Sunday, September 6, 2009
My Take on Kyon X Haruhi.
So... as a big fan of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya anime, and as a big fan of the character of Haruhi Suzumiya, what do I think of the popular, and likely canon, pairing of Kyon and Haruhi?
Well, if you've actually read all of my posts on the matter over on Anime Suki's Haruhi subforum, you know that I've kind of wobbled on this; moved back and forth on it a lot. I'm certainly not a KyonHaruhi shipper, but nor am I passionately tied to either of the possible in-universe alternative pairings (by "in-universe" I mean characters strictly from this anime, novel, and franchise).
From what I can gather, Anime Suki's Haruhi subforum is overwhelmingly pro-KyonHaruhi. So much so that I was once mildly flamed on that subforum for the mere suggestion that the novels could conceivably end with the establishment of an alternative pairing. So if Anime Suki is any indication (and it probably is, I think), then this is the preferred pairing of the anime's fandom by far.
So, why then, do I feel... uneasy about it? Why do I not quite get the appeal to this pairing in particular? Why am I pretty 'meh' over it?
Well... let's see if I can explain.
I do like Kyon and Haruhi a lot as close platonic friends, and as a comedic duo. On that level, they resonate nicely with me. There's a sharp contrast between the two that helps both grow as individuals, and which also makes them anime's version of the comedian (Haruhi) and the straight man (Kyon). However, while the comedian and the straight man are nice to see as crime fighting duos in law enforcement movies (Lethal Weapon, Men In Black, etc...), I don't quite picture two such personalities as making a good life-long romantic pairing.
One image that I simply can't shake from my mind, when it comes to this pairing, is the image of a thoroughly emasculated, whipped, and submissive adult Kyon getting bossed around day and night by an unmatched adult Haruhi Suzumiya. That's simply not my image of a good long-term relationship.
Sighs Part 4, which I've chosen not to review in a minutia review since Ascaloth did a better job of it than I think that I can do, does in fairness provide one possible point of light to shine through that horrifically one-sided relationship darkness. That being, of course, the famous scene where Kyon stood up to Haruhi and actually managed to get her to stop mistreating Mikuru, if only for a brief respite.
And, if we get to see more of Kyon effectively reigning Haruhi in (as opposed to his numerous ineffectual attempts to reign her in) then perhaps I'll see this pairing in a more positive light. As is, however, that image of a monstrously mismatched marriage is persistent within my mind.
Now, I don't actually fault Kyon for being the way that he is when it comes to Haruhi. Due to Haruhi's powers and Kyon's awareness of them, and due to Haruhi having a more assertive and domineering personality than him, and due to Haruhi's frequent mood swings and emotional instability, I can't really blame Kyon for not taking Itsuki up on his suggestion to hug Haruhi from behind and say "I love you" to her. It's not hard to see why Kyon would be more than a bit hesitant to romantically confess to Haruhi even if he does hold deep romantic feelings for her. One false move could be disastrous, and Kyon knows this.
... But, still, that is the problem. Kyon is holding back, and for perfectly legitimate reasons, but... he's still holding back. The only exception, really, being the one time he kissed Haruhi... and even that can be explained away within Kyon's mind as a necessary action to get Haruhi to not destroy the Earth ("Snow White"... nice subtle hint there, Mikuru, lol). And for Haruhi, it happened in a dream, meaning that it doesn't signify to her that Kyon has romantic feelings for her.
Kyon's understandable restraint towards Haruhi has two effects for me - nice subtle moments, but also awkwardness. It means that there's not really any sparks flying between these two. There's just no chemistry there, for me. This is compounded by the fact that the two have such widely diverse personalities; Kyon frequently strikes me as almost having a wet blanket effect on Haruhi. That's fine to a degree, but what makes Haruhi such an awesome character to me is, in very large part, her bold and relentless personality.
And while I can like nice subtle moments (such as the frequently referenced pony tail scenes), a good romance has to be more than just subtlety in my opinion. You need some real bells and whistles to compliment the subtle moments.
The episodes most frequently sited as providing good KyonHaruhi scenes are Live Alive, Someday in the Rain, and the one with the kiss in it.
Live Alive has some splendid friendship moments between Kyon and Haruhi, but there's nothing there that strongly stands out as romance to me. It's just more of the same subtlety that can be taken as cute friendship as easily as it can be taken as serious romance. Put it this way: If these were two girls acting and talking to each other this way, would it strike you as yuri, or just as good friendship? I believe that K-On has the answer to that. ;)
As for Someday in the Rain, I recently read it raised over on Anime Suki that Haruhi giving an umbrella to Kyon for the two to walk under has a very strong romantic 'Oomph!' to it within the Japanese culture. Kaisos and Ithekro even seemed to suggest that this one small gesture on Haruhi's part (and Kyon's acceptance of it) means that KyonHaruhi is a done deal. Well... I have a couple issues with that...
1) If so, why aren't Haruhi and Kyon talking to one another as girlfriend and boyfriend in later novels? Someday in the Rain doesn't seem to have altered the standing of their relationship at all from where it stood before
2) I'm sorry but... this is an awfully lame way to establish a romance, in my view. For Heaven's sake, if KyonHaruhi is the way that the franchise goes it better involve a spoken romantic confession at the absolute least.
It's a charming moment to be sure, but real romance goes farther than this.
