The view from 5930 miles away:
“There’s something unreal about people who want realism in their fiction.”
If there were ever a line that summed up the difference between myself and my co-writer (“it doesn’t make sense”), there it is. The Vulcan approach to viewing takes some of the fun out of the equation, but all teasing aside Haruhi is a series that is remarkably coherent and constantly throws in clues for future events. Due to the lack of a third series, some of them unfortunately won’t have their pay off until the later books in the manga series, but this is far from being a series where the writer was Lost. However, it is a series that demands a degree of maturity from the viewer, and specifically rejects those who need their main protagonist to be a traditional hero.
Haruhi might have the powers of a god, but she has the flaws of a human being. In one alarming scene she shouts “and action!” but hasn’t told Mikuru what to do. Nobody seems to get the idea that this film is being improvised as they go along (there is actually some validity in that technique), least of all Mikuru, and when she fails to perform to Haruhi’s liking (or at all, really), Haruhi starts hitting her with her cardboard cone. At long last Kyon steps up and intervenes. It’s shot from an awkward angle, with Haruhi and Kyon almost falling out of the picture, and it feels very wrong, dangerous and troubling.
This arc is a masterclass in representing a vicious circle. The more extreme Haruhi’s behaviour gets, the more Kyon is drawn to Mikuru and the need to protect her. The more he challenges Haruhi and protects Mikuru, the more jealous Haruhi gets, and the more extreme her behaviour becomes. At this point it’s quite clear that jealousy is doing horrible things to her:
“You’re not supposed to be shooting anything unless I tell you!”
That comment follows Kyon’s “zoooooom in” on Mikuru’s boobs, and Haruhi’s angry face following that comment is scary and just a bit heart-breaking. At this point it’s abundantly clear that Haruhi is in love with Kyon.
“Minions are good.”
“I know, right.”
Just look at her reaction to his only positive comment about her endeavours in three episodes. She’s delighted by his affirmation. She is also in tune with Kyon in more ways that either of them perhaps realise. I have been flagging up right from the start of the series the many occasions where Haruhi seems to be able to hear Kyon’s thoughts. The confusion between narration and what Kyon is speaking out loud is something that was flagged up by Mike weeks ago, and it’s perfectly understandable that a first time viewer wouldn’t realise that it is clearly a deliberate choice (I didn’t on first viewing either) and one that is also present in the manga series (missing speech marks sometimes make it unclear if Kyon is thinking or speaking). Here we have the most obvious example yet, when Haruhi comes up with the alarming idea of Mikuru pretending to fall off a cliff.
[Kyon’s Narration] “You should fall off instead. Why don’t you wear her costume and be her stunt double? You’re not as busty as Miss Asahina, but still.”
[Haruhi] “Hey, what are you thinking about? If you think I’m gonna put on her waitress outfit you’ve got another think coming.”
At that point Kyon reflects on the possibility that “she’s a mind reader”, but look at Haruhi’s body language at that point, her hands wrapped protectively across her chest in embarrassment, and imagine how it must feel for her to not just be jealous of Kyon’s behaviour towards Mikuru, but to feel it on an instinctive level, or even hear his comparison of the two girls. It’s no wonder her behaviour gets worse and worse. There is another example of her mind reading later in the episode:
[Kyon Narration] “I hope she gives us time to change our clothes.”
[Haruhi] “What was that? We’re on a tight schedule.”
Kyon means the world to Haruhi at the moment, but the really clever bit, and the one demanding the full attention of the viewer, is that he means the world to Nagato as well. This one is subtle.
Nagato saves Kyon’s life again, which Kyon reflects upon by thinking “Nagato keeps jumping in and saving my life”, but doesn’t actually say that to Nagato and thank her for it. Would she care about that? Well, there is some evidence that his opinion matters to her, in the way that she tends to defer to him. There have been little hints previously, most notably way back in Remote Island Syndrome where she would only open the hotel door for Kyon and not Haruhi, and there’s a strong hint here. Koizumi asks Nagato to open her hand, and she looks to Kyon for permission. He nods his assent, she nods back and opens her hand. It’s a gentle moment of deferential respect for him (and not Koizumi), or does it represent something more than just respect?
We end the episode with some “sidekicks” turning up, as Kyon calls them in his very metatextual way, including the glorious powerhouse of energy and fun that is Tsuruya. Surely having her around will lighten the mood now? I mean, things can’t get any worse between Kyon and Haruhi, can they? RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
Continuing on the theme of uncomfortable viewing, Haruhi decides to go to extremes. “If your boobs are the only thing that keeps growing, you’ll appeal to a very small fan base!” Not content to leave things alone, she later tells Miss Asahina, “To be on the fast track to a blue ribbon you can’t be so shy about stripping!”
I should have lived in Japan. I suspect my teen years would have been far more exciting. For one, I’d have hit Walmart and bought loads of blue ribbons… No, sorry, I’m just kidding, but if you can’t beat them, join them right? No, I’m kidding there too. I realize that this is a series meant to be part comedy, part science fiction, but some things still bother me. I wish I could roll past it, but I’m not wired that way. Yes, I remember what I wanted my teen years to be and what they actually were and a friend like Haruhi would have been outstanding. But as an adult watching that… well, that’s a different scenario altogether. And I’m sorry to burst Haruhi’s bubble, but I suspect too that if that were all that kept growing, she would appeal to a far larger fan base than Haruhi realizes. Of course, this is typical for a girl who can’t distinguish reality from fiction, am I right?
But just as things are getting awkward, I discover that reality is flexible and the contact lens Miss Asahina is wearing is actually enabling her to shoot lasers from her eyes. This again proves the earlier point of last week: Haruhi does not know where fact ends and fiction begins. She’s merging the two and it can lead to cataclysmic results. Yuki blocks lasers with her hands, and plays the alien with conviction injecting nanotech into Miss Asahina’s body to restrict her usage of the laser beam eye. Itsuki comments on the TFEI, which I still don’t know about, but the episode teeters on the fulcrum between (uncomfortable) comedy and seriously good science fiction. My own interest in SF is going to allow me to see past the awkwardness and watch part 4!
And then Haruhi goes full-on bully: “If anyone shows up late, I’m gonna bust some heads!”
Read next in the Junkyard… The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya IV