Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya

In this collection of short stories by Nagaru Tanigawa, we see four different episodes from the early months of the SOS Brigade's existence. The SOS Brigade (Save the world by Overloading it with fun: Haruhi Suzumiya's Brigade) is an organization created by, of course, Haruhi Suzumiya, a Japanese high school girl who is bored with how ordinary life is. In the first book, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, we were introduced to Haruhi, everyman Kyon, alien interface Yuki Nagato, time-traveler Mikuru Asahina, and esper Itsuki Koizumi. Now, in this third book which is second chronologically, we find out how the SOS Brigade fills its days. In the story "The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya" we find that apparently baseball is diverting enough for Haruhi, since she enters the brigade and a few of their friends in a baseball tournament where losing quickly comes to mean the end of the world as we know it. "Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody" details a fateful Tanabata holiday, laying the groundwork for later parts of the series and also showcasing time-travel in action for the first time. "Mysterique Sign" has the SOS Brigade solving a supernatural case a disappearance - though of course Haruhi is once again left out of the loop. And "Remote Island Syndrome" (one of my personal favorite) gives us a bona fide murder mystery in a closed circle situation. When the SOS Brigade goes to a remote island for a short vacation, fun in the sun turns sour when the master of the mansion is found dead. Trapped by a storm with a murderer lurking, it's up to Kyon, Haruhi, and the others to figure out whodunnit.

This is a mixed bag of stories. "Mysterique Sign" and "Boredom" are fun, though not especially favorites of mine. I like "Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody" because of how it brings in time travel and how it shows us more of both Haruhi's past and how her mind works. And also because it brings us this gif of Mikuru doing the Macarena. (Well, close enough. It amuses me, anyway). "Remote Island Syndrome" is my favorite story in this novel. I do like murder mysteries, of course, but besides that, we also get a lot of SOS Brigade bonding where the characters get to have fun like normal high school students (including getting drunk a couple times, because of course Haruhi would embrace alcohol with the same enthusiasm with which she embraces everything else). I have to confess that I think that the anime adaptation of this particular story is better than the written version, partly because of some changes made to how the mystery plays out and also because this story is given two episodes, which allows things to unfold more vividly. Still, "Remote Island Syndrome" is one of the better stories in this collection and in the series overall, in my mind. Anyway, this is an excellent translation and a great buy for any fan of the series.

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