The Wavering of Haruhi Suzumiya by
The sixth volume in the saga of Haruhi Suzumiya turns out to be yet another short story collection, this one focusing on events from November through January.
Live A Live is essentially an epilogue to the second book, picking up exactly where Sigh left off. It's the day of the Cultural Festival and Kyon has just delivered the final cut of The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00 to the film club. Not having any breasts, he's not part of Haruhi's marketing strategy for the movie, and his class only conducted a lame survey for the festival, so he's free to enjoy the rest of the day. He grabs Taniguchi and Kunikida and they head for lunch at the cafe Mikuru's class is running.
Afterwards, Kyon, who stayed up all night editing the film, decides to rest in the auditorium where various student bands are performing. Just as he's dozing off, he sees Haruhi and Nagato take the stage as part of an all-girl rock band. As though that's not a big enough shock, the band turns out to be really good.
On Monday Kyon learns the whole story from Haruhi -- the band's lead singer/guitarist broke her wrist that morning and couldn't play. Haruhi overheard the band members trying to figure out what to do, and on the spur of the moment she volunteered her services as a singer; she also figured that Nagato would know how to play guitar and dragged her into the band. But the experience has weirded Haruhi out -- she's used to being the oddball, and having people appreciate her for her talent is a foreign experience. The story ends with a touching moment between Haruhi and Kyon.
The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00 is a summary of the infamous film produced by Ultra Director Haruhi Suzumiya. It's hard for me to judge this story because by the time I read it I'd watched the anime version, which is just so perfect that the short story is like reading a Wikipedia summary.
Charmed at First Sight LOVER, despite the awful Engrish title, is the best story in the book. It begins just a few days after the end of Disappearance with Kyon resting at home when he receives a phone call from Nakagawa, a classmate from middle school -- not a friend, just a guy Kyon sorta knew. A few months back Nakagawa saw Kyon walking with a girl and immediately fell in love. Kyon naturally assumes he means Haruhi or Mikuru and is going to warn him off when he receives a shock -- Nakagawa's fallen for Nagato.
After some cajoling, Kyon agrees to copy out a message to deliver to Yuki, though he instantly regrets it when he hears the drivel Nakagawa spouts -- the guy feels he is in no position to take out the goddess Nagato at the moment, so he asks that she wait ten years so he can go to college, get a job and start his own business, at which point he'll be rich enough to treat Yuki as she deserves.
When Kyon delivers the message the next day, Yuki's reaction is as expected -- no. Unfortunately for Kyon, he doesn't dispose of the letter properly and Haruhi discovers it. She immediately leaps to the wrong conclusion and tries to strangle him. When he finally explains what's going on, the other Brigade members agree that Nakagawa's request is ridiculous, but they are nonetheless interested in him -- even Yuki admits that, though she can't wait a decade for him, she would like to meet him. So that night Kyon calls Nakagawa and arranges for the Brigade to attend a football game he'll be playing the next day.
But this is the Haruhiverse, so there's more going on here than a simple date.
Where Did the Cat Go? is a sequel to both "Remote Island Syndrome" and "Snow Mountain Syndrome." It's New Years Eve and the gang is still at Tsuruya-chan's ski chalet, recovering from the encounter at the mysterious mansion from SMS. Koizumi had promised to put on a new murder mystery for Haruhi -- but this time everyone knows from the start that it's all a game.
The whole cast from the island returns -- Mori, Arakawa and both Tamaru brothers, though all Keiichi does is lie in bed pretending to be dead while Yutaka ... well, honestly I don't remember him doing anything. And that's the problem. For this grand mystery that Koizumi's supposedly been working on since summer, it turns out to be too simple. He gets his cohorts from the Agency to reprise their roles from the previous mystery, but they don't do anything, except for Arakawa and Mori answering a few questions while serving food. I know Tanigawa can write a decent mystery because he did it with RIS, and he can make a game interesting as he did with "Boredom" and "Day of Sagittarius III," but here he fails on all levels. It feels as though he's mentioned this party enough that he has to show it, but he doesn't have his heart in it.
The Melancholy of Mikuru Asahina is a much needed remedy to the flanderization poor Mikuru's gone through. In the first book she was the most intriguing Brigade member after Kyon and Haruhi -- a time traveling secret agent who becomes infatuated with Kyon despite not being allowed to have a relationship in the past, who must subject herself to Haruhi's bizarre whims as part of her mission, and whose boss is her future (badass) self. But as the series has progressed, she's become little more than a giant doll for Haruhi to dress up on whim. She exhibits no agency of her own and acts like she's stepped out of The Perils of Pauline. This is of course why Haruhi chose her -- the brigade needs a moe character to attract new members. But even when the Ultra Leader isn't present, Mikuru isn't that useful. Nagato and Koizumi and even Kyon figure out what's going on long before Mikuru, and when an actual danger appears, such as in "The Mysterique Sign," she doesn't do anything.
At this point in the series, she's starting to fade into the background as nothing more than a piece of eye-candy that Haruhi drags everywhere. This story largely fixes that by examining why Mikuru acts the way she does.
The plot begins with Mikuru asking Kyon to accompany her to the tea-shop on Sunday, which he interprets as a date. Alas, it turns out she's doing this under orders from the future, and her mission is to bring Kyon to a certain street corner at a certain time where he must perform a certain action that will be important to the future. Mikuru doesn't even know what that action is until after it happens, at which point she's shocked to discover how important her mission was. Yet she wasn't allowed to perform the action herself -- seems the time travelers don't want to interfere with the past directly, though their definition of "interfere" strikes me as mighty strange.
Overall this is one of the weaker installments in the series. It suffers from an inverse Star Trek syndrome -- the odd numbered stories are good ("Charmed" is more than good) while the even ones are weak. That's still 60% good, but it's a letdown after the previous two volumes.