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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Volume 1
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Volume 1
Bandai // Unrated // May 29, 2007
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted June 24, 2007 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Show:

When The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya appeared in Japan in 2006 it struck the anime nation with a resounding thunderclap. It didn't take long for Haruhi-mania to knock otaku here in America upside the head and for some time fans have been infatuated with this perky little show. Heck, at this year's Anime Boston I found myself attempting to maneuver around a throng of impromptu dancers doing their best to do the Haruhi dance. Quite the sight, I assure you.

If you have not had the opportunity to check out The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or have never even heard of it, then you're missing out on one of the most endearingly addictive shows to come along in recent years. It's quite as simple as that. This is a show that absolutely everyone should move towards the top of their "anime to see" list.

Produced by Kyoto Animation and released by Bandai Entertainment a total of fourteen episodes make up this fantastic series. The very first volume here includes four adventures altogether with episodes 00, 1, 2, and 3 making the disc.

Beginning with episode one (I'll talk about 00 later) the show starts rather unsuspectingly. A high school student named Kyon provides a cynical narrative regarding his tedious and somewhat boring life. Upon entering the new echelon of education he shed his belief in aliens, time travelers, and espers. Fate seems to have something else in mind for Kyon because in his new class a young girl named Haruhi Suzumiya is seated directly behind him.

Haruhi introduces herself to the class by asking if any of them are aliens, time travelers, and espers. Naturally everyone stares are her blankly but Kyon can't help be drawn to her in some way. He goes out of his way to talk to her and as he starts to notice things about her personality she eventually opens up to him. Kyon instantly becomes the center of attention because Haruhi wants nothing to do with anyone "normal" and he seems to have some sort of magical trick to getting her to speak. The trick, it seems, is on poor Kyon though.

Haruhi hatches a plan to create a club or her own when none of the school's extracurricular offerings hold her interest. She kidnaps Kyon and starts the SOS Brigade which is a launching point for the off-the-wall humor that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya brings to the table. For starters the rest of the crew that joins the SOS Brigade in this volume aren't necessarily what they appear to be.

Yuki Nagato is a data collecting entity for some higher power within the universe. In a sense she is the alien that Haruhi has been searching for though our titular heroine doesn't quite know about that. The well endowed Mikuru Asahina is another addition to the SOS Brigade who is actually a time traveler. Finally, Itsuki Koizumi happens to be the much talked about Esper in the program. What exactly these characters represent in the series is unknown at this point in the episode count but they do go through some length to explain things to Kyon.

Each of these oddities takes time out of their day to discuss the finer points of the cosmos with Kyon. It would seem that this realm is a dimension created by Haruhi who has unknown power and an unknown origin. Everything began three years ago when Haruhi burst onto the scene and as Mikuru puts it, there is no way to access time prior to that point. Itsuki compares Haruhi to God and all three mention that Kyon is the only one to hold a connection to her in some way. At this point we simply learn that it's imperative that Haruhi does not learn the truth because if she does the world may cease to exist. Talk about a heavy burden to bear!

Throughout it all Kyon is the main character, because quite frankly, the story is told from his perspective. He supplies the narrative, he discusses personal feelings and events with the audience, and he is featured in virtually every scene. This gives the show a skewed angle because with a title like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya you would think that Haruhi would be the focal point. Granted in many ways she is but Kyon's role in everything seems to be just as important.

Now, how about that 00 episode that I mentioned earlier? It was actually produced for later in the series and until you are introduced to all of the characters it doesn't make much sense. This episode is basically a one-shot with the focus being on the SOS Brigade putting together a student film. It's goofy, it's cheesy, it's poorly acted, and it's perfect in so many ways because of this. This was exactly how a student film of this nature would be portrayed and the episode was a lot of fun despite being out of place in the pecking order.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is one of the most enjoyable shows to come along in quite sometime. It is infectious right from the start and it's hard to look away once you start watching. Few anime series are as off the cuff as this one is and it's easy to see why so many otaku have fallen in love. Pick up this volume and you too may find yourself participating in a spontaneous Haruhi dance at your next anime convention!

The DVD:


Video:

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio. I have to tip my hat to Bandai Entertainment because the transfer for this show is absolutely brilliant. I suppose it helps that Kyoto Animation went the extra mile to provide a quality production but it's nice to see Bandai giving the series proper treatment.

Everything in this show from the design, animation, and presentation absolutely pops. The colors are vibrant beyond reproach, the picture is quite sharp, and there are virtually no digital flaws. On a few rare occasions some grain did appear but these instances were certainly few and far between.

Audio:

With English and Japanese 2.0 stereo tracks and English 5.1, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya's first volume has most all of the bases covered. Part of me wishes that a Japanese 5.1 selection was available but I suppose beggars can't be choosey. Both dubs offer remarkably quality with the voice talent though I felt the Japanese language surpassed the English ever so slightly. Technically speaking the 2.0 tracks offer a fine sounding stereo presentation and they sound roughly like you'd expect them to. The 5.1 brings a more impressive channel mixture to the table with some fine use of the rear channels for sound effects but ultimately the directionality is not as diverse as one would hope. Overall the quality here is quite good and I didn't encounter any flaws.

Extras:

Surprisingly there are actually quite a few bonus features to click through on this first volume. For starters there are some trailers and clean animations for episode 00. Along the same lines there are some live action commercials for the anime as well as "next episode" previews. Three episodes of "The Adventures of the ASOS Brigade" appear on this volume as well. These are essentially promotional videos for the R1 DVD release produced in a manner akin to a fan video. They are cute to watch and entertaining if you're a fan of the show but ultimately they provide little entertainment.

Finally there are two more special features worth talking about. Respectively the pair are making of documentaries for some of the promotional live action footage that can be found on this DVD. It's interesting to watch but it's not entirely the look behind the scenes of the show that I was hoping for. Overall these features are much more than we typically get with anime so in that regard The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya impresses once again.

Final Thoughts:

I went into The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya with few preconceptions and a deal of skepticism. When a show is wildly popular I tend to look at it objectively and see if it is worth the praise. In so many ways this first volume made me realize that, yes, the fandom and adoration that blankets this show is well deserved. It has been a long time since a series this upbeat, infectious, and unique has been released. If you do not go out of your way to see this show you're missing out on a wildly good time. Until the next volume don't be surprised if you see me doing the Haruhi dance! Highly Recommended


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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