The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Review

Story:
Haruhi Suzumiya just wants to makes friends with an alien. It’s a simple request. Well, she thinks so anyway. Her high school classmates are less than thrilled, however. And when one particularly sarcastic student named Kyon gives her the idea to create a special club, some very strange things start happening…

Violence:
Initially there really isn’t too much violence. Until a crazy girl shows up with a knife. No limbs are hacked off, but one character cuts her hand badly and is kinda stabbed through multiple times. Although the blood isn’t focused on too much, it’s very much there and isn’t easy to ignore. Although it only happens in one episode, it’s enough to immediately bunk this series up to a YA.

Language:
Not much in this department besides the usual fare of da-ns, sh-ts, and a rare “illegitimate-son” word. And there is one half bleeped out f-bomb. It’s quick, but very much there.

Nudity:
This is probably the worst aspect of this show. We’re spared any outright nudity, but we do get a lot of inappropriate comments, jokes and a few situations. One character, in particular, is very well endowed. She is chosen for the club exclusively for this reason and nearly one hundred percent of all fanservice is because of her. We also get at least one scene of Haruhi disrobing in front of everyone (down to underwear only though), at least one walk-in with another girl changing and more than a few instances of Haruhi physically… harassing another girl. Although nothing rises above a tame PG13 rating, it’s certainly not for kids either.

Theology/Mythology:
One character implies, on more than one occasion, that Haruhi is some form of god. Theories like this circulate in this series, but none are proven and ultimately any theories in this show are simply speculation by the characters as they try to make sense of their world.

Personal Impression:
Back in 2006 (when the first 14 episodes were released), this series was a huge hit and it continues to be a go-to for serious anime fans. And for good reason. Slice of life shows are a dime a dozen in the anime community, but before this show was released, none had the benefit of a wise cracking narrator/main hero, a cast of stereotypical teens that aren’t nearly as stereotypical as they pretend to be and a heroine that is both horribly frustrating and painfully understandable. For with all of Haruhi’s personality quarks, such as ignoring common decency and social etiquette, she’s really just a girl who wants to believe in things very badly and yet can never fully bring herself to do so. She wishes for aliens, time travels and exciting adventures to exist. Yet she is also well aware that they do not. This inner conflict creates an ever changing, complex and dangerous world. Surprisingly, the humor is not sacrificed at all and the aspects of the show that remain grounded in reality, or what people perceive to be reality, continue. Pulling off slice of life or science fiction genres can be a pain all on their own, but this series was one of the first to prove it can be done at the same time with spectacular results.
That being said, this series also contains a decent amount of inappropriate content, so it’s not for everyone. Not to mention the fact that the science fiction within is rather intensive at times. And Haruhi’s extreme nature isn’t always easy to forgive, even with Kyon hilarious commentary strung throughout. Even so, if you can take the content, this anime is a must see for anime fans. Just be prepared for a lot of brain bending in the future of this show as characters continue to grow mentally and the status quo begins to spiral out of control.

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: 28 (this review counts the episodes released in 2006 and 2009)
Languages: Dub and sub
Official rating: PG14
Genre(s): Action, supernatural, science fiction, slice of life
Website: N/A
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screen shots:
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Extra: Welcome to America!

In Japan, no show is more iconic than the Gundam series. While the idea of giant robots fighting certainly wasn’t anything new to Japan, Gundam was the first series to successfully pull it all off, and in a very serious manor at that. Interestingly enough, Gundam wasn’t out to break any records. They weren’t even aiming to be a classic show. All they wanted was to sell stuff. Models kits, to be precise. Like Zoids, Gundam only made an animated show to increase its toy sales. Luckily for them, it worked. But it also went farther than they bargained for. Gundam quickly became a new standard for robot shows. All other robot fighting series would be compared to it, almost to a brutal point.

One would think that all this popularity in Japan would have surly carried the series over to America. But, oddly, that’s not the case. It wasn’t until late in 1999 that Gundam made an appearance in America and it wasn’t the original series. It was Gundam Wing that made its debut. And it was a hit (it still has an insane amount of fanfics on fanfiction.net), opening the door for other Gundam shows, from G Gundam to Seed to the original UC series (some of the Gundam series are set in alternate universes that are named by how that world dates the years.The original universe is termed UC, while Gundam Wing is set in AC). It also, of course, sold a lot of toys. Even Walmart carried Gundam action figures in bulk back then.

