The Masked Tragedy of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
When roaming the overwhelming world of anime, it’s impossible to miss The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The series entertained everybody, die-hard anime fans and casual watchers, kids and adults. With a quirky cast and wacky adventures, it was hard not to be captivated by the uplifting, energizing spirit that the anime exudes. However, look an inch below the surface, and the entire world of Haruhi Suzumiya is clearly an innocent front, a façade that hides a myriad of more mature issues that the series addresses. One particular message that stood out was the fact that Haruhi was not the eccentric, unfathomable person we’ve come to know her as. She, just as any other human, is prone to err, making rash decisions based on emotions. This is her downfall, the reason that the anime is intended to be a masked tragedy and Haruhi Suzumiya the unfortunate tragic heroine.
It would make sense to define what encompasses a tragic hero. According to Aristotle, a tragic hero must fall from grace by error of judgment or misfortune, not through inherently evil acts that come back to haunt him. The tragic hero must act in a way that is wrong with the error coming from a lack of good judgment or misfortune as opposed to ill-will. Aristotle refers to Oedipus as an example of a tragic hero. By unknowingly killing his father in self-defense and thus equally ignorantly marrying his widowed mother, Oedipus falls victim to unavoidable events that stem from a single event without any way of knowing the conclusion.
Now that the mold of the tragic hero has been shaped, it’s time to fill it with some concrete evidence from the life of Haruhi Suzumiya.
Haruhi Suzumiya was a normal child, as far as canonical works show. Sharp-witted and clever, but normal, until she went to a baseball game in sixth grade. In awe at the size of the crowd, she realizes that she is a minuscule piece of a world unimaginably bigger than her. She understands than in the grand scheme of things, everything she knows of is comparatively uninteresting and the world bores her. This moment of comprehension changes Haruhi and is the primary motivation for her eccentric actions. Believing there to be more entertaining beings outside of her knowing, she tirelessly worked to smoke out anything out of the ordinary. Because of the lack of interesting incidents, our protagonist eventually grows to be the irascible, egoistic girl we are introduced to in the beginning of the series.
The origin of her unconventional mindset is of absolute importance to her downfall. Most basically, her past serves as the spring-board, the memory on which she justifies all of her future actions, the reason she breathes and lives. Had she not experienced her transformative moment, she would have been a regular high school girl living the ignorant life that most high school students live. Haruhi attends North High because she believes it is filled with interesting people. She vandalizes school grounds on the basis that doing so would attract aliens. She is unable to make friends because people are unable to deal with her abnormal behavior. For the entirety of the three years before the series starts, she dedicates her life to finding objects and people of interest, abandoning her social life, need for friends, and indentity in search of the thing of her dreams. Her time in the baseball stadium was the point at which she forgot the childish magic of Christmas, and all the effort she put in afterwards is an endeavor dedicated to reclaiming those lost sentiments.
Plot-wise, her childhood is significant because it is then she gains her powers as the goddess of the world, though unknowingly so. Haruhi Suzumiya is the creator of all things in the universe in which she lives, and anything she desires or believes to be true comes to be so. Though the exact nature of her powers is never fully explained, the various factions involved in keeping Haruhi sane all agree that their powerful, young charge definitely can bend the laws of the universe to her will, and this power sets the stage for her final plunge.
There is only one arc necessary to analyze, the original Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Arc. This is when Haruhi first meets our main protagonist, Kyon. While at first turned off by Haruhi’s peculiar tendencies and cold personality, Kyon eventually finds the courage to strike up a conversation with her. From that moment on, Kyon’s status is irrevocably linked with Haruhi’s and he is known as the only one to be able to tolerate her behavior. It is Kyon who suggests to Haruhi to form a club herself if she finds nothing else on campus engaging. Thus, the SOS Brigade is formed, and Kyon becomes the first recruit. The rest of the arc is filled by explanatory episodes, with each new member revealing a new side to the conundrum that is the founder of the SOS Brigade. Though each member has thoughts of his or her own, it is established that when Haruhi is upset, she creates “closed spaces” or alternate planes of reality that overlap with the real world.
Things start getting inexplicably weirder when Kyon has a brief time of flirting with Asahina Mikuru, his object of affection. Haruhi gets a more than a little jealous, and a closed space that envelops the entire world is brought into existence. This world, however, differs from previous realms in that Kyon and Haruhi are the only people who exist alongside native blue giants made of light. Even the mysterious ESPer transfer student, Itsuki Koizumi, is unable to break into this new world. Though Kyon is understandably disconcerted, his female companion and club leader is overcome with childish wonder and breaks away to investigate the mysterious new beings. Kyon, after many hints from his club mates, kisses Haruhi, persuading her to return them to the old world.
It’s a story many are familiar with, but let’s take a closer look and identify some important factors.
