Let me start off by saying I’ve put off reviewing this for as long as possible. It’s not because the show is bad, it’s because I’ve been suffering a kind of writers block. To do justice to the review I felt I needed to get over that but in the end I’m not sure it’s going to help, mainly because it’s hard to pin down the show. Mainly because I think the title is a misnomer; it possibly should have been called “The Manic Depression of Haruhi Suzumiya”.
Haruhi Suzumiya is one of those crazy people that still believes in aliens and the supernatural. This is probably a good thing, when the group she formed to find aliens and all the rest actually has three members that are from the fantastic realms of what should be fiction. But Haruhi apparently has a strange godlike power in that she can reshape the universe to her own whim whenever she gets bored, only she doesn’t know it. So what is unknown at this stage is whether the alien, ESPer (telepath) and time traveller were always able to avoid the changes the universe goes through and have always been around or whether on this particular go around Haruhi just made them exist for her own amusement.
The show is wacky in a FLCL/Excel Saga kind of way. This was most obvious in the fact that the first episode on the disc is actually not the first in chronological order. When it was originally broadcast in Japan the episodes were broadcast out of the chronological order, a little like Memento in that there are episodes that are played in their correct logical order however later episodes in that order are scooped up and liberally sprinkled to appear between other episodes in the order. Why this wasn’t kept for the releases of the DVD’s is anyone’s guess but for those who want their discs in broadcast order, Madman is going to be putting vouchers in each of the DVD releases that people can collect and then redeem (with postage and handling) to obtain a two disc DVD box that contains all the episodes in broadcast order (see the link below for details).
The show feels schizophrenic in that listening to the different language tracks might actually give you a different experience, depending on the lost-in-translation X factor of trying to keep up with everything in the Japanese language. This may mean that the humour that is there doesn’t come across well enough so it becomes a more serious experience in comparison to the English language, which is easier to understand and makes the jokes easier to get. Especially with the first episode. It’s an absolutely hilarious tribute/homage to B movies and anime conventions and may have people that know nothing about TMHS before viewing scratching their heads.
Also on the audio both the Japanese voice actors and their American counterparts do a really good job of voicing their characters from the mile-a-minute Haruhi to the robotic tones of Yuki Nagato, and the music is really quite catchy. It’s no surprise really that the end credit song animated dance sequence has become a major fan event at some conventions (I personally saw a Haruhi Dance-off at Manifest ’07).
The show, while good, just doesn’t do it for me. This really isn’t something I would’ve been drawn to watch if I was in a store, and I don’t know if I could recommend it to anyone based on the first disc alone so really it’s a “you have to see it for yourself” kind of show. So if you can rent or borrow before purchase, do so.