Unfortunately, Gundam is unlikely to enjoy that early US success again as Bandai no longer sells their titles in America. While other companies, like Crunchyroll, still have streaming licenses for some of these classics, there’s a chance others will simply never see the light of day here. And the toy industry for them in the states is pretty much gone. However, fads do have a strange way of coming back into style years later… Maybe the next few generations will get a chance to welcome back Gundam to the US. Until then, enjoy the free streaming (while it lasts). But good luck if you have a craving for the toys…

Gundam Wing Review

Story:
In the future, mankind has finally begun to colonize space. However, the Earth Sphere Alliance ignores the colonies’ ability to be self-sufficient and instead controls them brutally, transporting all profits back to the earth. Unable to silently endure this treatment any longer, the colonies send five special mobile suits to earth. Unlike the mobile suits of the Alliance military, these suits can withstand massive amounts of damage thanks to the space material that gives them their tough exterior and their name: Gundam. Unfortunately for the young pilots, the Alliance is the least of their worries. Their real enemy is Oz and this enemy is far more prepared than the pilots are for a world changing revolution.

Violence:
This show is centered around a war, so violence is to be expected. However, blood is usually in small amounts or only shown briefly. While characters do get shot, punched and thrown from high places, it’s by no means graphic. Even so, this isn’t Disney fare here.

Language:
The cursing in this show is pretty average. D-mn, the “illegitimate-son” word, and cr-p occur every now and again. It’s not a frequent occurrence. And a few episodes won’t even have any, but they are there.
Note: If you manage to get your hands on some old VHS tapes of the “edited” version, you’ll find most of the curse words removed, aside from a random da-n. However, these edits come at a price. Cartoon Network also decided the word “kill” was dirty, so instead they replaced it with “destroy.” The result is pretty hilarious as Heero uses the word frequently with Relena. For some reason, “I’ll destroy you,” just isn’t very convincing…

Nudity:
This series contains no hot spring episode! This really cuts down this section. There really isn’t any nudity here…. aside from an awkward scene at the beginning of the series where we briefly see a man in a bath. No details show up (thank goodness), but it really let’s you know how… “off” that character is. Sane men don’t take bubble baths in a gazebo. Just sayin’.

Theology/Mythology:
There isn’t much of this going on, but there are a handful of comments on God. Many seem to be characters using God in a speech or claiming they can not commit a crime because “God would never forgive them.” One character even flat out says he doesn’t believe in God. However, these comments are made in passing and are never fully discussed.
Also, evolution is talked about in two separate speeches. Again, no discussion, only passing comments. And these elements really don’t affect the overall story in any way.

Personal Impression:
Made during the same era of anime as Noir, Gundam Wing was the anime that got me back into anime. Because after getting bored with endless transformations (Sailor Moon) and endless screaming (Dragon Ball Z), I largely gave up on anime. This show brought me back with a vengeance. The main characters are competent fighters, none of that whinny hero business that’s become so common now-a-days. The world is fully and complexly built with various parties getting entangled, allying, betraying and switching sides throughout the show. Not to mention the personal conflicts the heroes have. Be it losing sight of what they are fighting for, not knowing who to protect, being overcome with the need for revenge or simply going insane, each pilot (and many other characters) has an issue they must face. Some have more than one. All of this with constant war on earth and space going on at the same time. Suffice to say, story-wise, this is a great show.
Before you ask though, yes the animation is old by today’s standards. Yet it was pretty good for its day. And the music is fitting as well. A bit corny in places, but this is a giant robot fighting show after all (though a surprising amount of it is political). Also, since this was dubbed over a decade ago, the dubbing isn’t as high-in as ours are now. So a few syncing issues can be spotted. And characters do have a strange obsession with waxing philosophical at very odd, and often dangerous, times. Still, this is a very solid show and it was a hit here in America for good reason. If classic anime is a bit too old school for you, this might not be the best choice. But if you can get past that element for a moment, this anime has a complex and exciting story with solid characters one can’t help but cheer for. Oh and the awesome robots fight. A lot. And it’s awesome.
Note: Bandai used to distribute this title before closing its US doors. But you should still be able to find copies of the DVDs floating around. And free legal streaming is also available. See links below.

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: 49
Languages: Sub and Dub
Official rating: PG13
Genre(s): Science fiction, action, fighting
Website: n/a
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screen shots: