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Old 2010-09-17, 00:38   Link #3021
Gamer_2k4
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Admittedly, that might not have even been empathy so much as it was her making a spur of the moment decision to get involved in a situation. It is a little convoluted, but I think that's more of a timeline order fault than anything else.
I will admit that Haruhi has a very interesting personality in that she has very concrete notions of "how things should be." Why did she pull Mikuru into the club? Because they "needed" a moe member. Why are transfer students mysterious? They just are. Why did Yuki need a cat? Because all witches have familiars. And finally, why sing for ENOZ? Because in your senior year, you should get to play your music at the cultural festival. The strange thing in the last situation is not so much that she had such a notion, but rather that it was directed at something not immediately involving herself.

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I think here you might be giving Haruhi too little credit. She is quite empathetic, it's just that for the most part, she chooses not to be. And if I was arguing with someone and they went to hit me directly after something I just said, I'd probably attribute their anger to that statement, or at least the general focus of that current situation. Haruhi would have to be pretty wilfully ignorant not to see that Kyon had a huge problem with her treatment of Mikuru and her statement of ownership.
I'm going to type out this personal musing here so I remember it, but feel free to think of it as a concession to your point.

As a kid, Haruhi thinks she and everything she does is special. Then she sees other people doing the same thing and realizes that that's really no fun at all. She gets the notion that the only way to enjoy herself is to do things her way. To that end, she creates a club of yes-men so she can do everything she wants. When one of them acts up, it's a shock to her (also note her reaction to Kyon's suggestion at the end of E8), but it's the biggest step in realizing that there's more to having fun than doing everything her way all the time. Eventually, she develops in the sort of person who has fun WITH the people around her, rather than in spite of them.

Sure, that works, and it's palatable enough for me. That means I'll have to fall back on my whine that Sigh is far too drawn out for its sole purpose, but I'll save that for another night.
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Old 2010-09-21, 00:44   Link #3022
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There are plenty of occurrences in the novels that don't stand up to scrutiny at all (why characters act the way they do, why things happen the way they do, etc.), and I think it amounts to more than just literary license for producing fiction.
I'd really like to hear what those instances are, and I mean that in a completely sincere and non-antagonistic manner. I may be a fan of the show, but I'm always interested to hear points of intelligent descent.
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Old 2010-09-21, 02:37   Link #3023
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Heh, putting me on the spot. Alright then. It's been months since I've seen the series or touched the novels, so my memory is pretty hazy. It's one thing to remember thinking, "Hey! No! You can't do that! That doesn't make sense!" and a completely different thing to remember what the exact situations were that prompted that reaction. But, I'll try to come up with a quick list now and think about it more at work tomorrow.

Probably the most crucial thing is that the series couldn't have happened at all if not for Kyon's maddening complacency and unwavering compliance. Throughout the novels, you constantly read things like "I don't know what came over me, but..." and "I don't know what I was thinking, but..." You know what came over Kyon? Plot convenience. Normal people don't talk with the clearly crazy person (see: the rest of Kyon's class), normal people don't immediately obey someone commanding them, "Help me make a club," and so on. The other brigade members have an excuse for following Haruhi like puppets. Kyon doesn't.

Spoiler for Disappearance:

And while we're on the subject of Disappearance, it can't hurt to bring up the nonsensical time travel that I argued about over the course of three pages in the movie thread. The debate quieted once I had accepted the fact that Haruhi was more powerful than logic, but now I'm not so sure. After all, I'm pretty sure the Event that happened "three years ago" that screwed up everything and introduced aliens, time travelers, and espers only came AFTER a certain party had been time travelling. It's one thing to have closed loops after Haruhi becomes a god, but to have time travel BEFORE that? It just can't happen.

My last issue for now happens to be the abrupt personality turnaround in Live a Live that we've just talked about. That was there solely to make Haruhi look darn good (and it worked); from what I know, she never once shows an ounce of care for people outside of the SOS Brigade ever again.


