- Entertainment and Media»
- Cartoons & Animation
Anime Philosophy #1: Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
A while back I promised to go more in depth about Haruhi Suzumiya. Well, I am going to do that here, with a brief synopsis on the series as well as some of the philosophy surrounding it.
The series surrounds a high school student nicknamed Kyon - his real name is never revealed, as if he was completely unaware of his own name - who spent most of his life wishing life was more like mangas and cartoons, until he finally outgrew that and realised that reality is just not like that. Espers (people who can use ESP) don't appear out of nowhere asking for help, Time travellers are not likely to control your destiny, and Aliens are not going to come and make intergalactiv hamburgers.
That is until he meets Haruhi Suzumiya.
Kyon, wishing now only for a normal high school life, is suddenly dragged into the enigma that is Haruhi Suzumiya: an eccentric high school freshman girl (freshwoman?) who is utterly bored with reality and still wishes for the extraordinary - Aliens, time travelers, and espers. However, what she doesn't know is that they are indeed very real, and they are real because she wishes for them to be.
Haruhi, as it turns out, is for all intents and purposes "god." It is presumed that she created the world that had aliens, time travellers, and espers three years ago. She has the power to destroy worlds and recreate them subconciously according to her will. However, she is completely unaware that she is capable of doing so, and as far as she's concerned the world always was.
After forcing Kyon into her little "club" known as the Spreading Excitement all Over the World with Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade, or simply, the SOS Brigade, with the purpose of finding aliens, espers and time travellers. However, the three other members of the club - besides Haruhi and Kyon - are actually themselves an alien, a time travelers, and an esper. And their sole purpose has been to observe Haruhi Suzumiya, prevent her from discovering her powers, and to keep her from accidentally destroying the world. And for some reason, Kyon is forced to share the burden.
The first obvious one deals with religion, and the theme of man as god. As Itsuki Koizumi, the High School esper boy, puts it: "She is an imperfect god." This theme can also be found in the movie Bruce Almighty. No human is perfect. And really no human should be god-like. The consequences are enormous. Haruhi herself could - even without knowledge of her powers - could accidentally destroy and recreate the world without ever knowing it, just because she's frustrated or bored. The good thing - we might not ever notice it too.
This is where we get into the next philosophy: Accepted perception of reality. Kant even discusses this: If stealing were morally acceptable, then our understanding of property and ownership would be completely different than it is now. An example brought up in The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya is that if Haruhi wished cats could talk, then no one would be surprised by talking cats because she would create a world where cats always could have talked and from our perception, everyone would have always thought cats could talk. Our perception of reality would be completely different because reality itself would have changed.
When Haruhi created the world three years ago, she created us with all of our memories intact as it was. So there is no way if determining an event you remember from several years back actually occurred - you may have been created with that memory. In that sense, our understanding of reality is completely shattered. Good thing this is a work fiction - I hope.
Thirdly, there is a sense of be careful what you wish for. First off, Haruhi has the powers to make wishes become reality, so there are sometimes small consequences (making cherries bloom out of season or changing the colors of doves to white) sometimes big ones (making a person shoot a deadly beam from her eye nearly killing Kyon).
Additionally, Kyon had spent a good chunk of his childhood - assuming his childhood actually happenned - wishing for a more interesting life, and now that his life has become more interesting he seems to be wishing for a life more ordinary and less extraordinary.
And that still isn't enough! In the fourth book (and subsequent movie) The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya Kyon wakes up in an alternate reality where Haruhi went to a private school for the brightest students. No aliens, time travellers, or espers. The SOS brigade never existed. Kyon is forced to re-evaluate his life and the terrifying conclusion comes: he misses Haruhi, he misses the excitement, and even misses the stress and nuisance of the "old-life" and is forced to make a choice between the world he once knew, or the world he had been wishing for.
There is much more philosophy than just these three in the series, but I thought this would make an interesting introduction to the basics.