Series Highlight: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Light Novel)

Haruhi Cover

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’ll be talking about the series that got me into reading light novels – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, by Nagaru Tanigawa! Most people familiar with this series probably learned about it by watching the anime, but that alone wasn’t enough for me. I had to get all of Haruhi I could! So, I bought and read all the light novels, and those are what I’ll talk about.

The series follows Kyon, a self-described ‘average guy’ who, as of the beginning of the series, is starting as a student at North High. He finds himself seated in front of the notorious Haruhi Suzumiya, an incredibly eccentric girl who proudly declares during her class introduction that she wants nothing to do with anyone unless they have some link to the paranormal – ghosts, aliens, time travelers, whatever. Despite that, she and Kyon get into the habit of speaking to each other before class each morning.

Kyon learns that Haruhi is bored with the mundane and aggressively seeking something new to spice up her life. She’s known for dating anyone who asks her out, but for breaking off her relationships very quickly. She has also tried out every school club and rejected them all, despite her talent for both academics and sports. Then, Kyon makes his decisive mistake. He suggests she start a club of her own. Haruhi loves the idea, and, of course, Kyon is instantly roped into membership.

After hijacking the Literature Club and assimilating its only member, Haruhi begins the hunt for more. She ends up with a total of five members – each of whom has their own extraordinary quirk. Her club is called the SoS Brigade and is basically focused on doing whatever she feels like doing, whether that be entering a baseball tournament, creating a film, or scouting town for signs of the paranormal.

Kyon soon finds himself in over his head with all of Haruhi’s demands – and the astounding phenomena that surround her to which she is completely oblivious. The story takes many twists and turns from there, which I don’t intend to spoil, so if you haven’t at least watched the anime, I suggest you do!

That said, this highlight is about the light novels, so I should mention some of the storylines that are exclusive to them. But, first, those of you who are veterans of the anime will be happy to hear that the hated Endless Eight takes up only a single chapter in the light novels – the anime’s nonsensical take on that story is its own. Anyway, some of the other circumstances Kyon and his friends deal with in the light novels are as follows:

  • Defending the SoS Brigade against the student council president
  • Kyon finding a duplicate copy of Mikuru Asahina in the Literature Club closet
  • SoS Brigade tryouts.
  • Solving a mystery involving the strange behavior of dogs at a certain location
  • Encountering a second cast of characters that reflect the SoS Brigade members under incredibly convoluted circumstances

I don’t want to delve too deeply into any of those storylines, ’cause spoilers are bad, but the light novels feature even more quirky situations than just those, and if you liked the anime, I suggest you pick up the light novels and read them, beginning to… well, to where the author stopped.

The unfortunate thing about the Haruhi series is that it remains incomplete, and Tanigawa hasn’t published anything in years. He’s on record promising a continuation of the series, but even if that really happens, there’s no telling how long it will take, and no one seems to be quite sure what’s up. Part of me wants to believe this is some crazy gimmick Tanigawa is using to eventually garner more interest (Maybe he’ll claim to have been pulled into an alternate dimension or something! xD), but, realistically, the cause is probably completely ordinary. Haruhi wouldn’t be satisfied at all!

Speaking of Haruhi, I just have to write a little bit about why she’s one of the characters I most look up to in any series. The reason for that is in her unbridled individualism. She knows what’s supposed to be possible and impossible in life, but strives for the impossible anyway. Her free-spiritedness and openness to trying all sorts of things legitimately inspires me. I love her willingness to ignore society’s expectations for her and instead follow a path she really believes in, no matter how unlikely success seems – and her unconscious ability to find magic in the ordinary. She has character flaws, of course, but I’m totally willing to overlook them in the face of her sheer determination to be herself.

Anyway, that’s all for this highlight! Have any of you read the Haruhi light novels, or watched the anime? If so, what did you think? Have you read any light novels at all? Please let me know in the comments below, and have an outstanding week!

Evi’s tips on writing characters who complement each other

Hiyo, everyone! Today I have a writing-related topic to discuss, though it’s broad enough to cover not just written media, but also the scripts for movies, shows, and all sorts of other things. I’m going to talk about how I make my cast of characters complement each other!

I’ll start with some brief clarification. I don’t intend on discussing how to make characters compliment each other, i.e. say nice things to each other. That’s a totally different topic! When you Google the word complement, used as a verb, the definition you get is “add to (something) in a way that enhances or improves it; make perfect.” That’s what I plan to delve into. How to make each of your key characters improve each other.

The above definition begs a question: “What exactly does it mean for a character to be ‘perfect’ (or ‘complete’) within the context of the story?” The answer certainly isn’t to make them without character flaws. In fact, doing that makes them less compelling as characters because flawless people aren’t relatable. In my eyes, the key is in what drives all stories forward: Conflict.

Any compelling story should have themes, or questions it provokes in the reader/viewer/player. Characters complement each other well when you’re able to compare and contrast them with regards to theme. To use the Harry Potter series as an example, Harry and Voldemort complement each other because they have opposite views on the series’ central theme of death; Harry risks his life for others time and again, whereas Voldemort goes to great lengths in his quest for immortality. Their underlying philosophies thematically clash with each other even as the characters fight each other magically, adding another dimension to their struggle.

