Monday, April 16, 2012

The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya (anime), via Crunchyroll

From what I can tell, this series was probably originally shown on the Internet, specifically YouTube, which means neither my "TV series" tag nor my "OVA" tag applies. I don't really want to make yet another tag, so, for now, it's just going to be "anime."

The show is composed of 25 episodes, each of which runs from 2 to 5 minutes long.

Synopsis:

This is a parody series featuring the entire cast of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, only almost everyone is a little different. Nagato was a quiet alien in the original series. In this series, she's more mischievous and plays erotic/pornographic games. Mikuru is even more pathetic and emotional, Haruhi is louder and more abusive towards Kyon, and Koizumi is even more capable of calling up whatever help is needed. Arakawa and Mori, Koizumi's comrades, can do amazing things, and Tsuruya, Mikuru's friend, suddenly exhibits fantastic fighting skills. Oh, and Asakura, the other alien in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, is back, except she's trapped in chibi form and has been renamed Achakura. And there's also a sentient little yellow-green balloon dog.

Review:

I wouldn't recommend this series to anyone who isn't at least a little familiar with the original The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya series. A good portion of the humor in The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya depends upon knowing what the original characters were like, so you can better appreciate how those characters have been warped. Plus, this spin-off references the occasional scene from the original series, like the part where Asakura attacks Kyon, and doesn't bother to explain, even at the most basic level, how all the characters came to be together, who and what they are, and why they're doing what they're doing. The assumption is that you've watched the original series, already know all of that, and are primarily interested in watching all the characters be funny.

And they are. I admit, the series took a bit to grow on me. My first response was something along the lines of “What the heck am I watching???” It probably didn't help that the first episode is highly dependent on the viewer's knowledge of Japanese culture – I already knew a bit about hatsuyume and that it's considered good luck for one's first dream of the year to feature Mount Fuji, an eggplant, and a hawk, but I still found that episode to be more bizarre than funny.

My first big laugh-out-loud moment was during episode 7, when Haruhi set up a scavenger hunt and had characters from the show hunting down impossible things. The thing Kyon was supposed to find? A psychological barrier. I had no idea what to expect when he told Haruhi he knew how to find one, and I'm so glad I wasn't drinking or eating anything when he created the psychological barrier and presented it to her, or I might have ruined my computer.

While I admit to a certain fondness for Haruhi-chan's Koizumi, who has a habit of having his shirt blown open, one of my favorite characters in the series was Nagato. In the original series, she didn't have the most exciting personality, but I still liked her for her occasional awesome moments. In this series, she's consistently funny, particularly in scenes involving the incredibly adorable Achakura.

If you watched the original series and found yourself wishing there could have been more humor, this series may be perfect for you. Even so, Haruhi-chan still finds time for a few fun action-filled moments. A couple of my favorites were in episode 19, when Tsuruya and Nagato capture Santa on Haruhi's orders (you should see what Haruhi-chan thinks Santa looks like), and episode 21, when Tsuruya battles Mori.

It seems like so many short parody series I've been watching lately have either not been as funny as I would have liked or depend too much upon a very limited selection of jokes. That's not the case with this series. I may not be a huge fan of the original series, but I still had a lot of fun with this spin-off.

Giving this one a grade is tough. I've been wavering between a C+, because the series accomplishes nothing more than being funny, and B-, because it really is funny (as long as you know something about the original series). I think I'll settle on a B-.

Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
  • Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos (anime) - I'm not entirely sure whether this show has only aired online or also on TV. It's a weird little parody series, also featuring very short episodes. It recasts H.P. Lovecraft's Nyarlathotep as a cute girl with long silver hair. She lives with her human friend Mahiro, and occasionally some of her friends and comrades come by. They are also based on characters from Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers (manga) by Hidekaz Himaruya; Hetalia: Axis Powers (anime TV series) – Another strange, funny series with very short episodes. This series takes a look at events in world history, particularly during World War II or the period just prior to it, using characters who are personified countries. Stereotypes abound. I have written about the anime and the first volume of the manga.
  • Azumanga Daioh (manga) by Kiyohiko Azuma; Azumanga Daioh (anime TV series) - A humorous slice-of-life series about the lives of a bunch of high school girls. The sudden appearance of Kimidori-san in Haruhi-chan made me think of this series, which has its own strange character, Chiyo-chan's "dad."
  • Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan (anime TV series) - If you enjoyed watching Haruhi abuse Kyon, you'll love this series (as long as you have a good tolerance for copious amounts of blood). In the future, a man named Sakura creates the technology for eternal life, which, unfortunately for the women of the future, freezes girls' aging process once they turn 12. The angel Dokuro is sent back in time to kill Sakura before he can invent this technology. However, she falls in love with him and tries to keep him alive instead (bringing him back to life whenever she accidentally kills him, which is often), opting to find some other way to change the future.
  • Recorder and Randsell (manga) by Meme Higashiya; Recorder and Randsell (anime TV series) – The setup: Atsushi and Atsumi are siblings. Atsushi is an elementary student who looks like a handsome adult man, while Atsumi is a high school student who looks like a little girl. Those who'd like another humorous series might want to try this, although be warned that it has a more limited selection of gags than Haruhi-chan.
  • Lucky Star (anime TV series) – This humorous series focuses on the lives of several Japanese high school girls. I haven't actually seen this, but I've seen it mentioned frequently in conjunction with The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler (manga) by Kenjirou Hata; Hayate the Combat Butler (anime TV series) – Those who like Mori and Arakawa best might want to give this humorous series a try. Hayate's deadbeat parents sell his organs to the yakuza to pay off their debt. In an effort to save himself, Hayate kidnaps a random girl, hoping to hold her for ransom. The girl, Nagi, turns out to be very rich and agrees to pay his debt off, as long as Hayate acts as her butler. I have written about the first volume of the manga.

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