The Melancholy of Haruhi and She and You and Me

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.

10 thoughts on “The Melancholy of Haruhi and She and You and Me”

  1. Great post! I just finished watching this series, and I loved it! Now I can know that I’m special because I have God in my life. 🙂

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  2. Haruhi Suzumiya is the series I find to be the most “Christian,” even though on the surface there’s nothing Christian about it. It’s almost as if the creator of Haruhi did some studying up on Christianity before writing the light novels. Who knows. But I’ve always found it so… Christian, that an ordinary human with nothing special about him is chosen by the most powerful entity in the universe. That’s the way it is with all of us, nothing we can do earns us favor with God, but rather God chooses to look on us with favor. And that’s why Haruhi is one special series.

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    1. That’s really interesting, Tommy, because despite what we do here on this site and even though I’ve watched the first season of Haruhi at least a half-dozen times, I really never thought about it from the perspective of Kyon’s relationship with Haruhi until writing this post. It’s certainly a very fitting metaphor for Christianity, though, I agree!

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  3. What I like most about this show is the other end of the relationship, that is, what Kyon means to Haruhi. I can identify with her thirst of wonder. But such a thirst without hope of really finding it in the world you live in (or in the negative, a rejection of sheepish wordly stupidity without a suitable alternative, ahem, OreGairu) leads to self-enclosure or eight-grade syndrome, and at the end, to frustration. There is only so much you can pull a fantasy by yourself. Yet, Kyon appears, not treating her like a freak, a ice queen or a godess, nor standing on his tiptoe like the rest, but being loud and normal, and she starts to move, because it would be amazing if he could understand more about her. So hope reawakens, and the Saving The World By Overloading It With Fun Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade is born.

    And responding to that hope, he will reach for her, and trust her. He will be there despite all the mess and the trouble. He will make fun of her, he will be amused, he will care about what´s good and bad for her and not just saving the world from destruction. Kyon will be mad with Haruhi when she is being selfish and hurting herself. And she will deeply care for him and maybe come to open to others in time. This was my focus when watching, and I found it very moving, because Our Lord did something similar to me in my childhood and my teen years with great patience, despite me being much worst than Haruhi, so I never fell (ahem, completely) into eight-grade syndrome. After all, the “darkness of this bitter world”, even the most ordinary of ordinary lifes, is truly full of miracles in His friendly and truthful eyes, and every small thing about us is relevant.

    Have you ever read the lyrics of the “God knows” song she sings in the “Live Alive” episode? I think it wonderfully depicts this aspect of their bond. It also felt like an outline of the kind of relationship with others I want to develop in this world. So yeah, I agree this show is just special.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing. Tommy mentioned a similar connection, and I’m fascinated by it, because the show—while one of my favorites—never spoke to me in a way that made me think of my relationship with Christ. I’m happy to see how it relates to you, however, and I can see how strong that analogy can be!

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  4. Everytime I think about this show the first thing that comes to mind is John Eldredge ‘s comment about how God is inviting us into a grand adventure where we play a unique and pivotal role in the story . Creation glows with a mystery if the things of the universe are art objects and our lives a story shaped by an Authors hand. Haruhi thinking her life is a dime a dozen and that the universe is boring and predictable, a mechanism that moves like clockwork, and is indifferent makes for some depressing ways of looking at life It seems to me a worldview that has led her to this dark place.

    Whether the show is talking about the consequences of a world of such a world view, it seems to be honest about the feeling of suffocation. It causes a violent reaction in her causing her to be driven in her search for a world, a universe with mysteries. It’s almost like she’s trying to shock her soul awake with the bizarre and flashy.

    I could be wrong. I’m just sure that at time I have struggled at times with the sense of using the spectacular whether it be science fiction or fantasy or anime to take familiar things out of context and make them strange so I could remove all the contempt of familiarity .

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    1. I’m glad you brought up John Eldredge. What a great model for understanding Haruhi’s predicament and our own (particularly as men, but as Haruhi herself demonstrates, it’s not limited to us!). That search for adventure in the mundane is something we long for, and which is intertwined with our seeking of the invisible God, the source of this spirit, the source of adventure.

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