Archive for the 'light novels' Category

The Rediscovery of Haruhi Suzumiya

One day the H will be as familiar a sight as the crucifix, the Star of David, the crescent moon and star, and whatever other religious symbols I have no room to list here there are.

One day the H will be as familiar a sight as the crucifix, the Star of David, the crescent moon and star, and whatever other religious symbols I have no room to list here there are.

 

I remember 2006.

I remember when no one had a clue what The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was, let alone knowing that it would turn into a phenomenon that persists to this day. I remember watching it before true Haruhiist mania had caught on, which was sometime around the release of the second broadcast episode. I remember dropping everything I was doing, once a week, to watch the new Haruhi episode. I remember arguing with people about whether it was meta-parody or not, about whether it was the horribly generic and silly series it had lampooned in the student film episode or not, about whether it was “just another silly harem series” or not, about endless permutations of quality and the lack thereof. In short, I remember it being a highly complicated time, and not exactly a good environment to foster sane, rational opinions about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

I also remember, after it had concluded and the post-good-series glow had faded, wondering what all the hooplah still going on was about.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like the series, but there was always something different about the way I liked it. Sometimes I thought that there was some quality that I’d overlooked, one that may or may not appeal to me, but that obviously appealed to the legions of fans, that drove the series from a fad to a phenomenon. Other times I thought that everyone else was grossly overestimating it, and the value of Haruhi became less intrinsic to the work so much as intrinsic to the fandom surrounding it. The average of these two feelings was the simple, almost apathetic, stance of “it’s good, even great, but why all the fuss over it?” (I should point out here that this statement encompasses my current stance on Neon Genesis Evangelion as well)

I have, however, recently read the Yen Press release of the first volume, which (by way of review) was quite well-done. Except for the fact that they published a hardcover without a dust jacket–like seriously, dust jackets can be super annoying at times, but I like them, and I really wanted a Haruhi dust jacket. But I’m a bibliophile plus an anime fan, so that makes for a deadly combination indeed. The translation was also fairly solid, and, in fact, at times felt like Strato’s a.f.k. subs that I almost suspect that he was the translator, or, at least, that the translator/editor had certainly seen more of of the a.f.k. subs than any other subs. But more important than the content, it turned out, was the chance to revisit The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya with fresher eyes.

I cannot–will not–speak for the fandom at large, but for me, after reading the first novel, I at least have a more firm grasp on what I like about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I chalk this up to three factors: time, distance, and personal maturity. There is almost no new information in the novel that isn’t in the anime as well, with the only significant disadvantage of the anime being that some of Kyon’s narratorial snark is lost. And yet, somehow, it felt like I was experiencing Haruhi for the first time all over again.

What Haruhi is to me–and I remember seeing very vague glimmers of this three years ago, although nothing that could ever make it to a concrete thought–is less a showcase for a bevy of cute girls (and a couple cute guys if Kyon x Itsuki is your thing) or a complicated meta-parody of stereotypical tropes (although it certainly is those things to varying degrees, as well as others I can’t quite put words on now) but more of a story of Kyon, who lost his imagination, and Haruhi, who is utterly enveloped in it. Kyon spells it out straight right at the start: as he grew older, in the name of “maturity” and “adulthood” he shelved his boyish obsessions with the paranormal, the nonexistent–the fictional–and resigned himself to his daily trudge up the massive, giant hill that his high school resides upon, and the hours upon hours of mindless drudgery that occupy the space inside those walls. This, he sighs, is life. Mindless, meaningless, and merely something that one has to trudge through.

Starkly contrasting with Kyon’s dreary and bleak acceptance of the “normalcy” of the world is Our Lady of Abnormal herself, Haruhi, who insists that there are paranormal events, that there are things that are greater than reality, and who lives so much in a world of her own creation that she has no interest at all in the mundane world. She later reveals that she has the same basic worldview as Kyon does, albeit expressed differently, but she draws the exact opposite conclusion–that nothing fun will happen if you sit around waiting and accepting of the dreary drudgery that surrounds you–and drags it to the same illogically extreme pole that Kyon drags his. Kyon is content to sit around and be bored a lot; Haruhi isn’t content unless she’s yelling a lot in a bunnysuit and handing out flyers advertising her new super-cool yet still-unnamed club.

