Haruhi Suzumiya 03: The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya

August 14, 2011

Nagaru Tanigawa – Yen Press – 2010 – 11+ volumes
this is a novel

As I’ve said before, I adored the first novel in this series, hated the second, then skipped this volume of short stories in order to read the fourth in the series, another continuous plotline. I loved that one too, so I’ve decided I’m in for the long haul. I went back to give these short stories a try.

I’m glad I waited until after I read The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, because I don’t think I would have been that impressed with these stories if I didn’t know there was more to the series. They are mostly short, cute stories. One is about a baseball game that the SOS Brigade participates in. One is a murder mystery on a deserted island. And one is about the Tanabata festival where Kyon has to travel back in time…

That’s the only reason I regret reading the books out of order. Time travel is an important part of the series, and that Tanabata festival is tied to three stories. At least. Kyon also has no problem referring to events that may happen in the future, or have already happened in the timeline of the story but haven’t appeared in story form yet. For instance, during the island murder mystery, both Haruhi and Kyon talk about a winter trip. In the fifth book, the SOS brigade takes a winter trip. They refer heavily to the summer trip, and Kyon also mentions in passing that he has to tie up his loose time-traveling ends from the end of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. If you think in terms of a school year, the timeline of the series makes sense.

The next part is just me talking myself through it, so I’m going to cut it. ‘Cause it’s boring and convoluted, but I have a serious love of nonlinear storytelling.

After years of reading manga, it took a playthrough of Persona 3 before I knew how a Japanese school year was structured date-wise. That helps too, because Kyon’s references to summer break, midterms, and finals mean nothing to me otherwise, and it also seems strange if you don’t know they change school years in the spring in Japan.

May, beginning of new term – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (novel)
Early June, after midterms, before Summer Break – The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya (short story, baseball game)
Early July, just before finals – Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody (short story, Tanabata Festival)
July, during finals – Mysterique Sign (short story, computer club president story)
July, first days of summer vacation – Remote Island Syndrome (short story, remote island mystery)
August, last two weeks of summer vacation – Endless Eight (short story, time loop)
October, pre-Cultural Festival – The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya (novel)
October, pre-Cultural Festival, during The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya – The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00 (short story, retelling of the movie made in Sigh)
October, Cultural Festival – Live Alive (short story, Haruhi plays in a band)
end of November, post-Cultural Festival – The Day of Sagittarius (short story, computer club challenge)
December, before Christmas – The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (novel)
between December 26th and 29th – Love at First Sight (short story, Yuki Nagato’s lover)
December 29th – Snowy Mountain Syndrome (snowed-in mountain cabin, short story)
December 30-January 1st – Where Did the Cat Go? (short story, planned murder mystery)
early January – The Melancholy of Mikuru Asahina (short story, date with Mikuru)

red = first book
orange = second book
green = third book
blue = fourth book
purple = fifth book
yellow = sixth book

You can see that the second book takes place sometime after book three and in the middle of book five, and book four also occurs before the end of the last story before book five. Reading them out of order makes this maddening, as does the fact that things like the Tanabata festival keep happening.

But don’t let that scare you off. This book kinda scared me off in general. The short stories aren’t good, and the premise for most of them is “do something entertaining so that Haruhi doesn’t use her powers! Oh no, things aren’t going Haruhi’s way, so we have to use our own powers to change the situation and make it all right!” The baseball story, and even the unusual story where they go into an alternate dimension and kill some sort of cave cricket, are both rather boring stories. And that’s despite the fact they go into an alternate dimension and kill a giant cave cricket/man. They literally march over to an apartment, enter the dimension, and easily wipe him out.

The Tanabata story is slightly more interesting, and even more so since I’d read the fourth book and knew why it was that they couldn’t travel back to the present. Unfortunately, I think you need both this short story and the fourth book to really understand what it is they were doing back in the past with Haruhi. This story doesn’t make it clear why it is that Kyon needs to go back in the past to keep Haruhi from being bored in the present.

The murder mystery is a good story too, because it’s a murder mystery in the middle of a typhoon that has nothing to do with Haruhi.

I was 50/50 on this book, but I think that’s because I’d already decided to like this series after reading The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. If I hadn’t been sold on the plot, I wouldn’t have enjoyed this book at all, especially since the somewhat mundane baseball story was first. I also didn’t really like the fact that there were absolutely no hints about the romance between Haruhi and Kyon in these stories. That’s not really the focus of the series, but still. I’m a fan of romance, what can I say? When offered a hint, I want more.

What I’m trying to say, I suppose, is that I’m ridiculously addicted to these novels. This is my least favorite of the five I’ve read, but I still appreciate every page. Start with the first one, though, if you really want a taste of what makes them great.

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