The world of Haruhi Suzumiya is a complicated one that has been developed through dozens of light novels and manga. Haruhi is obsessed with anything weird and paranormal, and her classmate Kyon is dragged into Haruhi’s hobby when she recruits him to help her establish an after-school club for lovers of the strange and unusual. She calls her club the SOS Brigade, which is short for “Spreading Excitement all Over the World with Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade.” Unfortunately for them, the club does not prove to be very popular, as the only other students who join are Asahina, a shy girl; Nagato, the school’s resident bookworm; and Koizumi, a transfer student. What Haruhi does not realize is that she is attracted to the supernatural because she possesses the power to manipulate reality, and that Asahina, Nagato, and Koizumi have been sent undercover to her school to keep an eye on her powers and ensure she does not inadvertently destroy the world.
The Celebration of Haruhi Suzumiya is a hefty (nearly 500 pages long) anthology collection of 58 short stories (averaging about six pages each) written and drawn by various artists. Most of the contributions are in regular comic book form, while a few are in yonkoma style (the comic strip running gag format), and the book begins with 14 full-color illustrations which many die-hard fans will enjoy seeing.
The stories cover various genres and situations. For example, in “Spooky Tale,” by Seiman Douman, the SOS Brigade goes ghost hunting in a very Scooby Doo-esque mystery. In “A Certain Mushroom,” by Ryo Ito, Haruhi attempts to force Kyon to eat a mysterious mushroom that has sprouted in the corner of the room in which the club meets after school. In the yonkoma “The Melancholy of Nagato Yuki-San,” by Nino, it is revealed that Haruhi, thinking Nagato is too passive, has declared her the Brigade Chief for the day. An example of the four-panel joke shows Haruhi telling Kyon she’s been reading up on leadership, only to hold up a book called “Dictators, Love It!”.
My favorite story was “For You . . .” by Yo-Ji. In it are two short strips focusing on Nagato trying to get Kyon to notice her. In “A Good Book,” he asks her for a book recommendation. She attempts to check out 100 books from the library for him, but is told the limit is four books, and he chides her: “You couldn’t have loaned them to me anyway!” (as they are library books). In “Home Cooking,” Kyon mentions he enjoyed the homemade curry he had at her house a while back, so Nagato decides to make him some with his favorite ingredients. At dinner he teases her, “You shouldn’t eat so much instant curry you know! By the way, what brand is this?”
With so many writers and artists contributing to this anthology, the art varies from one story to another. Most of the artists seem to stick close to the traditional look of Haruhi and her friends (as can be seen in the depiction of Haruhi on the cover of the collection), but a few standouts present her world in visually different ways. Seiman Douman’s various stories depict Haruhi in an almost chibi style—much younger and cuter, with super large eyes and exaggerated expressions; Satoru Matsubayashi’s “The Mercenaries of Haruhi Suzumiya” features a Haruhi that is more reminiscent of the art style of Kiyohiko Azuma’s Azumanga Daioh; and Yoshi Amagasaki’s “The Man from Beneath the Ground” features the most American-style representation of Haruhi in the entire volume, as the characters look more realistic with non-exaggerated eyes and everyday human figures. Overall, there is no story that visually does not seem to be cohesive with the rest of the stories in the collection. Haruhi is always identifiable, so readers will not be confused with the artistic renderings of the characters.
While this volume has its hits and misses like any anthology collection, if I didn’t have prior knowledge of the Haruhi world I would have been lost on the first page. The book just dives right in without any explanation of what the story of Haruhi is or who the characters are. If you’re already a fan of the Haruhi books this isn’t a problem, but I honestly think anyone interested in reading about Haruhi’s adventures are better off watching the anime first so they understand just what they are getting into.
The Celebration of Haruhi Suzumiya
by Nagaru Tanigawa
Art by Noizi Ito
Yen Press, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: 12+