Well, would you look at that? I guess I could think of some objections after all.
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Old 2010-09-21, 03:38   Link #3024
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Kyon is Kyon. Him showing an absurd amount of complacency is a part of his character. As long as its somewhat consist, its fine. Sure, if it was only one in awhile, I'd see what you mean, but you can't just decry it as wrong because the character that is Kyon is super complient. To you its weird, to me, who is a bit of a push over, its believeable.

I think in volume 8 there was a girl who went into the club and Haruhi was rather kind to her. I'll admit, outside the club, it is rare to see her show compassion. Still, there is a noticable difference in her attitude inside the club.
Spoiler for dissapearance:
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Old 2010-09-21, 10:15   Link #3025
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Kyon is Kyon. Him showing an absurd amount of complacency is a part of his character. As long as its somewhat consist, its fine. Sure, if it was only one in awhile, I'd see what you mean, but you can't just decry it as wrong because the character that is Kyon is super complient. To you its weird, to me, who is a bit of a push over, its believeable.
...Oh geez. Kyon is Shinji! I hadn't noticed it before because he disguises his whining with sarcasm, but wow! They both say they don't want to do what they're told, but they both do it anyway. If they rebel at all, it's short-lived and they return to blindly following again. When things get extreme, both resort to violence. The only difference is that Kyon's internal dialogue isn't nearly as eloquent or profound as Shinji's.

And Haruhi is Asuka, and Yuki is Rei, and Itsuki is Kaworu, and Tanaguchi is Toji, and Kunikida is Kensuke (the last two mainly in the roles they play), and Asakura is Hikari (with a knife)... Well heck, with an all-star cast like that, it's no wonder the show took off.
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Old 2010-09-21, 17:28   Link #3026
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Very interesting points, and although I'm offering some partial explanations from my point of view on it, I can completely see where you're coming from and agree, but let me explain just where and why I agree with you.

Regarding Kyon: I can agree with you here, in that he's shown inhuman levels of complacency on the whole, but there is somewhat of a method to the madness:
  • When Kyon meets Haruhi for the first time, perhaps the reason he reaches out to her is because she reminds him of what he once was: someone who believes in the extraordinary.
  • He has no valid reason besides idle curiosity to accompany her. But once she corrals the other members, he sticks around essentially out of an understated macho complex to attempt to protect and gain the affection of Mikuru. He fails spectacularly on at least one of these counts, but she's primarily the reason he sticks around until...
  • Haruhi is proven to have some sort of power, and moreover, some interest in Kyon. The climax of Melancholy proves his importance to her, whether he wants to admit it or not. From then on he's S.O.L. because if he leaves, Haruhi's immaturity would likely mean that the world would end.
  • Finally, over time he of course comes to enjoy his place, and even though Haruhi can still be a royal b****, he considers her and the rest of the club to be friends, and after the Disappearance, can no longer use the excuse that he wishes his life was normal.

Now, to me, there's already one huge, glaring problem with this: it's been subtly implied that Sasaki is the one who caused Kyon to abandon his love of the supernatural, which might factor in to why he's interested in Haruhi. But that's rather contradictory, because if any other "weird girls" expressed interest in him after what Sasaki did to him, I don't see a rational reason why he wouldn't run away as far and fast as he possibly could, or do everything in his power to avoid contact with such people.

Spoiler for Re: Your Spoilered Section and Disappearance In General:
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Old 2010-09-21, 21:15   Link #3027
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Gamer_2k4 - You raise some good and interesting points. To save space (and make room for novel spoilers), I'm going to make a very belated response to you here:

Spoiler for Haruhi discussion, including many novel spoilers, beyond Disappearance:
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Old 2010-09-21, 23:48   Link #3028
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Probably the most crucial thing is that the series couldn't have happened at all if not for Kyon's maddening complacency and unwavering compliance. Throughout the novels, you constantly read things like "I don't know what came over me, but..." and "I don't know what I was thinking, but..." You know what came over Kyon? Plot convenience. Normal people don't talk with the clearly crazy person (see: the rest of Kyon's class), normal people don't immediately obey someone commanding them, "Help me make a club," and so on. The other brigade members have an excuse for following Haruhi like puppets. Kyon doesn't.

