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.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

The second book in the Haruhi Suzumiya series is yet another romp detailing the never dull moments of the SOS Brigade. 

Six months after the potentially world-ending events of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Haruhi is back at it again with a scheme to make a fantastic Golden Globe winning movie to show at the upcoming cultural festival. 

Of course, Kyon knows that none of Haruhi's ideas can ever amount to anything good, but he is forced to tag along because knows that an upset or a bored Haruhi is not a good thing. Plus he doesn't really have anything better to do at the moment. 

With no written script to work from (it's all in Haruhi's head, of course) and a cast consisting solely of SOS Brigade members and their friends, Kyon knows the movie will be terrible. It isn't until Asahina starts shooting laser beams from her eyes and Passenger Pigeons start coming back from extinction that Kyon learns this movie could be dangerous, too. Possibly another world-ending scenario.

Haruhi can not seem to distinguish fact from fiction as she is directing her movie and the real world is suffering for it. Much like last time it seems that it is up to Kyon to keep Haruhi's forceful personality in check, but this time Haruhi's ego seems to be pushing Kyon more than normal. Indeed, Haruhi seems to be portrayed in flat out overbearing bitch mode even more than usual. When Kyon raises a frustrated fist in her direction it's anyone's guess what will happen next.

Unless you've already read the book or seen the anime, that is. 

This novel wasn't adapted into the first season of the anime even though it's the second novel in the series, but it was made into the final five episodes of the second season. The only major difference would be that they switched the first scene of the book into the final scene of the final episode. They made things in that particular scene a little more ambiguous in the anime. All in all it is a really faithful adaptation and the tension-filled exchange between Haruhi and Kyon seems more adequately portrayed in the anime. 

Going back to the book for a moment. 

There are also quite a few American bands and songs listed in this particular translation that sort of grated on my nerves. I'm sure not a lot of people in America know many Japanese bands so I guess I could understand those band names and songs being replaced, but it's just odd to see so many American references in a book that's supposed to have a Japanese setting and only Japanese characters. Perhaps those songs and bands were mentioned in the original Japanese text (I don't know because I can't read Japanese), but that would make it even more odd. 

Also terms like hikikomori were left untranslated. While Google is indeed a blessing and we can look up things we don't know, I'm not sure why a Japanese band name had to be replaced with an American one when a term like hikikomori (which a lot of people would need Google to look up) remains untranslated. I don't know, but it just seems sloppy to me. 

Minor translation issues aside, the sophomore effort in the Haruhi Suzumiya series originally released in 2003 is a really good one. It doesn't quite pack the same punch as the first book, but it's still fairly good. Not exactly high literature, but it is young reader friendly and a it's a great companion to the anime.

Tanigawa has said that he never intended to make The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya into a series and quite a few fans say they can tell by how inferior The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya is compared to the original. The same is also said of a few of the later books. 

I don't know about all of that. 

Certainly the reading is a bit dry considering that it's A) a translation and B) I've already seen the anime so I know everything that happens. Of course, it's going to be tougher to keep me glued to my seat. 

But I don't think the decline in quality is all that much in terms of reading. Of course, I can't read Japanese so who the hell knows how good the original book really is. What I read seemed pretty good, though. Yes, the first book was more dramatic and funnier, but the second book is still solid. 

The third book The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya is a collection of four short stories that take place chronologically between The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya. All of these stories were adapted into the anime, too. 

So far... the third one is pretty good. I'll be reviewing that one next.

One thing is for sure, though: I can't wait until I read the fourth book The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. If that one is even half as good as the movie... I'll be in for a treat. 

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