Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya-chan Volume 2

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

Generally speaking, when a company licenses a series they're hoping it sells to as broad a market as possible. A series like, say, your average Shonen Jump fighting series is likely to sell more copies in North America than one about a guy whose female classmates all have dirty minds. Likewise, it's gonna be hard to sell a manga here, even an award-winning manga, based around a traditional Japanese card game.

The exception to this, of course, is a series that is part of a larger media franchise. Haruhi Suzumiya is a franchise that will tend to have a certain number of sales no matter what. Thus it's easier to release something like this, which in many ways has so many things going against it. Volume 2 is a) based on Haruhi Suzumiya, which is itself a polarizing series with a large amount of hype backlash; b) a 4-koma series, something that is not as easily translatable to North America as you would expect, and has earned the ire of many online reviewers; and c) requires a love of the "boke and tsukkomi" (dumb guy/straight man) routine so essential to Japanese comedy, as it forms the basis for over half the punchlines here.

As an example, one of the first jokes in Volume 2 has a parody of the typical datesim game, with all the females of Haruhi presented as "10 possible options" to the player. Of course, there aren't that many Haruhi females, so Itsuki notes in an astonished voice, "Could I be one of the two remaining heroines?" Kyon, always the tsukkomi, responds, "Nobody cares!!!" This type of punchline can be seen a lot in broad comedy manga such as Gintama (when it's Shinpachi delivering it) or Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo (where Beauty delivers it). However, without seeing this sort of thing constantly for years, it's possible the reader may see it as someone shouting randomly at the end of each unfunny gag.

So, you have a series with many obvious weak points. However, if you do like Haruhi, 4-koma, and boke/tsukkomi, as I do, then you will have tremendous fun with this. It continues to develop the silly characterizations from Volume 1, with Yuki now writing her own games, Tsuruya and Mori-san (the maid) developing a fierce martial arts rivalry, and Asahina (big) beating the crap out of her past self. And there is of course, Achakura, who continues to be a comic highlight, especially since she now gets her own tsukkomi in the balloon dog Kimidori-san, and thus can be boke and tsukkomi when needed.

We're starting to see some stories here that weren't animated for the Haruhi-chan Youtube project 2 years ago, though some still do work better on screen (particularly Achakura and Kimidori-san defusing the bomb). Overall, though, this is pure comedy. It's even lampshaded at the end, where the preview implies a serious plot for Ryoko in the third volume, then this turns out to be a dream Yuki had, who says outright that Haruhi-chan is a gag manga. I can certainly see how any one of a number of factors would irritate the potential reader. This is a manga with a very narrow market focus. But for that market, it's great.

No comments:

Post a Comment