Spoiler for Disappearance:

And while we're on the subject of Disappearance, it can't hurt to bring up the nonsensical time travel that I argued about over the course of three pages in the movie thread. The debate quieted once I had accepted the fact that Haruhi was more powerful than logic, but now I'm not so sure. After all, I'm pretty sure the Event that happened "three years ago" that screwed up everything and introduced aliens, time travelers, and espers only came AFTER a certain party had been time travelling. It's one thing to have closed loops after Haruhi becomes a god, but to have time travel BEFORE that? It just can't happen.

My last issue for now happens to be the abrupt personality turnaround in Live a Live that we've just talked about. That was there solely to make Haruhi look darn good (and it worked); from what I know, she never once shows an ounce of care for people outside of the SOS Brigade ever again.
Re: the "I don't know what came over me, but..." and "I don't know what I was thinking, but..." stuff, I don't personally remember any moments like that, but I'm willing to admit there might have been something like that (probably with a legit explanation in context). In nine books (and counting) I can't be expected to remember everything. But Kyon's always struck me as a fairly consistent character. A bit of a compliant person, certainly, but there are people like that (and if you can't pick out his particular reason for being so compliant to Haruhi's whims, you really need to read over the series again). If anything, most all of the characters have had either gradual, or next to no development, with actions logically drawing from theircurrent motivations. Perhaps the fact that a fair bit of the series is told out of order is affecting your perception of the characters' motivations.

And "clearly crazy people" tend to attract and deflect attention with equal alacrity. Look at Charles Manson. That guy was clearly several bubbles off of plumb, but he had people hanging off his every action. Haruhi isn't quite as psychotic, but she's still got the charisma, not to mention she's unquestionably hot, and an instant ringer for any school club that could win her.

Spoiler for spoiler:

And the "event" three years ago (four, now) didn't happen as a result of Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody. The time travelers can't travel to before the "event", so it had to have occurred before the time to which the Mikurus traveled to. Everyone who misses that bit of time travel logic brings up the same suggestion you just did, so this is hardly the first time I've had this discussion on this forum or others. And I'm hardly the only person to have argued it. Kyon's necessity in the past is not to "awaken" Haruhi, but to get her to come to North High and have a fixation on "John Smith". Most likely the baseball game her father took her to is when she "awakened". Anticlimactic, I know, but Archimedes' "eureka" moment happened while he was washing his hoo-hoo, so what can you do?

As for Live Alive, don't forget that this happened right after Kyon nearly messed up Haruhi's pretty face for her inconsiderate actions toward Mikuru. If nothing else, this should shine a light on why Haruhi keeps Kyon around while her subconscious self is certainly well aware of his normalcy. She listens to him. She allows him to affect her decisions. She even does things for him (Volume 7). Maybe you should concentrate more on why that might be than whether that might not make sense...
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Old 2010-09-22, 02:27   Link #3029
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Oh, I forgot to mention a slightly darker interpretation of Kyon's apathy, that being that Haruhi has subconsciously on some level made him willing to stick around and deal with all the stuff that she does, while still allowing him a certain level of dissent.

That's just a theory, and a rather dark one at that. There's no real evidence to argue for or against it either way, but it's something that's popped into my mind now and then.
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Old 2010-09-22, 12:13   Link #3030
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Or, if you care to go even deeper, this whole thing MIGHT be explained best as a dream of Kyon's. Think about it: despite being an introverted (yes, he is, even if he's not at the Alt!Yuki extreme), nerdy (he doesn't play sports and has a pretty broad pool of historical knowledge) pushover, he's accepted, liked, and relied upon. Kyon can't convince his own subconscious that he should be the lead character in the dream, so instead he makes that person the villain, granting himself the power to keep her in check.

