Haruhi Suzumiya was the most hypped anime of 2006 and when I first heard of the amount of buzz it generated in the fansub community during my summer break from college, I made it a mission to watch the series. Breaking away at standard conventional elements of anime, Haruhi made my mouth drop in awe over the number of things it did to break away from other animated comedies. And I definitely have a lot to say of this series.
One thing you will notice right away if you watched the series in the original order it aired on Japanese TV is that the episodes are not aired in a linear order of events. This is clear when you see the so-called 'first' episode featuring Haruhi's attempt at creating a badly edited and directed mahou shoujo film with the SOS Brigade. You get enough spoilers detailing on the origins of the Brigade members before the 'true' first episode (the second episode) officially begins the series. The jumbled order made me tempted to see the entire series just to see what had happened before all the craziness of the prior episode took place. A humorous touch to this approach is Kyon correcting Haruhi in episode previews of the proper episode order in which the next episode was supposed to be aired.
Another chunk of Haruhi's humor comes off of referencing different aspects of fandom that the series dives into. The characters of the SOS Brigade themselves are walking archetypes of different characters coming off sci-fi or high school themed titles. Mikuru is a blatant portrayal of moe anime fandom which Haruhi clearly states in her introduction. With her presence, Mikuru plays the role of Haruhi's dress-up doll, club mascot, and the teasing of potential love interest for Kyon which must be downplayed because of Haruhi. Yuki is the silent alien girl whose cold personality reminded me of Rei Ayanami from Shin Seiki Evangelion
. Koizumi is the always happy esper who keeps reflecting on things positively in the Brigade, despite how questionable the orders of the leader (Haruhi) are. Kyon plays the role of the level-headed, ordinary person in the group who shows his utter annoyance for Haruhi's antics through his narrations of each episode in the series. Kyon's narrations add another touch of humor to the series as you clearly get to understand his utter annoyance at the antics of Haruhi and the SOS Brigade and questioning whether or not to believe the origins of the other four members.
Other than the characters, there are several episodes in this series devoted to a theme by which the series pokes fun of such as online space battle games, baseball, and school festivals. You will even get some references to other anime titles mentioned in this series such as Gundam
and Full Metal Panic
. All are fun in their own way though parodying anime titles and conventions is nothing that I haven't seen before in an anime title.
Beyond the humor of the series though, there is also a serious drama built into six of the show's episodes revolving around Kyon and the efforts of the three other paranormal members to come together in order to prevent Haruhi's power from recreating reality. The storyline in these six episodes get increasingly darker as the reality surrounding Haruhi's power to unconsciously manipulate reality surfaces. There was also a large amount of scientific jargon taken in from Yuki and Koizumi whose groups each have different interpretations of what they think Haruhi truly is. Such aspects of these six episodes helped separate it from the other eight episodes that were used solely for hilarity. About the only problem I had with the story was the little or lack of involvement from Mikuru whose habit of not disclosing information on her group and technology, as well as her archetype of the helpless moe girl do detract from the unique blend of sci-fi, drama and comedy brought into this series.
Visually, Haruhi Suzumiya's artwork is above average for a TV series featuring vivid, detailed scenery and backgrounds within both the real world and whatever pocket dimensions that the paranormal characters of the cast can jump into. Character designs are just as colorful and detailed displaying a wide range of facial expressions with each situation that takes place in the series. The animation was very fluid in many of the various scenes seen throughout the series from playing strings on a guitar, typing on a computer keyboard, or battles that took place between paranormals in pocket dimensions.
The music to this series is also worth mentioning as it is filled with upbeat and energetic songs that fit the manic and unpredictable pace of the series. The series also has notoriety for two insert songs sung by Haruhi herself, seiyuu Aya Hirano, in the culture festival episode. These songs were sung impressively well thus further adding to the show's ability to stand out from the norms of conventional anime.
If you are looking for an anime that goes against the norm in terms of conventions, Haruhi Suzumiya will be your cup of tea. You can clearly tell in terms of the artwork, music, and elements to this series that there was a great amount of effort put into making this series stand out from other anime titles and that job was effectively done.