Before I delve further into this episode, let me point out a historical context for this series: when this show premiered back in 2006, it was one of the biggest anime of the time, eclipsed only by Code Geass and Death Note. This is important to keep in mind when discussing this series, because nothing about this series screams “phenomenon”, yet it was a bonafide one. This is not something you would expect after this, the first episode proper (I’ll get into that in a later review).
The first thing that stands out about this series, especially after episode oo, is that this reveals that the show will be very narration heavy. Specifically, it’s narration heavy at the expense of using visuals to get the point across (I know why it is, but it’s still noticeable). The show does not follow the old adage “show, don’t tell”, as everything relies on Kyon’s narration to get across. This is coupled with the fact that, while gorgeously animated and blocked, the visuals do not add to the narration, makes this episode off-putting for most viewers, not expecting to get the blunt (and dry) mallet of exposition from Kyon.
Luckily, the show makes up for it’s narration-heavy nature by excelling at his character writing. The episode is focusing on Kyon’s introduction to his eccentric classmate, Haruhi Suzumiya, and focuses on his observations and interactions with her. His narration style is very dry and sarcastic, much like his commentary style in episode 00. We are not viewing this series as objective viewers, but through his lens. And his lens is skewed, giving us his rather dull and pessimistic worldview at the episode’s beginning. While us being introduced to Haruhi is the episode’s intended goal, we never are, since we instead only see her as Kyon does.
Since she is the title character, it would be wrong of me not to discuss Haruhi. As this episode introduces, she is an eccentric, slightly stand-offish, and kind of mean and blunt. As the episode’s last third also proves, she is also bossy and selfish. This is all given to us in addition to several other key bits of information, such as Kyon’s classmate telling us about her weird tendencies in junior high and her perfect girl status (great grades, good athlete, gifted in almost everything). She doesn’t really appear to be a character so much as someone’s idea for a perfect girlfriend (which is weird, since her qualities presented here also include bossy and mean, but hey, some people are into that). She doesn’t stand out too much as an interesting character in this episode, which makes the show’s almost obsessive interest in her seem weird.
Overall, while the episode helps set the stage for more events, it doesn’t work too well as an introduction. Maybe, in retrospect, beginning with episode 00 was the wiser move, as it’s much more engaging and funny than this. It still works, but only just barely, so I look forward to the series doing more things in the coming episodes.
FINAL GRADE: B
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is available on home video from Funimation and is available streaming at Funimation.com.