Talking about the character of Haruhi Suzumiya is downright infuriating.
Some things are obvious about Haruhi. For one, she serves the same role as an earthquake or a hurricane in a disaster movie. She is an act of God for the plot to revolve around.
That is what characters do, they react to her. Whether it’s our chorus of Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki or Kyon, the characters are tossed around in the wake of Haruhi’s choices.
This means she has some agency in her actions, right?
But does she, really? On the other side of this, Haruhi is blissfully unaware or simply doesn’t care about social graces. She acts without thought like a pure representation of the id.
While she makes choices, they’re grounded in ignorance.
This is the crux of my dilemma when I start thinking about Haruhi. On the one hand, I’m convinced that Haruhi is a manic pixie dream girl who only really exists to teach Kyon to accept wonder back into his life.
On the other hand, Haruhi has a certain amount of agency, and at times appears to be an active participant in her own story (especially in the light novels.) She wants aliens, ESPers and time travelers, but only on her terms and in her way.
So I’m going to present both sides of this argument, and hopefully, we will come up with something.
But first, let’s lay out what I mean by manic pixie dream girls.
Haruhi is a romantic comedy
At its heart, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a romantic comedy in a real American sense. You have two main characters who appear to be dramatically different that get thrown together. While the primary tension comes from Kyon trying to curb Haruhi’s more destructive impulses, it’s also obvious that she brings light and color back into his life with her antics.
Granted, you could also look at this as a story where Kyon has to convince a cynical Haruhi that love is real, but I think that’s going out on a limb. I like my initial analysis that this is an Odd Couple thrown together by fate.
Romantic Comedy is an odd genre in American cinema. We don’t separate romance by the gender that it’s aimed at, and there is an old saw that romance stories are meant for women.
I’m not convinced that is the case. So many of the romantic comedies I can think of focus on a male lead, who is the primary driver of the action.
Then there are the more subtle tells. Romance stories geared towards men always end at the beginning of the relationship. (Again this isn’t always true, but it’s true nearly 90 percent of the time.) They are also remarkably chaste, nearly every rom com ends with a kiss and while sex may happen, it’s never important to the story.
So on the list of top-grossing rom coms of all time, we have What Women Want (2), Hitch (3), There’s Something About Mary (5) and Knocked Up (10) that all fit this bill.
They’re never about the messy guts of a relationship. They’re about when the relationship is still in its honeymoon phase. While the man changes, it’s always beneficial for the man. It never involves sacrifice or compromise, or any of the other things that are involved with actual relationships.
In recent years, there was an addition to the rom com genre, especially for soulful young men who believed that if they met their muse then life would be better. These manic pixie dream girls would show them that there is more than just a 9-to-5 workaday life.
They exist in these stories to teach “broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures,” Rabin said.
Does that sound familiar yet?
So, in my last post about Haruhi, I laid out the case for why Kyon really does like Haruhi, even if he keeps telling us that he doesn’t. This is why. Haruhi is the manic pixie dream girl who crashes into his life to teach him to embrace wonder.
Why I believe Haruhi is a manic pixie dream girl
The single biggest piece of evidence that I have for this is that Kyon is at the center of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
He is the one character who is privy to all of the information about Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki. They all may know each other, but they don’t talk about Haruhi with each other. Instead, they each stay in their silo and communicate with Kyon.
Not only that, he’s the one character that acts in opposition to the seemingly mindless disaster that is Haruhi Suzumiya. Meaning, he is the only character that has some agency in the story. All the rest of the characters are swept along by her.
Kyon is the main character, and what does he really want? Well he wants a world where ESPers, time travellers and aliens exists. He wants the world that Haruhi gives him.
She exists for the same reason Kirsten Dunst’s character exists in Elizabethtown, or Ramona Flowers exists in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, as a reason for him to embrace life and its infinite mysteries.
Like I’ve been alluding to throughout this post, Haruhi is less of a character and more of a plot device. She swoops in and creates a situation for Kyon to deal with.
The problem is that Haruhi isn’t a character that is entirely without agency. She has two critical scenes, one in the show and the other in a light novel, that make me question my analysis of her as a manic pixie dream girl.
And they both come down to a single question…
Does Haruhi really want to find aliens, ESPers and time travelers, at all?
The problem I kept running into with his analysis boils down to two scenes.
The first comes at the end of the titular Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya arc when she and Kyon are transported to the magical world that is empty of people and populated by giants. In those scenes, Haruhi appears to be ecstatic. This is the world that she said she wanted, and when Kyon tries to convince her to come back she’s confused and maybe a bit hurt.
What gets her to change her mind? Well, Kyon kisses her.
So this introduces a problem with my analysis. Haruhi doesn’t just want to find aliens, ESPers and time travelers. This isn’t expounded on anywhere else, but it’s obvious that there is something that could substitute for that wonder — Kyon.
While this may be a problem, it certainly isn’t an insurmountable one. This is Kyon’s story after all. What else would Haruhi want more than aliens, ESPers and time travelers? Well, that would be Kyon, of course.
But then there is the scene that makes me question what Haruhi really does want. I believe the scene comes from The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya light novel, or it’s at the end of The Melancholy. Either way, Kyon comes clean. He tells her the truth about Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki.
And she doesn’t believe him.
While it’s understandable that she would reject the truth, it raises the question of whether she wants to find aliens, time travelers or ESPers at all? Instead of accepting with a level of skepticism, she completely dismisses the idea.
Now, you could argue that it’s just because she expects a certain amount of pomp and circumstance when she discovers that magic exists.
But up and to this point, this is the first time she’s expressed doubt about their existence. If she doesn’t believe, how can she be the muse for Kyon to believe in wonder?
Why does this matter?
So why am I even concerned about this? Well, if Haruhi is just an unfeeling storm, and most of the characters are swept along with it, then this means that the fundamental premise of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a lie.
Haruhi isn’t the ultimate director any more than you would call an earthquake or a hurricane the ultimate director. She is just an act of God that must be endured. Even more than that, she only exists to give Kyon something to struggle with or against or maybe even for.
She, like Ramona Flowers, exists to motivate the main male character to achieve what he wants.
But, if she doubts her quest, then she stops being just a force of nature and starts being a character in her own right. Which provides a little more depth to their relationship beyond just having Haruhi act as a plot device.
So I remain torn. Overall, I believe Haruhi Suzumiya is a manic pixie dream girl, but I can’t help but see problems with this analysis. But I don’t have enough evidence to support another interpretation.
For now, I leave that interpretation in your hands. Why don’t you tell me what you think? Is Haruhi a manic pixie dream girl?
As always, thanks for reading.