Wednesday, January 14, 2009


(Despite appearances, this hasn't turned into an all-Haruhi blog. That three posts of my last five posts, counting this, are on Haruhi is the result of chance as much as anything. Normal programming will return shortly.)

I had bought The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya [Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu], the fourth in the series of Haruhi Suzumiya light novels by Nagaru Tanigawa, before the U.S. licensing of the novels was announced. A few weeks ago, I had finished reading a couple of serious manga and was looking for a change, and decided to read Disappearance. By this time, of course, the license had been announced, and I could have waited for the book to come out in English (assuming that the first three novels get published and that they sell well enough to justify publishing the fourth). But the description on the back cover intrigued me and I was curious, the more so since this is apparently the novel that's being adapted for the second season of the anime.

Disappearance is set shortly before Christmas, and opens with a prologue in which, among other things, Haruhi announces in typically imperious fashion that the SOS Brigade is having a Christmas party. A few days later, though, Kyon goes to school as usual and finds that Haruhi is gone and no one remembers her, and there is no evidence of the SOS Brigade ever having existed. Not only that, but Itsuki has also vanished without a trace, Mikuru and Yuki are ordinary high school students, and a character who shouldn't be there* is present as if nothing had happened.

In the anime, Kyon mainly plays the roles of observer and Haruhi's unwilling flunky; only rarely does he take action on his own. In Disappearance, Kyon has to act on his own initiative from the start. His first impulse is to search frantically for confirmation that his memories of Haruhi and the SOS Brigade are true, but this only succeeds in terrifying Mikuru and convincing the rest of the school that he's gone insane. But eventually, with a lot of help, he finds a way to return things to abnormal. And he encounters versions, at least, of the familiar characters along the way.

Disappearance isn't great literature, of course, but it's an enjoyable book and a worthy sequel to the anime. The plot is ingenious, if not as much so as the anime (but that's a very high bar). Kyon's character gets some development, and another character is also developed in a way that's unexpected yet logical in retrospect.

Regarding spoilers: the book thoroughly spoils the anime and first novel. There is also extensive, and presumably spoiler-filled, description of an episode which is in the third novel but not in the anime.

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is 256 pages long and costs 514 yen. It's published by Kadokawa Shoten and its ISBN is 978-4044292041. Here's Google's machine translation of its Amazon.co.jp page. Interestingly, it has the highest customer rating of the entire series of novels, including the first novel. Note that there is a semi-intelligible spoiler in one of the customer reviews.

*I'm being vague to minimize spoilers for the anime.

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