The Melancholy of Kyon

Literary analysis of the light novel/anime series ‘The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’: Haruhi is not God, Kyon is
anime, criticism, Gene-Wolfe, SF
2009-06-082018-09-01 in progress certainty: highly unlikely importance: 1


The light novel series The Melan­choly of Haruhi Suzu­miya, fea­tur­ing a char­ac­ter named Haruhi who is a god unawares and her search for nov­el­ty, has a num­ber of anom­alies and unclear over­ar­ch­ing plot. I argue that these anom­alies can be resolved, and greater lit­er­ary depth achieved, by inter­pret­ing the first-per­son pro­tag­o­nist Kyon as the actual unaware god.

The real joy of read­ing is not so much for his imag­i­na­tive plots1 or for his mas­terly prose2, but rather for the secret gems his sto­ries con­ceal. Many Wolfe sto­ries fol­low the pat­tern of telling some remark­able sto­ry, which an ordi­nary reader can fol­low and enjoy with plea­sure, and when they reach the end, they are sat­is­fied. But a more devoted or per­cep­tive reader will find far more than that3. (One thinks of Shake­speare, and how his plays change on re-read­ing.) One reads through Peace and is amused and inter­ested by Alden Weer’s rem­i­nis­cences of 1900s Mid­west­ern life; one re-reads it, and is trou­bled to dis­cover that Weer is a ghost and his anec­dotes con­ceal mur­ders for which he yet moul­ders in his grave - that far from being idyl­lic, Peace is bet­ter described as a hor­ror sto­ry. One reads through the diary that is the last third of , and one thinks about eccen­tric anthro­pol­o­gists. But per­haps on a re-read, one notices an incon­sis­tency4 and real­izes that the anthro­pol­o­gist was mur­dered and replaced halfway through. And so on.

Gene Wolfe says that he writes for an edu­cated reader5:

“My defi­n­i­tion of good lit­er­a­ture is that which can be read by an edu­cated read­er, and reread with increased plea­sure.”6

Regard­less of where Wolfe’s true great­ness lies, read­ing him incul­cates an active mind­set. In nor­mal fic­tion, one pas­sively con­sumes the inter­pre­ta­tions and descrip­tions of the nar­ra­tor. With Wolfe’s unre­li­able nar­ra­tors, this is impos­si­ble. Read­ing nor­mal fic­tion with a Wolfean mind­set some­times leads to inter­est­ing results. I’d like to show a per­sonal exam­ple.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Some time ago, in 2006, a short high school drama/comedy anime was released called . (Yes, another one.) It was based on a pop­u­lar series of the same name, and it became the most pop­u­lar anime of the year, an instant clas­sic.

Plot

The basic plot goes that Kyon, our skep­ti­cal but solid ordi­nary7 guy, has just started high school. When the mem­bers of his new class intro­duce them­selves8, one attrac­tive girl sit­ting in front of Kyon (the epony­mous Haruhi) makes the dec­la­ra­tion that she seeks inter­est­ing & unusual beings such as “aliens, time trav­el­ers, ghosts, demons, ESPers”. She’s a weirdo.

Kyon is inter­ested in her any­way, and even­tu­ally offhand­edly sug­gests that she form a club for such beings. She takes him up on it, and apply­ing the trade­mark Haruhi brand of arro­gance, sly­ness, and impetu­os­i­ty, rounds up 3 mem­bers besides her­self and Kyon: Miku­ru, a buxom red-headed upper­class­men; Itsuki, who likes to egg on Haruhi; and Yuki, a small quiet girl who is always read­ing.

As they go about their ran­dom club activ­i­ties dic­tated by Haruhi, Kyon is star­tled to dis­cover that each of the other club mem­bers is such a being as Haruhi desired9; and that fur­ther, the rea­son for this is that Haruhi is in fact the god who cre­ated and con­trols the uni­verse he lives in. As she is entirely unaware of her true nature & pow­ers, her pri­mary focus is on hav­ing fun as a school­girl; the 3 uncanny beings have set their face on grant­ing Haruhi her wish, and have enlisted Kyon in the mis­sion.

Haruhi, though a 10, begins to fall in love with Kyon, and vice ver­sa. At the end of the sea­son, she feels rejected by Kyon in favor of Miku­ru, and begins to destroy the world in favor of a new & more sat­is­fy­ing one, but Kyon man­ages to con­vince her that he returns her affec­tion and he pre­ferred the old world.

Sequence

One unique aspect of Haruhi is that there are 2 orders in which to play the episodes. The first is the sequence in which it was broad­cast, the ‘Haruhi’ sequence. This sequence jumps around - for exam­ple, the first episode is a indie movie made for the school’s , which chrono­log­i­cally belongs toward the end of the series. The sec­ond is the log­i­cal, chrono­log­i­cal order (‘Kyon’ order).

The rea­son for the Haruhi order is that the orig­i­nal series was 14 episodes. So the cre­ators () had to draw on mate­r­ial from mul­ti­ple books. But each light novel is struc­tured nor­mal­ly: begin­ning, mid­dle, cli­max, end. The series would feel a lit­tle odd to have mul­ti­ple arcs, cut­ting out in the mid­dle. Their solu­tion was to focus on the story arc of the first light nov­el, which cul­mi­nates in Haruhi and Kyon’s first kiss, and leave that as the last episode (Haruhi order). What was to be done with all the episodes that chrono­log­i­cally would come after the kiss? They sim­ply stuck them into the begin­ning and mid­dle!

So the Haruhi order keeps the story arc over the 14 episodes intact, which pro­vides a real end­ing (a good & rare thing; see my ), and also accom­plishes a num­ber of neat things: it’s orig­i­nal; it pro­vides fore­shad­ow­ing; it involves the viewer in try­ing to under­stand and piece together the plot; and it ren­ders scenes freshly poignant or just differ­ent the sec­ond time around.

You can under­stand why I slipped into Wolfe-mode watch­ing Haruhi.

Problems

The inner story in Wolfe is man­i­fested most often in lies, incon­sis­ten­cies, or pecu­liar­i­ties of char­ac­ters. Char­ac­ters act in real­is­tic ways, pur­su­ing their goals in a ratio­nal fash­ion. They eat, defe­cate, sleep, and so on, in a pre­cise time­line. Wolfe makes it a point of pride to have few acci­den­tal errors. When you notice an error or won­der why a char­ac­ter did some­thing so round-about, Wolfe is ges­tur­ing toward the real sto­ry.

Timing

The sec­ond time through, I noticed some­thing odd about the set­up. The other char­ac­ters tell Kyon that they’ve existed and have been observ­ing Haruhi for 3 years at that point.

Isn’t there some­thing strange about this? 3 years and they haven’t made con­tact them­selves; nor has Haruhi sub­con­sciously forced them to take action that might inter­est her. For that mat­ter, isn’t it a lit­tle strange that Haruhi might cre­ate such crea­tures and not know about them? How is it inter­est­ing or fun to live in a world with time trav­el­ers and aliens and ESPers if one does­n’t know of them at all? If they aren’t even doing any­thing unusual or affect­ing daily life? Haruhi’s life seems to be pre­cisely as bor­ing & melan­choly after their cre­ation as it was before.