 

Haruhi having fun, the only way she knows how to.

Haruhi having fun, the only way she knows how to.

 

The extremes of Kyon and Haruhi’s personalities, of course, are played more for laughs, but there’s a darker edge. Kyon may be sardonic, but he’s also jaded and retains no passion or fervor for anything. He has no interests, nothing that distinguishes him from the crowd, and (aside from the snark) no personality. Haruhi, meanwhile, has passion and fervor for her multitudinous interests to spare, and her antics relating to said passion and fervor get her in more trouble than it seems to be worth–not to mention that her entire forthright personality is very much a cover for her own depression. No matter how wacky Haruhi’s antics get, or how bitingly snide Kyon gets, neither of these are good extremes. And yet, even in the first novel, and in the anime, you get the feeling that Kyon is (very gradually) learning to enjoy non-reality, and Haruhi is (very gradually) learning to enjoy life as it is; both have more fun than they are willing to admit. Even in the first novel, Kyon is the “unknown factor” of Haruhi because he has an active interest in her–he denies it constantly, but it’s blatantly obvious that he is attracted to her, and Yuki, Mikuru, and Itsuki all agree that Kyon himself is important to Haruhi (even if she won’t admit it either).

The important thing that Haruhi tries to get across, at least in what I’ve read/seen, is that the extremes of Haruhi and Kyon, lovable though they both are, are not to be desired, founded, as they are, upon inner turmoil and abject apathy. Together, however, they seem to counterbalance (and tolerate) each other’s extremes, and pull the other towards a more coherent, integrated median. Those grounded on Earth learn how to stick their heads up in the clouds, and those with their heads in the clouds learn how to place their feet on the ground. Fantasy and reality are two halves of a whole, and life is hollow if it lacks one or the other.

And that is why I suddenly have a newfound appreciation for Haruhi. I’m pretty sure I won’t run out and join a Haruhiist cult, but, on a personal level, it’s quite nice to step back from the former insanity that was Haruhi‘s airing and the roaring undercurrent it is now, and find something more in a series that I didn’t see at first. Even if it’s not there, and Haruhi really is about a bevy of attractive anime characters of both genders (who is which gender is debatable after the Great Discovery of Kyonko).

Zaregoto, bk. 1: The Kubikiri Cycle: A Horribly Late Review of Trivial Consequence

So I’ve had a copy of Zaregoto book 1 since it came out (in August), and carried it around in my everpresent man-purse messenger bag, but, despite it being in said bag-like entity, it was not being read because there were other things in there, like other novels and a collection of short stories by Saki that I should really read more of before I have to return it to the wild library and various textbooks that see far more use than anything else in said cloth carrying device. So my actual copy looks more well-read than it might seem for a book I read over about three days, but definitely much less well-read than my original mass-market edition from ten years ago of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which I think still exists, but its cover is currently held together with Scotch tape and a prayer. Possibly missing the Scotch tape.

Why am I telling you all that? I have no idea.

I actually managed to read Zaregoto last week, in the process rediscovering what absolute fun it is to shut off all electronic devices in a room, save for a small lamp by the bed, and stick my nose in a book for a few hours, oblivious to the passage of time. That particular revelation (re-revelation?) might color my reading experience, but probably less than the fact that after reading the book my brain oozed out onto the floor and had to expend some effort reconstituting itself inside my skull, since this was my first experience reading Nisioisin. I still can’t hear the word “genius” without cringing. That sentence pained me to write.

I’ve always held a peculiar fondness for the older-style mystery novels, so it’s just as well that Zaregoto struck me in much the same way, owing partially to its similiarity to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None… (which I have not read yet, but it is sitting here, waiting) in the sense that the characters are called to a remote island whereupon murders are committed upon the hapless and badly confused guests until someone figures them out and off they go. It even has the obvious-only-in-retrospect ending that delights me so!