The whole thing really does play out like a nerd fantasy. You've got two really attractive girls and one cute one, and there's all sorts of (sometimes very) suggestive cosplaying going on. Everyone has special powers, and yet, somehow, Kyon is still the center of attention. One god, Haruhi, does whatever she wants (relieving him of the burden of initiative or accountability), but she'll stop for him if he thinks things are getting out of hand. The other god, Yuki, does nothing but protect him and obey his rare commands. Mikuru's just the eye candy: the primary focus of Kyon's fantasies. She's powerless, and sometimes it seems like the only point of her time travelling abilities is to make Big Mikuru show up. Any other time we see Mikuru time travelling, it's so that Kyon can steal the show.

Of course, we have Itsuki for the sake of balance (read: to keep this from being a harem story). Naturally, he seems to be...attracted to Kyon as well. He's not a threat to Kyon's "power" in any way, and he relies on Kyon just as much as the rest of the brigade. Kyon's two friends are pretty much what you'd expect in this sort of fantasy, too. Kunikida is forgettable, and Tanaguchi is a bigger tool than Kyon is. Heck, if the latter is a dream construction, it might just be Kyon saying, "Sure, I may be infatuated with Mikuru, but I'll never be as bad as people like that."

Again, it's what you'd expect a dream to be. Any time the world is in danger, Kyon's the only one that can save it, and he's also the one that has an immunity to the change. He's surrounded by good looking, powerful people that still somehow defer to him, a relative nobody. Despite danger not being entirely absent, no one ever dies or has any lasting injuries. (Yes, I know. It's not lasting. For all we know, that person was better the next day.) It's just one big utopia, tailor-made for Kyon.

It'd be interesting to analyze what role of Kyon's subconscious each character plays, should this actually be a dream, but unfortunately I don't have time for that right now.
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Old 2010-09-22, 15:26   Link #3031
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Oh, I forgot to mention a slightly darker interpretation of Kyon's apathy, that being that Haruhi has subconsciously on some level made him willing to stick around and deal with all the stuff that she does, while still allowing him a certain level of dissent.

That's just a theory, and a rather dark one at that. There's no real evidence to argue for or against it either way, but it's something that's popped into my mind now and then.
Eeesh... You don't want to go down the "Haruhi manipulation" path. That way lies madness. I've seen it destroy many a man's soul...
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Old 2010-09-23, 03:02   Link #3032
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Well there is the whole bit about Kyon being an unreliable narrator.
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Old 2010-09-23, 10:47   Link #3033
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Well there is the whole bit about Kyon being an unreliable narrator.
I've heard people say that quite often, but what are some actual examples of it?
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Old 2010-09-23, 11:14   Link #3034
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TVTropes gives a few: Unreliable Narrator
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Old 2010-09-23, 12:07   Link #3035
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Right, I consulted that. However, the description for Kyon says the following things:
  • Other characters respond to his narration.
  • He says things that he's not SUPPOSED to know.
  • He disagrees with Haruhi on the episode numbering.
There's no indication on the page that anything he says as a narrator is actually unreliable. Is Kyon just getting labelled that way because there's no way to prove what he's saying, or have there been things he's said that have actually been contradicted later on?

TV Tropes only has two categories that unreliable narrators fall into: liars and lunatics. Kyon is neither. I can understand anyone saying, "This is from his perspective, so of course it's going to have bias or guesswork." But the same could be said for any narrated story, and I have to believe that "unreliable narrator" isn't redundant. So besides that, is there any reason to doubt Kyon's narration?
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Old 2010-09-23, 13:15   Link #3036
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I think that his narrative unreliability in the eyes of most stems from the fact that he goes out of his way to never willingly acknowledge the fact that Haruhi likes him, despite the fact that there's been a fair amount of evidence to the contrary.

To maintain such a stance, he either has to be wilfully ignorant about the entire thing, or really freaking dense. Given his nature, a lot of people think it's the former rather than the latter.
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Old 2010-09-23, 14:37   Link #3037
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Right, I consulted that. However, the description for Kyon says the following things:
  • Other characters respond to his narration.
  • He says things that he's not SUPPOSED to know.
  • He disagrees with Haruhi on the episode numbering.
There's no indication on the page that anything he says as a narrator is actually unreliable. Is Kyon just getting labelled that way because there's no way to prove what he's saying, or have there been things he's said that have actually been contradicted later on?