A fur­ther prob­lem is that Haruhi tells Kyon a story of from her child­hood:

“I thought that every­one in Japan had to be packed in there. So I turned to my dad and asked him,”Do you know how many peo­ple are here right now“? He said since the sta­dium was full, prob­a­bly fifty thou­sand…I was only one lit­tle per­son in that big crowded sta­dium filled with peo­ple, and there were so many peo­ple there, but it was just a hand­ful out of the entire pop­u­la­tion. Up till then, I always thought that I was, I don’t know, kind of a spe­cial per­son. It was fun to be with my fam­i­ly. I had fun with my class­mates. And the school that I was going to, it had just about the most inter­est­ing peo­ple any­where. But that night, I real­ized it was­n’t true. All the stuff we did dur­ing class that I thought was so fun and cool, was prob­a­bly hap­pen­ing just like that in classes in other schools all over Japan. There was noth­ing spe­cial about my school at all.”

She then vowed to make life inter­est­ing. But this was dur­ing mid­dle school. Why then does life only become inter­est­ing in high school, 3 years lat­er? The time­frame seems more than a lit­tle odd.

Haruhi may’ve acted weird - her class­mates note that she had a rep­u­ta­tion even in mid­dle school - but Yuki specifi­cally tells Kyon that in those 3 years, noth­ing pecu­liar or godly occurred11. Are we to believe that Haruhi spent 3 years des­per­ately seek­ing out freaks and odd­balls and ESPers and slid­ers and any­thing unusu­al, and her pow­ers just refused to sup­ply any­thing at all? This when her mere whim in later years are sup­pos­edly enough to make cats talk, and when her pre­vi­ous desires had con­jured ESPers out of noth­ing­ness?

Noth­ing inter­est­ing hap­pened dur­ing those 3 years… but some­thing inter­est­ing hap­pened at the begin­ning of those 3 years. Kyon from the future appeared one Tan­abata night and ran into con­tem­po­rary mid­dle-school Haruhi, and assisted her in her crop cir­cle. This was a day noted by all the para­nor­mal observers. Then Kyon left the time­line, return­ing to after 3 years in the future - which had been the point at which “Haruhi’s” pow­ers began man­i­fest­ing again. An inter­est­ing set of tim­ings, would­n’t one say? A remark­able coin­ci­dence that what­ever sup­pressed Haruhi’s pow­ers just hap­pened to span the same time inter­val as her sep­a­ra­tion from Kyon.

Uncertain identity

[think­ing] “The pass­ing train gave me a moment to think about my response. Should I voice an oppos­ing view­point? Maybe I should wax philo­soph­i­cal about her dilem­ma.”

[aloud] “…I see.”

[think­ing] “I must be get­ting melan­cholic if that’s the best I could come up with.”

Kyon12

Another curi­ous point is that the evi­dence of Haruhi’s divine nature is so mea­ger. The ‘Data Inte­gra­tion Entity’ (a mas­sive AI appar­ently mod­eled after the Tech­no­Core from 13) says only that Haruhi is at the cen­ter of the anom­alies14. Yuki also tells Kyon that “For 3 years, I have gone through all sorts of inves­ti­ga­tions on the indi­vid­ual known as Suzu­miya Haruhi from all per­spec­tives, but up to now I was still unable to dis­cover her true iden­ti­ty.”15, and that the whole ‘data explo­sion’ is ‘impos­si­ble to ana­lyze’. So Haruhi being god­like may be a good guess - but from the AI per­spec­tive, it’s just a guess.

Itsuki and the ESPers are lit­tle more help. They fight var­i­ous sub­-di­men­sions whose appear­ances are cor­re­lated with emo­tional dis­tur­bances in Haruhi - but cor­re­la­tion is not cau­sa­tion.16

The time trav­el­ers as rep­re­sented by Miku­ru, are even less help. She speaks only of a bar­rier in time, and has lit­tle jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for believ­ing Haruhi god.

Minimal power

Indeed, the other char­ac­ters man­i­fest far more power than Haruhi:

  • Nagato can cre­ate and break into sub­-di­men­sions and do nearly arbi­trary things there

    • she has hack­ing skill
    • she can also mod­ify ordi­nary objects like base­ball bats to have extra­or­di­nary pow­ers.
  • Itsuki becomes a super­hero in sub­-di­men­sions, able to fly and shoot ener­gy.

  • Mikuru as a time trav­eler can have future selves show up and ren­der aid (in addi­tion to any future weapon­ry, which she may or may not pos­sess).

What does Haruhi do? Well, there are the sub­-di­men­sions filled with ram­pag­ing mon­sters. (But that’s not clearly Haruhi’s doing.) There is a mys­te­ri­ous shadow on the desert island as they leave. (But that’s not much.) Some birds chang­ing color are sup­posed to be her work. And… I am sure there are other things, but they are not quite com­ing to mind.

And for that mat­ter, all the pow­ers seem to cen­ter around some­one else. For exam­ple, the mys­te­ri­ous shadow on the island is not spot­ted by Haruhi but by Kyon and Itsu­ki. Like­wise the white birds. Shamisen the talk­ing cat talks only to Kyon, after Haruhi has left the scene.

The God that Failed

Haruhi is often defeated or set back:

  • Found­ing the club, she is swiftly pre­vented from adver­tis­ing it while wear­ing a suit.

  • She is pre­vented by Kyon from plac­ing skimpi­ly-clad pho­tos of Mikuru on the club web­site.17

  • In episode 5, while draw­ing lots for wan­der­ing about the city and look­ing for strange events to inves­ti­gate, Haruhi twice gets the wrong stick and so isn’t paired off with Kyon. This deeply angers her. But what sort of god can’t influ­ence a ran­dom draw even when she really wants to?

  • Haruhi is com­pletely cut out of the one truly mys­te­ri­ous case Kyon & the club inves­ti­gates, the com­puter club pres­i­den­t’s dis­ap­pear­ance.

  • In the desert island episode 06, Haruhi sug­gests that there be a mur­der mys­tery, and in par­tic­u­lar, that the mas­ter mur­der Miku­ru. Kyon vetoes it. Noth­ing hap­pens to Miku­ru.

    Indeed, in both desert island episodes, Haruhi’s detec­tive skills and wish­ing fail. No real mur­ders hap­pen, and cer­tainly not the way she sug­gest­ed. And Kyon solves it.

  • When film­ing the movie for the stu­dent cul­tural fes­ti­val, Haruhi insists that Koizumi kiss Mikuru (the two pro­tag­o­nist­s); Kyon stops it18.

  • in Dis­ap­pear­ance, Haruhi’s pow­ers are stripped from her entirely and all the super­nat­ural phe­nom­ena she is inter­ested in are removed from her world, frus­trat­ing her chief desire; this is surely a major defeat for her, although she does­n’t real­ize it. The reg­u­lar world is ulti­mately restored by the deci­sion of Kyon.

When does Kyon really fail? (In­deed, Haruhi’s list of defeats is almost as much a list of Kyon get­ting his way.)

The real story

“I used to read often. When I was in ele­men­tary school, my mom used to bor­row illus­trated books from the chil­dren’s book sec­tion for me to read. There were all sorts of books, but I remem­ber that all the ones I’d read were quite inter­est­ing. How­ev­er, I can’t remem­ber any of their names any­more. When did I stop read­ing? When did read­ing start becom­ing bor­ing for me?”

