Reviewby Theron Martin,
The Intuition of Haruhi Suzumiya
As lively as things can get at North High for the SOS Brigade and their associates, they do also have downtime activities, such as a perfectly normal group visit to temples at New Year's. Months later, after more craziness has settled down, a visit from a member of the Mystery Research Club leads Koizumi and Kyon to decide that they need to make seven traditional-feeling mysteries for their school before Haruhi, in her curiosity, unwittingly creates new ones. A later discussion about the best mystery novels with a representative of that club leads to the entire SOS Brigade having to solve a mystery of their own, courtesy of Tsuruya.
As the first novel in the franchise in more than nine years, Intuition was much-anticipated. It follows in the format of several previous novels by providing a collection of short stories rather than a single narrative, but that has worked before and so is hardly a problem. It is also mostly accessible to those who have only seen the anime side of the franchise; while two of these entries do have occasional references to content and characters that have not been animated, they are not pervasive or critical to the focus of the stories. Watching all of the TV series content and the movie The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya should suffice to catch most of the references present here.*
Intuition contains three short stories. The first and shortest entry, “Random Numbers,” involves the SOS Brigade members going out visiting temples on January 3rd, in traditional New Year's fashion. (This places the story after Disappearance and the not-animated “Snow Mountain Syndrome” from The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya in the timeline.) The title refers to a number that Koizumi randomly comes up with which nonetheless has specific meaning, especially when Haruhi is involved. It is the least involved and most mundane of the entries.
The second entry, titled “Seven Wonders Overtime,” is the second-longest, at double the length of “Random Number.” It takes place in late May of Kyon and Haruhi's second year, which places it after the events of all previous novels. It features the second appearance of the Mystery Research Club, which was briefly mentioned in the first novel (and chronologically episode 1 of the anime) as one of the clubs that Haruhi had initially investigated but dismissed, but that is more of a sidelight than a focal point. The episode starts with a failed attempt to play karuta by Kyon and Koizumi and progresses into an effort to create a list of Seven Wonders for the school since one does not already exist. The emphasis on making them somewhat mysterious yet not totally standard and plausibly explainable makes for a more involved exercise, which is necessary to make sure that Haruhi does not accidentally manifest something crazy. It also features the debut of T, an exchange student who joined Kyon and Haruhi's class at the beginning of their second year and is also a member of the Mystery Research Club.
The third entry, “Tsuruya's Challenge,” is more of a novella, constituting about two-thirds of the page count. It takes place in the same time frame as “Seven Wonders Overtime” but clearly a few days after it. It is also the entry on which the novel's overall title is based and in which Haruhi is most integrally involved herself. It begins with an involved discussion between T and Koizumi about the construction of mystery novels before segueing into a series of linked mysteries provided via email by Tsuruya, who is off with her father on business. These involve Tsuruya and a girl she came to know while attending events with her father, and the challenge for the SOS Brigade (plus T) is to first figure out what the mysteries are and then solve them using clues distributed throughout the provided texts. The mysteries are cleverly constructed in a multilayered, overlapping fashion, one which does not require familiarity with mystery stories or a deep understanding of the franchise to appreciate. As such, this is easily the most entertaining of the three entries. The one downside for non-Japanese readers is that some aspects of certain mysteries depend on fluency with Japanese (and particularly how it translates) to have any chance of figuring them out before the characters do.
None of these entries actually involve anything supernatural happening, just the implication (or outright declaration) that something could happen. All of them – especially the latter two – do include a plethora of random literary and cultural references, but that is hardly unusual for author Nagaru Tanigawa's writing style. (In fact, saying that Tanigawa was geeking out over mystery novels in the beginning stages of “Tsuruya's Challenge” would not be an exaggeration.) The viewpoint naturally mostly remains with Kyon, including his standard snark and a steady running commentary on the merits of Mikuru; the only exception is when Tsuruya is describing the vignettes for the mystery scenarios from her viewpoint. In other words, they read like a typical Haruhi Suzumiya novel.
The Yen Press release of the novel retains the glossy color illustrations at the beginning and the Noizi Ito black-and-white illustrations scattered throughout. The novel ends with an Afterword by Tanigawa, where he explains that this novel took nine years to get out basically because he got lazy. He also includes an additional address at the end specifically about the devastating 2019 fire at Kyoto Animation. Back when the anime series and movie were being made, he had worked closely with a few of the victims of that fire, and he makes a point to reminisce about that.
On the whole, The Intuition of Haruhi Suzumiya offers nothing that delivers any significant plot twist or shake-up of the franchise. Comparatively speaking, these are just “day in the life” episodes. (As much as that can be true about this franchise, anyway.) Seems like an anticlimactic return after such a long wait, but it does represent the more mellow side of the franchise well.
* The main references anime-only fans will miss refer to the SOS Brigade publishing a magazine (from The Indignation of Haruhi Suzumiya), the “Snow Mountain Syndrome” incident (from The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya), and certain characters involved with the split storyline which runs through volumes 8-10.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Kyon's snark is back, the intricate web of mysteries in the third entry
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