking a more active role in trying to contain Haruhi’s power. We get a lot of character growth and development as the volume progresses, and the twists and turns in plot. Kyon and the reader begin to realize how central Haruhi is to the balance of the universe. This becomes even more evident in vol. 3, as a simple baseball game quickly becomes a plot to keep Haruhi placated and happy so she doesn’t replace the world with something more exciting. But is this the end to the increasingly mind-boggling insanity? Of course not! I won’t spoil the surprise, but time-traveling and alien technology combine in the last mini-arc of vol. 3 to change every thought you’ve ever had about this series.
The storytelling and art remain at the same high level that they were in vol. 1. The plot moves at a rapid clip, especially once vol. 3 hits. The art style has stayed somewhat consistent, and continues to serve its purpose, i.e., furthering the plot. The rendering and design of the Celestials (the beings that inhabit the “closed spaces”) are spot-on, and the design of the characters in different time zones is done well also. There is a streak of inappropriateness that runs rampant, so this series may not be right for preteens.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya does what few other manga are able to do. It blends science fiction with comedy, drama, and a dash of romance, and it does it well. Ideas like the feasibility of time travel, extraterrestrials, and telepathy are integrated beautifully into the plot. This series is for anyone who loves rip-roaring sci-fi, side-splitting comedy, or heart-breaking drama. Volume by volume, it continually re-affirms the fact that it deserves all the popularity it has garnered from all corners of the manga-verse.
Review made possible by review copies provided by Yen Press.