Was Melancholy Overhyped by Fans?

This post is somewhat recycled, but I am working on something a bit more original. This is just to clear my backlog of partially-written articles and give you something to pass the time. Anyway, it beats more nothing; it’s been almost a week since my last post. Sorry, bout that, but by the time I finish a day’s work and then another few hours at home, I’m ready to chuck it all and play WOW. Damn Blizzard. Blame them.
A while back, Steven was mulling over the wild popularity of Haruhi and the whole show, and although he liked the show, he didn’t quite share the reaction of the show’s fanbase.

So I’ve had a few hours now to digest Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu, and for me the biggest mystery is this: why is this series being treated as such a lightning strike by fans?

He goes on to speculate that it was in large part, the weak competition. Pixy also chiped in, adding moé and the effect of seeing episodes a week apart, rather than back to back. I agree that they definitely have their effect. (I notice that Adult Mikuru does not wear a bra, yet doesn’t suffer from sag — the future is a beautiful place!)

Another major factor is also KyoAni fanboyism. I’ve joked before that they should just trademark those orange skies.

Even if you don’t like their writing (and it is weak) their art is fantastic. (Well, it’s hard to tell with Lucky Star, but that’s the nature of the show.) But look at this shot from Kanon. The trees look real, they’re not just blobs of green covered with white; they have leaves. The snow pools in the corners where the wind should blow it, and those clouds are insanely realistic.
But art doesn’t explain Melancholy’s popularity, because, aside from drooling over Mikuru or one of the other girls, nobody makes a big deal about the pretty pictures. So why was this show so crazy popular?  Well, one reason is the performance of the seiyuu. All five of them turned in great performances, with Aya Hirano serving up a tour-de-force that makes Wendee Lee look amateurish by comparison (said comparison, in my case, admittedly being via the previews only, at this point.) Somehow she manages to make Haruhi’s self-centeredness kawaii and kowaii at the same time, usually without making her seem like a selfish bitch. Except for episode 14 (chronological)–it’s a prime example of Kyoto Animation’s writing weakness. Most of the time, the audience is gleefully wondering, “What damage is the space-time continuum going to take this time?”
But even that doesn’t explain Melancholy’s popularity. So what does?

IMHO, most folks trying to watch it now, won’t get one of the major attractions of the series, even if they watch the broadcast-order dub. They have missed out on the whole mind-screw element of the episode order. Sure you can watch it in the same order, but during the broadcast, it was a case of having to wait a whole week to figure out what was going on, only to be hit again by yet another out-of-order episode. As someone who went through it at the time, to see a studio that was willing to take (what seemed to be) such an insanely huge chance of starting with “The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina” and then follow up with a totally scrambled sequence…. well, I don’t know how to describe it other than I did at the time, which was to say that “they aren’t afraid to tweak your nose while they’re messing with your head.”

It was so crazy that it would have doomed a lesser series, and it was an incredibly fun ride trying to figure out just what the hell was going on with this show. Since the novels hadn’t been translated at that time, no one knew the full story, so from week to week, the fans in the know about the series pulled their hair out trying to guess what was going on and what the story was. In other words, I agree with Pixy, but feel it was both the order and the week’s separation between episodes.
Of course, by the end of the series, it was obvious that they had to do it or they’d have a six-episode series followed by 8 fillers. But nobody knew it at the time, so it seemed to be a really fresh, cheeky approach, that stood out all the more against the weak competition. For fans coming late to the party and knowing the joke in advance, I’m afraid it suffers in the re-telling.

It’s also why some people just don’t “get” it, and think the series is stupid.

It makes me worry though. If there is a second series (which has not been officially announced), I worry that it won’t “be as good.” Or rather, I worry that it may be just as good objectively, but fans will be expecting lightning to strike twice — but it can’t because the mystery is gone. Worse, fans may expect more than it’s humanly possible to deliver. If every sceen isn’t chock full of Mikuru moé, Haruhi mania, Kyon sarcasm, or Nagato minimalism, it will be a crashing disappointment. Which isn’t fair, because the original had it’s lame moments. Battle of the Giant in closed space? Yawner. Borrrrring. Well, actually, that’s a bad example. Aesthetically, it should have been that dull, because to make it exciting would have taken away from the point of the event which was that Kyon was in the middle of total weirdness by then–and it was just getting weirder. But that’s an argument for another time. Maybe the long discourse in the taxi on the way there is a better example of a weak point, yet it was also necessary in it’s own way.

Either way, it’s not going to stop me from picking up the series, and if there ever is a sequel, it too. I just hope the histrionics of disappointed fans are kept to a minimum. I doubt we’ll be that lucky, though…

This entry was posted in Fandom. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Was Melancholy Overhyped by Fans?

  1. How about five minutes of Yuki sitting in a chair, turning a page every once in a while of the book she is reading?

  2. I have the first disk and haven’t watched any of it yet. The real danger of something that becomes wildly popular can be summed up in two words:

    Twin Peaks.

  3. Ubu Roi says:

    Yeah, those five minutes are probably a much better example.

    Side note, I went back to using the WYSIWYG interface. It shows. Badly. I’ll be resetting to HTML…..

  4. AvatarADV says:

    I’m not as worried. Oh, sure, there’ll be people complaining no matter what they do – Haruhi is popular enough to attract a lot of hate, as well.

    However, in my opinion, the series has some really good “meat” left to it – at least one plot line that is, to put it bluntly, better than the first one. But presenting it will be a challenge, because you can’t just come out with it – then you’ve got nothing but filler for the rest of the show. But splitting it up would work far less well than the first season’s episode salad did, just because of the way it’s structured. And it’s tougher to “go past it” for filler and then come back to it – there’s some honest-to-goodness character development involved. So realistically, I don’t envy whoever has to write it!

  5. Ubu Roi says:

    If you’re talking about the one I think you are (no spoilers!), I suspect that one could be a 13 episode series by itself. And yes, there’s really two characters that develop strongly, one in a direction I didn’t expect, and I’m not sure I like it.

  6. Wonderduck says:

    “How about five minutes of Yuki sitting in a chair, turning a page every once in a while of the book she is reading?”

    If the other 345 minutes of the 14-episode series are as good as the original series, I’ll be able to live with those five minutes. In fact, I think almost everybody would be fine with that, mmmmkay?

  7. AvatarADV says:

    It’s still a fair criticism. Especially since we’re talking about the only episode that didn’t come straight out of the novel – and when that episode is by far the weakest one of the bunch, it means you have to assume that future Haruhi would either have (a) nothing that wasn’t in the novels, or (b) nothing GOOD that wasn’t in the novels.

    I mean, personally I didn’t mind it much, a reflective episode is good too every so often. And in any other show, I’d have chalked it up to budget conservation and ignored it. But Haruhi was obviously not suffering from budget shortfall (or rather, it looked great pretty much throughout, so either they had a fantastic budget or KyoAni has mastered the secret of getting perfect animation out of their contractors!) Here, it’s much more believable that it was due to an “idea shortfall”…

  8. Ubu Roi says:

    My theory is now that they were practicing for Lucky Star….

  9. chiefnewo says:

    Personally I just couldn’t handle Haruhi (the character). After 6 or 7 episodes of her self-centred insanity and no-one telling her where to go I gave up. If that’s what it takes to save the universe, I’d say nuke it.

Leave a Reply