What They Say:
Kyon is a cynical and sarcastic teenager. The first day of his first year of high school is filled with hopes of a normal school experience—hopes that are immediately dashed after meeting the beautiful and eccentric Haruhi Suzumiya. Haruhi is athletic, brilliant, and completely bored with life. At Kyon’s accidental suggestion, she decides to create her own club dedicated to finding and observing life’s oddities—like aliens, espers, and time travelers she believes walks among normal people.
Now, Kyon and a ragtag group of recruits are Haruhi’s right-hand men in the newly formed SOS Brigade. But all is not what it seems. The quiet bookworm? An alien. The busty sophomore? Time traveler. The handsome transfer student? Esper. And the biggest surprise? They’re all there because Haruhi herself has the ability to reshape the world as she sees fit. Maybe Kyon should have joined the literature club…
The audio is pretty good. The show is over 10 years old at this time, but there’s no discernable difference in quality between this and any other talk-y show I’ve seen lately. The only big issue I have with it is that the second season’s episodes are much louder than the first. So when they switch to the second season in between the first’s (due to the episodes being in the 2009 rebroadcast order), it’s a bit jarring.
The video is also pretty good. The animation is, as always, top notch from Kyoto Animation. The video itself looks like a disc made from an anime 10+ years ago, but it’s not like it’s terrible. The second season doesn’t have much of a discernable quality difference from the first. It is, perhaps, a bit sharper, but I can’t tell very much.
The packaging is fine…It’s a little full, and mine was a little bursting, but nothing was misplaced when I opened it up.
The menus are simple and serviceable. No problems here.
The extras are split across three discs, with a bit of them being on the last disc with the show proper. The first disc of extras is another BD with approximately a million hours of content and then there’s another DVD of extras, which is presumably a DVD to save money.
There are some cool extras on here, like a making of video set. It’s, of course, the Japanese making of and is as meandering as these Japanese videos are. It’s kind of neat and cute though.
The second set of extras is New Mysterious Discoveries Journies! It features Taniguchi’s seiyuu discovering weird new places around Japan? They’re also neat to watch, but very superfluous.
The third set of extras is location scouting, which is actually kind of neat. Kyoto Animation puts a lot of effort into their backgrounds and these kinds of videos shows the effort they put in. It’s appreciated, I’m sure, most by the residents of the areas they visit. But they’re also cool kinds of things for viewers that love Japan.
There’s also a bunch of commercial spots I didn’t bother watching because…they’re commercials for the show I just watched?
The DVD has a crap ton more extras, including behind the scenes of Aya Hirano’s music video. This is a great piece for fans of Hirano, and of course fans of the music in Haruhi Suzumiya (which is very high level).
There’s a bevy of other stuff too, including videos from the 2007 Anime Expo, Nekoman galleries, broadcast previews, teasers, Endless Eight prologue, and more textless songs. The DVD quality drops off, of course, because it’s a freaking DVD. But there are some gems in here.
I’m not sure how much of this was already completed by Bandai and just slapped onto the discs by Funimation, but kudos to whoever did em all because this is a crap ton of extra material for a show that really deserves it and fans who probably lusted for it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya…As I recall, it took the world by storm when it first aired in 2006 and, by the time I got to it just before the second season’s premiere in 2009, it was sort of a sensation in the anime community. People were dressing up as various SOS Brigade members and dancing the Hare Hare Yukai whenever given the chance. I wasn’t really tuned into an anime community on Twitter like I am now, nor was I a part of a college anime club, so most of this knowledge is just what I saw in the one or two small conventions I attended around that time as well as my browsings and interactings in r/anime.
When I watched the show the first time, three of us watched it around one of my buddy’s computers and we were treated to episode zero. One of us wasn’t too amused with it, but me and another dude were entranced by its stupidity. This was also around the time we were watching such dumb shows as Dokuro-chan and Lucky Star, so it fit right in. The show is much more than its super weird episode zero though.
But what is this show about? The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is, ostensibly, about a girl named Haruhi Suzumiya in her quest to just not be bored by everyday life. She wants to find strange things like aliens, time travelers, and ESPers, but of course, those things don’t exist in our real world. She wants to live a life of fantasy. Oh, and also she has magical powers.
