Suzumiya Mania – Examining HARUHI ISM

Isle Haruhi

This past semester I’ve taken some classes about the power of an idea–in the context of intellectual property and mass media branding. More than just a couple times Key the Metal Idol came to mind while sitting in class. The worth of a brand and the legal protections ideas have when they come into play commercially–clasically and in today’s mass media market–can be in the billions of USDs just for a single brand.

It’s just a matter of time until that train of thought crashes into Haruhi. “How?” One might ask. Legal education is the short (and probably true) answer, but bear with me for a moment as we look into the “why?” (Which is, really, why I’m interested in the question at all.)

In some ways Haruhi is categorically a “High School Girl Idol” show. A powerful, influential, eccentric character takes the lead in the narrative. A slew of side shows play off to mirror the construct of this main character. It’s different than, say, School Rumble, as a pulp romantic comedy; different than a high school harem (of any kind of gender combination); and probably different than the hybrid (slice of lifes, for instance). Perhaps it is cousin to Gokujo Seitokai, and daughter of Yamamoto Yohko?

The story about an idol-like character is just that. My interest is in my own (and like myself, a good amount of others) facination with this idol. It’s one thing to just tell a story but harder to tell it well. But is that it? What is special with this girl? That she is a girl? That she’s a creative literary concept? I think while for many we’re still stuck at the “who is she?” stage of the game, the general topic is probably more interesting: what would an anime look like if it was to make you a fan of one of its character? Is that the same as how it would look if it was to make you a fan of itself? Are the two the same?

Idol culture ultimately hangs on that question. Building an anime that’s great to watch is well and good; but building a character means you are building a franchise that transcends the medium it first existed. Do we like Lara Croft rather than Tomb Raider? I think most of us are like that today.

To answer the “why” question more directly, yes, Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu is well-directed, written, produced, animated, and pitched after a year of rather mediocre TV animation offering. It’s exciting and fun to watch beyond its abstraction. It’s not so crude as slapstick but mysteriously unidentifiable upon first look. I can go on about it but I think that’s answering the “why” question superficially.

The next level of abstraction is a little less exciting; after all, it’s the story about an extraordinary high school girl, mired in her own genius and unteathered to this world’s mindsets. A mania in her own right, the little bit of spark of extraordinary in her ordinary world brings out the little girl unobservable otherwise from her otherworldly shell. I suppose all of that is not uncommon in anime and the art of reciting stories for escapist young adults.

Is there more to it? Do we want to care about Haruhi beyond that point? Maybe–at least by this stage of the game (episode 2), we know no metaphysical genius is an island. Haruhi will not be the Haruhi we know and we will not see an end to her meloncholy without Kyon. SOS-dan recreates a context for our hero and heroine not unlike that of an alternate world. Maybe an analogy is Otakon to Baltimore? The analysis has to end at this point, though, because I don’t have enough to go on.

But do you? I think the concept is wildly interesting when you bring idol-ism into this context. Part of why, at least for me, is my sensitivity to general idol worshipping; but otherwise in the art of manipulating people’s will, mind, emotion, and spending habits, it’s pretty cool.

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