Interview with Tanigawa Nagaru
This is a translation of an interview with Nagaru Tanigawa (the author of the Haruhi Suzumiya series) on Yahoo! Books in 2006.
You can read the original here (Japanese).
If you find any mistakes (Engrish, mistranslations, misspelling, grammatical errors, etc.), please feel free to correct them.
Currently living in Hyogo prefecture, Japan.
Debuted as a writer in 2003 with a grand prize of the 8th Kadokawa Sneakers Grand Prix.
The latest volume of the Haruhi Suzumiya series is currently volume nine, The Dissociation of Haruhi Suzumiya.
His other works—the Gakkō o Deyō!, Boku no Sekai o Mamoru Hito, and Dengeki!! Aegis5 series and Zetsubōkei: Tojirareta Sekai—are also published by Dengeki Bunko.
His hobbies include riding his motorcycle and playing mah-jong.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa (published June 2003)
"I have no interest in ordinary humans. If there are any aliens, time travelers, sliders, or espers here, come join me. That is all." —Haruhi Suzumiya, said to be the craziest girl in school, who blew everyone away with her self-introduction on the first day of her high school life.
The story describes the incidents that happen around the SOS Brigade (Save the World by Overloading it with Fun Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade), a brigade established by her.
The series, starting with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, sold over 2.8 million copies total, expanding its fan base rapidly after it was made into an anime.
Its popularity keeps growing.
The story contains science fiction, mysteries, cosplay, et cetera...
I interviewed Mr. Nagaru Tanigawa, the author, about this school-life story—the story that blurs the definitions of ordinary and extraordinary.
(August 16, 2006)
Q: First of all, why did you pursue a literary career?
Nagaru Tanigawa: I had wanted to write novels for many years, rather than being an author. I think it's because some "I wanna write novels by myself" neural networks were gradually established in my brain while I read various kinds of novels in my childhood. I still don't know if I'm a writer or whatever.
Q: You actually became a writer and your works have gained popularity to the point of becoming a social phenomenon. Has your lifestyle changed?
Tanigawa: I don't know much about the phenomenon, but my lifestyle hasn't changed at all. For now, I'd like to repair my day-and-night reversed life.
Q: Why did you think to write light novels?
Tanigawa: Since I don't have a fine understanding about the term "light novel," I don't know whether what I write is light novels or not, but I think I write novels for myself in my middle and high school days. I'm not sure if my younger self would find them interesting, however.
Q: In another interview, you said "Basically I feel like I'm writing a 'plastic' youth novel, in which characters are not honest to their own feelings." I found that impressive. For you, Mr. Tanigawa, what is an "orthodox" youth novel like?
Tanigawa: A boy meets a girl and they say farewell. And the boy and the girl meet again... that's all that I can say to express my concept of the orthodox youth novel. In one sentence, it is like a story of a pair, a boy and a girl meet each other somewhere once again after they have previously met and parted, I think.
Q: I think the Haruhi Suzumiya series is basically "a boy meets a girl" story (not "a boy-meets-girl" story). But how are the characters in the series not honest?
Tanigawa: I didn't intend to describe them in that way. But while writing unconsciously, perhaps I (unconsciously again) think non-conforming characters make for more conflicts and disagreements of opinion and that makes the story easier to develop.
Q: When and how was the typical non-conforming character, Haruhi Suzumiya, born?
Tanigawa: I can't remember at all. She already existed in my mind by the time I noticed her there. In a sleepless night at the beginning of the 21st century, the idea seemed to have come down from heaven into my head at the moment I rolled over in bed.
Q: Haruhi hates boredom most of all and seeks the "extraordinary" in school life. And the one who is always at her beck and call is the narrator of this story, Kyon. He is an ordinary boy with no outstanding features, whose name is not even revealed. What do you think about him?
Tanigawa: Though I could give him a decent name, I thought it felt stupid and funny that he is called by that queer nickname from beginning to end. As for his featurelessness, I originally planned for him to be an esper, but while writing the prologue, I had subconsciously turned him into a normal person. And you said he is an ordinary boy, but I think, in a sense, he is not an ordinary boy, like in his way of thinking.