Kyon19

So we may be con­vinced by now that some­thing is going on. (Or we may not be; plau­si­bly, each of these could be explained by some­thing like an error, a con­se­quence of time trav­el, or artis­tic license etc.)

But what is the real sto­ry? It could be any­thing, from what really hap­pened to who char­ac­ters really are. In Wolfe, though, decep­tion tends to focus on char­ac­ters and issues of iden­ti­ty. In Peace, Weer is not what you think he is. In The Book of the New Sun, char­ac­ters like Dor­cas are not who they appear to be20. So what char­ac­ter should we be most sus­pi­cious of?

“This is what I think,” Koizumi con­tin­ued to ram­ble on, “Some­one granted Suzu­miya-san omnipo­tent god-like pow­ers, yet they did not allow her to become aware of it. If there were a God, then Suzu­miya-san would be the per­son cho­sen by God. But no mat­ter how you look at it, she’s just a nor­mal per­son.”

I did­n’t have to think a lot on whether that girl’s a nor­mal per­son or not. But why did Haruhi have such omnipo­tent power that she’s unaware of? Enough power to turn pigeon feath­ers white. Why? Who was behind this?

“Well, I also don’t know; do you?”21

Why Kyon?

’What’s wrong with that? So you’re say­ing if the movie ends in such an unre­solved way, this real­ity would be per­ma­nently dis­torted and become the new real­i­ty? Haruhi must have an end­ing in mind, and it must be an end­ing that is in line with real­i­ty. This is a prob­lem that we must con­sid­er, as Haruhi would never con­sider such stuff, and even if she does, it would only end in dis­as­ter. So it’s still bet­ter for us to do the think­ing. But why must we think of such stuff? Isn’t there some­one else that can carry this cursed bur­den for us?

“If he even exists, then yes.”

Koizumi shrugged his shoul­ders, “I believe he would have appeared before us long ago if he exist­ed. So we must find a solu­tion as soon as pos­si­ble, espe­cially you. I look for­ward to see­ing you work hard­er.”’22

If Haruhi is not the god, then who is (s)he?

I believe the god is really Kyon. We are expected to swal­low the the­sis that the god of this fic­tional uni­verse is igno­rant of its iden­ti­ty, and would­n’t that describe Kyon as well as Haruhi? What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gan­der. All through­out the series, Kyon is as much of an anom­aly as Haruhi. We are told this quite direct­ly:

“The biggest mys­tery would be you.”

Koizu­mi, to Kyon

Even big­ger than Haruhi, eh? As well, Kyon is one of the 2 peo­ple who has not “shown me hon­est proof of their iden­tity”.

Kyon claims to be an ordi­nary high school stu­dent, and the other char­ac­ters con­stantly tell Kyon how nor­mal he is - but he’s much like Haruhi. In the intro­duc­tion, he tells us that he was once obsessed with the same sub­jects as Haruhi - but he gave them up on enter­ing high school (that is, 3 years ago, while in mid­dle school).23 He claims to dis­like the adven­tures and be stressed out, and this is the pub­lic image put forth in things like his 24, but actions speak far louder than words; Kyon has never had to be seri­ously forced into club activ­i­ties. His reluc­tance is only feigned.

Many of the things that seem to apply to Haruhi only, with a small shift of per­spec­tive, apply to Kyon. Con­sider Kyon’s crit­i­cism of Haruhi-kami:

“If that’s true, then why has­n’t Haruhi dis­cov­ered that [ex­is­tence of ESPers etc.] yet? In con­trast, it’s just you and me who know every­thing. Isn’t that a lit­tle strange?”

“You find it incon­sis­tent? It really isn’t; the real incon­sis­tency is within Suzu­miya-san’s heart.”

Can’t you say some­thing that I can under­stand, please‽

“In other words, she does hope for the exis­tence of aliens, time trav­el­ers, and ESPers. Her com­mon sense, how­ev­er, is telling her that these things don’t exist, and this cre­ates cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance. Though she may be eccen­tric in her actions and speech, her think­ing is still no differ­ent from the ordi­nary per­son…”25

We already know that Kyon hoped/hopes for the exis­tence, and that he has given in to his com­mon sense. And Kyon has already joined the SOS-dan and sur­vived Ryouko Asaku­ra’s real­i­ty-warp­ing assas­si­na­tion attempt, both eccen­tric actions. Notice that the crit­i­cism does­n’t apply to Kyon-kami - he knows per­fectly well of those enti­ties’ exis­tence!

Cui bono?

“No, wait, I prob­a­bly did real­ize, I just did­n’t want to admit it. Deep inside my heart, I still wanted those aliens, time-trav­el­ers, ghosts, mon­sters, ESPers and evil orga­ni­za­tions to sud­denly appear. Com­pared to this bor­ing, nor­mal life of mine, the world of those flashy shows was much more excit­ing; I wanted to live in that world, too!”

Kyon26

Many of the oth­er­wise pecu­liar events become explic­a­ble when con­sid­ered from a Kyon- per­spec­tive.

The curi­ous 3 year gap where noth­ing at all curi­ous hap­pened? Kyon had vowed that high school would be differ­ent, until, of course, he real­ized how bored and depressed he was.27

Naga­to’s obser­va­tion that noth­ing unusual had hap­pened dur­ing those 3 years, until high school started (and Kyon was around)? Unlike Kyon, she was fully bored and wait­ing for, some­thing, any­thing, inter­est­ing to hap­pen (like the return of John Smith); yet - noth­ing hap­pened. But explained, if Haruhi has no pow­ers: she was bored dur­ing those years and was­n’t defer­ring any­thing to the myth­i­cal ‘rose-col­ored life’ of high school, but Kyon was.

The desert island inci­dent? Kyon did­n’t want there to be any real mur­ders, but he was still inter­est­ed. Wit­ness his con­stant con­ver­sa­tion and think­ing on the top­ic. He is also the one who solves the mys­tery, and sus­pected the answer from the start. Is this com­bi­na­tion of know­ing the answer, being involved, and hav­ing fun really con­sis­tent with the Haruhi-kami hypoth­e­sis? The shadow at the end, one says? A gift from Kyon to a dis­ap­pointed Haruhi; we never hear of any­thing hap­pen­ing on that island there­after (an which is more con­sis­tent with Kyon-kami than Haruhi-kami).

In the uni­verse of Haruhi, the answer for the is that God is human and is imper­fect. Fur­ther, it is capa­ble of the usual range of emo­tions: every char­ac­ter plau­si­bly sug­gested to be God can appar­ently evince plea­sure, anger, shame, etc. Thus, it is pos­si­ble that this god might cre­ate a crea­ture to do what he’d be too embar­rassed to do. In this light, we must ask ‘?’ when it comes to Haruhi’s treat­ment of Mikuru Asahi­na’s body and Haruhi’s own exhi­bi­tion­ism28

I con­tend that Haruhi does not - as she derives no grat­i­fi­ca­tion from it, not being a les­bian, nor does she really care about Mikuru apart from her util­ity29 to the SOS Brigade (she’s a lack­ey, a rival, or a play­thing) - but there is another major char­ac­ter who is both greatly pleased by Haruhi’s actions and shamed by his plea­sure30. Haruhi’s body is another issue; Kyon is quite phys­i­cally attracted to her 31, yet Haruhi her­self cares lit­tle for phys­i­cal beauty and uses her ath­leti­cism with­out a thought.

