Fun Aside: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Okay, I haven’t quite outed myself previously (except in the bio at the bottom of my blog’s page, for those of you who read that far), but from the academic tone in my regular Monday posts you might have guessed I’m a professor.

So, for reasons having nothing to do with anything (one of my students was asking about doujinshi markets in the US) Google coughed up the fact that a student at Cornell wrote a Master’s thesis about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.


From left: Koizumi, Nagato, Kyon, Suzumiya, Asahina. A suitable group of people for academic analysis if ever I have seen one

Here ya go: I don’t know if it works for you, but for me it’s a free download. If it won’t download for you, drop me an email and I’ll send you the pdf. (It’s in Cornell’s Ecommons files…Copying okay.)

Now, Mr. Mihara did a full analysis focusing largely on sales/economic factors. One of those was that Melancholy was actually considered to be an unlikely choice for export to America, in part because it was considered “too Japanese.” For instance, he points out (pg. 33):

“The other below-the-surface level of Haruhi’s worldview (characters and settings) is the homage and reference to the Japanese pop culture such as anime, cinemas, and TV programs (Taburoido to Yukai na Nakamatachi 2007); the cultural elements quoted from this category range from Candies (a Japanese idol group in 1970s) to Ikinari! Ougon Densetsu (いきなり!黄金伝説: the TV variety show which started in 1998).”

This makes me CRAZY because this is exactly the sort of thing I find fascinating. I know that humor is tied to culture. I have written about it here over and over already, in terms of sight gags and tropes, and there’s a good chance I’ll write about it again.

What REALLY makes me crazy is that I had no idea it was going on. I didn’t see those jokes. I didn’t even notice there were jokes going on that I didn’t see as I have in other animes.

I mean, I saw some of the subtextual stuff. Whenever Nagato is reading a book, it’s usually a classic of European literature I know about…I’ve read some of the same books myself.

But Candies? But Ikinari! Ougon Densetsu?

What the heck is that?

I’m going to keep reading Mr. Mihara…incidentally, I don’t even know whether he is Mr. Mihara or she is Ms. Mihara, so I hope they will forgive me if I have used the wrong honorific…I’m going to keep reading the thesis. It’s long, and it’s dense, and it’s not easy to read. That quotation is typical of the writing. It’s enough to make your eyes glaze over if it wasn’t so interesting.

But please please please, explain some of the jokes. I love that stuff! It’s a way to get to know a culture.

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