Q: What is an example of his thinking being unusual?
Tanigawa: In a sense he reasons philosophically, although he is a first-year student in high school. And while he quibbles and complains, his actions aren't consistent with his mindset. Perhaps he may be more non-conforming than Haruhi. After all, he is an opposite person.
Q: The contrast between the reality from Haruhi's perspective (a boring life) and the reality from Kyon's perspective (a life full of supernatural phenomena) is interesting. "According to how we perceive the reality, we each live in our own world that is entirely different from that of others," you said in an interview. What do you mean by this?
Tanigawa: When you think about what the world is, you can't define the it beyond the realm you know and have experienced. So the concept of the world naturally differs from person to person, based on birthplace, environments the person has grown up in, information he got. I began to think, as I remember, "We all live in the one reality, hence what the world is is the way we perceive the reality," while looking on some definitional controversies over something.
Q: The characters of the members of SOS Brigade, founded by Haruhi, are really striking. Mikuru Asahina, the cute blunderer; Yuki Nagato, the always-reading silent type; Itsuki Koizumi, the mysterious transfer student. When you made up such colorful characters, what kinds of works influenced you?
Tanigawa: There are too many to mention them one by one; if I had to choose any of them, it would be manga by Izumi Takemoto. Characters in his manga are extremely catching. I've been influenced by his works very much since the days I was in elementary school.
Q: Mikuru Asahina is frequently forced to cosplay by Haruhi. In every volume, I'm looking forward to what costume she will be dressed in. What is your favorite costume of hers?
Tanigawa: It's the bunny suit, I think. It's the most extraordinary kind of clothes to wear at school.
Q: The illustrations by Noizi Ito are also good. How did you feel when you first saw the characters visualized by her?
Tanigawa: At the first sight, I was satisfied; "That's it." As for other characters, nothing was different from my conception. I'm really grateful to her.
Q: The uniqueness of your writing style is as catchy as the fascinating characters. You coined metaphors such as, "as if she saw sprouts," "Haruhi looked as if she were some sort of banshee ready to go to a hundred Buddhist monasteries to lay some curses," and "the expression of a victim of a certain murder mystery who was asked by the murderer whether they preferred (to die by) potassium cyanide or strychnine" (TL note: these quotes are not translated in the English version of Melancholy as they are here). How do you come up with such elaborate ones?
Tanigawa: In each case I try to express the sentences in little roundabout similes appropriate for the situation.
Q: In the Haruhi Suzumiya series, there are aliens, time travelers, espers, solving a locked room mystery on a deserted island, sci-fi aspects, and mysteries. In all of these genres, what are your favorite works or authors?
Tanigawa: It's difficult to answer. I have too many answers, but if I had to choose, in the genre of SF, it'd be Shichidō Otoshi by Chohei Kanbayashi. In mystery, The Tragedy of Y by Ellery Queen. It's senseless to give a lengthy reason, so in short: they both are works that gave me a psychological shock (TL note: "epiphany"?) and influenced me when I read them through.
Q: I can't make further reference as it may contain spoilers, but The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has an astonishing gimmick. Many readers might get such "emotional shocks and influences". What letters from the readers made you feel happy?
Tanigawa: I was happiest when I received the letter saying the reader got interested in reading thanks to my works.
Q: You always post "what you want the most now" in your author affiliation of Sneakers Bunko. Could you tell especially for me what you want the most now?
Tanigawa: Since I haven't been dreaming much recently, I want a pillow that gives me exciting dreams with good plots.
After you read The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, you will think, "My reality is not the only one reality. There may be another reality totally different from mine." This book is full of scifi's supposed "sense of wonder". The more you move through the series, the newer and more impact you receive. Once you are absorbed into its worldview, I guarantee you can't get out of it. Haruhi is a beautiful girl with outstanding academic results and talent at all sports. While she seems to possess everything, she can't fit into the reality. You, readers, must be anxious to know how she will change or not. You mustn't miss the following story development!!