Book Review: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya v.1
I had never read a graphic novel – let alone a Japanese one – before I got this book. Actually, I’d hardly even read comics before. The reason I got this book, in fact, was because I love Japanese anime. My current obsession, the programme Sailor Moon (which I’ve mentioned before here and here) started originally from a manga. I came across this book after looking for a Sailor Moon graphic novel, but, discovering that they were hard to find, decided to get a different one. And lo and behold! I found the Haruhi Suzumiya manga.
I bought the first volume in the series, and it arrived in about 2 weeks from Amazon. Apart from an extra early delivery (yay!) everything was perfectly normal. Until, that is, I found that the book had the front cover where the back should be and the spine was down the left side – in short, it was the wrong way around. Turns out Japanese manga and/or graphic novels are meant to be read from right to left, top to bottom, backwards. Does that make sense? It didn’t to me, either.
Anyway, back to the book. It’s the first in a series about a boy called Kyon, who is just starting high school. He is fully prepared to have a monotonous, everyday high school existence. Then he meets Haruhi Suzumiya, an eccentric schoolgirl who detests anything she regards as “normal”, and is obsessed with the ideas of aliens, time travellers, or espers. Before he knows what’s happening, Kyon is suddenly wrapped up in Haruhi’s bizarre ideas, and is even helping her (whether he likes it or not) to make a new club for the school – the Save the World By Overloading it with Fun Haruhi Suzumiya (S.O.S) brigade. Soon, other students are joining (or rather, being forced to join by Haruhi), and they have three others helping them to track down paranormal entities: Yuki Nagato, a quiet bookworm; Mikuru Asahina, the “cute mascot” of the team; and Itsuki Koizumi, the “mysterious transfer student”. However, while they’re all out searching for aliens and other “interesting” things, it starts to become clear that those three aren’t quite what they seem – in fact, neither is Haruhi (not that I’m spoiling the surprise!).
I really enjoyed this book, which I can now call my first graphic novel. For people who haven’t read a graphic novel before: to me, it felt like a weird-but-nice combination between reading a book and watching television. It’s a nice break from reading ordinary books, and it makes for a good page-turner. This particular novel is written in first-person perspective from Kyon’s point-of-view, with black-and-white pictures. Kyon’s point-of-view was a great choice, as it adds something to be able to tell what he’s thinking. The black-and-white at first made me feel like I was reading a flash-back, but maybe that’s just because I wasn’t used to it. As for the story, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya v.1 has a very unique, complex plot that includes parallel worlds, all this stuff about “data” and “energy”, and that can best be described as big. It’s quite clear that this is meant as part of a series and so they don’t explain it fully. That in mind, it can feel pretty confusing, and you might have to flick back to reread parts in order to grasp it properly. It never feels like too much though, because the book is also filled with plenty of humour and a portion of action. Kyon’s reactions to the strange goings-on are hilarious, as are Haruhi’s attempts to use Mikuru as the team’s “mascot” (example: dressing her up in bizarre costumes and trading her in to the computer club for a computer).
Overall: I was really happy with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya v.1. The day after finishing it, I was already ordering the next three books in the series :-). I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys manga or anime, or even just someone who’d like a chance to read something interesting and light-hearted.
Time taken to read: less than 24 hours.
Best part: The whole computer club escapade. Haruhi comes across as a complete nutter, and seeing everyone’s responses to her craziness is very funny.
Favourite character: Kyon. Obviously, it helps that he’s the narrator of the whole thing, but he’s also a good, well-rounded character.
Total rating: 8/10