Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Oct 7th 2012
The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya
Haruhi is acting normal. Not normal for Haruhi, just normal. This is concerning to Kyon, but not nearly as much as the fact that a Mikuru Asahina from eight days in the future has just appeared in the clubroom broom closet. Apparently Kyon sent her there eight days ahead, and now he has to work with her, adult Asahina, and Nagato to figure out why. And because this is Haruhi's world, the fate of it just might depend on what Kyon does.
Nagaru Tanigawa's Haruhi Suzumiya novels are not known for being consecutive. Tanigawa has made a habit of going back and forth in the series timeline, if not skipping around through time itself in the pursuit of a new adventure. The latter is infinitely more understandable, as one of the main characters is, in fact, a time traveler. We have been introduced to the adult version of Kyon's upperclassman crush Mikuru Asahina on more than one occasion, but this time Tanigawa ups the stakes by giving us not one, not two, but three Mikuru Asahinas in one volume as Kyon tries to figure out what his eight-days-future self was thinking. Or will think. Because it's the future.
The book opens with an unusually long prologue in which Kyon and Nagato return to a scene from a previous book, when Kyon gets stabbed by the rogue Asakura. This sets the precedent for the rest of the book, with Kyon working hard to fix a future he knows nothing about by tampering with what to him is the present. The entire time scheme in terms of fix the past which is the present to suit the future (which is the present) is quite frankly a little confusing, and occasional attempts at explanation, usually via either Koizumi or Nagato, only serve to make things more mixed up. Overall, however, Tanigawa manages the sequence of events in a way that makes it relatively simple to understand both Asahina (8 days ahead)'s memory of what will happen with Kyon's activities as dictated by Asahina (adult).
One of the chief features of this entry into the series is that it resolves one of the major problems with Kyon as a character. Previously he has been content to simply observe, rarely taking action even when he tells the readers that he thinks something Haruhi is doing is wrong. This time, however, he actively works to resolve the issues laid before him, worrying about others and taking steps to resolve the matter rather than passively observing. We have seen him going along with Haruhi's madcap schemes, but this time he is following his own initiative. Granted, this is at the behest of several Asahinas, but there is markedly less internal resistance on his part, and in a few cases he even acts of his own free will. The most defined of these is the incident with the turtle, where he works out a way to adhere to his instructions while still working within his own thoughts on the subject. While there are arguments to made that his actions were known by Asahina (adult) when she gave him his directions, Koizumi at several points mentions that the future is changeable, which gives Kyon back some lost agency.
Sadly one of the most appealing parts of this book is the lack of Haruhi Suzumiya herself. While she does enter into the plot, she is largely absent and primarily a side character in Kyon's story. This greatly enhances the enjoyment of the novel, as she is not up to her usual slightly cruel antics. Kyon several times remarks that she seems subdued, and as a result she is a much more pleasant person to read about. The focus of the book rests instead on Kyon and, to a certain degree, the other members of the SOS Brigade. Kyon and Koizumi have several conversations where Kyon seems to come to more of an understanding of the other boy, and certainly more about his mysterious Agency is revealed. We also have hints about Asahina's time traveling organization and the fact that they might not be the only one. In fact, this book opens up many possibilities about other groups of slightly supernatural people, which could help to refresh a slightly stale set of players. Perhaps, however, the most interesting characters here are Asahina (8 days ahead) and Nagato, who are forced to interact more than they have previously. Kyon points out the basic difference between the two: “Asahina suffered from her own ignorance, while Nagato knew too much.” While we have suspected that to be the case from the get go, having it spelled out allows us to really see the characters as foils and to watch their interactions in a different way.
The production values of Yen Press' parent company Little Brown are as consistently high here as with the previous books in the series. While the paperback's cover is a particularly bilious shade of olive, the translation reads smoothly and the included color illustrations are of good quality. Noizi Itoh's illustrations are a bit sparse this time around, but maintain their usual sense of softness as they capture the characters.
The Haruhi series may be a bit too weird or annoying for some readers, but this is a solid entry into it. With Kyon gaining some backbone, the intrigue of multiple Asahinas, and Tsuruya playing an interesting role, fans of the series should enjoy themselves. For those growing weary of the books, the lack of Haruhi herself may provide a bit of a refreshment and renew your interest. As general novels go, this one is a little confusing and not perfect, but it still provides a few hours of entertainment, as all light books should.
Overall : C+
Story : C+
Art : B
+ Kyon shows more agency than previously, some promising introductions of rival factions. Lack of Haruhi's more obnoxious antics.
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