Original Story: Nagaru Tanigawa
Art: Gaku Tsugano
Original character designs: Noizi Ito
What They Say
Quite out of the blue, Kyon receives a phone call from his middle school classmate Nakagawa. Six months ago, he spotted Kyon walking with the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen and instantly fell in love! Now he wants Kyon’s help conveying his feelings. But Nakagawa has no idea that the fair maiden who stole his heart is actually an otherworldly being…Nagato?! How will the stoic alien react to Nakagawa’s affections?!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, the massive cross media phenomena that took over the mindset of anime fans everywhere during the late 2000s, is known to just about every fan in some context. It is quintessentially anime in theme and feel, and much like Tenchi Muyo back in the 90s, a property that anyone could point at as a catch-all answer for what makes anime, well, anime.
And somehow I managed to avoid most exposure to the series by sheer luck. Not having seen the anime, read any of the light novels, nor read the manga up to this point I thought I’d be at a disadvantage. However, five minutes on wikipedia and I was caught up on events up till this point. This is the story of Haruhi, the girl who can unwittingly manipulate reality on a whim, and her posse of classmates who are sent to keep an eye on her by mysterious forces lest she destroy the universe with her mind. In actuality, it’s Kyon’s story, Haruhi’s stoic and sarcastic normal boyfriend, who is swept along in this wild ride. The problem with the manga version of their adventures is that it’s sadly flat in many aspects.
In this volume there are two tales to be told, the first about a former classmate of Kyon’s who’s fallen in love at first sight with Nagato. The chapter opens up with an immediate flashback to set up a stagnant joke, which sets up a running trend throughout the volume on necessary and confusing flashbacks. Throughout the book we’re subjected to Kyon’s running internal monologue, but at this point he’s so jaded to the weirdness that any sense of wonder or fear is glossed over by the diary style of his narrative. The premise of the strange attraction his former classmate feels for Nagato, and the underlying reason for it, is actually a really cool idea, but it’s execution is boring.
The second story is the set up for the mysterious winter trip, and it starts with the same flashback framing as the previous chapter. The group had plans to go on a winter skiing trip, complete with a fake murder mystery to solve during their stay, but opens with the groups lost it a snow squall. The entire bulk of information in the setup could have just been covered without it being a flashback and I wouldn’t have spent it hoping for the story to get back to them lost in the snow. The group finds themselves in an abandoned lodge with spatial issues, and a very real possibility that they might be trapped there. The volume ends with Kyon coming clean about strange events to Koizumi in hopes that the other boy of the group might be able to offer insight on their current plight.
The artwork for this volume is completely average, with thin and sketchy line work with lot’s of white space. It’s serviceable, with the characters on model for most of the book, but it adds nothing to the story, and often times Kyon and Koizumi are hard to tell apart without looking for the small differences in their hairstyles. The backgrounds are also surprisingly sparse, which is far more typical for a shoujo manga where the character close-ups are more important. Here, it seems to be mostly an issue of economy.
Yen press continues to include the title pages in color, which is always appreciated.
I have to mark this volume of manga as a low point in the Haruhi media conglomerate. The purposefully vague story of Nagato’s otherworldly allure and the meandering beginning to the groups winter skiing trip drag the story down, and the rough artwork and erratic pacing mar what otherwise could have been an interesting entry into the Haruhi series. Uber-fans will most likely gobble it up regardless of execution or interest in the plot. Casual Haruhi fans are better off skipping this volume and sticking with the light novels.
Content Grade: C –
Art Grade: C +
Packaging Grade: B +
Text/Translation Grade: A –
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: November 22nd, 2011