25 May 2010

Review: "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya"

Hey, stuff you guys may want to see! While Megane 6.7 will review recent video games, I'll put up a review of a four-year-old series. I'm still getting the hang of this blogging thing.

Following ACen, I picked up the anime bug again and decided to nab a copy of "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya". I'd seen it more than a few times in AMVs and have also seen a few fanfics of the series, so I thought it was time to check it out. So far, I have watched eleven of fourteen episodes and I think that it is a terrific series, and definitely recommend it.

I'm fairly sure that I'm behind the curve on this one, as it has been out for a while, but here's a thumbnail sketch. Kyon is entering high school when he falls in with Haruhi Suzumiya, a high-energy girl who still believes in childhood stories of aliens, time-travellers and espers. She's the flighty type who can't seem to stay committed to anything. She creates a club, the SOS Brigade, whose goal it is to find mysteries. Quickly, she manages to rope in Kyon as well as an alien, a time-traveller, and an esper into the club, though she does not know their true identities. By the way, she's super-powerful and can change the universe according to her whim. However, she doesn't know that she's super-powerful either. And Kyon is our intrepid narrator, a normal person caught up in the craziness.

I truly enjoyed the show after seeing the first episode. It concerned a student-made "movie" which was not only a parody of many animes I'd seen, but also included Kyon doing his best impression of a Mike Nelson rifftrax. Kyon's narrative style and character are very evocative of the MST3k form, though he doesn't necessarily riff as much as provide a counterpoint to the action. He's got snark to spare and the shows following were funny to boot. I suppose my only gripe has to be with the fanservice, it seems almost as if it's a bit out-of-character and tacked on to the story. I don't mind fanservice at all, but I mind if it's transparently fanservice.

If you can engage your mind a bit past the story itself, the situation and the show becomes one of great interest. Who has more power in the world, the person who is able to bend it to their will or the person who chronicles what happens and is able to put their own spin on the proceedings? The plot itself is a looming question, because there are certainly episodes where Haruhi unknowingly brings her will to bear in order to make disastrous things occur, but all of the characters hint at a point in time three years prior without being specific. This has the makings of a dynamite 52-episode epic, though I don't know if there will ever be one....

Which brings me to the final thought, the fanfic. The story itself started as fiction, as Japanese light novels rather than as manga or anime. Therefore, it is very suited to further writing, especially with the way that it is open-ended. The anime itself only covers six months of Kyon and Haruhi's first year, and the main issue (Haruhi's powers) are never really dealt with unless they become a problem. As a result, I can certainly foresee that the fanfic that could surround this universe may be very divergent yet still true to canon, and everything from light comedy to epic dramas are in play.

I know that I may have to drag Megane in kicking and screaming, but as I try to catch more of the recent stuff I will likely try to find fanfics that go with it. As of yet, just off the top of my head, the only 'fic that we've MSTed that contains only anime after 2000 is "Dragon of the Night". Even then, Megane and I were pretty much taking it as a story rather than as a Naruto story--we were certainly unable to comment much on the plot or the characterization of the original source because neither one of us have ever seen more than an episode of Naruto. There's definitely a large collection of Ranma / Sailor Moon 'fic, but after our current Sailor Moon project I will definitely be on the lookout for some newer series and writing. I think that riffing on newer stuff will make my own MSC 3001 series more of a complement to Megane's MST6.7 series, as we can be both old school and more recent while still collaborating with each other.

As far as myself, I've never really been able to get into the newer anime. This is mostly because I've not had time or money to be able to devote to it. My original gateway anime drug was Ranma 1/2, where I ended up getting into Sailor Moon and then a few around 2000 (Fushigi Yuugi, BGC 2040, Trigun, Nadesico, Love Hina). Since anime is expensive and I had a dial-up connection for many years, keeping up with it has been difficult at best. Now, fansubs are torrented (thank heaven) and box sets retail for the price of ONE VIDEO back in the late 90s. Two Ranma tapes back then were worth more than the Haruhi box set now, and I even recall buying the second Ranma movie for $29.99. (Thanks, VIZ, for killing my interest by killing my pocketbook.)

Other than a single divergence into "Scrapped Princess", when my significant other and I spied a $4 tape at a deep discount hut, I've been pretty stagnant. I think it's time to start hitting the Amazons and fansub torrents again, and try to get a bit more up-to-date both for enjoying the art and stories, and also to keep finding new ideas to champion.

On to the real-life paragraph. I rejected the position I interviewed for on Thursday. This was due to this new practice of hiring temps as a "probationary period" rather than self-hiring. I may be an arrogant person, but I feel that my experience and resume should count for something greater than temp-to-hire, especially since it would be extremely easy for a company to tell a temp "no" after the contract term is expired. I have a family and just cannot take that risk for a few pennies more. I would do temp-to-hire, but I would rather do it for a position that has a greater compensation and is located out-of-state. On the other hand, my economics study (as mentioned in the previous couple posts) is still going on too, so I feel that at least at present I can be patient rather than throwing myself on the mercy of the first company that comes along with a few extra dollars. (Total difference: $7,500 yearly, which is about $600 pre-tax per month..... but I would need to lay out FAR more money in commuting and in gasoline just to take the job.)

Past this, the only progress has been in episode count. I will likely have a short blurb after I finish "Haruhi", and the next series queued up is "Azumanga Daioh". Yeah, I'm *really* getting recent, eh?

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