The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Author: Nagaru Tanigawa
Illustrator: Noizi Ito
Translator: Chris Pai
U.S. Publisher: Little, Brown
ISBN: 9780316039017
Released: July 2009
Original release: 2003
Awards: Sneaker Award

I’m not exactly sure where I first learned about Nagaru Tanigawa’s light novel The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but when I heard that the very existence of our world depends on the eponymous Haruhi Suzumiya not getting bored, I knew that I had to read the book. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was published in Japan in 2003 where it won the Sneaker Award grand prize. (I don’t know much about this award except that it is give out by Kadokawa Shoten to light novels.) In 2009 Chris Pai’s English translation of the book was published by Little, Brown in association with Yen Press (which also publishes the manga adaptation). The English edition retains both the color and black and white illustrations by Noizi Ito. It also seems as though English edition is being marketed towards younger readers, but adults should really give the series a shot as well.

Kyon meets the infamous Haruhi Suzumiya for the first time on the first day of high school. It’s just his luck that his desk is right next to hers and he seems to be the only person she’s willing to talk to. Haruhi isn’t interested in ordinary things or people, instead she wants to seek out the extraordinary—aliens, time travelers, espers—anything to make life more interesting. To that extent she establishes the Save the World by Overloading it with Fun Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade (or the SOS Brigade for short), dragging Kyon along for the ride. She’s eventually able to coerce three other people to join the Brigade, all for the sake of her own entertainment. Much to his surprise, Kyon soon learns that he’s the only normal human in the entire group when the others confess their secrets to him. Haruhi meanwhile, for better or worse, is completely unaware of the fantastical qualities of her somewhat reluctant lackeys.

Haruhi is aggressive and manages to almost always get her way (although it turns out there’s a very good reason for this.) Kyon describes her perfectly when he calls her “an eccentric, bossy, self-centered girl who causes trouble for everyone around her.” It’s quite amusing to watch the chaos flourish in her presence. She’s able to convince just about anyone to do whatever she wants whether they want to or not and it’s extremely funny to watch happen. However, I will admit her near constant sexual harassment of Mikuru is off-putting and a bit hard to take. She knows she’s doing it, but Haruhi just doesn’t care or acknowledge the other girl’s embarrassment, finding it difficult to pass up the opportunity for some fan service. She simply doesn’t seem to realize there might be something wrong with that. Granted, it doesn’t bother her to be put in similar situations herself. Both Haruhi and the story are spastic and the situations utterly ridiculous, but that’s what makes the story so incredibly entertaining.

I’m glad I picked up The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I found the light novel to be hilarious and it made me very happy while reading it. Much of this had to do with Kyon being the narrator and interpreter of what’s going on. While the story is technically about Haruhi, it’s even more about this poor kid who’s been caught in her wake. Kyon is an absolutely fantastic character—he’s funny, sarcastic, flippant, and most definitely a teenage boy. His voice is fabulous and Pai’s translation captures it and the book’s humor perfectly. I’m almost afraid to pick up the next light novel in the series, The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya, because I enjoyed the first book so much; I have a feeling it will be hard to top. I’ll definitely be reading the next volume though—I’m looking forward to seeing what other craziness Tanigawa can come up with for the SOS Brigade to get into.