Only one thing really bugs me, but only in a pet peevish way: the third protagonist of the series, Aikawa Jun, delivers the final final solution for the events of the book, despite not having been in the book at all until that point. As a set-up for the next novel (where Ii-chan, Kisa, and Jun work as a unit, because three is better than one), it works, and it’s not wholly terrible, it just robs me of my Sherlock Holmes-esque thrill. Of course, then again, as a nine-novel sequence, perhaps we could also see some character development in Ii-chan, who is one of those first-person narrators who, although omnipresent throughout the reading experience, doesn’t seem to have much of a personality–a fact alluded to by several characters throughout the book, making it a plot point of sorts.

Me, mostly I’m just impressed that Nisioisin managed to turn out a solidly written title as his debut novel at age 20. Take that, Christopher Paolini. The other good thing about reading Zaregoto is that it’s left me with a sore hankering for mystery, which I am filling by re-reading The Westing Game for the first time since I was a kid (it’s still really hard to figure out, even though I know the solution already, because the entire book is a distration for the solution–strangely enough, a bit like Zaregoto in some ways). What monsters hath an open book released, indeed.

(Did I make the obligatory “Zaregoto is pretty heavy for a light novel” joke yet? Consider it made)

SOME OTHER REVIEWS THAT PROBABLY SAY IN MORE (OR FEWER) WORDS WHAT I SAID ABOVE:
Demian has fun reading the book, even though it doesn’t have the word Abraxas in it at all.
DiGiKerot says, uh, what I just said. Possibly better, depending on one’s point of view about such things, but without an amusing yet vague glimpse into some of the deranged workings of my life, which probably makes it better.
astrange is mysteriously vague about what he thinks about the novel in a one-line review in a mostly irrelevant post, no doubt brought on by the fact that he’s read entirely too much Haruki Murakami.

Del Rey and the Growing Light Novel Market in America

I’m sure all interested parties have heard that Del Rey, a division of Random House, has licensed a couple of light novels, including the award-winning mystery/fantasy series Zaregoto. I can’t help but think that, as both an anime fan and a novel fan, the growing trend towards licensing light novels is incredibly awesome.

I remember back about three/four years ago when the news first broke than Tokyopop was releasing the Love Hina novel (why on Earth anyone would want to read a novel version of Love Hina is beyond me, you’re missing out on all that Akamatsu Ken fanservice) and thinking “Huh, novels.” Then the Crest of the Stars novel series got licensed, and (since I already knew beforehand that the anime was based on the novels) I was condiserably more interested. And then, just recently, Tokyopop and Seven Seas have both stepped into the fray and licensed a whole chunk of interesting titles like Kino no Tabi and Boogiepop. I haven’t had a chance to even buy many of these, unfortunately, and I probably should, as I really would like to see more novels of this sort translated over into English.

Viz is also breaking into the novel publishing industry–I read their version of Brave Story earlier this year, and it was quite well-done. I picked up Socrates in Love (Sekai no Chushin de Ai o Sakebu) and their re-issue of Dragon Sword & Wind Child yesterday. I’ve always avoided Japanese author released in America as the ones that tend to make it over here are the literary snob types (Murakami Haruki, although I read Sputnik Sweetheart and it was nice, if not particularly spectacular), but Viz has been pulling in more popular fiction from Japan, which I can only see as a plus.

And, now, Del Rey has taken off the gloves and entered the fray, ready to come out swinging. Del Rey’s always been a publisher who had the money to be able to take risks–when you publish powerhouses like Star Wars novels, you can probably afford to pick up weird titles that other publishers turned down, and then act surprised when they turn out hits (*cough*His Majesty’s Dragon*cough*). So, really, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them starting to pitch Zaregoto not only to their manga readers, but also their fiction readers. If they’re successful, we may have a whole new door open up for us in light novels–one wherein both otaku and novel readers can create a new market all by themselves. I’d love to see a strong light novel market in the States, as who doesn’t want a combination of anime and books? Unless, of course, you hate one or the other. You’re weird.


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

RSS Recent Songs

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

a ridiculously long and only partially organized list of subjects

Pages

May 2017
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031