According to Itsuki Koizumi (an ESPer), the world was created three years ago with Haruhi as a god. Now, she bends this world to her whims, though she has no idea she has those powers. According to Mikuru Asahina (a time traveler), Haruhi has the powers to change the world to her whims and she was sent here by her organization to keep anything too terrible from happening. According to Yuki Nagato (an alien), Haruhi has the powers to change the world to her whims. She’s just here to observe though, nothing more and nothing less. According to Kyon (real name unknown, a normal dude), Haruhi is a bit too abrasive a girl that’s a little too weird for his own tastes. She can also change the world to her whims…
One thing remains constant throughout all these stories: Haruhi has some special powers that allow her to change the world, though she has no idea she has these powers.
Recall I said ostensibly, though.
Those things don’t make Haruhi Suzumiya, the show, very interesting in and of itself. Those things also put Haruhi Suzumiya, the girl, in a fairly negative light. As the titular character, she has to be somewhat likable. Also, Haruhi is to Sherlock Holmes that Kyon is to John Watson. Watson tells the story of Holmes as much as Kyon tells the story of Haruhi.
The show is interesting because Haruhi Suzumiya is a more complex character that sexually harasses Mikuru and blackmails other clubs and forces her own whims on other people. Haruhi Suzumiya is a character that yearns for acceptance. For her whole life, she’s probably been shunned for wanting to believe in aliens, time travelers, and ESPers. She’s always accepted dates in junior high, according to Taniguchi, but they probably all said something that suggested they didn’t jive with her beliefs.
Not until Kyon. Not until Kyon was she accepted for who she is. Kyon always questioned, but never judged. Same with Yuki, Mikuru, and Koizumi. Finally, in her first year of high school, people want to do with her the weird things no one else would. And what else drives her? Love, obviously. She has a crush on Kyon, though she would never admit it to him and maybe not herself. Admitting she has a crush on Kyon is admitting that she doesn’t have control over her life anymore. It’s admitting that she is like all the mere mortals that she loathes so much. She can’t help who she likes, and she’s not all too pleased about it.
But it’s also about Kyon, of course. He’s never experienced someone as pushy as Haruhi. He’s always wanted to live a normal life, though he’s yearned for something a bit more. He, in his own words, believed in aliens, time travelers, and ESPers much longer than he believed in Santa Claus. He always wanted someone like Haruhi to push him to be weird.
It’s about these kids, not the weird stuff that happens to them. But it could do with less sexual harassing.
The dub is really great, by the way. No one can stand up to Crispin Freeman’s Kyon, which showcases Freeman’s absolutely amazing acting. Like…seriously, no one can top him in anime voice acting probably. Wendee Lee grew on me more and more as Haruhi, though it was rough going in the early episodes. Stephanie Sheh never feels quite comfortable to me doing the higher pitched Mikuru. I’m not sure if it’s just because I hear that voice a lot from her or what, but it never sat right. The acting and delivery are fine, but the voice always made it feel weird. Johnny Yong Bosch as Koizumi is excellent, though better as it progressed and Bosch allowed himself to lay into Koizumi’s aloofness more. Michelle Ruff has it hardest, playing an emotionless and always stagnant (in voice) Yuki. She’s serviceable, but it’s always really hard to pull off that. The animation helped the delivery a lot, but I’m not going to take any points off for it. Basically, the dub is held up by Freeman and Kyon, as it probably should be given the amount of lines Kyon has.
I didn’t know how well Haruhi Suzumiya would age after nine to 11 years, but this is still a pretty good show in my eyes. The stuff that interested me before didn’t keep my interest as much this time around (various fantasy or science fiction elements are way less cool that just how good these characters are written), but I think that’s a testament to the show’s relatively universal appeal. If you can get past how straight up weird the show is—and it’s really, REALLY weird—there’s some great stuff going on underneath. It probably didn’t deserve the amount of fanfare that surrounded the property when it came out, but who am I to judge fan reaction. It’s still a good show; let them love what they love.
Features: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Making of, 8-Episode New Mysterious Discoveries Journey, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, TV Commercial Spot Collections, Location Scouting Video, Special Editing, Promo Spots, and MORE
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Running Time: 700 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16×9
Review Equipment: Xbox One, LG 47LB5800 47” 1080p LED TV, LG NB3530A Sound Bar