Friday, March 25, 2011

The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi Volume 8

By Nagaru Tanigawa and Gaku Tsugano. Released in Japan as "Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu" by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press.

It would appear, checking my reviews, that I skipped reviewing Volume 7 of the Haruhi manga, possibly as I had nothing more to say about it. Sometimes when you try to review every volume of an ongoing series, you tend to run out of ways to say the same things. Especially when it's an adaptation of something where you've already read the novel and seen the anime. And I've already pointed out the manga's basic flaws: it's simply not as good as the other two. I had hoped that adapting Disappearance, the best of the novels which was also made into a fantastic 163 minute movie, that the manga would step up its game and bring out something special.

Sadly, it's the opposite. If anything, the manga gets worse here, feeling rushed and impatient, and the art is terrible, making me suspect the artist was in danger of blowing his deadline every single volume. At least, I hope it's simply rushed and sloppy, because there's really no way to excuse some of these designs and poses. The art has never been great, but it's never quite repelled as much as this does. Kyon in particular looks off-model half the time, even when he's not supposed to be freaking out at the situations that he's in. Even Yuki, who does get the occasional blushy pose that shows off her Disappearance self, has moments where you wonder if the artist even had a source to work with, or was trying to recreate the designs from a 3rd-generation memory.

The manga format also does not do any favors to Kyon's inner monologue, which is generally one of the main reasons to read the light novels. In fact, the main thrust of this volume, where Kyon debates with himself over which reality he should choose (which was expanded even more in the anime to a full-blown technicolor trippy sequence) is completely eliminated here, with Kyon staring for 2 panels and then that's about it. I understand that you have to compress a lot due to page constraints, but this is ridiculous, and does not do the story any favors.

There are two side-stories at the end of the volume, even though we still aren't done adapting Disappearance yet. They're both short alternate universe tales, appropriately enough. One, featuring Nagato as an idol singer, is merely dull. But the other... oh man, sometimes an idea is so bad it becomes glorious, and whoever came up with Asahina Mikuru, prizewinning boxer should get some sort of award. Just the mere SIGHT of Mikuru battling Nagato in the ring should be enough, but the artist also tries to tie this in with the actual Haruhi world, as our Mikuru is dreaming of being a boxer but keeps waking up. The ending attempts to be heartwarming, which it might have achieved if it weren't so short, and if the artist knew how to draw. If this idea actually was thought up by Tanigawa (something I am suspicious of), perhaps it can be fleshed out in a future short story.

Sometimes when you have adaptations, and adaptation of adaptations, and spinoffs of spinoffs, you don't get much of a choice. You have to license the whole shebang. And really, when it comes to manga adaptations of the Haruhi-verse, this one falls at the bottom, under the cute 4-koma Haruhi-chan (which is incredibly slight, but has lots of wonderful 4-koma humor, and gave the world Achakura) and the Nagato Yuki spinoff (which tries to hit the moe adorable buttons hard, and succeeds a good 45% of the time, which is actually very good for a manipulative adaptation of an adaptation). Sales appear to be OK, mostly I suspect due to franchise buyers (like myself... cough), but honestly, if you';re going to buy this, get it for Mikuru the boxer, as nothing else will hold your attention.

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