The Mundanity of Haruhi Suzumiya

Has any series fallen off the map harder than The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya? Once the darling of the anime community, the series has had a few follow-ups (including the wonderful Disappearance film), but especially since the disastrous Endless Eight arc in season two, the show has fallen on hard times – in the west at least. People don’t talk about it much anymore, and when they do, it’s not often with admiration (though it remains popular in Japan). Newer anime viewers don’t know the series, and might not even recognize the characters, ending song, and memes so associated with it.

Maybe you’re not terribly familiar with the series. If you aren’t, I can’t recommend it more highly – it’s fun and experimental and smart. The series follows a student named Kyon who gets mixed up with the rude, arrogant title character, whom he later finds out is a god (a fact that she doesn’t realize herself). Soon, a cast of otherworldly characters assemble around her. Always reaching for more and wanting to find meaning in existence, Haruhi crafts the universe as she see fits to make it more interesting, but as she does so, it sometimes leads to destruction and even the possibility of apocalypse.

I’ve often associated myself with Kyon, especially when I was younger. Relatively level-headed, full of sarcasm, and frequently exasperated, I think a lot of us can see ourselves in him. But lately, I’ve seen a lot more Haruhi in myself, and especially as I’ve returned to blogging.

I love blogging – it excites me. So does social media, which is why I’ve invested so much time in Tumblr and Instagram. But it’s not so much the writing or the posting that I like to do, it’s the connections I make through these ministries. It’s the same type of excitement I feel when I meet up with college students from my church through our discipleship ministry.

But there are other parts of my life I don’t get as excited about, that I don’t see as “ministry.” I compartmentalize those pieces, seeing them in a more functional manner than with the rose-colored glasses I have for college ministry or for the Beneath the Tangles collection of platforms. When I go home, for instance, I try to be the best husband and father I can be, and I love my family, but I don’t arrive with a sense of excitement, feeling it’s my honor to minister to my family.

The trick is not having to have a Kyon to value your real life.

In TMoHS, Haruhi frequently becomes tired of the mundane. She hates school. She hates clubs. She hates normal life. She wants excitement in everything she does. Unfortunately, she gets overly excited, and then depressed when real life doesn’t match her imagination, thus leading to the unpleasant possibilities that world will be overwritten or that you might become stuck in an endless time loop. These cataclysmic events are halted when Haruhi becomes content with her world, mostly by finding friendship and security with Kyon.

Though I understand the desire to grow and push boundaries, I’ve also come to realize that doing so because I’m dissatisfied can actually cause ruin. I put all my energy into shiny things and forget the value of the gold that I see on a daily basis. But more often, even if some sort of personal apocalypse isn’t impending, I still suffer consequences. When I take things around me for granted and as mundane, and don’t approach them with the excitement and consideration they deserve, the people on the receiving end might miss out, but far more profoundly, I’m the one who loses out on something valuable and extraordinary, which has been, remarkably, right before my very eyes.

9 thoughts on “The Mundanity of Haruhi Suzumiya

  1. The fall of Haruhi Suzumiya is one of the most tragic in all of anime – the series, that is, not the anime. You know me, I’m a die-hard Haruhiist who’s even done a panel at a con on Haruhi – it was not well-attended (2015). It’s really sad how bad Endless Eight damaged its reputation. When I was at a con a couple weeks ago, Haruhi figures were thrown in the bargain bin, being sold off at cheap prices. (I took advantage, naturally.)

    There are so many parallels between Haruhi and Christianity that I could probably write a book on it, but in any case I like how you point out Haruhi’s constant thirst for excitement and how we need to be content with what we have in our lives, even if it isn’t so exciting. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 4, “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.”

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    1. I think it’s a lesson Haruhi learns as the series progresses, too – certainly a lesson for us to be mindful of ourselves! And oh yes, I know of your love for the series – I don’t have to look further than your March Madness tourney to confirm that!

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  2. The Endless Eight sequence did some damage to the series, and the sheer length of The Disappearance (though it’s a great movie) did as well. But from the get-go, there were hiccups in bringing the series over to the US.

    For instance, when the first season first came over, they changed the ordering of the episodes to put them in ‘chronological’ order. This destroyed the narrative pacing, timing, rise and fall of dramatic tension, character development, etc. The non-chronological structure was a key part of the series. (Imagine rearranging a movie like Pulp Fiction or a novel like Catch-22 to put them into chronological order.)

    Because of this, they then had to eliminate the arguments between Haruhi and Kyon at the end of each episode over what was going to happen in the following week (One would introduce the next episode that SHOULD take place, the other would introduce the next episode that actually aired), removing yet more character development and understanding of their relationship and the series as a whole.

    There are even more instances, but these are just a couple off the top of my head.

    And, as much as I loved The Disappearance movie, it’s very dependent on things that have happened throughout the series, even going back to the 1st episode of season one, and if you haven’t been watching (or paying attention) throughout, it just won’t have as much meaning for you. (Then again, a LOT of my favorite anime movies/OVAs that have come from series are like that: Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer; Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal; etc.)

    Finally, as I understand it, the studio stopped pushing Haruhi for various financial/business reasons, issuing only a couple of stories that don’t really expand on the main storyline (the Haruhi-chan shorts, the Tsuruya-chan shorts, the Yuki Nagato ‘alternate’ reality), such as preferring to push series like K-On that they own the full rights to, and there not being any new novels or other media to cross-promote.

    It’s a shame, since there are plenty more novels to draw from, if they so choose. Spice and Wolf is another WONDERFUL series I’d love to see continued someday, but often despair of. Then again, they’ve just recently announced another season of Full Metal Panic, when I thought it was surely done with, and they’ve been bringing back The Slayers at odd times as well. We’ll just have to wait and see!

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    1. Yeah, I remember reading about why we weren’t getting more Haruhi based on the light novels, and being so disappointed! Thabks for the other info regarding the franchise!

      And I’m so excited about FMP! I had read much of the light novels but have long since forgotten them, so I’m looking forward to seeing FMP anew!

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  3. I’d say there were a few factors to Haruhi “falling off the map,” but I’d also argue it never really disappeared (pun not intended) so much as steadily declined, not unlike anything else does over time. Disappearance was in 2010, which just missed the huge explosion in anime popularity post 2011, which as you allude to, means Haruhi is too old for the average anime fan. There are also lots of anime around the 2006-era that have fallen off the map for similar reasons: SEED, Code Geass, Death Note, even Clannad compared to only a few years ago. All of these, including Haruhi, definitely still get talked about but all the new fans prefer to talk about Shingeki and Re:Zero, so I think it really depends on what part of the fandom you’re most exposed to. The people who liked Haruhi in 2006 still like it now, and Endless Eight, no matter how hated, remains an iconic experience to all of us who watched it as it aired.

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    1. The landscape has changed so much…its hard to believe that even the mid-2000’s were a time of transition for media, much less the massive movement going on right now over the last couple of years, last six months even!

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  4. Man, Haruhi still holds a special place in my heart, even though I stopped buying the light novels because, frankly, they’re hit or miss. I think one of the problems from a storytelling structure is that there was way too much teasing and not enough plot revelations. After reading six books in a series, I expect to have reached several big reveals about how, exactly, Haruhi is God.

    Anyway, I cosplayed Haruhi at Otakon last year and expected exactly zero people to recognize me, but so many people were excited! They were like “OMG HARUHI THANK U FOR BEING HARUHI EVERYONE HAS FORGOTTEN ABOUT HER.”

    I found a Kyon and it was like a miracle lol.

    But yeah Haruhi has such a cool concept and, for a lot of reasons, just didn’t get a good chance to execute on it, which is sad.

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