Utena - Suzumiya Haruhi sings

Side view of Nagato Yuki in the foreground playing electric guitar, then Haruhi singing, then the bass player.

One of the great anime scenes of all time is in the 2006 series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Anime News Network Encyclopedia), the episode “Live Alive,” where Haruhi sings the song “God Knows” (Haruhi wiki). The wiki provides the full version, longer than the version that was animated. The vocalist, the musicians, and the animators all gave their best.

The series lays out a long metaphor for authorship. Haruhi the author directs a movie which is beyond awful and imagines that it will win awards. Then she subs in on short notice for a sick vocalist, and gives a spectacular performance that deserves awards—and she’s dissatisfied with it. Dissatisfaction helps quality. She feels that her authorship was incomplete: Unlike the movie, she did not have time to put all of herself into it.
Compare the typical helium-voice female vocals of anime songs (and not only those). The unnaturally high female voice not only destroys singing power, it destroys expressiveness. It’s the kind of patriarchal shit Utena stands against.

I haven’t found any real-world evidence that Utena influenced this scene. But it doesn’t matter:

The animated version is a flawless fit for Anthy as she leaves the Academy. The longer full version includes stuff that doesn’t fit, though.

That’s Nagato Yuki on the left, playing electric guitar. It’s also Anthy, wearing a witch’s hat. Yuki is an emotionless space alien, socially isolated, and highly skilled at everything she does. Kanae calls Anthy an alien in episode 14. Anthy hides her emotions, is socially isolated, and is highly skilled at what she does. Suzumiya Haruhi is in the middle, singing and wearing a bunny girl outfit. That’s Utena, who is the rabbit in the moon and sacrifices herself, winning a challenge. She disappeared from the Academy in dissatisfaction. Dissatisfied Haruhi is also sacrificing herself and winning a challenge.

Utena may be singing, but the words are Anthy’s (Anthy has no voice of her own—see the Little Mermaid). The key words are “I will follow you,” but the other words fit too. Utena takes all blame on herself and won’t share it; loneliness; the darkness of the bitter world; you will shine; the faint dream and the scar. It all lines up.

The second song, “Lost My Music,” can also be read as Anthy’s words. It starts with a starry sky, and again everything fits.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 2 June 2023
updated 17 June 2023