(Original review posted on my livejournal account
)Why I Read It:
I fell in love with the anime series these books inspired, so I decided last year in April that I wanted to read the source material. I've read the previous five books, and while this hasn't been my favourite series ever, I'm interested enough to keep reading.
For this review I'll be going over each short story and giving general thoughts and impressions with no spoilers.
First up, we have Live Alive. This story was actually adapted into the anime series and with good reason. While it doesn't really have any of the weird supernatural happenings that are prone to occur around Haruhi, it's one of the most compelling episodes, mostly due to Haruhi making some of the personal growth. She actually helps people and for absolutely no personal gain, or for any crazy hair-brained scheme she's come up with -- she just does it because it feels like the right thing to do, something that is foreign to Haruhi (which can be seen in her puzzlement at her actions at the end of the story). Of all the stories in this small collection, this one was easily my favourite.
The second story, The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina: Episode 00 is absolutely ridiculous and, much like the rest of this collection, just a little odd end that Tanigawa included in here to fill in some tiny gaps. This is the movie that the SOS Brigade made in book 2, where Asahina is some kind of time-traveling magical waitress of some sort. Kyon's narration is really the only saving grace of the whole thing, as he can't help but throw in his sarcasm and some ire as well. This was also adapted in the anime and was quite a bit funnier for it (they really played up the horrible editing that went into the movie, something you can't quite convey with prose) bu this still turned out all right, again, thanks to Kyon's narration.
The next story, Love At First Sight was just kind of... strange. I can see this working much better in the manga adaptation (it hasn't been adapted into the anime), but reading it in prose comes off as strange. I guess the story was meant to focus on Yuki I bit more (which is fine by me -- she's a great character) but it felt completely unnecessary and I didn't feel like it added a whole lot to the series. It essentially just showed that Yuki DOES kind of sort of care what people think of her, though her fascination with the boy who's enamored with her is ambiguous: is she interested because she's interested in human behaviour, or is she actually just flattered that someone is interested in her (even if it turns out it's for different reasons than just a normal crush)? Anyway, overall, it fell kind of flat.
The fourth story, Where Did the Cat Go actually bored me to tears. Back in book five, the SOS brigade was brought to a mountain retreat where they were going to play a murder mystery thing (like what happened in one of the stories in Sigh) but we never actually get to see it. This story gives us the pleasure of showing us how it went down, except I just really didn't CARE. I mostly sped-read through this one and really couldn't have cared less about it.
The last story had potential to be decent, but again had me feeling indifferent. Kyon's invited by Asahina to go shopping for tea leaves but then ends being on one of her time-traveling missions. I didn't really see the point to this story either, and to be completely honest, I had actually forgotten what happened in it when I came to write this review. It came back to me after I had thought about it for a bit, but still: it's not a good sign when that kind of thing happens. :)Final Judgment:
While the first story in this collection was decent, everything else was pretty "meh". The second story was also all right, but I still think it was done better in the anime (which I just think was a better medium for it anyway), and all the other stories felt like useless appendages. This is easily my least favourite book in the series so far, but it hasn't dissuaded me to keep reading: the next book in the series, The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya is supposed to be about some of the time traveling shenanigans that went down Disappearance, so I'm looking forward to getting to THAT. This collection though was very sub-par, and I honestly think one could skip over this completely and not really be missing out on much.