Jan 21 2009

Essay: Why I Think Haruhi Matters, Part 1

haruhi6mangaAs a followup to my anti-review rant, here is something I wrote in June 2007  in response to a review by a certain popular anime news site.  I even quoted the review.  I am stunned after all this time to reread the quote.

Original Title:  Annoyed

I tend to not read reviews because, quite honestly, I think everyone reacts to entertainment differently. There are games and anime that I love that get poor reviews, and things that get rave reviews that don’t float my boat. That being said, there are sometimes when I read a review and it just seems plain WRONG, not just a difference in opinion.

“For all it cleverness, the first volume of MoHS does not portray it as an especially deep or philosophical title, and can be fairly accused of being derivative. Though many aspects of the series may provoke discussion, it is still, at heart, a humorous otaku funfest (albeit an extremely good one), and is best appreciated if one does not lose sight of that.”

Now, off the bat I will acknowledge that it states “the first volume” so I will assume that either the reviewer has not seen the rest of the series or is holding off on some of the more subtle points which are integral to the story later on…

But, come on, not deep or philosophical title? That is the BEAUTY of the delivery that KyoAni built into the anime. I daresay this is one of the most thought-provoking anime with a broad appeal since Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Second Gig. What I like about it, is that it is so very subtle. Eva punched you in the face, screamed at you and demanded that you listen. GitS:SAC had the problem of being too smart for itself, it was more reference and allusion than storytelling, and it took all kinds of important concepts, but then it mashed them together in an abrupt fashion. It took the mastery of Oshii in GitS:SAC Second Gig to blend the same concepts (and a good deal more) into a plot that was informed by very deep philosophical underpinnings, but hid them into a well crafted story. Still, it was dark, and you knew that you were engaged in a deep discussion of the interconnedctedness of perception, interpretation, semiotics and politics, even if it wasn’t waved in your face every few seconds.

Then along comes Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu.

Evangelion was an examination of man transcending god, otaku transcending anime and as best as I can tell, Anno transcending the expectations of his father and becomming a whole person.

GitS:SAC was an examination of the connectons between perception, thought and action. As humans change the very way they percieve the world through enhanced reality and virtual spaces, are they still doomed to be manipulated by the intentional and inadvertant symbolic concepts that form the kernels of pre-virtual human thought? Is it possible to imagine a time and space where we change the very nature of being human by changing the way in which we perceive information, thus autoevolving into transhumanity?

Then we have Haruhi. I won’t give away too many spoilers, but suffice to say it is no slouch in terms of philosophical content. Let’s forget discussions of transcendence or semiotics. What we are talking about here is the anthropic principle. In its basic form, what we end up discussing here is the inverted heisenberg uncertainty…does the act of observation create a self organizing system which determines the means by which things come into existence? Does the presence of the first self-aware individual create the conditons for preselecting from all of the possible realities a single reality which fits the perceptions of the observer? I’m not big on string theory, just because we are trapped by the limits of observation within our own reality to percieve a multiverse of realities outside our own, but I do admit the idea is tantalizing. It at once deals with the problems of coincidence, determinism and god. Pretty thought provoking stuff, IMHO.

Aside from this gigantic macro question, we are also left with a myriad of literary references that the Tanigawa sprinkles into the novel, ranging from problems of determinism with AI simulation to the nature of time and space. We also probe the psychology of the mind, creating literal analogs of the internal struggle against our seeming insignificance in the world.

I rant, and you might think I read way too much into it…but I don’t think so. If you look at the lite novels, there is nothing lite about them…and I think the staff at KyoAni recognized this, and buried these gems into the anime. Ah, I’m late for work and I have an early meeting.

One response so far

One Response to “Essay: Why I Think Haruhi Matters, Part 1”

  1. […] conclude the article from yesterday, I post the second part of my rant unedited. I think if I were to rewrite it I might […]

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply