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'Suzumiya Haruhi' captures changes in society

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Since jumping into the limelight with the release as an animated TV series in 2006, fans cannot seem to get enough of the irresistible fictional high school girl Suzumiya Haruhi.
The latest two-part volume of the light novel "Haruhi Suzumiya" series came out in May. Titled "Suzumiya Haruhi no Kyogaku" (The dismay of Haruhi Suzumiya), the two books were published with a whopping first edition print run of 513,000 copies each.
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The innocent-looking girl with psychic powers who forms a vigilante group at school, has created a phenomenon, with the popular series has steadily increased its fan base as it reflects the atmosphere of the modern society.
Set in a prefectural high school, the story follows Haruhi Suzumiya, who cannot stand boredom and sets up S.O.S. Brigade as an after-school club to search for aliens and other mysterious beings.
With members Mikuru Asahina and Yuki Nagato in tow, Haruhi sets out to seek extraordinary experiences. But little does she know that Yuki came from outer space and Mikuru from the future. The story, which is full of slapstick episodes with a sci-fi taste that take place without Haruhi's knowledge, is told through the viewpoint of a male student called Kyon.

The "Haruhi" series became widely popular after an animated TV series adaptation of the first book, "Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu" (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya), aired in 2006.
It is considered a sure fire way for a light novel--a term for novels targeting young adults which employ illustrations to grab the interest of the youth to read on--to grow in popularity after an animated adaptation of the title is released. An example is "Slayers," a landmark light novel from the 1990s that depicts a parallel world where demons and humans co-exist.
But what has set Haruhi apart from the rest of the teenage pack is the fact that many otaku seem to be able to relate with her lifestyle.
"In a way, it has become an otaku (nerd) self-portrait," social critic Tsunehiro Uno said.

MAD【劇場版】涼宮ハルヒの驚愕 予告 Astonishment of Haruhi Suzumiya

Haruhi and her friends enjoy their ordinary after-class activities under the pretext of the yearning for aliens, super powers and other extraordinary things.
They appear to have much in common with otaku who enjoy discussing manga and anime in real life.
Uno finds changes in the trend in stories sought by young otaku.
A title that includes characters with resemblances to otaku leading idealized school lives tend to gain increasing support from fans than a story that presents a fantasy world like an armageddon or a fictitious chronicle in great detail, Uno said.

Fans have changed their attitudes and seek "extraordinary things hidden in ordinary events" through a story, according to Uno.
Changes in the society are also reflected in character design.
Psychiatrist and critic Tamaki Saito points out that the presentations of characters in the 1990s "had run into a dead end as the creators placed too much emphasis on appearances."
The trend changed in or around 2004 with the boom of "Densha Otoko" (Train Man), a bestseller about a romance between an otaku man and an attractive woman, and other factors.
Otaku fans became "more infatuated with the dynamics of relationships between characters than their looks," Tamaki said.
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"Haruhi" comes with character settings that attract otaku fans. Mikuru is described as a character who is constantly ridiculed, while Yuki is portrayed as a book worm.
Their relationships are the driving force that makes the story move forward, Saito said. Fans enjoy the power relationships between the characters that are clearly portrayed in the story like when Haruhi forces Mikuru to dress in a maid costume, the psychiatrist said.
Characteristics of modern society are also reflected in their relationships.
"(Young people) communicate with each other on an excessive level, but they stop short of developing a relationship of boyfriend and girlfriend," Tamaki said. "I think young people who don't want to take a decisive step into a relationship feel empathy for 'Haruhi' and read it."

"Haruhi" also has a modernity when it is read as a sci-fi novel.
Each character in the story, aliens and people with supernatural powers alike, has his or her own world-view completely different from others, and they throw their own perception of reality at Kyon. But the storyteller has no problems and just leads his life.
"Under normal circumstances it would lead to major events such as a war," science fiction critic Naoya Fujita said.
With information and ideologies having grown more diverse, members of the real world are left uncertain what to believe.
"Even so, he doesn't develop an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Kyon's stance is new because he doesn't mind if each (of their opinions) is true," Fujita explained.
However, the distances between the characters are beginning to change as the series continues. They have begun to band together.
"It may reflect the atmosphere of the current situation in Japan where people seek connection with others," Fujita added.

By AS on Jun 28, 2011
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