Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱) is a 14-episode supernatural slice of life comedy from 2006 by Kyoto Animation based on a series of novels by Nagaru Tanigawa.
Kyon (not his real name) is a high school boy who gets pulled into the orbit of his HIGHLY eccentric classmate Haruhi and her desire to do anything fun. After being strong-armed into forming a club together he finds out she’s the focus of a number of time-travelers, espers, and aliens none of whom she realizes are around her as does whatever she wants to amuse herself.
The appeal of Haruhi is something you almost need to experience for few words can do this show justice. Sure, you can talk about the technical artistry of it which is worthwhile, Kyoto Animation really goes over the top with their animation here, but the actual core of “sitcom where a bunch of kids hang out screwing around a lot while trying to keep the god among them happy and ignorant of her divine status” tends to leave things out. Easier to describe is how funny it is, the best episodes are the stand-alone ones where they play a computer game with the PC club or go to the school festival or the baseball game; episodes where nothing really important happens and everyone is just having an infectious amount of fun.
A prime example of the whole series in a nutshell is the very first aired episode, a student film they make later on. Its chalk full of a bunch of little technical gags reminiscent of every student film youve seen, actually summarizes the whole series, and has a lot of jokes throughout it. Watching that one episode will pretty much tell you if this show is for you.
There is a plot too, a plot filled with a lot of technobabble gobbledygook which raises some interesting thought experiments on reality.
Lets start with that plot, the series has a profound desire to not have anything really resolve itself as that would be contrary to Haruhi’s wishes, so a lot of basic plot questions remain by the end1 and things such as Kyon’s real name are never revealed.
Perhaps more difficult to handle is Haruhi herself. She’s loud, brash, and over-the-top which make her annoying to some people which is problematic with how central she is to everything which happens.
Weeb Level: 3/10- Haruhi herself lives by archetypes, so while the show is never quite reliant on them they show up a lot as thats what she wants.
Fanservice: 3/10- This pretty much all comes at the expense of poor Mikuru who Haruhi insists on dressing up in various costumes throughout the series, and a few other quick panty shots. Pretty mild and not sexual.
Quality: 9/10- Gather ’round young weebs and let me tell you of a time called 2007 where this show was EVERYWHERE, and for (mostly) good cause. The technical acumen going on here has rarely been matched even since it aired and outside of a couple plot-centric episodes its really funny and just a great hang-out vibe of a show.
Where to Watch: Funimation has it on their website, which looks like its caused it to since be taken off of Crunchyroll and Amazon has it for rent. Lets talk about Funimation though, since its listing on site raises a topic unique to this show…
What order should you watch it in?: Haruhi aired “out of order” pointedly jumping around the episode count. Its US DVD order put it into chronological order instead of broadcast order and I can’t stress enough how bad an idea it is to watch it like that. The broadcast order is significantly better as it spreads out the plot episodes throughout the run rather than clumping them together, and keeps you on your feet about where its going next. This is important because Funi on its site for some reason decided to mix both the first two seasons together in chronological order so you don’t even know what season youre watching- this is baffling. Use this listing of the episodes as shorthand for what titles to look for https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=6430&page=25