Anime Philosophy #3: The Cynicism of Haruhi Suzumiya

An image of the ever cynical narrator of our story.
An image of the ever cynical narrator of our story. | Source

I know I've already done an Anime Philosophy on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya before. However, I wanted to go a little bit deeper into philosophy, and this does indeed give me the opportunity to do so.

The stories in the Haruhi series - eleven in total - are narrated by a young student, who seems to have forgotten his real name after spending too much time going by his nickname bestowed upon him by his aunt: Kyon.

“… she went, ‘Oh Kyon. You’ve grown so big,’ which was an unwelcome twist on my name”

Kyon is actually not a Japanese name, but a Greek one, literally meaning 'dog.' it is also the root for the word kynikos - meaning 'doggish.' Kynikos is translated into contemporary English as a more familiar term: cynical, which in it's modern context, aptly describes our much beloved narrator.

Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Anime Legends)
Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Anime Legends)

The first season of this sci-fi adventure features Kyon, an ordinary high school boy, go on adventures with an alien, a time traveller, and an esper, all under the leadership of a girl who may hold the secrets of the universe!

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Season 2
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Season 2

The adventures continue for Kyon and his supernatural friends as the try to contain the eccentricity that is Haruhi Suzumiya.

"Diogenes Looking for an Honest Man" by JHW Tischbein
"Diogenes Looking for an Honest Man" by JHW Tischbein

Diogenes of Sinope

Diogenes of Sinope was a philosopher of Athens and Corinth. Having been exiled from his hometown of Sinope, he held no citizenship and instead referred to himself as a "Cosmopolitan" - a citizen of the world.

Most of what we know about Diogenes stems from anecdotes and stories from other ancient Greek historians. But most of them surround similar themes: a rejection of authority as expressed physically through dramatic actions. Much similar to the guerrilla theatre artists of today.

One anecdote has him stumbling through the crowded marketplace in Athens with a lamp in broad daylight claiming to be searching for "an honest man." Another holds that he held a brief conversation with Alexander the Great. Alexander, who was very fond of philosophy - having been tutored by Aristotle - was excited to meet Diogenes in Corinth. Alexander offered to use his authority to do one favor for Diogenes, to which Diogenes replied "Yes, you could stand out of my sunlight."

Diogenes, who was given the nickname "Diogenes the Dog" for his praise of a dog's virtue is often cited as the founder of cynical philosophy - a rejection of authority and values for the sake of authority and values. In Haruhi, while our "dog" Kyon does not necessarily reject Haruhi's authority outright, we do often see him trying to talk sense into our authoritarian heroine, keeping her authority from going to far. He also does this in action, as he protests Haruhi's treatment of Mikuru Asahina - the time travelling beauty - in the novel "The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya."

Diogenes, who seemed to by a physical embodiment of common sense, and Kyon, who is often the "straight man" trying to talk common sense into the others is also seemingly the only person who even question Haruhi's authority. In ancient Athens, the dictates of the Emperor were absolute. Likewise, in the S.O.S. Brigade Haruhi's edicts are absolute, and none of her citizens dare question her.

Diogenes The Cynic: The War Against The World
Diogenes The Cynic: The War Against The World

An excellent bigraphy on Diogenes, the founder of the cynism school of philosophy.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

The first in the popular series of Light Novels translated into English


Conclusion: The Dog Succeeding the Dog?

Kyon is a very likely parallel for Diogenes, knowing Tanigawa-sama's penchant for peppering his novels with lessons in science, philosophy, and metaphysics, where the two studies may collide. Even in the latest novel - not yet available in North America - one of the characters goes into great length to describe Gnosticism, a theme comparable to the actual storyline of the novel. It would not be surprising if the name Kyon is intentional on the part of the author, although, then again, I cannot actually say the message the author is trying to convey, I can only critique his work and give my own personal Interpretation of it. Sometimes it's best to let the story speak for itself.

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Comments 5 comments

RachaelLefler profile image

RachaelLefler 5 years ago from Illinois

relating Kyon's name to the word "cynical" blew my mind.

Bubblegum Senpai profile image

Bubblegum Senpai 5 years ago from Little Tokyo Author

Yeah. It seems like a stretch, until you read some some of Koizumi's Monologues in the novels.

skipMasters 4 years ago

This is a little off topic as it is not about Kyon, but as a comparison of characters to Greek philosophies; i started to think about and compare the following:

Nagato - Logos; by default, as the emotionless and (mostly) impartial girl who offers only the most of scientific facts.

Asahina - Pathos; obviously, the emotionally (and physically) tormented girl who cries about everything.

Koizumi - Ethos; also by default since i believe that Nagato would qualify better as Logos than Ethos and Koizumi seems to hold a very strict ethical standard in comparison to normal students. also, Nagato is a machine (for all practical purposes) and would seemingly be immune to ethical qualities rather than defined programming.

i'd like to hear your thoughts on these ideas!



skipMasters 4 years ago

also forgot to add: in relation to these ways of conveying reason, to whom are these characters speaking? kyon or the audience, maybe both?


Bubblegum Senpai profile image

Bubblegum Senpai 4 years ago from Little Tokyo Author

@SkipM Sorry about the late response, but I think you may be on to something... each character is very unique, and Tanigawa-senpai takes great pains to deliberately point out the qualities that divide and unite the cast. as for who they are speaking to, I imagine Kyon as a bit of a chorus, whereas they are speaking to Kyon, but Kyon then conveys this to us.

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    Nigel, AKA Bubblegum Senpai has been a weird, anime obsessed freak of nature since he first watched "Samurai Pizza Cats" as a young lad.

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