A while back I watched a video by the YouTuber Digibro in which he discussed the notion of whether we’ll ever see another anime girl as ‘hot’ as Haruhi Suzumiya – and it’s a notion that’s always stayed with me, to this day.
Why, out of the countless anime girls from a million myriad series – all carefully crafted to appeal to individual aesthetic tastes – was Haruhi objectively the hottest?
It’s something I’ve pondered for a while – always coming back to the idea that the reason why this idea resonated with me so much was because her character created a very specific kind of instinctual longing/desire.
Going beyond simple discussion of aesthetics of the character design itself – what I struck on was the idea that Haruhi – in many ways – works so well because she represents an experience many otaku have either had themselves, or long for. She – simply put – encapsulates the experience (as I believe the folks on the Anime News Network podcast once put it) of talking to girls properly for the first time as a teenager, and all the notions of ‘coolness’ that go with it.
To that extent, Haruhi is a living embodiment of a very absolute sense of adolescence, that goes beyond base moe-tropes and makes a precision strike at a point somewhere half between nostalgia for this feeling, and the energetic ‘genki girl’ persona. She represents possibility – the possibility of the charisma and confidence you inherently, at that point, don’t have. She is the signified ‘leader’, with you as follower – and as such, she becomes the definition of the ‘pedestal’ girl; with you, the follower, always looking upward.
Another aspect of her ‘hotness’ is delineated via ‘the tease’. By all accounts, Haruhi Suzumiya as a series is comparatively tame when it comes to fanservice – at least by today’s standards. But one scene from the series’ movie follow-up has always struck with me – the part where Kyon, Koizumi and Haruhi are forced to sneak back into their own school. Here, Haruhi changes into Kyon’s gym clothes – and in doing so, takes off her school uniform while Kyon’s back is turned – before delivering the classic ‘But I’ve got a T-shirt underneath line’.
Here we see a perfect account of ‘the tease’ – Haruhi’s sensuality – which for so much of the series is never overtly addressed, suddenly wafted in front of our faces with a wink of knowing awareness. See also the various ‘I’ve experimented’ / ‘even I have needs’ lines, which I’ve seen argued gives off a distinct ‘Even the girls want her’ vibe.
In short – Haruhi nails the ‘hotness’ aspect so perfectly because her character is fine tuned, in a way which perhaps no other anime character except Asuka from Evangelion comes close, to perfectly encapsulate otaku-specific kinds of longing and desire. While in many ways utterly artificial and unrealistic – Haruhi also strives to bring together the kinds of experiences otaku may have encountered in their own school lives to present a nostalgia tinged ‘If only…’ romanticism that is forever tantalizingly out of reach.