TV Tropes only has two categories that unreliable narrators fall into: liars and lunatics. Kyon is neither. I can understand anyone saying, "This is from his perspective, so of course it's going to have bias or guesswork." But the same could be said for any narrated story, and I have to believe that "unreliable narrator" isn't redundant. So besides that, is there any reason to doubt Kyon's narration?
I kind of feel that his being an unreliable narrator is more obvious in the novels than in the anime. Unreliable narrators were one of my favorite literary devices when I was getting my English Lit degree, and basically, any time you have a first-person point of view, you have a chance that the author is intending the narrator to be somewhat unreliable. Even just coloring events with the narrator's biases is enough for the label. But with Kyon, you'll note that we never see certain names - most obviously his own, but also his sister's and Tsuruya's given names. I'd be surprised if those names are truly never spoken around him, so that's an example of him omitting information from the narrative. If he omits that, what else does he change the telling of?

I know there were a few other things in Melancholy (which I've read most recently) that tipped me off to him not being entirely forthcoming, but the main one is the way he arranges the conversations in the retelling so that people seem to respond to unvoiced thoughts/narration, and names get left off. (I started to reread Sighs the other day, and a few things at the very beginning fit, too, but I've already forgotten what they were, exactly.)

Unreliable narrators don't have to be completely or obviously lying or insane. It's more interesting when the unreliability is subtle and is more in how the story is told and which biases show, in my opinion.


Also, about "any narrator can be unreliable" - it's true, but there are things about the narrations that will make it obvious that what we're getting isn't the ... shit, I'm forgetting the word that contrasts with "unreliable narrator", but there is one that applies to first-person pov where that narrator is meant to be trusted as giving a complete picture. And there's also the impersonal third person omniscient which can be used for unreliable narratives, but usually isn't. Also, just because the narrator is unreliable doesn't mean we can never trust him as being truthful - it just means that we can't take everything he says at face value. And, honestly, do you take everything Kyon says at face value? I don't, and that's why I decided that he's an unreliable narrator.
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Old 2010-09-23, 15:43   Link #3038
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I kind of feel that his being an unreliable narrator is more obvious in the novels than in the anime. Unreliable narrators were one of my favorite literary devices when I was getting my English Lit degree, and basically, any time you have a first-person point of view, you have a chance that the author is intending the narrator to be somewhat unreliable. Even just coloring events with the narrator's biases is enough for the label. But with Kyon, you'll note that we never see certain names - most obviously his own, but also his sister's and Tsuruya's given names. I'd be surprised if those names are truly never spoken around him, so that's an example of him omitting information from the narrative. If he omits that, what else does he change the telling of?
I agree that it makes sense that some of those names don't come up. But I'm writing something right now with a focused third-person perspective, and I also change how I refer to characters (first name rather than last name) based on the protagonist's relationship with them. I just figured it was something natural, rather than an "unreliable narration."

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Also, about "any narrator can be unreliable" - it's true, but there are things about the narrations that will make it obvious that what we're getting isn't the ... shit, I'm forgetting the word that contrasts with "unreliable narrator", but there is one that applies to first-person pov where that narrator is meant to be trusted as giving a complete picture. And there's also the impersonal third person omniscient which can be used for unreliable narratives, but usually isn't.
So it's as boolean as "Omniscient narrator/Unreliable narrator"? If that's really the case, then yeah, there's no arguing that Kyon is the latter. You're an English major who's studied this and I'm a guy who uses literal definitions and various wikis, so if it comes down to a matter of meaning, I've got to concede. But I keep seeing definitions like "An unreliable narrator is a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theatre, whose credibility has been seriously compromised," and I really don't think that Kyon fits that description. Selective obscurity is not the same thing as unreliability, in my mind.