All of the above being said... it's not easy to go against the flow, and it's not easy to feel like you're taking away from a passionate shipper's enjoyment of a particular pairing. So, to any KyonHaruhi shipper reading this, don't let my words detract from your appreciation of this pairing. I'm mainly trying to explain why I'm personally still not sold on it... mainly as a seque into what I like in a romance.
So, what is it that I like in a romance? ;)
These are the seven key elements...
1) A good developing stage. It should involve more than love at first sight, but it shouldn't take forever either. Some bashfulness and hesitancy is cute, even for strong-willed characters like Haruhi. But after a year or two of being friendly with one another, it really is time to get on with making it an established romance. The developing stage is a good point for subtle scenes.
2) Two characters with similar personalities but complimentary skill sets. If the personalities are too different, it clashes nastily for me. If the skill sets are identical, it makes the characters seem redundant to each other to me. Thankfully, Haruhi and Kyon do have complimentary skill sets. Their personalities, however...
3) A particular hook. Say the guy is really good at being upbeat and cheerful, and the girl needs added self-confidance in her life. Or say the girl is great at school and the guy needs help with his studies.
4) A good romantic confession scene. See Hitagi in Bakemonogatari for a modern example of a good romantic confession.
5) Some real sparks flying. Dancing with one another. Sharing laughs with each other. Kissing each other. Energetically celebrating shared successes. Each showing real congratulations and happiness for the other's successes. Being cheeky. Acting like an item. You don't need to actually show sex, but you usually need to show a lot of the above.
6) And, finally, after sparks have flown for awhile, you can have them settle into 'casual love' (or you can have 'casual love' flow into 'real sparks flying'). For 'casual love', I again reference Bakemonogatari with Hitagi and Araragi (man, that is such a good canon pairing - a lot can be learned from it). Check out how casually Hitagi calls Araragi her lover, and shows concern over his future. Folks, this is how real people talk to one another once they're firmly in a committed, long-term romantic relationship.
7) An equal partnership, and strong mutual respect.
If a romance has five or more of the seven, I'm game. Six or more, and I love it. Four or less... and I'm not sold yet. Which is why I'm not sold on KyonHaruhi yet. Maybe one day.
So, am I a shipper for any alternative pairings?
Definitely not in Haruhi's case.
Itsuki? Too fabulous. ;) In all seriousness, too much of a yes man.
Taniguchi? Taniguchi loathes Haruhi, and it shows. ^_^;
Kunikida? They're about the same height, which is neat, but aside from that, no way.
The CCP? Maybe if I was really heavily into S&M... ;) ^_^; Heh!
Either of the girls? ...I've played around with the idea of Haruhi/Mikuru, but I can only see it working long-term if Mikuru grows a spine.
So, yeah, in-universe, Kyon is definitely Haruhi's best option, I have to admit that. But as for Kyon...
I kind of like the idea of Kyon and Mikuru (big).
I get a chuckle out of the idea of Mikuru (big) going back in time to help the teenage boy that eventually becomes her husband. It kind of would explain why Mikuru (big) told Kyon that he could steal a kiss from her sleeping younger self too. ;) However, until Mikuru (normal) grows a spine, I'm not really that interested in her with anybody.
Kyon and Yuki had some really nice cute moments in Novel 4. Yuki is an exception to my "sparks must fly!" rule, because her personality is so reserved in general. So, I'd be willing to forgive an understated romance of subtlety between her and Kyon.
"Laws of Tsuruya" really made me like Kyon and Tsuruya. But that's such an unlikely possibility that I don't know if it's even worth considering. I'm totally game with any fanfics that go with this pairing, though.
Right now... I kind of like KyonYuki best. No one pairing is totally sold on me yet though.
I should clarify that "sold on me" doesn't mean "I accept it". I accept that KyonHaruhi is the most likely course for the novels to take. But I'm not sold on it in the sense that I just don't find it compelling on a romantic level yet. Sorry, but I don't.
Here's one final reason why. My conception of Haruhi's ideal boyfriend is...
1) Somebody with a personality to match her own. Somebody charismatic and dynamic. Somebody who's usually upbeat and in high spirits, like Haruhi herself is. Basically, somebody who Haruhi can revel in exciting activities and past times with. Clearly having fun together. That's the key.
2) Somebody, though, that's a bit more focused than Haruhi, and can help her refine her energy, so to speak. This is the hook that I'd like to see in Haruhi's boyfriend - not somebody that simply holds her back and keeps her in line; but rather somebody that shares her enthusiasm and zest for life and shows her how to channel it in logical and productive ways.
3) In turn, it would be nice if Haruhi could do something to help her boyfriend out in his maturation process.
4) Somebody who shares Haruhi's interests, at least to a degree.
5) Somebody that Haruhi truly likes and respects and would consider an equal partner in a romantic relationship with her.
6) Somebody that conveys Number 5 to me. I see them in a scene together, and I can tell that they're on an equal footing with each other.
In Haruhi's universe, there's nobody even remotely like this sadly.
Through out anime as a whole?
There's a few. Anybody who's read my The El Hazard of Haruhi Suzumiya fanfic knows one person in particular that I'm thinking of (don't attempt to read that fanfic unless you have a lot of spare time on your hands, lol ;) ). For a more modern example... Battler from Umineko comes to mind.
Can Kyon eventually fit the above six, or at least most of them? Well, he has 3 and 4 in spades, and a little bit of 2. That's all for now, though.
KyonHaruhi is close to good for me, but it's not quite there yet. Maybe one day it will be.
Any comments would be appreciated... even flames from KyonHaruhi shippers, lol. :D