The Melancholy of Haruhi SuzumiyaThe Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has grown to be one of the most popular anime in Japan and around the world. Aired in 2006, this smash-hit dominated the anime market at the time and still holds immense popularity. The series is largely targeted at the otaku croud with various references to other anime and Japanese pop culture. This is one of the most original anime series in years and there are several key points that prove this.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya starts out with Episode 00. It features the main characters of the anime cast in a film made for a school cultural festival. This episode does not happen chronologically until several episodes down the line, a feature this series uses throughout its airing. Many viewers were turned off of the show by this first episode, not understanding what was going on or thinking the series was about something completely different. Theoretically, one could skip episode 00 and would not lose any of the series. However you lose the very original and unique feel of the series. The story actually starts with episode 1. This out-of-order approach continues throughout the series. For example, what would be episode 4 is not aired until episode 7. The DVD release follows chronological order though, with episode 00 still showing first.
The series uses many otaku references throughout. They are used in-character by Haruhi and others which gives it a very real-life feel to it while also keeping the silly atmosphere. Chief among these are more and bunny girl outfits. Must more central to the plot is the inclusion of non-human beings like aliens in a high school setting.
Don't get caught up in all the asides though. The real appeal to this series is in the title character, Haruhi Suzumiya, and her group of clubmates. Haruhi takes the beautiful lead-female character and transforms it into a class of her own with her oddities and anything but melancholic personality. The series takes off with Kyon talking with Haruhi, a very rare occurrence for Haruhi; none of her other classmates could get a word out of her. Kyon is the narrator of the series and is also a principle character in the series. A seemingly-cynical high school student, Kyon is dragged into Haruhi's club unwillingly but decides to stay to protect the other members. They consist of Yuki Nagato, a very quiet first-year student who always has her nose in a book; Mikuru Asahina, a beautiful junior who is extremely timid and seemingly at Haruhi's mercy; and Itsuki Koizumi, the mysterious transfer student Haruhi was wishing for. All of the other club members seem to do Haruhi's bidding but in truth they all have their own secret agenda for being there.
The soundtrack is used very well in the series. But the ending theme really steals the show, becoming immensely popular around the world. Most of the OST was done by Haruhi's seiyyu, Aya Hirano, with Chihara Minori and Yuko Goto, the seiyyus for Yuki and Mikuru, respectively, also performing.
The DVD has several changes from the original broadcast episodes. One major point is several changes in dubbing from the original. For example, "Future Man" is used instead of "time traveler" from the fansub, and the originally "Date Integration Thought Entity" shortened to simply "thought entity." One should wonder why they would make changes like this that would seem to be unfavorable to most fans. There are also some minor changes in animation but they are very hard to catch.
The English cast is questionable at best. Its a good crew no doubt, but compared with the original Japanese they just don't stand up to the task. Wendee Lee played Haruhi in the English dub and definitely had the excitement and tone to play Haruhi. But when compared to Aya Hirano, Wendee's voice just seems out of place. Crispin Freeman does a fair job as Kyon and might be the best of the English crew. Stephanie Sheh mimics the voice of Mikuru fairly well but it just doesn't sound like a genuine English voice. Johnny Bosch's voice is considerably different than Daisuke Ono but still fit the part fine. Michelle Ruff's rendition of Yuki is too monotone even for a character like Yuki.
Bandai was not a popular choice to license Haruhi but has done a good job thus far. DVD 1 is packed with extras like "making of"'s and behind-the-scenes looks at tv spots. The Limited Edition also come with the ED CD, a cosplay hair ribbon, a drawing board, and an iron-on shirt transfer.