Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Literature of Suzumiya Haruhi

Introduction.

For the past 2 weeks I've been having some headaches - possibly due to the stress of not being able to find a good job, and having your whole family use you as a cheap-o maid replacement to help with the daily chores. So, between the job hunt, helping mom, helping sis, (she's practically a single mother, and I say practically because her husband works all day), getting depressed, getting headaches, I haven't had time to work on my open source project. And then, when I happen have a little time, I find myself blocked.

Fortunately, to relieve the negative feelings accumulated in my right brain, I've had some time to forget about my problems by reading translated japanese novels at baka-tsuki.org. It's not easy to find the novels in English, and that's if you had the luck to be born above the Bravo. What is an international user supposed to do when the international shipping and handling costs twice the value of the books themselves? And here I thought the NAFTA would do something to help. Pfft.

But I digress. The reason that I'm writing here is to promote the not-yet-published (at least not below the United States) novels of Suzumiya Haruhi.

The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi

Have you heard about Haruhi? It's an anime show about an obnoxious, freakishly annoying hyperactive girl with no sense of morals who happens to have divine powers that alter reality according to her wishes. The trick is, she doesn't KNOW she has those powers. So her school club, called the SOS brigade, ends up paying for the broken dishes. Ah, isn't that beautiful?

Our stories narrate the misadventures of Kyon and the other members of SOS brigade in the quest to save the world from Haruhi. Haruhi is not aware, but the team members include a time traveler, an alien, an esper, and Kyon, who will later travel back in time to help her three years ago with sending a message to the stars.

So - what does the anime have that makes it so special? To be sincere, I only have a slight idea. But what I came here to talk for, is the novels - and literature in general.

The nauseating misadventures of a literate person in the "wonderful world" of fanfiction.net - part 1 of 1

If you ever set a foot on fanfiction.net, you'll often find a small number of good fan fictions about cartoons, anime, books, etc. Then you'll find a greater number of regular fan fictions, and a huge amount of works whose nauseating bad quality makes the dizziness of Mirror's Edge look like a children's merry-go-round.

So what's the reason for the bad quality? Lack of education. Most fanfic writers are a bunch of illiterate kiddies who think "reading" is browsing the interwebs to catch up with latest gossip of their favorite TV star, and whose concept of "literature" is Harry Potter.

So, here I am, tired of this world filled with a lot of stupid and non-cultivated sheeple, realizing how much Haruhi was right in saying that she's bored of this world (so bored that she nearly destroys it unconsciously).

Suzumiya Haruhi, Yagami Light, Lelouch vi Brittania, I beg you, let me join your ranks and take over the world.

How to write good literature?

A few days ago, to save my mind from boredom and frustration, I decided to let my imagination take off and reach the multicolored skies of the work that humans call "art". I decided to write fan fiction about Haruhi. Having read the novels, I tried to imitate the author's style of narration. After all, Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

It was an interesting and passionate exercise. But after reading my own works, I realized that my writing was very inferior to the original works. Why? Culture.

I'll make a parenthesis to ask this question: Have you ever actually read science fiction and fantasy? I mean reading works of people like H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Orson Scott Card, Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, and, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien? I don't include J.K. Rowling on purpose, because the level of culture in her works approaches the following formula:

(x!) to the power of -1, for very large values of x.


If the only kind of fiction you've been in contact with, are the latest cinematic adaptations of Marvel stories, and the only superlative of "good" you know is "awesome", it won't require the mind of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to realize that your fan fiction will be more displeasing to the mind than a hydrogen sulfide cloud is to the nose - and don't get me started on grammar.

On the contrary, if you have read good fictional works, and if you're well-versed in all kinds of science (biology, genetics, math, astronomy, history, geography), then it means that you have many more ingredients and spices to cook your own works of literature.

While Haruhi's creator, Nagaru Tanigawa makes a lot of cultural, astronomical, scientific, science-fiction (this means book science fiction, not cheap TV sci-fi, as I have shown above) and historical references, the only references I could think of were mathematical, computer science, a little psychology, and anime. It was then that I realized that to write good literature, you need to read A LOT of good literature.

Please allow me to repeat that.

To write good literature, you need to read a lot of good literature.


My opinion of the Suzumiya Haruhi Light Novels

Acknowledging the fact that a translated work loses a lot of the original appeal, I feel compelled to take off my hat and give Tanigawa-sama my deepest respect. His writing style is not only amusing (Kyon's remarks achieve a level of sarcasm that would make Gregory House proud), but the story is exciting, well structured, complex, and even romantic. Its characters are anything but two-dimensional (with the exception of Asahina-Mikuru, but what's a meal without a good spice?), and... I simply ran out of words to describe the psychological impact of his novels.

How could I describe the impact that Tanigawa's works had on my mind? Perhaps the only adequate comparison would be the vaporization of a car with a rocket sled at 650 mph.

To paraphrase Nagato Yuki, there are some things that cannot be explained with words due to the high levels of information loss.

My conclusion: If you're an anime fan, are curious about literature, and whose desires for reading are far greater than the desire to put your grey matter to sleep, please read The Suzumiya Haruhi light novels.

Thank you.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi: Light Novels review

Here's a small "What I read / expected / got" image I made for TheSomethingAwful forums.



I have to say I finally finished reading the translated novels, up to chapter 9 (yes, all of it.

Frankly, I expected the same thing I saw in the TV series: A twisted kind of humor about a spoiled little brat (Haruhi) who kept making Kyon's life more annoying everyday (hence, the snapshot). What I got was so awesome I couldn't describe it, so I used a screenshot of Star Wars, but still that's an understatement. Perhaps a video would explain it far better:

Yet another Mikuru Beam Parody

Yup, that's how awesome it was. See, Episode 00 of the Adventures of Asahina Mikuru was just the movie. Knowing Haruhi, the world was turned upside down during the filming of the movie, and kyon was, as usual, in the middle of it. Also, the Mikuru Beam became real. That's why Nagato had to throw Mikuru to the floor. Interesting enough?

Well, that's JUST THE BEGINNING.

I happened to read "the disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi" (the 4th novel) and we get transported to a world where Haruhi didn't have superpowers and everyone was normal - including Nagato. But there was something different with this Nagato: She showed emotions. Anyway, Kyon gets back to the normal world (or he sets the world back to normal ;-) ), and see the first glimpses of Nagato showing emotions.

The first one: "Thank you".

Later in the novels, I witnessed something much more awesome. Nagato faced her self in a past timeplane (they traveled to the past with Mikuru's help).


Past Nagato: Request Synchronization.
Present Nagato: ...
Past Nagato: Request Synchronization.
Present Nagato: Denied.
Past Nagato: ... why?
Present Nagato: Because I don't want to.


So, trust me when I say this to you: READ THE NOVELS!

You learn much more about Mikuru, Nagato, Koizumi, the Organization, Tsuruya-san, and the SOS brigade's enemies (yes, there are enemies now!)

My current thoughts right now are the anxiety for the Season 2 of the Haruhi TV series. Will they arrive this year? I really hope so.

In the meantime, we can enjoy the Haruhi-chan TV series made by Kadokawa for youtube! :) Imagine a mix of Lucky Star and Haruhi, remembering that the actress who voices Konata is the same who voices Haruhi! Hilarity ensues :D