We can tie this line of thought to larger con­cerns: is it not true that fans enjoy anime in part because things hap­pen in the anime that would never hap­pen in real life (eg: s), or that we would ever actu­ally do (eg: mar­tial arts, action, and sports ani­me)?

For an ani­me, those who are grat­i­fied are the fans and cre­ators, who stand to the anime in respect of god. The anal­ogy for Haruhi is clear.

More pro­saic exam­ples of the true ben­e­fi­ciary of events might include Haruhi obtain­ing a com­put­er; who winds up using it and cre­at­ing the SOS Brigade web­site? Kyon.

Or, con­sider one of the exam­ples in the Losses sec­tion: Haruhi wanted to be with Kyon, but on the other hand, Kyon likes Mikuru (whom he went with the first time), and had good rea­son to want to be alone with Naga­to, who had only recently revealed her true nature to him. Under the Kyon-kami inter­pre­ta­tion, Haruhi los­ing the draw is expect­ed.

“Endless Eight”

“End­less Eight” puts the SOS-dan in a time loop where they repeat the end of sum­mer vaca­tion, end­lessly going through a list of stereo­typ­i­cal32 activ­i­ties like the pool or a fes­ti­val with fire­works. Itsuki sug­gests that Haruhi keeps reset­ting the world (and her­self) because they omit­ted some activ­ity and left Haruhi unsat­is­fied. Even­tu­al­ly, Kyon real­izes that the miss­ing ingre­di­ent is a group ses­sion to do home­work, and time moves on.

Nat­u­ral­ly, one assumes it’s Haruhi’s home­work that was left undone. Japan­ese schools assign a lot of sum­mer home­work (un­like Amer­i­can schools) and it’s nat­ural to regret and fear the first day of school. Per­fectly rea­son­able for her to reset the uni­verse, and then pro­cras­ti­nate her home­work in favor of hav­ing fun.

But no! Haruhi’s home­work is done! (The anime even shows her spend­ing the group ses­sion play­ing videogames with Kyon’s sis­ter.) The per­son whose home­work is undone is… Kyon.

Once again, we see the ques­tion of cui bono. Who ben­e­fits from the group ses­sion? Why would Haruhi regret the SOS-dan not doing home­work togeth­er, of all things? To sug­gest that she regrets it so much as to reset the world is… a bit strained, I think, espe­cially con­sid­er­ing that if she had ever thought of it, she would have put it on the list and they would have done it (Haruhi had even allot­ted a spare day for such a last-minute thought). Another expla­na­tion, that Haruhi wanted some­one to take ini­tia­tive and sug­gest some­thing, any­thing, to do is also a lit­tle odd; in >15,000 iter­a­tions no one ever sug­gested a sin­gle activ­i­ty? I could under­stand Kyon not sug­gest­ing - of all things - a home­work ses­sion for that many iter­a­tions, but it beg­gars belief that not a sin­gle SOS-dan mem­ber would sug­gest a sin­gle activ­ity for 15,000 iter­a­tions. Itsuk­i’s expla­na­tion - that Haruhi regrets the incon­ve­nience the oth­ers will expe­ri­ence with undone home­work - is so con­tra­dic­tory to what any per­son would expect of Haruhi (that mon­ster of ego­tism) I am tempted to take it as sar­casm.

But for Kyon? No, I could under­stand him resort­ing to a reset. When has Kyon ever worked hard?

There is also an issue here of why Haruhi seems to suffer from no déjà vu what­so­ev­er, while Kyon suffers the most - in other words, why the reset works per­fectly on Haruhi and the world, not so well on Mikuru and Itsuki, even less on Kyon, and not at all on Yuki. This sort of con­sid­er­a­tion of ‘who has power over whom?’ leads directly into the next sec­tion.

Cui regio?

Per­haps you dis­like point­ing to Haruhi los­ing in small inci­dents. Per­haps Kyon loses in some way, and often enough that his losses are as diffi­cult to explain on the Kyon-kami the­ory as on the Haruhi-kami the­o­ry.

Per­haps. So we might want an alter­nate tack - sit­u­a­tions in which Haruhi is treated in a way that ought to be impos­si­ble for a god. One major exam­ple come to mind that is diffi­cult to explain away with Haruhi-kami.

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

While fairly com­plex due to its time trav­el, the plot of the 4th book is: Yuki falls in love with Kyon, and see­ing his claimed dis­tress at the SOS-dan’s para­nor­mal adven­tures, rewrites the world to ren­der nor­mal all aliens, time trav­el­ers, or ESPers, leav­ing intact only Kyon him­self. Her power to do so, it is claimed, is stolen from Haruhi. Haruhi is ren­dered as pow­er­less and nor­mal as any­one else; she is restored to her usual self when Kyon rejects the mun­dan­i­fied world in favor of the old one.

There are mul­ti­ple points of inter­est in Dis­ap­pear­ance.

First­ly, Kyon’s rejec­tion of the truly nor­mal world gives the lie to all his pre­vi­ous claims. We can no longer argue in good faith that Kyon dis­likes para­nor­mal phe­nom­e­non and his dis­like is dis­proof of Kyon-kami.

In book 1, Kyon reject­ing Haruhi’s new world could be explained away as him fear­ing or dis­lik­ing what­ever extreme nov­el­ties Haruhi no doubt pop­u­lated the new world with.

But this rejec­tion can­not be so eas­ily escaped: it’s made 100% clear that Yuk­i’s world is com­pletely mun­dane, safer in that regard, and cir­cum­stances even con­spire to bring the SOS-dan together - so Kyon sac­ri­fices noth­ing what­so­ev­er. The only rea­son to reject Yuk­i’s world is if he truly does want para­nor­mal events. This choice ren­ders Kyon even more con­sis­tent with Kyon-kami.

The sec­ond major issue is: how is Dis­ap­pear­ance even pos­si­ble? It’s glossed over, but it’s clear that Yuki has changed the entire uni­verse, and is not merely mask­ing things, nor is Haruhi a fake or deluded ver­sion, but a gen­uinely pow­er­less high school girl. As Yuki says:

“There­fore, the altered Suzu­miya Haruhi does not pos­sess the power to cre­ate data. In that dimen­sion, the Inte­grated Data Sen­tient Entity is non-ex­is­tent as well.”

And the ori­gin of the pow­er?

“Using the pow­ers stolen from Suzu­miya Haruhi, the tem­po­ral con­verter was able to alter data con­cern­ing past mem­o­ries in the range of 365 days.”

Rid­dle me this: how can an omnipo­tent god lose its pow­ers? How can it be altered by its own pow­ers? (Re­mem­ber, Yuki never lies about impor­tant things to Kyon, and if you assume her power comes from her cre­ators, that raises even more issues.) How can the power be restored to it?

How does Dis­ap­pear­ance make sense if Haruhi is the cre­ator of the uni­verse, its sus­tain­er, and omnipo­tent? How does it make sense if she is only a unique data-gen­er­at­ing organ­ism more pow­er­ful than the IDE? How does it make sense if she is the mas­ter of dimen­sions and time, who can per­mit or for­bid time-trav­el?

On the other hand, it’s not so strange if the power is merely a gift, a loan, or stolen itself. What has been stolen once can be stolen twice. Haruhi wielded the power for a time, uncon­scious; lit­tle sur­prise if it could be stolen from its sleep­ing own­er, and even less sur­prise if its new own­er, Yuki, wields it far more dra­mat­i­cal­ly.

