Blogger’s note: Yes I did take an extended hiatus. I may explain why someday, but for now, I just want to get back to writing about Haruhi.
One of the hardest parts about writing these series of posts is knowing where to start. There are a lot of moving parts in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya, and each of them share pieces with each other.
But here is where I’m going to start — Kyon is both the least trustworthy character in Haruhi and the character we need to trust the most.
So having the main male lead narrate and open the story is something of a trope in shounen anime romance shows. We always open with our main male lead, generally on the move, and they’ll provide some sort of narration.
Let me give you a few examples. These are the opening lines from Suzuka.
“It took me seven hours to get from the Hiroshima countryside to Tokyo. I made my trip so I could start my first day of high school at a new place. I was walking by my new school to check it out when I saw this girl.”
In Kanon, we see the main male lead on a train, and then sitting on a bench outside of what appears to be a hospital. (You know, because sad girls in the snow.) Then we hear him say:
“She’s late. What is she doing?”
The thing about these openings is that the main characters tell us the truth. These are their actual feelings and their actual frustrations.
On the other hand, Kyon gives us this opening narration.
“OK. Asking someone how long they believed in Santa Claus, is so stupid you can’t even consider it a topic for idle conversation. But if you still want to know how long I believed in some old fat guy who wears wears a funky red suit, I can tell you this, I never believed in him ever.”
What is interesting is that while we are hearing him talk about how much he doesn’t believe in the mystical or magical we are presented with a world devoid of color. So what we are given is obviously a contradiction. Kyon says he doesn’t believe and he’s never believed and he leads himself and, by extension, us to believe that he never wanted to believe.
But he’s lying to himself and to us. This is confirmed at the end of his monologue as he talks about time travelers, espers and aliens.
“I guess I always knew those things were bogus. All I ever wanted was for an alien, time traveler, ghost, monster, esper, evil syndicate or the hero that fought them to just appear and say, ‘Hey’ … Unfortunately, reality is a hard road indeed.”
The Kyon that wants to believe
This is the fundamental dilemma that is at the center of Kyon. He is doing everything in his power to tell us and himself that he doesn’t believe in this stuff. Even as he is faced with the reality of it, he continues to treat it with sarcasm.
But he wants to believe, and nowhere is this more clear than with his relationship with Haruhi Suzumiya.
I have to give credit to the directors of this show. The visuals were exceptionally well planned and really undercut the story that Kyon is telling us. Throughout the opening of the show we are presented with a desaturated world that is sucked free of color.
Then, as Haruhi is introduced, color floods the world.
Yes. The symbolism is as subtle as an air horn, but it needs to be. We need to be let in on the secret that Haruhi is what gives Kyon’s life meaning.
This continues even as we learn her backstory. The director plays another trick and gives us her story as Kyon stares at her from the distance. Even as he complains about how weird she is, he finds more ways to talk to her.
Kyon is the proverbial lady who doth protest too much.
This is the fundamental contradiction about Kyon. He tells us one thing, but does the exact opposite. He says he’s tired of her, but he finds ways to be around her. He says that he doesn’t like her, but ends up basing his life around her whims.
The Lucid Eye
That is what makes this next part so fascinating. Kyon is the only normal human who really knows all of the secrets in this world.
So on the one hand, the director and artists that put together this show have done everything in their power to tell us that Kyon is not trustworthy. He is a narrator that not only lies to us, but lies to everyone around him and lies to himself.
He’s the only character with a full picture of everything that is going on.
The thing is that the three other characters from the SOS Brigade aren’t really real. As they explain, they are brought there because Haruhi willed them to be. If Haruhi wasn’t there, or didn’t meet Kyon, they wouldn’t exist.
So he is the only other independent actor, and, for better or worse, and we are asked to trust that the story he is telling us is the actual truth. But we already know that he doesn’t even tell himself the truth.
There is this idea that I stole from a John Updike story called The Lucid Eye in Silver Town. Throughout the story, we are forced to ask ourselves who is seeing things for what they really are. It becomes evident over the course of the story that the main character is not that Lucid Eye.
But in stories with unreliable people, I’m always interested in who is the Lucid Eye. In RahXephon, that character is Sou. In Evangelion, that character is Toji. In The Big O, that character is Roger Smith.
But who is that character in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya? The truth is that it’s no one. The one person we should be able to trust to tell us the story, can’t. And everyone else is equally delusional.
So let’s take this a step further. What if nothing we see happening in the show is real? What if this is just a fever dream of what Kyon really wants? What if the real melancholy is that Kyon will never meet his Haruhi Suzumiya, and will die bitter and alone?
And that is what makes Kyon fascinating.
As always, thanks for reading.
7 thoughts on “Why you shouldn’t trust Kyon and why you have to”
You’re right, Kyon is a very contrary character. I enjoyed watching him start to admit to himself that he actually enjoys all of the craziness of the S.O.S. Brigade as the series progressed. The light novels also explore the idea that Kyon might have reality influencing powers himself, but it’s been awhile since I read them, so I don’t remember if that was ever confirmed to be true or not.
So I read the first one, and part of the second one. I haven’t gone back to the second one yet. Kyon seems a lot angrier in the books.
Yup! The “unreliable narrator.” In this case he’d be of the self-deluding type.
It’s interesting to think what is the truth and what isn’t. I mean it’s probably pretty straight forward, but he is definitely unreliable.