Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Sigh of Suzumiya Haruhi, by Tanigawa Nagaru

This week I've continued forward with the second novel in the SOS Brigade story, The Sigh of Suzumiya Haruhi. Having been suckered into watching the second season of the anime adaptation (Curse you, Endless Eight!), I was already rather familiar with the events contained within this novel. Of course this book continues the fine tradition of anachronic storytelling by jumping roughly six months ahead from the end of The Melancholy to tell the story of Haruhi's attempt to create a cinema masterpiece. Kyon, our omnipresent yet plodding narrator, obliquely references several of these events such as the baseball game and trip to the island which viewers of the anime will already be familiar with. Doing a little looking ahead, these events will be told in the next book, The Boredom of Suzumiya Haruhi, but I feel like it may have been a little confusing to first time readers.

Warning: The following is fairly spoilerish. Reader discretion is advised.

Anyway, as I mentioned before The Sigh chronicles Haruhi's attempts to create a cinematic masterpiece for their school's cultural festival, increasing the fame and prestige of the SOS Brigade. Kyon, as usual, is frustrated and confused, but everyone else seems willing to go along with Haruhi's plans because it keeps her distracted and prevents Haruhi from destroying the world. As filming progresses, however, subtle hints that Haruhi is changing reality around them are beginning to appear. Fortunately, Haruhi remains blissfully ignorant of the changes she's causing, but the other SOS Brigade members become increasingly concerned that these changes may become permanent. I will say that I felt the author sort of ran out of steam towards the end of the book. Everything quickly gets tidied up and so the resolution's a little bit of a disappointment. Still, that may be the impression the SOS Brigade's own hastily created movie made on its audience as well.

The series also gets more depth as we start to get hints that the ESPer, Time Traveler, and Alien factions are not perfectly aligned in their goals. Kyon is given multiple hints that the Brigade members he thinks he knows may have ulterior motives and may be far more dangerous than they appear to be. Kyon, of course, doesn't fully understand these implications, (More on that later) but it leads to promising avenues of development for the series and a complicated shadow war over Haruhi's fate. I'm really hoping that the factional strife, including internal quarrels, play more of a role in future books.

I do have two slight complaints about this book. First of all I keep noticing Kyon being a bit of a plodder throughout the book. A constant refrain of Kyon's internal monologue is something along the lines of, "I don't understand what you're talking about." Maybe I'm just genre savvy thanks to an education in far too many pulp sci-fi novels, but Kyon just seems slow on the uptake when Koizumi and Yuki try explaining things to him. I understand that an unknowledgeable everyman character is necessary for audiences to understand complex sci-fi or fantasy worlds. However, when your everyman doesn't seem to learn anything or develop I personally begin to get frustrated. You'd think Kyon'd get a little faster on the uptake but unfortunately this does not seem to be the case quite yet.

The other complaint, and this is a far more justified one, is one of the really dramatic events in the course of the novel. Basically Haruhi decides it's a good idea to drug Mikuru and does so. Kyon, understandably, gets rather upset and yells at Haruhi because, dude, you just drugged someone. This results in everyone else saying that Kyon was wrong to yell at Haruhi because now she's all mopey and we're trying to keep her from being mopey because fate of the world. And while yes, I understand that to an extent it's necessary to humor some of Haruhi's capricious whims, SHE DRUGGED MIKURU! That is totally not okay! I don't know if this is a culture disconnect between the U.S. and Japan, or if I'm just being a total square about it, but I feel like it should have been a bigger deal than it was and the result was Kyon had to apologize for doing the right thing. It just felt wrong to me.

Overall, this book feels kind of weak, but it might just be because it's hard to follow the strong first act of The Melancholy. I'll definitely be moving on to The Boredom at some future point and seeing how the series progresses, so we'll see what happens.

- Kalpar

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