The Club

“That’s how we first encoun­tered each oth­er. I solemnly swear—I really want to believe it was just a coin­ci­dence.”

Kyon33

One thing would sug­gest the uni­verse is designed for Haruhi and not Kyon. The club would seem to be the best exam­ple - does­n’t it just impose on Kyon? (Let’s leave aside the mys­tery for Haruhi-kami pro­po­nents of how Kyon, who Haruhi appar­ently did­n’t love at that point, got into the club in the first place.)

It is true that Haruhi enjoys the club, but ulti­mately she is not the insti­ga­tor and main ben­e­fi­ciary of events. As Koizumi points out, Kyon sug­gested the club, and Kyon is in love with Haruhi from the start. From the moment she stands up, he is rapt and fas­ci­nated by her. They are even seated together (de­spite the seats ran­domly chang­ing every month34). If the real story is just Haruhi-kami, then that’s some coin­ci­dence. But it makes per­fect sense if we pos­tu­late Kyon-kami.

Misc. points

“I’m nor­mal—right?”

Kyon35

  • Kyon is the nar­ra­tor, as befits the tute­lary deity of the ani­me. He also just goes by ‘Kyon’. No last name, he’s always just ‘Kyon’. (Gives off a sort of Jesus vibe.)

  • Kyon is also remark­ably sta­ble and con­sis­tent through­out all the events. Not only is he remark­ably san­guine - far more calm than his more eso­teric club­mates - he is also affected less by var­i­ous dimen­sional and time-travel and alter­nate uni­verse changes.36

  • From day one, it is Kyon who approaches Haruhi and not the other way around. In the final episode, Haruhi comes to real­ize she is happy with the world as it is and with her friends and Kyon. This averts the immi­nent Armaged­don, but is it that God was pleased and changed her mind, or that God was glad that Haruhi had found a world she could be happy in, and so he refrained from chang­ing things?

  • Another way to put it is like this: if every­one and every­thing that is hap­pen­ing hap­pens at Haruhi’s wish, then how did she come to wish for Kyon when she does­n’t even begin to switch from tsun to dere entire episodes in? Should­n’t Kyon’s repeated dec­la­ra­tions that he is utterly ordi­nary and hopes for a life of utter ordi­nar­i­ness make us sus­pi­cious? Should­n’t it bother us that Kyon hopes deep down for excite­ment and admits as much (episode 2)? Should­n’t it bother us that the ‘melan­choly’ of the title could as eas­ily be Kyon’s?

  • The later nov­els appar­ently focus more on the other char­ac­ters, and less on Haruhi. A lit­tle strange…

  • For that mat­ter, isn’t it remark­able how Kyon can order around the other club mem­bers and even Haruhi to some extent? One might not expect timid Mikuru to exert any author­ity over Kyon, but you would think Itsuki or Yuki would at some point brusquely order Kyon around. (Why not? He’s just an ordi­nary with no pow­er­s…)

  • Misc. notes on episode 14: Kyon pre­cedes Haruhi to the dream world, and knows more about it than she. When the two are argu­ing, Haruhi does­n’t say that she her­self was bored and fed up with the old world, but claims that Kyon was, and Kyon’s own nar­ra­tion sup­ports this:

    That’s right, that day we con­ducted our SOS Brigade activ­i­ties peace­ful­ly. Noth­ing asso­ci­ated with aliens from a differ­ent dimen­sion, time trav­el­ers from the future, blue giants, or red glow­ing spheres hap­pened at that time. No one wanted to do any­thing spe­cial, nor did any­one know what they should have been doing. We just allowed our­selves to ride on the flow of time, liv­ing our high school life idly. Every­thing seemed per­fectly nor­mal.
    Even though I was dis­sat­is­fied with such a nor­mal life, I’d always tell myself, “Why think so much? You’ve got so much time.” And then I would once again look for­ward to the next day.37

  • There’s an inter­est­ing quote early on:

    Taniguchi sar­cas­ti­cally put on an awed expres­sion. Then Kunikida popped up from behind Taniguchi.
    “Kyon’s always gone out with strange girls.”
    Hey, don’t say things that’ll cre­ate a mis­un­der­stand­ing.
    “It does­n’t mat­ter if Kyon likes strange girls. What I can’t under­stand is, why Suzu­miya would talk to you? I don’t get it at all.”38

  • Haruhi appears dis­ap­pointed that the ‘mys­te­ri­ous trans­fer stu­dent’ is male, and not female. Kyon, though, is pleased.

Explaining Haruhi

“If there’s really that many peo­ple in the world, then there had to be some­one who was­n’t ordi­nary. There had to be some­one who was liv­ing an inter­est­ing life. There just had to be. Why was­n’t I that per­son?”

Haruhi, episode 5

This might seem to leave Haruhi unex­plained - just some ran­dom girl who acted weird­ly, and whom Kyon hap­pened to make his stalk­ing horse. But looked at with the right eye, Kyon admits as much:

“In a way, does­n’t that make me an insider to this mys­te­ri­ous event? Just as I said in the begin­ning, I had wanted to be a bystander that got sucked into these events, con­tent with being a mere side­kick. But as things stood, I was already the pro­tag­o­nist! That’s right, I had really wished I was a char­ac­ter in a story involv­ing aliens, but when I’d really become one, it put every­thing into per­spec­tive. To be hon­est, I’m quite trou­bled by it.”39

He only wanted to be a bystander, or a side­kick. But as pre­sent­ed, Haruhi is the pro­tag­o­nist. Hmm…

Why not Kyon?

“Just what the hell have I been doing all along?”

Kyon40

We must of course con­sider evi­dence mil­i­tat­ing against Kyon being God.

The God’s God

One par­tic­u­larly impor­tant bit of evi­dence is an inter­view with the novel author. I’ve always respected the abil­ity of read­ers to get more val­ue, or enter­tain­ment, or moral reflec­tion out of a work than the author had put in it - but I still feel the author is the final word on what hap­pened in a book. So let’s see what Nagaru has to say:

“I had wanted to write nov­els for many years, rather than to be an author. I think it’s because some ‘I wanna write nov­els by myself’ neural net­works were grad­u­ally estab­lished in my brain while I read var­i­ous kinds of nov­els in my child­hood. I still don’t know if I’m a writer or what­ev­er.”

That’s a pos­i­tive point. A lit­er­ary man is nat­u­rally sym­pa­thetic to such a plot inver­sion as I sug­gest here.

"Q: When and how was the typ­i­cal incom­pli­ant char­ac­ter, Suzu­miya Haruhi, born?

Nagaru: I can’t remem­ber at all. She already existed in my mind by the time I noticed her there. In a sleep­less night at the begin­ning of the 21st cen­tu­ry, the idea seemed to have come down from heaven into my head at the moment I rolled over in bed."

Oh dear. The author speaks of Haruhi in divine terms. This sug­gests he buys into Haruhi-kami.

"Q: Haruhi hates bore­dom most of all and seeks ‘extra­or­di­nar­i­ness’ in school life. And the one who is always at her beck and call is the nar­ra­tor of this sto­ry, Kyon. He is an ordi­nary boy with no out­stand­ing fea­tures, whose name is not even revealed. What do you think about him?

