The Haruhi Suzumiya series of anime and light novels is structured around the eponymous character’s shifting feelings and thoughts and how they affect the world around her through her abilities to shape things according to her will. The very first portion of the series focuses on her melancholy, and as you might expect of one with such power, that kind of emotion is destructive. In fact, it almost destroys the entire world (whoops).
As she walks home with Kyon after investigating the former dwelling of their class president, who has just mysteriously transferred out (Haruhi doesn’t realize that Asakura was actually an alien entity who went against orders and tried to kill Kyon), Haruhi explains the reason she feels so down. In brief, it’s because she doesn’t feel special. Growing up, Haruhi saw herself as someone of great value, someone unique, someone special. But after attending a baseball game at a packed stadium, and doing some quick calculations afterward, Haruhi came to the realization that she’s just another grain of rice in a vast bowl that is Japan.
We discover that Haruhi’s incessant search for the supernatural isn’t simply out of boredom; it’s rooted in the knowledge that she’s like everyone else:
When I realized that, it suddenly felt like the entire world around me started to fade into gray. Brushing my teeth and sleeping, waking up and eating breakfast, it was everywhere. Everyone did it every day. Thinking of that, everything became boring. And if this world has this many people, some don’t have ordinary lives, but very interesting ones. That’s what I believed must have been. Why was it that it wasn’t me?
While I never felt an overwhelming desire to have some special quality about me quite like Haruhi does, I still feelthat longing for meaning, that desire for a place in this world. For me, it was rooted in how I saw myself growing up, as both a good child and a smart one. I excelled in being both (at least superficially), though by the time I started high school I realized that in a big pond, I was just another small fish when it came to intelligence and academics. By the time I completed school, I couldn’t hide the fact from myself that I wasn’t “good” either. The cornerstones of my identity had been crushed and I was left to wonder, what’s so great about me? Like Haruhi, I became depressed—I wondered, what was this life I was living? With so many people achieving fame and riches, I saw myself incapable of doing anything great, of being more than just another person. I wasn’t special. I was nothing.
You might imagine that having dealt with this issue, Haruhi Suzumiya might offer us insight on where we can find this special quality within us, but I’m not sure it does. Haruhi, after all, is the next step in evolution, a warp in the time continuum, or a god, and we are none of these things. Kyon might give us the trite answer, in that he is special because he’s not at all; chosen by Haruhi, he’s quite a normal human being, but his approach to the SOS Brigade, and Haruhi in particular, is with interest and concern (almost despite himself). He is special because he’s normal.
For me, that answer doesn’t cut it. When I was younger, I was still sometimes overwhelmed with the thought that at the end of my life, I may have done nothing of consequence, that only 1% of the population did anything of real, lasting significance, and I was in the remaining 99%. Being part of the crowd wasn’t special, and I lacked the wherewithal and talent to set myself apart.
Now, though, I don’t think the “Haruhi way” anymore. There are no more questions about significance, not because I addressed them in some way, but as a by-product of my belief. As I’ve come to center my life on God, to rely on him instead of my own framework and plans for life, I’ve embraced the idea that I truly am special, maybe in the way that Itsuki sees Kyon as such. He acknowledges that Kyon is special, too, because of his relationship to Haruhi, and I feel the same because of my relationship to God, having been called his treasure and his love. Being able to have confidence in that has transformed the way I view life and the way I live it; that relationship has given me meaning.
And unexpectedly, but by no means accidental, once I embraced this view of myself, I started having an impact on those around me—through this site, through real life relationships, through work. I was doing that which I desired only after giving up my desire for it, simply enjoying this special quality I now felt and letting the strain and melancholy fall off my shoulders. In a world of billions, I no longer have the question Haruhi does about what makes her special, as I now believe this: I may not be an alien, time traveler, or esper, but I’m something even greater, and through nothing I’ve done nor anything I will do, and how can I feel melancholy knowing that?
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is available for streaming through Crunchyroll.