Haruhi Suzumiya is one of, if not the most influential anime of the past decade. It’s partly to blame for the moe boom (although Azumanga Daoih laid the seeds for that a few years before) but certainly the reason that so many Light Novel adaptations are being made nowadays, regardless, and often in spite of quality. It has legions of fans, ranking as the 7th most popular on MAL.
I started watching anime mid-07, my gateway drug being Love Hina. Thanks to that, I spent the next 6 months or so searching for another half decent seinen romance, a quest that led me to watching endless amounts of shitty harems. This ‘Search for a Decent Seinen Romance’ is largely why I developed such a harsh dropping routine. Reading reviews of Haruhi Suzumiya seemed to fit the bill of seinen romance pretty well. Genres were listed as comedy and romance. Reviews were absolutely ecstatic about how funny it was. I had found the next anime I was going to watch.
However, you must also remember this was very early on in my fandom. Hence, I was clueless. I knew nothing of what fansubs were, the sub vs dub debate, shounen and seinen. To give you an idea at my level of cluelessness, the halfway ad-break in the Love Hina streams I watched had the message ‘not for sale or for rent’. I had assumed that this was a joke by the series itself saying that the Grandma wasn’t going to sell the Hinata Inn because Keitaro was in charge. This naivety came back to bite me hard when watching Haruhi.
First, Haruhi Suzumiya is partly successful due to its slightly playful parody and subversion of moe. You need to have watched a fair amount of anime before you really ‘get’ Haruhi. Secondly, and more importantly, I watched the dub. Now there isn’t all that much wrong with the dub. Haruhi doesn’t have nearly as much power in her voice as the Japanese version, Nagato is blandly monotone but Kyon’s sarcasm is perfectly nailed. The problem wasn’t the voices. It was the dub is shown in chronological order. The effect this has on the storytelling is crippling. You get an excellent, albeit very jerkily directed first half of the series, followed by half a series of filler. There’s no build up to the final/middle episode that the original airing order had. The plot suddenly disappears for no apparent reason. There was an entire episode built up to a concert scene that I watched for a few seconds before fast forwarding. The final episode killed it. Half the episode is just Nagato reading a book while Kyon goes out to buy a heater.
As I became more involved and knowledgeable about anime, only then the cult of Haruhi become clear. That I had watched it in the incorrect order and was therefore baffled by how popular it appeared to be. I sorta liked Haruhi, but certainly not enough to ever consider going back and watching it in the ‘correct’ airing order. But Haruhi still had time to save itself. Remember the build up to season 2? Looking back, it truly was on of the most fantastic pieces of trolling I have ever seen. Delay announcement after announcement. Announce a new Haruhi anime, only for it to be that Haruhi-chan flash shit. Have a new Haruhi airing, only for it to turn out to be simply a re-airing of the first season. And then, in the middle of all that, sneak in Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody.
I had been largely immune to the craze that surrounded this new season. Hence I downloaded that new episode of Haruhi with little expectations. Suddenly, in that single episode, I saw a spark of what everyone else had seen in Haruhi all this time. Was this anime always this well directed? Was it always this clever with it’s humour? Was this new season going to turn me into a Haruhi fanatic like half the rest of anime fandom?