The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan, Vol. 11

By Nagaru Tanigawa and Puyo. Released in Japan as “Suzumiya Haruhi-chan no Yuutsu” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialized in the magazine Shonen Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Paul Starr.

And now, the end is near. And so we face the final curtain. Since the Haruhi Suzumiya novels began in Japan in 2003, we’ve seen two manga, two anime series, a movie, two manga spinoffs, and two anime of said manga spinoffs. In 2006, Haruhi was the hottest franchise around. But in 2017, quietly, the last Haruhi spinoff has come to an end, and as far as I can tell there’s nothing out there to replace it. The novels are effectively finished, as the author apparently has massive writer’s block. The main manga ended, and Nagato Yuki-chan’s manga ended. And now we have the final volume of Haruhi-chan, though the decision to end it here does appear to be fairly last-minute – if it weren’t for the word ‘Final’ on the cover and the author moving on to his next project, you’d never know it was over. And yet, it is over. There is no new Haruhi content coming from Japan.

As an ending, of course, it doesn’t work, because as I said above it has that “suddenly cancelled” feel to it. But as a volume, it’s pretty much giving Haruhi-chan readers exactly what they got the previous ten volumes. We get comedic takes on the main series, with Haruhi’s Giants set to destroy the world being created for the pettiest of reasons. There are comedic takes on Haruhi-chan’s plot (such as it is), with Mikuru desperate to have Haruhi hypnotized into thinking she’s a cat again so that she can be cuddled. There is the occasional story with Achakura, though you get the sense that once Ryoko became the heart and soul of the Nagato Yuki-chan franchise Puyo lost interest in her mini-me form. Yasumi is also still around, showing if nothing else that we haven’t moved past the final volume of the novels. (Sasaki and company are absent – the fact that any future anime is allergic to Sasaki almost became a running gag in the Nagato Yuki-chan anime.)

Puyo’s stuff seems to work best when he leans on the fourth wall to a degree. The opening chapter, after an amusing dream sequence, is a very matter-of-fact Haruhi getting up and getting dressed for school, with the punchline being that once she puts on the headband she turns into her goofy Haruhi-chan self. At one point, Haruhi somehow arranges it so that she has a chyron below her saying she has “a shocking statement”, causing everyone to wonder what the heck it is. An entire chapter is drawn where only Haruhi is the focus – something she immediately notices and tries to fix, as she’s in a swimsuit and notices that the gaze is fairly male. (No surprise, most of the readers of this series were male as well). The second to last chapter is my favorite – Haruhi is late, so Mikuru and Yuki are waiting alone, and Mikuru is trying desperately to have a non-awkward conversation with Yuki. We even get flashbacks to the novels, where adult Mikuru said Yuki was difficult for her to deal with. Her flailing effort to be interested in Yuki’s game is a failure on her end, but the punchline here is really sweet and heartwarming.

Gag comics are not for everyone, and honestly at 11 volumes this one probably went on longer than it should have. But I usually found a great deal to enjoy as I read it – Puyo knows the series inside and out, and allows the characters to be exaggerated while never feeling out of character, even if they’re the butt of the joke. If you enjoyed the Haruhi franchise and want to delve into it one more time, the book makes a pretty decent wake. Oh yes, and Kyon is a deer, because why not go out with one last impenetrable Japanese pun?

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