Category Archives: Suzumiya Haruhi no Uuutsu

The Melancholy of Kyousuke Tsutsumi or the Difference Between Normal and Ordinary

Lately I read a book that told the story of ordinary people doing radical things. They are not unlike you and I, with exception of their earnest belief that they are here to change the world in their ordinary capacity.

The fact that you and your neighboring commuter are traveling to work does not separate him or her from any other person commuting to work in the car or seat also next to you. What is different is beyond the ordinary–traveling to work–from the normal–that someone can tell all about you just by your commute. After all, if you’re reading this blog odds are you’re some crazy ass anime fanboy nut compared to the average person within a 50 meter radius of you. It’s not something you can easily discern usually. Yet,the cling to normalcy is a complex of an entire identity. A normal person is just that, normal. An ordinary person, however, doesn’t have to be.

Granted the distinction between ordinary and normal is nonsensical semantically, but it does serve to highlight the difference between something commonly seen versus the institution of conformity.

Ponder the following scenarios:

  • In Suzumiya Haruhi no Uuutsu, a girl who is fascinated with modern fairy tales of aliens, time travelers and ESPers, actually finds them hidden in plain sight, conforming to not just normal behaviors but stereotypes of aliens, time travelers and ESPers. Craziness ensues when male lead enters into the picture as a stereotypical, jaded audience of these modern fairy tales.
  • In ef – a tale of memories, the high school film club presses onward to produce a quality production, aiming to win a prize at a film competition. The main cameraman is seen as a person with some skill in the shots he take, perhaps impressionist, perhaps postmodern, but nonetheless draw fans and set the cameraman’s films apart from the common crop. However, rather than to be characterized through such distinctive streaks, the film club wanted to produce a popular hit with a film that conforms (realist?) to people’s sense of what is ordinary but yet captures the spark the star cameraman gives to his subjects. They are aiming for the grand prize, not one set for special but different films.
  • In Honey & Clover, an art prodigy escapes into secondary education to blossom under the care of her uncle in a university. She befriends a group of ordinary youth in a similar place in life looking for direction, for love, and for themselves.
  • In Kimikiss Pure Rouge, a 16 year old boy finds romance along with his wingman, a 17 year old girl, with another boy. Oh, the boy’s good male friend also finds his sister’s new friend somewhat cute? There be karaoke and giggles.
  • In Kamichu, an ordinary middle schooler is a Shinto deity in the flesh.

It’s ordinary, yet somewhat extraordinary. It feels attainable, its lure just within our grasp. For me it’s irresistible (at least when it’s done right).

There’s a thin line between what’s ordinarily extraordinary and what is just normal. I’m not sure where the line is, but you can tell when it stops being ordinary either by being just plain out there, or being just … a normal anime.

Capturing the tension that exists in the abnormal ordinary is a key element of a compelling storytelling style. Perhaps the biggest problem for the ef anime right now is that it is too odd to be ordinary, even if it is rooted so.

The Last Generation of Haruhi Suzumiya

Back in ’95-96 Akiyuki Shinbo directed a project called Soreyuke! Uchuusenkan Yamamoto Yohko. It was an adaptation of a series of teenage-level science fiction novels written by Takashi Shouji. The project resulted in two OAV series, and later in 1997 a 26-episode TV series retelling the expanded novel story was aired.

Perhaps it’s just how people looked at TV shows and movies back in the 90s, but Yamamoto Yohko didn’t make a big splash. Unavoidably, Akiyuki Shinbo’s … signature directorial style is somewhat hit-and-miss with the crowd, and I think the Yamamoto Yohko TV series is one of the earliest example of this signature style.

(In some ways looking at Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, you can tell that its rather-two-dimensional look works much more successfully with the punches Shinbo pulls–in fact I believe that’s why Pani Poni Dash did so much better with the fans yet Soul Taker was just way out in the left field with a cold but critically acclaimed reception. Yamamoto Yohko shared that 3D feel. All to stretch the animation budget?)

Well the point here, I hope, is to remind or introduce you –I sure do need to rewatch it–to this actually really above average but rarely-heard-of anime series to you. Yamamoto Yohko is twelve years old now, but its faded-out color palette and seeing kids hanging out at arcades are the only things showing its age. The direction is sublime (and resourceful), the OAV episodes are fun, energetic, and charming. The TV series suffers, I think, from being 26 episodes long, but it delivers a solid story about someone much like Suzumiya Haruhi…sans the romantic/Kyon angle.

Maybe that’s where the magic is missing? I don’t know. (Is that just the difference between 90s TV shows and today’s?) But I do know that it’s a fairly timeless TV anime, and is worth watching beyond mere sentimentality. It’s smart, humorous, it keeps you surprised, and the voice acting is top notch.

It’s even got time travelers, aliens, and ESPer-like computers. It is even licensed–at least the two OAV series. The TV series is in limbo–RightStuf has an option which they have not exercised because the sales were subpar. The US release was back in 2001, and it was on both DVD and VHS. You can probably find the DVD super cheap now, if at all.

