Dragging Myself to 400 Anime: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

This enjoyable movie really only suffers from one defect: the presentation of this two and three quarter hour long tale causes it to drag.  It uses the sort of pacing we see in the TV series, but what works for a twenty-four minute segment suffices not for an almost three hour block of time.  One can’t treat the two the same way!  I ended up watching the movie in three sittings and do not think it detracted from my enjoyment.

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The central theme of the movie reminds me of a comment the hero’s father made in Dostoyevsky’s The Adolescent: “Life isn’t worth living without these little annoyances.” My intimate friends know that this is one of my favorite expressions, and Kyon knows this by instinct.  I almost wrote “comes to discover this over the course of the film,” but that is not precisely true.  He automatically sets about trying to restore the world as soon as he realizes Haruhi is gone.  *Spoilers from here on* But, he avoids admitting to himself that life is not worthwhile without Haruhi until the final third of the film. Continue reading

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Gunslinger Girl Ends with a Bang!

What a great ending to a rather original series!  The last volume of Gunslinger Girl finally found its way to my shelves.  For the past couple of years, it’s been the only manga I’ve purchased translated.  On returning home, however, I discovered that I had never read the penultimate omnibus!  But, unwilling to wait for that book to arrive through Amazon (I don’t recall ever seeing that volume in a bookstore), I read those chapters in an online reader before turning to the last volume.

GSG opening

Despite how boring most people find the anime version of this work, the manga never bored me, and the anime hooked me until the end–even when it got slow.  The last three volumes of the manga, which have yet to have an anime version (But, I can still hope), blew me away by their non-stop action.  The last three volumes include more gun fights and agonizingly suspenseful situations than the other twelve volumes combined!  This even includes the fight between Triela–my favorite character–and Pinocchio, whose arc still stands as my favorite and features in Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino.

A picture of Triela.  The modifications to her body prevent shots to the arms from being disabling.

A picture of Triela. The modifications to her body prevent shots to the arms from being disabling.

Part of the fun of Gunslinger Girl is how the cybernetically modified young girls in the service of the Italian government contrast the vision of human beings with cybernetic parts found in Ghost in the Shell.  (Nota bene, I have not seen more than a few episodes Ghost in the Shell, but draw the following ideas from two essays in Anime and Philosophy: Wide Eyed Wonder edited by Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin: “The Making of Killer Cuties” by Christie Barber et al. and “Just a Ghost in the Shell?” by Angus McBlane.  That’s a book well worth owning!)  Basically, where Ghost in the Shell offers a future where cybernetics allow mankind to overcome human weakness, the heroines of Gunslinger Girl are still weighed down by their humanity as the machines inside them drain away their lifespan.  Henrietta, Triela, and the rest still retain the hopes and dreams of girls their age, but are forced to suppress them as they are mere tools of the Social Welfare Agency.  The author of this manga, Yu Aida, leaves one with the impression that the bad consequences of modifying human nature might outweigh the benefits.

Alfa Romeo

The struggles of the heroines to make the most of their limited lives create some very deep characters and engross the reader in their fates.  Few mangaka do characterization so well!  This, along with the great action of the final volumes, almost caused me finish the remaining chapters in a single sitting.  Indeed, they would have had not something important torn me away from them!  I might also add that Yu Aida is incredibly literate and well-versed in Western culture.  Gunslinger Girl contains allusions to the Bible, Thomas Macaulay, Beethoven, and others.  Few manga combine action with learning so well!

Triela with shotgun