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"The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya Volume 2 (UK Edition)": I Like Little Girls

In my review of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Season 2, I commented on the parody shorts which had been included as an extra. My one concern though was that both series were incomplete, running only half their respective episodes. Where were the rest and would we see them released? Well rejoice, for the remainder are being released on a second standalone volume.

Released primarily through YouTube whilst the second season aired on Japanese television, The Melancholy of Haruhi-Chan Suzumiya and Nyoron! Churuya-san are a series of short comedies based on the main series.

Haruhi-chan is the closest to standard parody, featuring the main cast presented usually deformed and abounding with alternate character interpretations. The basic formula sees Haruhi create a zany scheme on a whim which the others get drawn into by varying degrees. That might sound similar to the main series but here everyone is on a fairly level playing field. Kyon in particular is presented as more of a match for Haruhi and they often end in the dog house together after a misaimed prank off.

A loose storyline occurs between the episodes, involving secondary character Tsuruya and her feud with two members of Koizumi’s organization of ESPers. Tsuruya is a classic example of a rarely seen character with an idolizing fan base, and these shorts play to that portion of the audience. In particular, a number of fight scenes see the character switch back to her standard character design. This is a fairly standard sight gag in SD parodies but here in particular it seems to standout as clearly trying to attract attention from that part of the audience who are less interested in comedy and firmly watch Haruhi for the girls. At the same time, this isn’t quite pandering, and the show itself launches a surreal but hilarious gag at one point aimed squarely at the ‘I’m just here for the women’ viewers. There’s even some fanservice shout outs for the female fans.

Easily one of the stronger ideas is giving the long-struggling Ryoko a sidekick. Previously, in a direct send-up of the main story, a failed rebirth attempt saw her revived permanently at the size of a baby and taken in by former superior Nagato. After an episode involving the SOS Brigade fooling around with balloons, Nagato takes some home and crafts one into a green sentient balloon dog named Kimidori. This provides Ryoko with a more likeminded foil then the usually abusive Nagato.

The running time of each episode varies wildly and this can hurt the comedic effects. Some episodes are short and deliver some good quick gags, whilst others drag on and left me eventually hoping the next scene would be the credit roll.

The other side of the disc (seriously, the menus are even divided like the old ‘Nintendo Cereal System’) is a much smaller offering of Churuya-san shorts. As proof of the power of the internet and aforementioned fandom, Churuya-san started off as a fan comic which turns Tsuruya into a deformed midget whose boundless optimism is constantly beguiled by the main cast, portrayed as tall stick-men like forms who constantly deliver harsh comments in bored monotone. These shorts are a bit easier to grasp then the Haruhi-chan ones as all you need to understand is that Churuya is cute and loves smoked cheese. The number of situations the series devises to deny her her favourite treat is impressive, starting off with a parody of old school RPGs. Although the series often has a harsh (and dare I say Japanese) sense of humour, it’s also gentler then Haruhi-chan and its sometimes cliché ‘overblown reactions’ style of comedy.

A distinct visual difference between the two is that Churuya-san uses cell shading whilst Haruhi-chan opts for more traditional style. This actually works fairly well for Churuya-san but there is the occasional oddity. A recurring silent extra whose face is a doodle of that of a dog just looks bizarre, remaining static whilst the body has more consistent motion.

The only extras included are a series of commercials for the Japanese release starring the voice actor for one of Kyon’s rarely seen friends, playing on a recurring gag by having him stranded in isolated locations wearing an ogre mask and quietly wondering where the other characters are. These are fairly surreal, but thankfully there aren’t as many to wade through as the ‘real life Haruhi sat at desk’ ones presented on the Season 2 set.

These shorts aren’t bad but I think the chosen release schedule is the problem. Including the first half of each on the Season 2 set really helped make up for some of that release’s content shortcomings, but then having to buy a second release in order to complete them isn’t ideal, especially given the generally short running time. I think a better release would have been to include all the shorts on the Season 2 release and possibly charge that little bit more for it. Not helping things is that much of the comedy of these shorts relies on the viewer being familiar with the established Haruhi characters, so it’s not really an impulse buy.

The Melancholy of Haruhi-chand & Nyoron! Churuya-san Collection 2 (UK Edition) can be purchased through Amazon.co.uk

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