Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

I think that those of us who read all need a book (or quite a few) that'll expand our boundaries a bit while making us feel like our boundaries are not being expanded at all. 

This was the case when I first started reading books. Naturally books like The Shining by Stephen King or In the Dark by Richard Laymon appealed to me when I was younger because they were about the supernatural or sadists or just nasty things in general. I loved horror movies when I was still a popular and wholesome elementary school kid but I just didn't read. So it made sense I'd love books similar to the movies I loved when I finally did start reading. 

As a fan of nasty things, I soon expanded my reading habits to include other authors who write nasty things.

One person can only read so much horror in such a short span of time, though. How many horror books did I read between the period of 2007 and 2010 when I was literally picking up a book right after finishing one? Ummm... no idea. Probably something like fifty books in total a year and only a handful of those weren't horror. Maybe that ain't a lot compared to you, but that's a lot for me. 

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed pretty much all of the books I've read up to this point. I'm pretty lucky when it comes to that. With the exception of Peter Straub's Ghost Story and Clive Barker's Galilee there aren't a whole bunch of books that I flat out disliked or found boring. 

While there are certainly more works in horror I would like to read... I feel like I have more or less conquered that particular genre at the moment. There's nothing demanding my immediate attention and I can't keep reading the same genre over and over. 

So I've tried my hand at expanding my taste by going completely off the wall very recently. 

By going off the wall I mean that I am completely staying within my comfort zone. 

I just finished reading a light novel that inspired a manga and a hit anime series. Like I said I've never read anything like this, but it's within my comfort zone because anime and I are kind of like best buds at this point. Sure, we have an on-again off-again relationship with each other, but we inevitably hang out again and chill. 

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa (Tanigawa Nagaru if you're Japanese) was originally published in Japan in 2003 and it is the first Japanese light novel to sell a million copies. Since all of these books (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya actually being the name of only the first book in a series) have been translated into English and are readily available on Kindle than you can guess they are pretty popular. The translated ebook versions were made available in the US in September in 2012 while the paperbacks were published earlier in the US in 2009. So it's not like these books are brand new or anything, but I am just now discovering them after having finally gotten around to watching the anime. 

I am not quite sure who translated these novels into English, but who ever did the first book (I have yet to purchase or read the others) did a really swell job. Episodes 2, 3, 5, 10, 13, and 14 from the first season of the anime series follow the first novel almost scene for scene. I watched the series in Japanese with English subtitles and this novel was translated into English from Japanese, but the translations and the pacing and the descriptions were very much the same. The differences, what few there were, could only be caught by those who were paying the strictest of attention. Like me. And I didn't catch many. 

I'm sure things are always lost in translation (in fact, I know they are) and that phrasing sentences can be difficult when it comes to translating (three years taking German and watching a buttload of subbed anime in Japanese are paying off after all), but either the translations from both the anime and the book are wrong together or they are both right together. 

The novel is told from the perspective of Kyon (who also narrates the anime series) and the deadpan and sarcastic delivery from the anime is in the novel as well. It's not quite the same because the things he says sound funnier spoken in Japanese (and written in Japanese, I'm sure) than they do in written English, but the wit is definitely there. You might not fall on your caboose laughing, but you'll at least chuckle at a few parts. 

If you don't know jack about Japan or the anime then I think reading this book still won't hurt you. I'm not sure how much you might enjoy it because the plot does sort of take its own time to come around and the characters seem like they need to be fleshed out a bit more. Indeed, this book just screams "I'm an anime/manga in a book's body!" and the illustrated anime-esque (or manga-esque) pictures that appear in every chapter further send that point home. The novel itself stands alone just fine. I say this having watched the anime, though.However, the two are so similar that you don't need to know jack about the anime series. 

At about 200 hundred pages this is a quick read so if you don't enjoy it then you really haven't wasted a lot of time. But I think it has pretty good crossover potential (since it's already in English and all that good stuff) and six bucks for the Kindle edition isn't too shabby. Considering that technically this book qualifies as a YA novel, I can't think of any other novels for young adults that get more philosophical or zany than this. At least, not any American ones. Try it out. 

P.S. - Whatever you do don't pick up the manga. Watch the anime or read the books (or ignore them both if that's your choice), but the manga looks like garbage from what I've seen of it. Looks nothing like the illustrations in the book or the anime. The writing doesn't seem to great, either. I say this based on the preview of the manga included at the end of the novel. So... yeah, stick to the novels or the anime. You can't go wrong with either. 

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