It is absolutely vital that Kyon made the first move with Haruhi in the exact manner that he did, asking a single, sincere question to which his supernaturally obsessed classmate replied to equally seriously. While others ostracize her, Kyon becomes her single source of active interaction. Additionally, it is he that makes the move to talk with her, not the other way around. Kyon becomes the only known source of human conversation in her life by his own will.
As their conversations progress, our protagonist eventually asks Haruhi a question about her romantic life, to which she replies,”Everyone of them was ridiculously square. None of them were aliens, time travellers, or espers.” Haruhi clearly exhibits no romantic interest in anyone participating in the sphere of ordinary. Then again, she has a short fuse for anyone outside of her narrow range of acceptably exotic people, romantically involved or not. For a short period of time, she briefly joins every club on campus, complaining to Kyon that none of them were able to hold her captive. Haruhi indubitably has her priorities set, looking for the strange first and foremost with nothing else coming close. Her dedication from her middle school years has yet to wane.
As previously mentioned, Haruhi creates an enormous closed space after seeing Kyon flirt with Asahina. Also noted was the fact that Haruhi only manipulates space in this way when angered or upset. It’s safe to assume that the most recent case of the appearance of the alternate plane is attributed to Haruhi’s negative emotions when seeing her two club members being close together. We can further delve into this argument by saying this space was only created because it was Kyon that was acting familiar with Asahina. As other episodes show, Haruhi has great interest in being together with Kyon, acting disappointed when not paired with him in hunting for extraterrestrial incidents. Also, as Kyon is the only person to speak to her consistently and with little discrimination, it’s plausible that his existence is important to her. As the other brigade members mention, Kyon’s suggestions are the only ones Haruhi will listen to, showing that Haruhi thinks of him as someone of significance.
Lastly, remember at this point in the anime, the two have known each other for about a month at best.
Why does any of this matter? How do four, obvious, minor details account for Haruhi’s status as a tragic heroine?
All of this ties in at the climax, when the blue giants are rampaging around in the closed space occupied by only the world’s creator and Kyon. While Kyon is terrified and confised, she eagerly runs out into the open to get a closer look at the mysterious blue beings. The new closed space is a place that Haruhi is utterly fascinated with. But why include Kyon? The most average person of the average deemed worthy to live together with Haruhi in her new world, the world that she created and finds most interesting because Haruhi finds interest in him. Therein lies her mistake.
The fact that she allows Kyon to exist is akin to Oedipus leaving Polybus, to Macbeth committing that first sin, to Satan’s existence in Paradise Lost. She has proven time and time again that she is working tirelessly to ensure that her life is filled with fascinating objects and people. She has thrown away her friends and her old sense of identity, giving up what little a middle schooler has in life. She has fervently sought the compelling, and she finally found a world, her world, filled with the stuff of her dreams. Yet Haruhi Suzumiya, as iron-willed and determined as she was, folds like a piece of paper in the hands of a preschooler making origami. What she has forfeited her previous life for, she throws it all away once again. For a kiss. In a dream. In a moment of delusion, in a temporary lapse of judgment, Haruhi Suzumiya makes the choice that her normal self would never have succumbed to, and she lets a biological impulse dictate her life for that one moment. For a kiss in a dream. For essentially nothing. Because though Haruhi has shown signs hinting at affection for Kyon, our male lead has never reciprocated the gesture. They had only known each other for a very short time. The kiss, at that point, was nothing but a desperate attempt to save the world. The heroine let a disingenuous incarnation of love derail all the labor she had done. And when the world she creates disappears, her dreams and aspirations disintegrate with it, flying away, smashed to pieces. Because the almighty goddess of the world thought something existed when it was really just the desperate attempts of boy doing what he could, not for her, but for everybody else.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has long been discussed, and the tragic situations that many of the characters experience are often the focus of such conversations. However, Haruhi, due to her her hyperactive, effervescent persona, is often dismissed as the typical energetic, assertive, mood-lifting character, despite the traits that are perfectly calibrated with Aristotle’s original concept of the tragic hero. Having lived her life with her one goal in mind, she tosses aside any miscellaneous baggage unrelated to her mission. Undeterred by social exclusion, our heroine continues to pursue her aspirations, shoving away all else. Until she finally commits her one act, allowing herself to fall victim to her bodily wants, and she abandons everything that defined her as Haruhi Suzumiya. The beauty of this tragedy is not in the distance she fell or the obvious gut-wrenching emotional response by viewers; in fact, the series lacks both these things. Instead, the producers carefully crafted the story to conceal any of the traditional signs of tragedy. It’s significant because it’s subtle, not drastic. Oedipus and Haruhi Suzumiya cannot be compared by the magnitude of depth of their sorrow. Instead, it’s important to see that they both lost everything that was dear to them.
Did the kiss move you? Did it invite some warm, fuzzy feelings into your heart? Some people mention the final scene as the basis for romantic development between the two main characters. It is anything but heart-warming. It’s the fall of the world’s greatest dreamer, the depravity of someone who dared to think outside the box. It’s the scene that represents the tragedy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
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