2003’s The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya is the second in Nagaru Tanigawa’s Haruhi Suzumiya manga series.
Audaciously self-centered Haruhi is determined to provide her school’s upcoming cultural festival with a movie of unparalleled quality. The fact that nobody asked her to do this isn’t going to slow her down at all. Haruhi didn’t get where she is by caring one jot about other people’s preferences!
At least the project will distract Haruhi from her failure to find the time travelers, aliens, and ESPers she is convinced must be concealed within the general population. And anyway, what could go wrong with a simple film project?
Quite a lot, if the auteur behind the film is an unwitting god. Which Haruhi is.
Hapless narrator Kyon and the rest of Haruhi’s SOS1 Club—alien emissary Yuki Nagato, time traveler Mikuru Asahina, and ESPer Itsuki Koizumi—are drafted by Haruhi to help her with her film. Such is the fate of the members of the SOS, most of whom inveigled their way into the club for the specific purpose of keeping Haruhi from ever discovering that she is a reality-warper of prodigious power. Kyon is the single exception: he was drafted by Haruhi because he made the mistake of engaging her in conversation, and thus caught her attention.
Since Haruhi is the embodiment of narcissistic personality disorder, it does not occur to her to worry about whether the members of the SOS club want the roles she assigns to each of them. Nor does it occur to her that sharing the script with the others might be a good idea. Instead, the members of the SOS club dash to and fro, following orders whose larger context (presuming that the orders have one) is obscure.
Rather ominously, Haruhi has assigned each of the members a role analogous to their actual status: alien emissary Yuki Nagato is cast as an alien, time traveler Mikuru Asahina is playing a time traveler, and ESPer Itsuki Koizumi is filling the role of an ESPer. Kyon, being nothing special, has the enjoyable role of general dogsbody, doing all those onerous backstage tasks productions depend on.
Far more ominously, Haruhi has very … firm views on the sort of special effects a sci-fi action epic (the kind of film she wants to make) should have. There’s no way students on a non-existent budget can afford anything like Haruhi’s vision. But reality bends to Haruhi’s whims and if Haruhi wants actual working lasers and death rays, she will get them.
And the members of the SOS will just have to live with that, if they can.
This volume is very early in the series; Haruhi has not progressed very far towards being the slightly less awful person she will become later on. She still tends to see the people around her purely in terms of how they can serve and amuse her. The one hint that she might be developing in any way is that at least in this book she doesn’t attempt to use the hapless Asahina as sex bait to obtain the necessary cinematic resources..
But Asahina still gets used as Haruhi’s personal dress-up doll, so Haruhi hasn’t progressed all that far.
The casting may not be entirely coincidental: Kyon mentions that he directly told Haruhi that the other members of the SOS club were indeed a time traveler, an alien, and an ESPer. Haruhi refused to believe him, on the reasonable grounds that it would be statistically unlikely for three people she drafted at random to be examples of what she is certain are very uncommon sorts of people. That’s not an unreasonable point of view (although I can see two holes in her logic: maybe they are not uncommon, and maybe it wasn’t actually random)—but it does make me wonder if she wants to find aliens or if she just wants to enjoy looking for them.
In my estimation, this is one of the lesser entries in the series. It’s an amusing enough rendition of its “four hapless mortals try to deal with an eldritch horror who happens to be a pushy high school girl” theme, but in this early entry, nothing hints at the more interesting themes that will appear later. At least it was a quick read.
1: To quote an earlier footnote: “Save the World by Overloading it with Fun Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade.” Acronyms are not one of Haruhi’s strengths. To compensate, I think she’s able to pronounce bolding.