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


One thought on “Uguu Re-read! The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Light Novel)”

Leave a Reply