I've started a new anime series: "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya". I just got Volume 1 (Deluxe Edition) from Amazon.com and finished watching it. So far, this is shaping up to be one of my favorites this year.
The DVD is 16:9 anamorphic widescreen with English and Japanese audio. English subtitles are available - either for full dialog or for signs only. Bonus features include a series of promotional shorts prepared for the U.S. launch of the series that were available on the U.S. website - these are hilarious!
The show concerns itself with a young student who starts a new school. He meets a beautiful, headstrong girl named Haruhi...
...okay - nodding off yet?
Yeah - I know you've heard this plot outline many times before in Anime - but this is where it gets weird. Haruhi is only interested in UFOs, espers, and time traveling. She doesn't have patience for anything else - barely acknowledging the existence of the new student. Haruhi instead puts all of her energy into forming a club called the SOS Brigade, which she hopes will help her find the unknown. The club soon attracts a number of school stereotypes - bookworm, ditzy girl, hunky guy, etc. - who, along with the new student, become unwilling new members.
Or are they really that unwilling? As the show goes on, the new student finds out that all is not it appears to be. And that, quite possibly, Haruhi herself can unmake reality.
The show was originally aired in a scrambled order. There are only 7 episodes of the main plot derived from the original novel - the rest of the episodes are from subsequent works. By scrambling the order, the mystery of the show is preserved.
Or so it might be, if Bandai had decided to release them in that order. With the exception of the first episode on the disc - which occurs much later in the series - the rest of the episodes are in sequential order. This is actually mildly disappointing - the original scrambled order does sound like a better way to view the show. Luckily, starting with Volume 2, the Deluxe Editions will include a second disc that preserves the scrambled order as originally aired in Japan.
A quick note about the Deluxe Edition for Volume 1. This is one of the most gorgeous boxes I've ever seen. It has magnetic latches, and opens up like a jewelry box, with doors and trays. There are a slew of bonus items, including a soundtrack CD, sticker and a Haruhi hair ribbon. Very cool, and well worth the extra bucks.
So - in conclusion - the Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya Vol. 1 Deluxe Edition is a must buy. It does start out a little bit like other harem-type animes set in a school, but quickly becomes something else. The bonus features are good, and the packaging is superb. I can hardly wait for Volume 2.