Nagaru: Though I could give him a decent name, I thought it feels stu­pid and funny that he is called by that queer nick­name from begin­ning to end. As for his fea­ture­less­ness, I orig­i­nally planned he would be an ESPer, but while writ­ing the Pro­logue, I had sub­con­sciously turned him into a com­mon per­son. And you said he is an ordi­nary boy, but I think, in a sense, he is not an ordi­nary boy, such as his way of think­ing."

Even worse; one of the cen­tral argu­ments for Kyon-kami is his lack of appar­ent pow­ers - but here he appar­ently had those pow­ers and lost them through mere autho­r­ial over­sight at the last min­ute! And other curi­ous aspects, like his name, are waved away as fur­ther evi­dence of his anonymity and mun­dan­i­ty. His only unique fea­ture is his philo­soph­i­cal way of think­ing.

This is not a smok­ing gun against Kyon-kami since the grand inver­sion or sub­ver­sion could have occurred to Nagaru only after most of the ele­ments were in place, and series can some­times change dra­mat­i­cally while being writ­ten (if Nagaru had even planned out more than the ini­tial set­ting or the first nov­el); for exam­ple, over the 10 nov­els there is a major shift in empha­sis from Haruhi to Yuki Naga­to, although some­one read­ing the first novel would be hard pressed to guess that Yuki would become such a focus as opposed to another char­ac­ter like Mikuru or Itsu­ki.

A pox on both your houses

And let’s not for­get the aspects that don’t seem to work for either Kyon-kami or Haruhi-kami. Con­sider the mak­ing the fes­ti­val film in book 2; Haruhi remarks that she wanted a local Shinto shrine stuffed with white birds instead of ugly ordi­nary one. Kyon is taken there the day after, and sure enough, all the birds are vividly white. Or in book 2, Haruhi’s screen­play demand that Mikuru have destruc­tive eye­beams (lasers, mini-black holes, etc.), which nearly kill Kyon sev­eral times. Nei­ther case seems quite right; why would Kyon make the birds white the day after, when Haruhi will never see or know of them? Why would Kyon endue Mikuru with entirely unnec­es­sar­ily destruc­tive pow­ers which nearly kill him, and dam­age Yuki whom he likes? For that mat­ter, why would Haruhi turn the birds white only long after she needs them white for her movie; ditto for the eye­beams.

Just another love story

“Some­times I get the feel­ing that we’re all just a bunch of clowns stand­ing on our tip­toes at the edge of a great abyss.”

Itsuki41

Are you ready to go all the way down the Wolfe den? Here’s the real sto­ry:

There once was a lonely god who lived as a human. He lived his life and even­tu­ally even he thought he was just a human in an ordi­nary world - because even the most extra­or­di­nary world becomes ordi­nary after long enough. He fell in love with an unusual girl. Still igno­rant, he sought to cre­ate a world she could be happy in and where he could go on adven­tures and they could do all sorts of fun things together and per­haps even fall in love. The end.

Ludi­crous? Con­sider the sce­nario we are asked to accept at face val­ue: Haruhi unknow­ingly cre­ates the world and all the para­nor­mal fac­tions, but noth­ing hap­pens for 3 years, and she just so hap­pens to run into Kyon at high school and form a club with him; and Kyon comes to be cru­cial and con­fided in by them, because simul­ta­ne­ously Haruhi seems to becom­ing fond of him.

Isn’t that sce­nario actu­ally more com­plex than a sce­nario in which Kyon-kami cre­ates a world to live in with Haruhi, and tries to let her happy by form­ing the SOS Brigade and cre­at­ing the mem­bers nec­es­sary to carry out its func­tions and put her at the cen­ter of things? Kyon-kami would want to know and par­tic­i­pate in events. He could­n’t enjoy the club as he did if he were in the igno­rant Haruhi’s posi­tion. And enjoy the club he and Haruhi does. it’s worth repeat­ing this thought: Haruhi is hap­py, even though she is cut out of most of the super­nat­ural events - in the end, “the Power of Friend­ship” defeats her melan­cho­lia. To return to the pre­vi­ous crit­i­cism of the “End­less Eight” episodes in sea­son 2:

At another lev­el, I feel that KyoAni’s ren­di­tion End­less Eight was, in fact, a scathing crit­i­cism of otaku­dom. Here you are, End­less Eight said to me, sit­ting down every god­damn week to watch the same god­damn ani­me. Out­side it’s sum­mer and there are infi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties, infi­nite lives you could live; Haruhi’s even com­piled a list! But no, you’re a fuck­ing moron. You’re liv­ing an end­less loop of the same day, just like these guys, and End­less Eight is your pun­ish­ment.

makes an inci­sive obser­va­tion on the unique­ly-o­taku video in his oth­er­wise-mixed essay (par­tic­u­larly when one remem­bers that the video was pro­duced for a SF con­ven­tion, an insti­tu­tion of des­per­ate value to otaku - as one feels acutely watch­ing _ or read­ing _):

…After the sequence in which Bunny Girl flies around tire­less­ly, every­thing is destroyed by (what can only be con­strued as) an atomic bomb. In the ensu­ing whirl­wind, petals from Japan’s national flow­er, the cherry blos­som, engulf every­thing in a blast of pink; the streets become scorched earth, moun­tains are burnt bare, and the whole world becomes a waste­land. Amidst this dev­as­ta­tion, Space­ship DAICON, sym­bol­iz­ing otaku, floats in midair emit­ting a pow­er­ful beam - the beam of sci­ence-fic­tion fans. The world revives, giant trees rise in a flash, and Mother Earth is once again bedecked in green. Char­ac­ters from the world of sci­ence fic­tion gather on the restored planet to cel­e­brate. In accor­dance with the rubrics of otaku taste, all of the char­ac­ters are hap­py, their chests puffed up proudly at the light of hope. Char­ac­ters who have never occu­pied the same screen grad­u­ally inter­act with each other and assem­ble in the final mob scene - a per­fect encap­su­la­tion of the sci­ence-fic­tion con­fer­ence’s mes­sage…Hideaki Anno, who later directed Neon Gen­e­sis Evan­ge­lion, cre­ated the explo­sion scene, and it is almost painful to watch his patho­log­i­cal obses­sion with it, as an atomic whirl­wind destroys the city…One indi­ca­tion of the film­mak­ers’ obses­sion with qual­ity and con­cept was their use of a then-rare per­sonal com­put­er, which enabled them to cal­cu­late plan­e­tary orbits and thus design the solar sys­tem that appears in the last scene. The com­plex­ity of this design process offers fur­ther evi­dence of the film­mak­ers’ obses­sion with real­ism. Sur­pris­ing­ly, it turns out that the ulti­mate dream of otaku aes­thet­ics, scrupu­lous yet fanat­i­cally obsessed with real­i­ty, is a happy par­ty, a peace­ful fes­ti­val.

