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Review: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Vol. 01)

Author: Nagaru Tanigawa/Noizi Ito
Manga-ka: Gaku Tsugano
Publisher: Yen
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: October 2008

“It’s average schoolboy Kyon’s typical first day at an ordinary high school. Little does he know that his humdrum life is abou to get a dose of the superfantastic thanks to fellow classmate Haruhi Suzumiya! Are you ready to join the SOS Brigade?!”

It seems fair to say that anyone who considers themselves well versed in present-day anime culture, has undoubtedly heard of the popular, Haruhi Suzumiya. Underwhelmed by my experience of the anime, I resigned myself to being one of those who just found it ‘wasn’t their thing’ and moved on. But amidst all the hype, the parody and the cosplay, I knew at its core that the fandom of Haruhi couldn’t be entirely crazy. Surely there must’ve been something I’d missed. With Yen Press’s release of the manga version, I was hopeful that in this medium I find more comfortable, I may discover the true charm of this series that’s attracted so many.

Kyon is an average student, entering into highschool with expectations of a normal life as he leaves the fantasies of childhood behind him. Studying for tests and finding that perfect girl lay on his mind as the pinnacle moments of his coming years, but everything’s thrown into a totally different perspective with the entrance of the classic transfer student. Enter Haruhi.

Haruhi Suzumiya is a brash, honest and undeniably weird girl with a fascination for all things mysterious, alien and unexplained. She considers regular humans to be dull and puts together a club she titles: “The Save the World By Overloading it With Fun Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade”, or the SOS Brigade for short, in order to seek out things of more interest to her. Unbeknownst to her though, is that she apparently has an underlying power to change the world around herself with her imagination alone, a power that’s already caused a shift in space and time. Kyon becomes privy to this information from not only an alien classmate, but from a time-traveling moe-archtype and a smarmy looking student with supposed psychic powers.

The series is told through Kyon, which gives it a nice, one-sided perspective that’s an important element to the story’s presentation Readers are introduced to the characters, and situations of escalating abnormality, through his eyes and thus with introspect on how he perceives it. Instead of the usual third-person view on events, the first-person angle offers a lot more in the way of emotion and I couldn’t help but feel pretty connected with the lead character as he observed Haruhi and his life spiralling into a world of sci-fi and fantasy he only dreamt of in his youth.

Haruhi is thus far just really obnoxious. Her zest for life seems to be contrived of distaste towards those around her and I don’t find her very likeable because of it. As the series’ central pillar, it stands to reason that she is part of the reason I’ve yet to find much merit in the story. Don’t get me wrong, with the occasional culture-related jokes and purposely-stereotypical banter, there’re some fun moments here and I’m interested to see how the story progresses with such a plot. However, I’ve yet to find anything especially unique about this assortment of lively students and their adventures, so I wouldn’t hold it any higher than the numerous other series I’ve read that’ve felt and read much the same.

My opinions on the artwork used for this manga adaption of the original story are much the same as my opinions of the story itself. It’s nice, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Haruhi and Kyon are probably the weakest drawing-wise when at their worst, suffering from lopsided faces, soulless eyes and inconsistent anatomy. Panels that had more care given to them than others are very evident, and there at least the art shines, including most panels with Mikuru Asahina, the moe archtype, and when Haruhi is grabbing especially hard at the spotlight. I really enjoyed the comedic panels, which utilized the classic super-deformed emotives to , and thus humorous, effect.

As for packaging, Yen Press put together another nice one here. One thing I could say for sure is that I would’ve picked this up off the shelf even I’d had no prior knowledge of the title. The colours on the cover art are bright, crisp and colour. Combined with some sleek, but eye-catching design work, the whole thing comes together for a simple, visually attractive look. The work done on the interior seemed up to par also, with consistent and easy to read font that didn’t have any glaring errors that I came across. It’s a good sign when a quality release becomes old news for a company, and after some shaky patches, Yen Press has definitely proven itself capable of learning from its little mistakes and offer its fans some great books English-adaptation-wise like this one time and time again.

Altogether though, I’ve yet to find myself anymore impressed with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya than I have been in the past. It’s not that I find anything really wrong with it, I’ve just yet to find anything uniquely right. While it remains to me a series that’s thus far decidedly average, I liked it enough to look forward to having volume two try to give me a better idea of what all the hype is about. Those already fans of the series, however, should not be disappointed to finally have the book in their hands with Yen Press offering it on a nice polished platter. I may not be ready to join the SOS Brigade but I’m still open to persuasion.

Review written October 23, 2008 by Lissa Pattillo.
Book provided by Yen Press for review purposes

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.

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