Wednesday, February 8, 2017

We Don't Need Haruhi S3

We understand that the most basic needs of a story are a beginning, a middle, and an end, and we teach that to children. A child's story is a rambling stream of consciousness, referencing details only known to them. Why, for a species so dependent on storytelling, is it not more natural? We don't have as much trouble teaching children to understand stories. It's not like parents have to translate what they tell their children into child-style stories.

Childish stories are more like real life. Life is not as easily divided into discrete units. Though we can describe very effective story arcs between landmark events, things from before and after are always interfering, nothing accomplished remains static, and outside actors intrude chaotically. Children that had to be taught "Happily Ever After" are next taught that life doesn't have happily ever after, that there's no single event that will guarantee happiness or ensure that they've "made it."

Yes, stories aren't real. That doesn't mean they aren't useful and it doesn't mean they aren't good. Our friends the post-modernists learned how to craft wonderfully complex simulations of childish stories, and good for them, but when we tell the story of when you came home from the hospital or where hamburgers come from or what happens when you play in the street we include a beginning, a middle, and an end.

So why don't we wrap things up in our fiction? Especially recently, the art of the ending has seemingly been forgotten. Endings are hard, I'm aware. They're a challenge, a true test of skill, but some of our most lauded creators just don't do them.

A mark of greatness for a story is when it makes its readers want it to never end. They never seem to like it when it doesn't. The ending, ideally, resolves the issues woven through the entire story. Sequels without their own beginnings, middles, and ends are intrusions, and bear potential to be drastically unpopular if they disrupt a satisfying ending without a better replacement. Bad sequels and hung series are equally unpopular in different ways.

Which brings us to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I'll allow the unfamiliar reader to bring themselves up to speed on it. In written form it's a hung series. Its animated adaptation is finished. It has room for a sequel, but it doesn't need it, which is the point of this essay. Knowing that there's more material out there, unadapted, hurts. I'd like to see it animated too. But it would only bring us up to speed with a hung story.

Central conflict of Haruhi. It's well-presented at the beginning: Kyon wishes Santa were real, and that the exciting things that happened in fiction were true. He learns that they are true, that aliens and such do exist, and also that real people can be even more exciting. The broadcast of the original series built up to a climax on that premise. The rebroadcast with extra episodes brought up the conflict of Kyon's buyer's remorse, whether he might want hectic supernatural things to stop. That's settled in the movie, where he decides Haruhi's as good as Santa, settling the whole story. It's done.

There are more books after this plotline. They're quite exciting. One of them's a set of short stories; one of them has a car chase; another has four characters trying to recruit Kyon as their protagonist. One of them has what could be a satisfying end to a true second season. I don't want to downplay just how excited I would be if there was one. But we don't need it. There's an impression that it's on hold, when it's not. Kyon and Haruhi live happily ever after. We don't need to see new challenges getting thrown at them ad nauseum, we don't need to risk them turning into parodies of themselves. We should be more grateful that the story is as tight, as complete, as focused as it is, and for an animation crew that repeated one episode eight times that's an accomplishment in itself.

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