Yes. Exact­ly. Just so. (One might ask why Kyon does­n’t just give Haruhi her heart’s desire; but if Haruhi knew that aliens and time trav­el­ers and ESPers weren’t any more inter­est­ing than her club­mates, that would only destroy her hap­pi­ness and return her melan­cho­li­a.) The end­ing of the first novel takes on addi­tional poignan­cy:

“I did­n’t know whether her frown had to do with today’s low atten­dance rate, or the fact that I arrived ear­lier than her. I’ll just have to ask her when we get to the cafe…
By then, I’ll have many things I want to talk to her about, like where the SOS Brigade is going from now on, Asahi­na-san’s cos­tumes, try­ing to have her talk to other class­mates for once, and ask­ing her what she thinks of Sig­mund Freud’s psy­cho­analy­sis.
How­ev­er, I need a good topic before I can start a con­ver­sa­tion with her. Ah, I’ve already decided what to say. That’s right, I’ve decid­ed……
……To talk about aliens, time trav­el­ers, and ESPers first, of course.”

I feel this is a lovely sto­ry; it touches me. It may not be true. The story of Haruhi may be just as it seems. But if it isn’t true - it ought to be42.

To put it another way, sup­pos­ing the Kyon-kami hypoth­e­sis were true, the premise of the story (the strange life of an unwit­ting god) would still be cor­rect. But then it would­n’t just be some of the char­ac­ters who are unwit­ting, it would be all - even the audi­ence would­n’t be in on the trick.

What a joke!


  1. Though it’s hard to argue that works of his like or do not have fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries and set­tings.↩︎

  2. The rea­son I began read­ing Gene Wolfe was because I idly picked up his and began read­ing for half an hour. Some chap­ters into the book, I ran into a scene set in an ancient library (chap­ter 6, ‘The Mas­ter of the Cura­tors’). The librar­ian begins describ­ing his wares, and the prose reaches a level I rarely see out­side of such great authors as Oscar Wilde or Sir :

    ’“…At last I real­ized that instead of read­ing it, I had been observ­ing it as a phys­i­cal object. The red I recalled came from the rib­bon sewn to the head­band so that I might mark my place. The tex­ture that tick­led my fin­gers still was that of the paper on which the book was print­ed. The smell in my nos­trils was old leather, still bear­ing the traces of birch oil. It was only then, when I saw the books them­selves, that I began to under­stand their care.”

    His grip on my shoul­der tight­ened. “We have books here bound in the hides of echid­nes, krak­ens, and beasts so long extinct that those whose stud­ies they are, are for the most part of the opin­ion that no trace of them sur­vives unfos­silized. We have books bound wholly in met­als of unknown alloy, and books whose bind­ings are cov­ered with thick­set gems. We have books cased in per­fumed woods shipped across the incon­ceiv­able gulf between cre­ations - books dou­bly pre­cious because no one on Urth can read them.”

    “We have books whose papers are mat­ted of plants from which spring curi­ous alka­loids, so that the read­er, in turn­ing their pages, is taken unaware by bizarre fan­tasies and chimeric dreams. Books whose pages are not paper at all, but del­i­cate wafers of white jade, ivory, and shell; books too whose leaves are the des­ic­cated leaves of unknown plants. Books we have also that are not books at all to the eye: scrolls and tablets and record­ings on a hun­dred differ­ent sub­stances. There is a cube of crys­tal here - though I can no longer tell you where - no larger than the ball of your thumb that con­tains more books than the library itself does. Though a har­lot might dan­gle it from one ear for an orna­ment, there are not vol­umes enough in the world to coun­ter­weight the oth­er.”

    “All these I came to know, and I made safe­guard­ing them my life’s devo­tion.”

    ↩︎
  3. Some­times they can find too much; con­sider the many con­tra­dic­tory inter­pre­ta­tions of Wolfe’s short story “”.↩︎

  4. The spe­cific clue is that the anthro­pol­o­gist is a crack shot and right-hand­ed; his usurper is nei­ther. If this seems exces­sively sub­tle to you, many would agree.↩︎

  5. The irony of course being that Wolfe’s allu­sions and dis­course range so widely that one would have to be a pan­sophist or have the same per­sonal library in order to fol­low each ref­er­ence and per­ceive the whole pat­tern.↩︎

  6. “The Wolfe & Gaiman Show”, _↩︎

  7. I mean this in the sense of social­ly-well-ad­just­ed, and not nerdy or . Many high school anime have ‘ordi­nary joes’ who are actu­ally unusual (in the same way that hard­core anime watch­ers are unusu­al). If every­one you hang out with resem­bles the cast of , it can be easy to mis­take what I mean by ‘ordi­nary’ in an anime con­text like this.↩︎

  8. Japan­ese high schools are not like Amer­i­can high schools in this respect; classes stay together as they rotate through the sub­jects.↩︎

  9. More or less; Yuki is a robot/AI, which counts as an alien; Itsuki Koizumi is an ESPer, but only in sub­-di­men­sions that spo­rad­i­cally appear; and Mikuru is a time trav­el­er, though she only seems to make 2 trips. There don’t seem to be any ghosts or demons in the cast.↩︎

  10. Haruhi is one of the par­a­dig­matic tsun­dere char­ac­ters; con­sider a quote from episode 1: “Feel­ings of love are just a tem­po­rary lapse in judg­ment. Like a men­tal ill­ness.”↩︎

  11. “I have been doing this since I was born 3 years ago. In the last 3 years, no par­tic­u­larly unusual ele­ments were dis­cov­ered, and things were very sta­ble. How­ev­er, recently an exter­nal fac­tor has now appeared beside Suzu­miya Haruhi that can­not be ignored.” Chap­ter 3, Book 1↩︎

  12. Episode 5↩︎

  13. The Data Inte­gra­tion Entity has fac­tions which con­flict on how to han­dle Haruhi, sim­i­lar to the Tech­no­Core’s con­flicts over whether to cre­ate the ulti­mate machine intelligence/god, the AI char­ac­ters Yuki/Asakura/etc are rem­i­nis­cent of the John Keats “cybrid” char­ac­ter, and a trans­lated copy of being read by Yuki Nagato fea­tures promi­nently early on and dur­ing The Dis­ap­pear­ance of Haruhi Suzu­miya (al­luded to in the LN as “Nagato Yuki was in her usual spot, read­ing a hard­back book about a falling down, or some­thing like that.” and shown more explic­itly in the ani­me).↩︎

  14. “The infor­ma­tion sparks emit­ted from a cer­tain area in the bow-shaped arch­i­pel­ago instantly cov­ered the whole planet and started to spread towards outer space. And the cen­ter of all that is Suzu­miya Haruhi.” Chap­ter 3, Book 1↩︎

  15. Chap­ter 3, Book 1↩︎

  16. Par­tic­u­larly not here. If the ESPers can observe Haruhi’s emo­tional dis­tress - which they must be able to, in order to notice the cor­re­la­tion - so could some­one else. For an out­side observer, it’s hard to tell the differ­ence between a causal sequence like ‘A→C’, and ‘A→B→C’.↩︎

  17. “I quickly warned her about the dan­gers of putting per­sonal details on the web, and amaz­ingly for once, Haruhi actu­ally paid atten­tion and lis­tened to me seri­ous­ly…She then very reluc­tantly allowed me to remove the images from the page.” Chap­ter 3, Book 1↩︎

  18. Chap­ter 6, Book 2↩︎

  19. Chap­ter 4, Book 1↩︎

  20. Dor­cas appears to be a ran­dom young woman Sev­er­ian saves and sleeps with; in fact, she was res­ur­rected by Sev­er­ian. And she’s his grand­moth­er.↩︎

  21. Chap­ter 4, Book 2↩︎

  22. Chap­ter 5, Book 2↩︎

  23. Kyon; Pro­logue, Book 1:

    "I could­n’t help but get depressed at how nor­mal the laws of physics were. I began to stop watch­ing for UFOs and pay­ing atten­tion to para­nor­mal TV shows because I finally con­vinced myself it was impos­si­ble. I even reached a point where I only had a sense of nos­tal­gia for those things.

