- Newfoundland, Canada
- I've been a big anime fan for about 10 years or so now. My five all-time favorite animes at this point are, in no particular order... Puella Magi Madoka Magica, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Love Live!: School Idol Project, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. However, there are hundreds of anime shows that I like. The main purpose of this blog is to provide meta-commentary on anime, and the anime industry - to try to cast a critical, though appreciating, eye upon this entertainment genre that I believe has tremendous potential, but can also be easily wasted. I have always been a fan of animation in general - in the 80s, I grew up on western cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, and G.I. Joe. Through out the 90s, I was a hardcore comic book fan, for the most part. I'm also a big fan of Star Trek. Right now in my life, though, anime is my principal entertainment passion.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Playing Haruhi's Advocate
I know that Dr. Casey, amongst probably two or three other friends of mine, were probably hoping that I'd write a lengthy and comedic minutia review for Episode 11 of Season 2 of Haruhi. However, I found that hard to do for this episode for two reasons...
1) It's not outstanding to the degree where I felt that I could epically rave about it as I did the last five minutes of the last episode of the arc that shall not be named.
2) On the other hand, it's far too good to be lampooned frequently, as I was able to do with Episode 10 due to the lengthy focus on Kyon's shoes during one scene, his endless brow-furrowing, and Haruhi acting inexplicably at times.
It's in just that not-so-sweet spot where it's too good to write a lengthy diatribe of it, but not good enough to promote it like Kyon waxing poetic on the beauty of Asahina.
However, I knew that the half-dozen or so followers that this blog has would probably like to read something provocative from me, so I decided instead to use this episode of Haruhi, chockfull of some of her more controversial scenes, as a launching pad for a particular argument that I have. Like the title of this blog states, I'm going to play Haruhi's advocate. I'm going to try to show people why I love this character in spite of (and in some cases, due to) her many faults, and why, even as a person, she's not that bad. Given some of the response that I've gotten on message boards (Anime Suki and Comic Book Resources) in the past for speaking highly of Haruhi's character, I suspect that feedback to this blog entry may be quite... furious. I have a feeling that I might bring out people's inner Sly Stallone, just as Kyon had his own Stallone moment in this episode...
Between this look here, and Kyon's gun-totting ways in this episode, I got a distinct Rambo feeling from Kyon. Given how Rambo Kyon was pointing his gun at Haruhi's cut of the triforce that she has on her SOS Brigade Chair desk, Haruhi should probably be a bit worried about that. ^_^;
Kyon (in Rocky voice): Suzumiya!!!
Anyway, unto the main point of this blog entry - showing why Haruhi isn't as terrible as some make her out to be. To do that, first I will provide some pertinent background information on myself.
In Grade 12 at my high school, back in 1999, I was the Student Council President of the school. It was frequently left to me to MC, if not outright run, major student assemblies, and to try to get some school spirit and good initiatives going through out the school. And believe me... it was a chore. The vast majority of my school chums were too shy to do anything in front of a crowd, most didn't have the get-up and go of Kyon trying to do his home work, and most had all the passion of Taniguchi sans lovely girls to make cat calls to.
Do you know who I would have loved to have had in my school back then? I'll tell you who:
Well, specifically, an English-speaking 15-year old Canadian version of Haruhi (English because nobody in my school spoke French fluently except the French teacher). If there was a Haruhi-esque person in my school, I, as Student Council President, would have delegated loads of things to her SOS Brigade, and said "The show is yours for these bits here, here, and there; have fun with it!" And I'd rest comfortably knowing that the final production would create a buzz, if nothing else. ;)
People like Haruhi are, in some respects at least, the salt of the Earth. They give life added savoring flavor and texture. They shake things up, and keep things fun and interesting. They provide spirit and zeal to places where they are sadly lacking. Even Kyon himself likely feels this way, as the fourth Haruhi novel clearly displays.
Also, when I look at Haruhi's facial expressions in the anime, even during many of her worst moments, she usually doesn't strike me as malicious or malevolent at all. She's simply immature in a way; she wants to have fun like a theatrical Elementary girl who hasn't grown accustomed to the more regimented and restrained school life of most high school students. Of course, it helps that Haruhi's brilliant at school work, and zooms through it, leaving that as a non-consideration for her.