Otakon 2007 Youtube Select

Ugh, sort of busy lately. But since I was doing this on my own time, I figured I can share with you some choice videos from Otakon this year if you haven’t had the time to look them up yourself.

Mamiko Noto

Tomokazu Seki

Kyoani Dance Mania! (I imagine this is a fraction of what AX got)

4chan is Madness

The Steve & Vic Show




Feel free to add more~

Buyer’s Regret Strikes Back, Too

Maybe watching that expensive brick oft called “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” volume 1 special edition from Bandai Entertainment USA can put Manabi Straight away for a moment. Oh how ironic that I turn to gnostic pleasures to forget my higher calling…? LOL.

Anyways, this post is sort of a review of that brick that got here. And in short, it is so not worth spending nearly 3x more money on the expensive brick. To put it in perspective, the limited edition episode 00 R2 DVD (volume 1) was 4600 yen, volumes 2-5 were 6600 yen each for the limited edition, and volume 7 LE was 4600 yen. If we exchange 110 yen per dollar, that’s only about 60-70 dollars to match MSRP of $64.98 times 4. Even if volumes 2-4 of the R1 release is $5 less, it makes you wonder if you get what you paid for.

Maybe I’m just slow on the uptake, but when Bandai reneged on the broadcast order thing, either I heard about it and paid it no mind (forgetting I pre-ordered the box), or just entirely forgotten about it. I was even looking forward to that…

Anyways, yea, buyer’s regret. But the main source of it isn’t because the DVD and R1 release was crappy (as it wasn’t–in fact I liked the dub a lot (but still hated Ryoko’s voice though…) and the production was solid). The extras was good and the box was…neat. What I hated about it was its … how should I put it… lame design. There’s no mind paid to how the box art should look, or the purpose of this luxurious box. Hey, it’s got magnets, yay. So I spent an extra $30 on that? It looks like someone went and designed a neat box mechanically and some doof just plastered official images all over it (when some of them I’d fully consider as SPOILERS?) paying no mind of the overall vibe the box gives off. I hate it.

But that’s no compare to what actually is contained inside the box. I never was a big fan of “worthless trinket” like the iron-on or the ribbon, although I’m partial towards the ribbon. Art collections like pencil boards or post cards are more my thing, but even then that just “tickles” my collector’s senses and unless you’re Range Murata you’re not going to see me jump after them. After opening the box I scratch my head, trying to ease that sensation of “I just got sooooo ripped.” It was just sad how, not unexpectedly, this fanboy got played.

To be fair, Bandai did one thing awesomely as far as the packaging: including the CD single AND ALSO RELEASING IT FOR INDIVIDUAL SALE at the same time. I’m so happy about it I bought the Hare Hare Yukai US release separately, because it was cheap and LOL, I’m just happy that this was possible.

Because it totally removes any reason whatsoever to buy those crappy boxes with nothing good in them.

Sigh. I wish more things were released like Scrapped Princess. Now those limited release box sets rocked the house. If you want my otaku dollars, you can’t just bank on the lame-ass collector’s mentality that too many of my peers suffers from. I’m more than ready to buy volume 2 in its simple, DVD-only form.

Manabi: The Real God Girl

You know the episode is good if you can squeeze 2 or more posts out of it :3 And I didn’t even have to try.

High as a Kite

Haruhi Suzumiya appeals to the earthly notion of God: someone who is powerful to craft reality through sheer power.

But the God I serve works it much more like Manami Amamiya, who makes miracles by putting people together–from friends to buddies–to do things that only buddies can accomplish. Manabi lives in a reality that is a fulfilled future, and she brings her prophetic “vision” of how things could be to inspire and bring people together. This is really what is so “heartful” about Manabi Straight.

What’s probably a little disingenuous is how apparent it all is in the show. They really make it clear with the whole seeing thing. To some end I derive a lot of joy out of watching Manabi Straight just out of my personal perspective alone. And nonetheless I think a fair look at episode 11 would suggest that the animation quality, while isn’t jaw-droppingly gorgeous as Haruhi Suzumiya 12, is well thought-out and fluid when it is necessary. The rocking out scene, to me, was better done because the body movements felt more natural, sans the strange synchronousness of the band. Granted, in a real live people tend NOT to move around as much, but I guess they had to do it to satisfy some notion of “good animation” by serving it up to the fans.

And it’s a dekkai zettai ryouiki jamboree, for real.

Seeing reality for more than what it is–beyond flesh and blood and the physical–is part of the human experience. People relate to each other, and that’s the foundation of society and meaningful human existence. Merely puppeting your surrounding to amuse yourself may be a lot of fun, but it’s a hollow thing at the end. No matter how much of a god Haruhi is she can’t meet her internal, mental, and psychological needs with just her powers alone. In fact her search for aliens and espers and time travelers goes to show that those are the sort of things we look for to fill our needs.

Granted, looking to Mikan to fill your needs is not that different than looking to Kyon to do the same, so well, there’s plenty of reasons to like both shows :)