    After junior high, I com­pletely grew out of that fan­tasy world and became utterly grounded in real­i­ty."

    ↩︎
  24. Con­sider “Hare Hare Yukai Kyon”, the cyn­i­cal Kyon ver­sion of “”, with lyrics like

      "This warped, looping collection of people
      Before I know it, we're all involved, and her delusions run rampant (Someone, stop her!)
      ...Just set me free from this-kind-of-thing
      Chase after them (By yourself!) Try catching them (By yourself!!)
      Because I have no dreams & dreams (Just do what you want)
      ...Don't hold my hand in yours
      If you're going to face anything, face it alone!"
    ↩︎
  25. Chap­ter 6, Book 1↩︎

  26. Pro­logue, Book 1↩︎

  27. vol­ume 1 tells us Kyon’s melan­choly was - osten­si­bly - due to hav­ing to climb a hill:

    And so, I entered the senior high school in my area. At first, I regret­ted this deci­sion as my new school sat on top of a very high hill. Even dur­ing spring, stu­dents would become hot and sweaty just from climb­ing the steep road - clear­ly, my inten­tion of “going to school leisurely” was not going to work. Every time I remem­bered this, along with the fact that I would have to repeat the same pro­ce­dure every day for the next three years, I became tired and depressed. I over­slept a bit today. Per­haps that’s why I walked so much faster, and per­haps that was why I was so tired then. I could have woken up ten min­utes ear­lier, but, as all of you know, you sleep best right before it’s time to get up. I did­n’t want to waste that pre­cious 10 min­utes, so I gave up on the thought, which meant that I would need to repeat this early exer­cise for the next three years. This was just too depress­ing.

    ↩︎
  28. The bunny suits have been men­tioned already. More pointed is one cus­tom of Haruhi (Chap­ter 1, Book 1):

    "Clue #2: For PE, classes 1-5 and 1-6 would com­bine and take it togeth­er, with the boys and girls sep­a­rat­ed. When we changed clothes, the girls would go to the 1-5 class­room, and the boys would go to the 1-6 class­room; mean­ing at the end of the pre­vi­ous peri­od, the guys from our class (1-5) would move to the other room to change.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Haruhi totally ignored the guys in our class and removed her sailor uni­form before they had left.

    It was as if, to her, the guys were pump­kins or potato sacks, and she could­n’t care less. With­out any expres­sion, she would throw her uni­form onto the desk and start to get into her sweat­shirt…But, seri­ous­ly, Haruhi has a really great fig­ure… argh, this isn’t the time to say that kind of thing."

    ↩︎
  29. “I leaned on the cor­ri­dor wall and waited for them to change. Seems like Haruhi was­n’t really a born exhi­bi­tion­ist, just that she had no idea what effect the sight of her being half naked would have on guys. The rea­son she dressed her­self up in a bunny cos­tume was­n’t really to show off her sexy body, but rather to attract peo­ple’s atten­tion.” Chap­ter 2, Book 1↩︎

  30. Kyon repeat­edly enjoys Haruhi’s molesta­tions, right from the start. Con­sider his first encounter with Mikuru in Chap­ter 2 of Book 1: “Asahi­na-san screamed instant­ly. But Haruhi was unmoved, clutch­ing her breasts through her sailor uni­form. ‘Aaaaa!’ ‘She’s so small, yet her breasts are larger than mine! A cute face plus large breasts is also an impor­tant fac­tor in turn­ing peo­ple on!’ Oh my god, I’m about to faint.”↩︎

  31. “I still remem­ber how gleam­ing her white neck was - stand­ing there was an astound­ing beau­ty. Haruhi, with her provoca­tive eyes, scanned the class slow­ly, stopped to glare at me (I had my mouth wide open), and then sat down with­out so much as a smile.” Chap­ter 1, Book 1↩︎

  32. Per­haps more stereo­typ­i­cal in anime than Japan­ese cul­ture in gen­er­al. The anime adap­ta­tion re-an­i­mates the same episode many times, in a bizarre waste of resources; the best defense (although surely not what was intend­ed) was that the episodes rep­re­sented a “scathing cri­tique of otaku­dom”.↩︎

  33. Chap­ter 1, Book 1↩︎

  34. “It seems that some­one decided every­one in class needed to change their seats month­ly. There­fore, the class mon­i­tor, Asaku­ra, wrote all the seat num­bers onto lit­tle pieces of paper, placed them in a cookie tin, and let each of us draw from it. In the end, I got the seat in the sec­ond to last row next to the win­dow that over­looks the court­yard. Guess who took the last seat right behind me? That’s right. It was the ever-s­cowl­ing Haruhi!” Book 1, Chap­ter 1↩︎

  35. Chap­ter 1, Book 1↩︎

  36. An exam­ple of how Kyon seems to know what’s real bet­ter than the other char­ac­ters, from Haruhi The­ater, Act 1; Kyon also falls into his role to a lesser extent than the oth­ers (in­deed, he acts like a war­rior not at all):

    ’OK, then let’s think about the cur­rent prob­lems before defeat­ing the demon king. “Where are we?” I asked. “What is this RPG-like world? Why are we here? Who got us here?”

    Koizumi smiled, show­ing his daz­zling teeth.

    “To be hon­est I am not sure as well. Before I real­ized it I was already in the King’s Cham­ber. I’m assum­ing that you felt some­thing sim­i­lar. My mem­ory of that time is very hazy. What do you remem­ber?”

    I can’t remem­ber. That’s why I feel uncom­fort­able. What were we doing before we showed up before the king?’

    ↩︎
  37. Chap­ter 7, Book 1↩︎

  38. Book 1, Chap­ter 1↩︎

  39. Chap­ter 5↩︎

  40. Book 1, Chap­ter 6↩︎

  41. Episode 5↩︎

  42. In this I fol­low the path of my mas­ter Jorge Luis Borges, in his review of Richard Hul­l’s detec­tive novel Excel­lent Inten­tions:

    Here was my plan: to plot a detec­tive novel of the cur­rent sort, with an inde­ci­pher­able mur­der in the first pages, a long dis­cus­sion in the mid­dle, and a solu­tion at the end. Then, almost in the last line, to add an ambigu­ous phrase - for exam­ple: “and every­one thought the meet­ing of the man and the woman had been by chance” - that would indi­cate, or raise the sus­pi­cion, that the solu­tion was false. The per­plexed reader would go through the per­ti­nent chap­ters again, and devise his own solu­tion, the cor­rect one. The reader of this imag­i­nary book would be sharper than the detec­tive…

    [Hul­l’s] solu­tion, how­ev­er, is so unsur­pris­ing that I can­not free myself from the sus­pi­cion that this quite real book, pub­lished in Lon­don, is the one I imag­ined in Bal­van­era, three or four years ago. In which case, Excel­lent Inten­tions hides a secret plot. Ah me, or ah Richard Hull! I can’t find that secret plot any­where.

    ↩︎