Wednesdays Watching Anime – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya-chan

April 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

This week, we’re doing the OP for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya-chan, “Ima Made no Arasuji” by Hirano Aya, Chihara Minori, Goto Yuko, Sugita Tomokazu, and Ono Daisuke!

Ben: That’s right, not either of the OPs from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but the OP from the super-deformed spinoff! It’s funny watching The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya-chan, because it is very emphatically a gag anime with no canonical connection to the main series, but at the same time, it definitely feels like part of the same fictional world. Sure, Yuki plays porn games and Asakura is a murderous dwarf, but each individual element like them is almost in keeping with the tone of the series. Even peripheral characters like Taniguchi get fleshed out in a way that’s consistent and convincing. Honestly, that’s what makes a spinoff good. Compare, for instance, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, about which I complained at length last week.

Anyway, let’s move to the OP itself. I’m actually not crazy about the computer-drawn SD art, but it’s an ONA made on a shoestring budget, so whatever. The music’s the thing here. A song for an OP performed by a voice actor from the show is good. A song for an OP performed by multiple voice actors from the show is great. A song for an OP performed by multiple voice actors from the show, all in character, is nothing short of sublime. It took me three times listening to “Ima Made no Arasuji” before I realized that the actress for Yuki is singing in the quiet monotone of her character, and that’s when I fell in love. The whole thing is this stew of pop-culture puns, complete with cheap shots at 2chan and Kadokawa, that perfectly captures the moment in 2009 that it was made. I could watch it over and over, just for the way it embodies the energy of the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise without needing any of its baggage.

The last line of the OP is also just great, and I’m going to call it out by name because it’s translated poorly in the above video. Haruhi says of her time machine, “If we change history, this will be a recap episode!” Yes! Metatextual commentary on problems with episode production make me like this:

Koizumi, Asahina, Kyon, Yuki, and Haruhi from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya-chan

Katie: Superdeformed spin-off gag series are the best. The BEST. The irreverent mood of shows like this probably has its roots in fan culture — wacky gag doujins are a time-honored tradition; see also the aforementioned 2chan — but just as much in the sly, self-deprecating doodles mangaka contribute as marginalia and afterwords. (Aside: want an addictive rabbit hole? Try this, which a friend sent me last week.) I’ve never read the Haruhi light novels, so I don’t know if they have the same playfulness, but it’s tricky to know where to begin with the Haruhi empire, anyway; stories and canons proliferate like costumes on Mikuru.

This explosion of media is intentional: not only was it a favorite mid-2000s marketing strategy, but the core of the Haruhi universe, its signature element, is a certain playfulness with canon (and fanon): all the major character relationships are essentially unfulfilled ‘ship teases, and the series’ fascination with time travel allow viewers to scrutinize character interactions and juxtapose moments against each other in enlightening ways.

What if it really had happened that way? The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, which doesn’t even have a single canonical running order for its episodes, asks that question over and over. In its best moments, like with The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Part Six,” and the Endless Eight (oh, someday my post on the matchless experimental brilliance of that arc is coming), the answers are painful, and this resolutely commercial series approaches beauty.

So. Haruhi-chan. I’m not sure I have much to add to the chaotic energy of the OP itself. Maybe you should just go watch the show.

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