I find the best antagonists challenge the protagonist of the story in every way, especially thematically. But enemies aren’t the only ones who should have a thematically inspired relationship. Ideally, all major characters should have their own thoughts regarding central themes. Often, the protagonist’s allies in large part agree with them , but interactions between them are more interesting if they at least disagree regarding something related to the themes. Two perfectly harmonic viewpoints won’t come into opposition with each other, and conflict is everything.

Goals are another key factor to keep in mind. What are each of your characters trying to achieve? If your ‘good guys’ are teaming up, it’s quite possible that they have very similar goals, but, still, it’s important to make it clear why they have those goals. Two people can arrive at the same conclusion for very different reasons, and by delving into those, the reader/viewer/player gains a better understanding of not only the characters, but the theme itself.

As I mentioned above, your characters should have flaws. One way to make them work well together is by having them challenge each other’s weaknesses. By forcing them to acknowledge their own shortcomings, you create an inner struggle in each character that naturally leads to character development. To use a vaguer example, you may have one character be too merciful towards defeated foes and another be completely merciless. By making them butt heads over that difference, you can move both characters’ story arcs forward.

Of course, it’s important to write a cast of characters that is diverse in all sorts of ways, including personality traits. While all the main characters should have thoughts regarding the central themes, there should be more to them than just that. Be careful not to focus so much on character synergy that you forget to make each character a thoroughly fleshed out individual! If two different characters look at the same painting (just a silly example), they will probably have non-identical thoughts surrounding it. As with goals, clashing viewpoints can be used to paint a larger picture of the themes at hand and, in doing so, really help tie the novel together.

What do you guys think? Do you disagree with me, or think I missed any important points? What sort of themes do you find most compelling? I bet, if you analyze your favorite works, you’ll find a lot of examples of synergy throughout. Please let me know if you notice anything! Until next time, enjoy, and have a wonderful week!

 

Why I love Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age

Golden Sun 1

Hiyo again, everyone! Today I’ll be talking about two of my favorite video games growing up – games that, sadly, now seem largely forgotten. Golden Sun and its sequel/continuation, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, both for the GBA. These games form two halves of the same story, so I kind of view them more as a single game; playing either alone is much less satisfying than playing them both. Back when they were new to me, I went through them over and over. In fact, they were basically my gateway to fantasy-heavy jRPGs. As a result, the nostalgia factor for me is through the roof, so I’m gonna totally fangirl over them. xD

The series begins when a storm hits the village of Vale, which sits at the base of a mountain. During the storm, our main protagonist, Isaac, and his friends, Garet, Jenna, and Felix get separated, and Isaac encounters two malicious and mysterious strangers who you quickly come to realize were involved in the catastrophe. A giant boulder falls from Mt. Alpeh, killing Isaac’s father, both of Jenna’s parents, and Felix, who is her brother.

Three years pass, and Isaac is training under an old man named Kraden to use Psyenergy, a sort of magic close tied with the four traditional elements: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. Isaac, Garet, and Jenna seek to test their abilities and ill-advisedly decide to breach the village shrine, Sol Sanctum, where they meet the same two strangers from before and more. The encounter leads them on an incredibly dangerous journey spanning their entire world.

I now know that sort of premise is pretty typical for a jRPG, but, still, Golden Sun stands out from the rest. It features a strong combat system, excellent music, and extremely extensive world-building. Exploration is meaningfully rewarded, which I love to see in an RPG; there are expansive optional areas to be found, adding depth to the world. On top of that, the characters are well developed and the plot is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing what will happen next. I should acknowledge that Golden Sun is extremely dialogue-heavy; it puts story at the forefront, which works wonderfully if that’s what you’re looking for but may deter those most interested in action.

I won’t spoil more of the story, since I recommend you experience it for yourself if you haven’t already, but to this day, Golden Sun remains one of my favorite jRPGs, up there with Tales of Symphonia. Golden Sun later received a DS sequel, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. I found that to be a solid game, but it fell short of the first two, and ever since, there has been no word of further sequels. It’s always sad to see something you loved growing up decline!

Since this is a “Why I love” post, it basically goes without saying that I rate Golden Sun 5/5. =p

Have any of you played any of the Golden Sun games? If so, what did you think? I’d love to hear your nostalgic stories! If not, which jRPGs are among your favorites? Please let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!

Why I love Gosick

Gosick

Hiyo, everyone! Sorry my blog post is a bit late; for the past few days, I’ve had no internet access! Anyway, today, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite anime, an obscure one called Gosick. As usual, I plan on discussing the premise of the story without revealing any major spoilers. Without further ado, let’s begin!

Gosick begins by introducing the audience to a boy named Kujo Kazuya, a Japanese transfer student who attends Saint Marguerite Academy in the fictional kingdom of Sauville shortly after the end of World War I. Kujo quickly finds himself burdened with the nickname ‘The Dark Reaper’ on account of his black hair; the people of Sauville are often quite superstitious, and prone to categorize mysterious things according to their fairy tales.

