The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – DVD 1
If you've never heard of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya then what you firstly need to know is that it's one of the most popular anime/novel series to hit the scene in a good while, to the extent of sparking a level pseudo-religious zeal, dubbed Haruhism, that comes as a sort of homage to one of the central premises of the show: that the eponymous heroine is, for all intents and purposes, God. The show itself is a superb blend of action, comedy and drama which includes plenty of deliberate fan service and a cast of strange characters, all seen from the point of view of the most incredibly normal and average person in world. Fans of anime in general will probably find something to like here.
Rather than go into a long and involved review of the plot, characters and culture of the show I'd like to cover the local release by Madman Entertainment. For a proper review of the material itself you can check out
The first thing to cover, if only to get it out of the way, is the episode ordering on the discs. I've discussed my feelings this previously and while I still fell the show works better when it's not in the correct order, I find now that I've largely gotten over the whole thing. Watching the DVD you're still introduced to the series with Episode 00 The Adventures of Mikaru Asahina, which is the same episode used to introduce the broadcast ordering. After that I wasn't terribly put out watching the series in chronological order. Really, the only thing you miss is the increased sense of wackiness the show exudes when nothing is where it should be and the hilarious episode previews by Kyon and Haruhi (Yuki introduces them now in her typical monotone).
The quality of the video and audio is great, as you would expect. I've been a bit put out by anime DVDs in the past when it turned out that the video quality on the DVD was actually lower than the quality of the fansubs I'd downloaded. This is definitely not the case here: Melancholy has some of the highest productions values of any anime in recent years and Madman would have had to be insane (har har) to treat such an overwhelming fan favourite with anything less than their utmost respect. As I have ranted about before, I do wish that interlacing would be removed before the video hits the DVD but that's about the only complaint I can level at it. If your DVD player does a decent job of deinterlacing you won't even notice anything.
If you've previously seen a fansubbed version of Melancholy then chances are you're going to want to listen to the Japanese dub again on the DVD, of which only Dolby 2.0 is provided, simply because that's what you'll be most used to. I would urge you to have a listen to the English dub though as it really is quite good. Crispin Freeman does a fantastic job of capturing Kyon's tone; you have only to listen to the work he does in Episode 00 to understand what I mean. The only voice that is still irking me is Johnny Yong Bosch's performance as Itsuki Koizumi. I don't have any particular reason for this except that his voice is quite distinctive and he sounds too much like he does in his other anime roles (Ichigo in Bleach, Vash in Trigun, etc). I'm sure I'll get used to it as the show continues.
There are quite a few extras on the disc, including the usual assortment of textless opening and closing, TV commericlas and Madman trailers which here are Highlander: Search For Vengeance, Afro Samurai, .hack//Roots, Ah! My Goddess – Season 2, Hellsing Ultimate – Volume 1 (which nicely shows off Crispin Freeman's Alucard) and Karas. Also included are a couple "Making Of" clips and three episodes of "The Adventures of ASOS Brigade" which, from my brief glance, seemed to be worth a few chuckles.
In typical Madman style they've provided you with the usual cover, featuring the hideous OFLC rating logos, and an alternative cover which is lacking them. I think I prefer the normal cover because I like the picture of Haruhi dragging Kyon around by his tie but you can decide for yourselves.
On the topic of OFLC ratings I have to wonder if an MA15+ is really warranted in this case. Sure, the show does contain contain sexual themes (I think Mikaru gets put in some compromising position in every episode) but I don't think this really goes beyond an M15+ rating at worst. The only thing I can think of is that it's due to the allusion in one episode to Haruhi spreading around that the computer club president sexually assaulted Mikaru. The weird thing is, nothing like the word "rape" is ever heard since it's actually bleeped out. So why such a strong rating? Especially for an animated title. Oh well, the things classification boards come up with these days.
I think the timing of this DVD release was quite inspired: it came out only days before Manifest so most of the otaku in the state (and even interstate) would have been in a particularly purchase-happy mood. I must admit that this is one of the first DVDs I've bought of an anime series that wasn't in a complete boxset. I guess the temptation of a special bonus DVD with the episodes in broadcast order for simply too much for me to resist! If you're planning on buying Melancholy in the near future keep in mind that the bonus DVD voucher is only in the collector's box version and does not come with the DVD by itself.
Well, I think I've covered everything about the local release. I don't think I need mention that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is one of my all time favourite shows (anime or otherwise) and is highly recommended. It makes me hope that Madman will pick up the light novels for local distribution!
If I left anything out or you'd like to know something further please leave a comment.