Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Metafiction of Haruhi Suzumiya

There are many different ways for fiction to be Meta.  And I have an appreciation for all of them.  For example, Meta doesn't always have to be deconstruction or subversion.

Brian Stableford, in his Introductions and Afterwards for his translations of Paul Feval novels done for Black Coat Press, spends a lot of time talking about how Meta Paul Feval's writing often was. Even using the term Meta Metafiction.

The thing is, I often wonder how much of that Meta nature would be noticeable to a modern English reader who didn't already have it in their heads from what Stableford wrote.  Because the way Feval was Meta was not always the most obvious ways we're used to today.  It's not exactly like Venture Brothers or Rick and Morty, hanging an obvious lampshade on every bulb they pass.

Some of the reason for that however is because so much of the fiction Feval was commenting on has now fallen into obscurity, (as Feval himself has) and what is still well known isn't what most popular fiction today is usually directly emulating.

As someone who's been viewing a lot of Anime the last few years, as the Meta tendencies of Anime have escalated.  I've finally found something modern that I think is Meta in a similar way to Paul Feval's writing.  It's not at all the first Anime I'd think of for something with similar subject matter to Paul Feval (I feel a direct line can be traced from Paul Feval to Arsene Lupin to Lupin III).  But it's Meta I think can be viewed as similar to what I discussed above.

And that is The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.   Haruhi was adapted from a series of Light Novels, light novels are really the Japanese equivalent to the medium Feval usually wrote in.  As a viewer though I've only watched Haruhi (and watched it Dubbed) while Feval I've mostly only read.

Haruhi is often viewed as the trend setter in how Meta Anime has been ever since.  However to my observations the followers of Haruhi have all been Meta in much more obvious ways.  The immediate successor was Lucky Star, which was basically Kevin Smith style Anime.  I say that as someone who admittedly has never watched a Kevin Smith film, but the general characterizations of his early ones seem to me like basically what Lucky Star is, a bunch of Nerdy characters just talking about random stuff.  Since I love Lucky Star so much maybe I should give Clerks or Mallrats a try.  Haruhi is to Lucky Star as Star Wars is to Kevin Smith.

Haruhi doesn't use the words Anime and Manga the way other notoriously Meta Anime does.  If Haruhi were to fall into obscurity for over a hundred years and be rediscovered by people who didn't live through it's cultural context, it might seem like just a show about a character obsessed with fringe Pseudo-Science.  Aliens, Time Travelers and Espers are all things a significant number of real including educated people think do or at least could really exist.  It'd be much more obviously Anime if they'd been Magical Girls, Mecha Pilots and Notebooks that can kill people.

Haruhi is sometimes meta in more obvious ways.  And so is Feval.  The making of The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina is kind of similar to the subplot in the original Les Habits Noirs novel (The Blackcoats: Parisian Jungle) that involves a group of characters writing a play based on the events that are happening.  And Haruhi calling Mikuru Moe could be like Saladin literally being called a Cardboard Baby, in how it's kind of accurate and inaccurate at the same time.

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