Kujo begins feeling quite isolated, but that changes when he makes his way to the top of the school’s library-tower and encounters an eccentric girl named Victorique de Blois, who is best known as ‘The Golden Fairy’ for her long blond her and who is notorious for almost always skipping class. While he’s there, he’s also joined by an investigator named Grevil who begins a one-sided conversation about his current case, culminating in Victorique explaining exactly what happened. Grevil’s true role is quickly revealed; he’s actually Victorique’s older brother, has no true talent for detective work, and uses Victorique to solve mysteries for him before taking the credit for himself.

When Kujo learns that truth, be becomes furious and presses Grevil to give Victorique recognition for her contribution. Instead, Grevil insists Victorique doesn’t even want to be recognized and instead invites the pair on a trip – a trip which is quickly cancelled. But not all is lost; Kujo and Victorique take an invitation Grevil received as a reward for solving his latest case and find themselves on a cruise ship, where they experience their first life-or-death adventure rife with mystery.

That adventure is the first of many, of course. Throughout the series, the duo get caught up in and solve many more mysteries, all the while growing closer to each other. As you might expect, more and more characters show up, too, but, to be honest, Victorique mostly carries the show in terms of character appeal. I found her quite relatable thanks to my affinity for towers and the like. =p

The series becomes controversial in its second half when the focus moves away from solving mysteries and toward Victorique’s dark past and the drama surrounding it. Some viewers, who had become comfortable with episodic case-solving, disliked the way the Gosick changed. Personally, I liked both halves of the story, and I think I enjoyed the second more than the first. xD I do love a bit of drama in my anime! Anything that makes me cry is a plus!

I enjoyed Gosick’s artistic style, though it doesn’t particularly stand out from many other anime I’ve seen. The music is also good, and the opening and ending songs remain favorites of mine. The endings in particular capture Victorique’s feelings especially well, in my opinion!

Unsurprisingly, I rate Gosick 5/5 despite its flaws; Victorique gets way more character development than anyone else, but I find myself rewatching the series every now and then, and I really don’t wanna deduct points from anything that has me so hooked! Even I’ll admit I’m a bit biased; I’d feel a little guilty taking points away from the stories I love.

Have any of you seen Gosick? If so, what did you think? If not, what’s your favorite anime, and which character to you like best in it? I’m eager to hear from you! Until next time, buh-bye!

Series Highlight: The Stormlight Archive

Way of Kings 3

Hiyo, everyone! It has been a while since I last covered any novels, so today we’ll be looking at a whole series of them: The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. This series is huge, still in progress, and just plain awesome. Currently, the first three books are released: The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Oathbringer. I last read the former two books back when they were first released, so it has been years, and I may not remember everything perfectly. However, I recently devoured Oathbringer, and it has left me wanting to revisit the series and discuss it with others!

It’s hard to properly describe the story briefly because there’s just so much to it, so instead, I’ll focus on three of the early main characters and their arcs in The Way of Kings. In book one, the character who gets the most page-time is named Kaladin. He’s a man who goes to great lengths to protect those he cares about, only to find himself worse off for it every time. After performing a nearly-inhuman feat to help the lord he serves, he is betrayed and branded a slave for his trouble. He struggles to find any hope to cling to in a world so consistently unfair.

Shallan Davar is a young noble who has traveled the world in pursuit of the renowned scholar and atheist Jasnah Kholin. Shallan seeks to become Jasnah’s ward – a sort of academic apprentice – but her intentions are not as pure as they seem. Her true motive is to rob one of the world’s keenest minds of a magical device necessary to safekeep her family’s future.

Dalinar Kholin is a Highprince of his kingdom who is known for the ferocity on the battlefield that characterized his youth. He finds himself forced into the position of a leader rather than a fighter, and experiences strange visions urging him to unite the nations of the world. Changed by the death of his brother, the former king, Dalinar searches for an honorable way to guide his country through the trials to come.

Those are only a few of the characters, of course. There are tons more, some with very unique viewpoints. Sanderson is a master worldbuilder, and the world of Roshar, in which these novels take place, is diverse and rife with deep lore. I can’t do it justice in a short post. I can only urge you to give the series a try for yourself.

That said, The Stormlight Archive is aimed at fans of epic fantasy – each of the three books in released in the main series so far is over 1,000 pages long. There’s also a spin-off novella called Edgedancer. I haven’t had the chance to read that yet, but it’s definitely high on my priority list now.

To make things even more daunting, The Stormlight Archive is one of many series that takes place in Sanderson’s Cosmere, a set of interwoven universes with varied magic systems. The other included series so far are less enormous than The Stormlight Archive, so you may want to start with one of those instead. Personally, the first book I read by Sanderson was Mistborn, and he has since become one of my favorite authors.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t go into any more detail here. Just know that Sanderson writes both worlds and characters that are deep and exceedingly well developed. I recommend his work to any fan of fantasy.

Have you read anything by Brandon Sanderson? If so, what are your favorites of his stories? if not, who are your favorite fantasy authors? Please let me know in the comments below. Until next time, ciao!