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Also, just because the narrator is unreliable doesn't mean we can never trust him as being truthful - it just means that we can't take everything he says at face value. And, honestly, do you take everything Kyon says at face value? I don't, and that's why I decided that he's an unreliable narrator.
I think if you take everything at face value in a book, you're either reading a "See Spot Run" thing or you're missing out on a lot. Subtext is everywhere, and I don't think its presence in narration precludes reliability.
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Old 2010-09-24, 01:11   Link #3039
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I agree that it makes sense that some of those names don't come up. But I'm writing something right now with a focused third-person perspective, and I also change how I refer to characters (first name rather than last name) based on the protagonist's relationship with them. I just figured it was something natural, rather than an "unreliable narration."
I guess it depends, but if you have a narrative where you only ever refer to someone as "the man with the walrus moustache" even in spoken dialogue from people who probably wouldn't use the phrase, or dialogue is arranged so people who wouldn't use it don't have to, even when it's more natural to have some sort of naming device, and then it later says "oh, yeah, the man with the walrus moustache has a kind of significant name~" but we never hear the name, then there's sufficient evidence to distrust the narration as being completely forthcoming with all the facts.

To be frank, someone naturally telling a story over dinner about what they did that day? is an unreliable narrative, because we have imperfect memories and our biases cloud our experiences.


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So it's as boolean as "Omniscient narrator/Unreliable narrator"? If that's really the case, then yeah, there's no arguing that Kyon is the latter. You're an English major who's studied this and I'm a guy who uses literal definitions and various wikis, so if it comes down to a matter of meaning, I've got to concede. But I keep seeing definitions like "An unreliable narrator is a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theatre, whose credibility has been seriously compromised," and I really don't think that Kyon fits that description. Selective obscurity is not the same thing as unreliability, in my mind.
No, it's not Unreliable vs. Omniscient. A narrator can be both omniscient and unreliable. Think of The Twilight Zone, but in written format rather than visual. That series has an omniscient narrator who knows everything that's going on, but selectively withholds information from the viewer/reader.

Also, I do take a wider view of unreliability than those definitions, apparently. Though not entirely...I guess "seriously compromised" just makes it seem a lot more dire than it really is. I'd put it more like "is less than 100% credible".


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I think if you take everything at face value in a book, you're either reading a "See Spot Run" thing or you're missing out on a lot. Subtext is everywhere, and I don't think its presence in narration precludes reliability.
But it's not that you're taking everything at face value that make a reliable narrator - it's that you have no reason to distrust that the narrative is true, that things happened the way they're said to, that people said the things they're said to have done. You can still get subtext and analyze what's going on without saying "I suspect that we're missing information here" or "I suspect that this bias is causing inconsistencies in what we're told happened and how it really happened".

Like I said, there's a specific term used for the opposite of unreliable narrators, but I'm completely failing at remembering what it is. It's been a couple years since I wrote my senior paper on the subject (it was about the reliability of the narrative of Dracula, because of course that's an epistolary novel, and furthermore, several of the characters have agendas regarding why or what they record).

I would love to thumb through Melancholy and Sighs to point out specific instances (other than the names thing, or responses to unvoiced lines) that make me think Kyon is not entirely to be trusted in what he says, but I really don't have time these days to do research that isn't for school. :/ (Kinda annoyed, actually, that I didn't have time to finish my reread of Sighs and get started rereading Boredom before the semester began.)
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Old 2010-09-29, 12:54   Link #3040
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I'm just trying to wrap my arms around Haruhi's world, but one of the things I found interesting with Yuki Nagato/The Data Entities is the remark she made about her/their reluctance to alter the weather during the baseball game episode. One must wonder just why do they really care how her slight weather modifications (which really would've helped things out in that episode) would affect someplace in a few hundred years? Even if it's mere "altruism", why bother mind the welfare of us relative amoebas? Does this imply that they believe Haurhi's "God reign" is pretty much a permanent status quo so they try not to mess with her creations (which says much about how much they'll ever glean of her reality generating power to create their own universe) or that there's even a greater "reality" beyond her that must be respected and cared for? If the latter is true then to me (and I don't really know much about this girl-God counterpart of Haruhi's) it makes this other girl-God just as legit a player on the universal stage as Haruhi and so pulls the plug on Haruhi's uniqueness as all-powerful god.

Just IMO
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comedy, kadokawa, kyoto animation, school life, science fiction, shounen

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