【Novel】涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱 / The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Another novel review…You might be sick of this by now, but please bear with me. This is also one of the few instances where something Haruhi-related will appear on this blog.

Title: 涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱 (Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu) / The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Author: 谷川流 (TANIGAWA Nagaru)
English Translator: Chris Pai
Illustrator: いとうのいぢ (ITO Noizi)
Genre: Light Novel (Comedy, Supernatural, High School)
Status: Ongoing, currently at 9 volumes. Volumes 1 and 2 published in English by Little, Brown and Company and Yen Press.
My Rating: 7.5/10

Description: This is the English version of the first volume of the Suzumiya Haruhi series, penned by Tanigawa Nagaru and illustrated by Ito Noizi. Melancholy won Tanigawa the grand prize at the eighth annual Sneaker awards (a light novel award from Kadokawa Shoten), and the novel has gone on to be adapted into an anime of two seasons produced by Kyoto Animation, two iterations of manga by MIZUNO Makoto and TSUGANO Gaku, five video games, a radio show, and an upcoming movie adaptation for the fourth novel. The original light novel series currently has 9 volumes out, and is still ongoing.

Summary: Kyon is a student starting his first year at high school. In his class is an odd girl named Suzumiya Haruhi, who introduces herself with a declaration that shocks Kyon. Kyon talks to Haruhi one day – an action which he will regret since Haruhi then proceeds to turn his life upside down with her detemination to fulfill a certain wish of her’s.

Review: This novel is the very definition of what a light novel is – A fun, engaging, and entertaining read that doesn’t let you think at all, but makes just enough sense to not make you question any of it. To put it slightly negatively, it’s mindless entertainment in the form of writing. It has no substance, and it needs no substance. While you’re reading it, you feel that it’s very engaging, but after you read it and proceed to try thinking of what you’ve just read, you won’t really be able to recall it since it’s so unsubstantial it just went over your head. Melancholy is exactly like instant gratification, and is ONLY there for satisfying your immediate need for entertainment. It has great rereading value in that it’s just mediocre enough to make it unimpressionable, while be just good enough that you enjoy it in the process.

To be honest, I’ve never watched the anime or read the manga prior to reading this book, so I didn’t really know what turn of events to expect. I knew all the characters from the series since I’ve seen them mentioned so often, but I didn’t really know what personalities they had, so I had fun finding that out by reading. To my surprise, I genuinely enjoyed this book and didn’t have any bias against it despite knowing that the series is so widely praised/worshipped.

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The characters were quite varied and each had unique quirks of their own, but I found their dialogue and actions far too easy to predict since they’re all practically labelled with flat characterstics. I liked most of the characters since they were interesting enough, but I really, really am not too fond of Haruhi. She is not only two-dimensional (literally and figuratively), but her personality and actions just stupid and annoying. Her age of 15 is a good excuse for making her personality like that, but honestly, she is not appealing to me in the least. My favourite character was actually Asakura Ryoko because she had a military-grade “something”, but since she appeared in less than 10 pages, she’s not exactly a “valid” favourite character. Other ones I liked include Nagato, Koizumi, and Kyon. To my immense surprise, I didn’t hate Asahina at all despite her being the “obligatory moé character”, though I think this is because she had a little less appearances in the book than say, Haruhi or Nagato. Also, I really wish Koizumi showed up more in this book. He seems like such a nice, fake guy.

Kyon’s first-person narration was pretty effective because I found his sarcastic and immature comments amusing and slightly relateable to. His exasperated tone was just what was needed to balance out the weirdness of the events happening around him. I found his aversion to Haruhi very comforting as well, since I was also averse to all things Haruhi.

The events presented in the book were not very memorable, but if I thought long enough, I could remember them. They’re all slightly unrelated and kind of random until the end, so that is proably the reason why they’re harder to recall than in other books where intertwining events happen.

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The illustrations were also kind of mediocre. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of Ito Noizi, but I did find the cover art appealing, and I liked the B&W picture of Nagato on page 77. The black and white illustrations do the job and go well with the events that they’re presented alongside, but they’re nothing special, and are mostly silly. The shading for them look quite lazy, and the pictures have a bit of intentional blur to make them look softer. I did not like the colour illustrations at all because they lack a lot of detail and while they have nice colours and are lively, overall they’re quite…plain.

All in all, an okay book that is bordering mediocre, but is “good enough” to provide immediate entertainment. Read it if you are really bored or want to do something but don’t want to think!

Packaging: The edition I read was the hardcover edition with the original Ito Noizi cover illustration. It doesn’t come with a dust jacket like usual hardcover books, and the pages inside are printed on thin, yellowish paper. However, the B&W illustrations inside are well reproduced, and have sharp black lines. The colour pages are at the back of the book, before the B&W manga preview, and are printed on relatively thin glossy paper. The first page of the colour illustration is of the cover illustration, but with Haruhi kind of severed into two, with her legs beside her head. I found this arrangement unsightly and felt that it was a disappointment to look at, since it was not at all a good representation of the illustrator’s work.