Anime Philosophy: The Cynicism of Haruhi Suzumiya
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.
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 be 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 subjects dare question her.
Conclusion: The Dog Succeeding the Dog?
Kyon is a very likely parallel for Diogenes, knowing Tanigawa's penchant for peppering his novels with lessons in science, philosophy, and metaphysics, and the points where these 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.