By Nagaru Tanigawa and Puyo. Released in Japan as “Suzumiya Haruhi-chan no Yuutsu” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press.
Yes, it still has a narrow audience. Yes, many of its punchlines are Osaka-style, i.e. someone says something dumb and the straight man shouts “Are you kidding?”. And yes, it’s still cutesy-wootsy and superdeformed a good deal of the time (though honestly, less so than in prior volumes). And yet I still love this series as it honestly makes me laugh a lot.
I’ll see if I can divide this review of Vol. 4 into 3 parts: the silly, the fanservicey, and the character development (which remains surprisingly large for a gag manga based on something else). For those looking for pure silly comedy, the manga has you covered. Asakura and Kimidori-san solve a murder in their own adorable way; Haruhi invents what must be the world’s only game of Extreme Othello, combining it with badminton to lethal effect; and best of all, Koizumi attempts to train the others to prepare for Haruhi during April Fools’ Day by having Mori dress up as Haruhi and say things she would normally say… which in the end appears just to be an excuse to humiliate and embarrass Mori. But in the most adorable way!
The fanservice chapters are not ashamed to be completely pandering, either. There’s nothing explicit – this is a manga that anyone could read, really – but the blatant school tag game with all the girls in swimsuits even lampshades it by having the male characters doing their own, unseen tag game elsewhere, while we ogle Haruhi, Mikuru and company in swimsuits. And at the end, Haruhi tries to come up with an exercise routine that gets far too sexy far too fast, going so far that even she ramps herself back after revealing a bit too much of her internal monologue out loud. Naturally, these fanservice shots are NOT superdeformed, as the whole point is to look at the fine female form.
Then there’s the Kyon and Haruhi relationship, which is very well handled in the two chapters it gets a focus. On one, Koizumi has rigged a contest so that he gets to pick what the losers do, and gets Yuki to rig it further so that Kyon and Haruhi are the losers. You can see where this is going; he forces them on a date, complete with his own pre-written script. The fun here is seeing Kyon and Haruhi’s punch-drunk reactions at having to say all this cornball romantic dialogue, and seeing the occasional glimpse of their real feelings almost derail things “Don’t go off the script, jerk!” is positively ADORABLE here, especially with the huge blush. Sadly, there’s one line they won’t cross, even if it’s for a bet. On a fluffier note, we get a rewrite of Live Alive where Kyon and Haruhi, both bored, decide to wanter the culture festival together – but they are not a couple.
Lastly, I was highly amused by the chapter where Nagato got her roommates drunk on amazake (aliens have no alcohol tolerance) and we discover the amazing effects that a hangover can have on Asakura. It is incredibly strange seeing her like that, and I have to wonder if it might have been a shout-out to the author’s other Haruhi spinoff, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki. Best line of the volume comes here (trying not to spoil), from Yuki: “This must be what a parent feels like when their child surpasses them… the bittersweet sadness of parenthood…”
Only buy this if you like Haruhi. But if you do, it’s a hoot. And miles better than the ‘official’ manga is.