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.

    ↩︎