Now does Haruhi cross the line from time to time?
Oh, definitely, she does. Although, for me, it's not what she does to Mikuru that bothers me - Mikuru freely submits herself to that treatment after all (more on that later) - but rather what she does to the Computer Club President. Haruhi, it most be said, is a bit of a swindler. Her lack of respect for other people's money and property is probably her biggest character flaw, actually. Still, she's not entirely miserly; as she showed by paying for everybody's bus fare in episode 11, she's willing to pay expenses at times if she's in a good mood.
However, aside from petty thievery, there's not a whole lot about her that I have a major problem with.
Here I expect the Mikuru fans to take great exception with me. ;)
Well, if Mikuru was a regular high school girl, I'd agree with you. But Mikuru isn't a regular high school girl; she's a member of this anime's version of Nanoha's TSAB (Time-Space Administration Bureau), and Haruhi is her mission. Presumably, Mikuru is getting paid for this, in some sort of fashion. I don't know about you, but if being made the lead actor in a movie is the price I have to pay in order to collect a paycheque, then I'm game! And yes, Mikuru ends up enduring all sorts of embarrassing activities, gropes, and outfits, but again... she chose this mission to do. She could have said to her superiors "Nope, not doing it. Get somebody else to be Haruhi's plaything". You accepted the mission, Mikuru, now it's time to suck it up, Rambo Kyon style. ;)
Beyond this, though, Haruhi is actually quite resourceful and clever, and I think that deserves some credit. In this Sighs arc, Haruhi manages to procure necessary film production equipment by offering Mikuru's promotional services in return for the equipment (at least, that's what I've gathered from this arc so far). Basically, street corner businesses give Haruhi some desired items in return for Mikuru advertising from them. Then, to get even more bang for her buck here, Haruhi films Mikuru's advertisements and uses it as scenes in the movie.
Folks... that is outstandingly clever. That's freakin' Lex Luthor clever... and no, I'm not talking about the insane Kevin Spacey version. :P This sort of sharp thinking, and immensely utilitarian resourcefulness deserves applause in and of itself.
One argument that Haruhi and Kyon had that struck me as funny was when Kyon expressed exasperation over not having a script. Haruhi's reply was "It would be terrible if I put the script into writing and it got leaked." Hey, that's pretty smart thinking too. The makers of the Wolverine movie could really have used somebody like Haruhi on their staff. ;)
All of the above being said, though, I won't deny that Haruhi has a villainous side. But probably one reason why I don't find Haruhi to be all that villainous, is because I compare her to actual villains with personalities like she has. If you compare Haruhi to most protagonists, then yeah, she looks pretty bad. But her minor mischief making, done in the name of making her school and its festivals more exciting and enjoyable (good motive there, at least), pales in comparison to the life-threatening and/or world-conquering natures of these guys who in fact do have personalities like Haruhi's...
This is why gender-bended Haruhi frightens me sometimes. I sometimes think that if you put Haruhi's personality in a testosterone-flowing guy's body, she'd be a little bit more dangerous than she currently is...
So, when you actually compare Haruhi to fictional characters with powers (Star Trek's Q); domineering, dynamic, intensely competitive personalities (El Hazard's Katsuhiko Jinnai), and sexual obsessions/school-based focuses ("I will have them both!" shouts Ranma 1/2's Tatewaki Kuno about Akane Tendo and the pig-tailed girl... there are times when I think Haruhi feels the same way about Kyon and Mikuru ;) ) like her, she doesn't seem quite all that terribly villainous any more, does she?
Of people with her personality type, Haruhi is probably one of the more harmless and moral ones around. So, with Haruhi you get a character with all the fun of Jinnai, but only the degree of evil of, say, a low-level prankster. And for that, Haruhi, we salute you!
P.S. To add a couple of episode points, though, I will say that I really liked Kyon and Taniguchi's moments together in this anime. Their friendship really shined, there... although Kyon's tight-lip over Taniguchi's questions was kind of funny and interesting.