Kyon is your ordinary high school freshman who has long given up on his childhood dreams of encountering the fantastic and supernatural…or so he thought. From the very first day of school, his classmate–the beautiful but eccentric Haruhi Suzumiya–makes it very clear that her only desire is to meet aliens, time travelers, and psychics! A chance conversation between the two inspires Haruhi to form the SOS Brigade, a school club created for the sole purpose of getting these supernatural beings together. The initial members consist of the mute bookworm Yuki Nagato, the timid but voluptuous Mikuru Asahina, and the polite and ever-smiling Itsuki Koizumi. By the end of this first volume, Kyon quickly finds out that these seemingly "helpless victims" of Haruhi's are actually members of secret organizations–both futuristic and alien–keeping watch over Haruhi as she is the pinnacle of some major calamity on the horizon…
I have said numerous times that Haruhi is the greatest anime/light novel series ever, so I decided to read the manga. Going in, I expected copious amounts of Adaptation Decay (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AdaptationDecay) and I was most certainly right. However, while most fans find that the re-ordering of events ruins the storyline or makes it impossible to read, that is the precise reason why I decided to read it. And not only that, but the amount of filler. And not just any kind of filler, but well-written, enjoyable filler, not like that Naruto crap that I wish never happened (except for the one with Mizuki, but I
digress). Many people absolutely hate the art. I don't. I find the art to be, while slightly different, well done and, once again, another take on Haruhi. The way I feel about this manga is similar to the way I feel about the third Harry Potter movie. It was a good movie, just not a good Harry Potter movie. I view this series as a fresh look at the Haruhi Mythos, and as a completey separate work, as opposed to "an adaptation of the hit light novel series," because Adaptation Decay is simply what makes each adaptation its own work.
It's a hard thing talking about Haruhi Suzumiya since there are just so many versions of it that I could possibly not know which is the more definitive way to go. People will probably yell at me telling me to read the light novels, but unfortunately those are not available for me to read and I have to settle with what I can get my hands on...which is quite clearly the manga. From a clearly deductive standpoint, I've heard people say that the light novels and anime are quite similar. Having watched the anime and read the manga, the events themselves were spot on exact
a part from the order. That doesn't bother me because the different order of events only apply to filler. So in the end, it really does not matter. The manga flows very well and I never had the feeling that some things should have happened after or before. It all made sense.
The strength of Haruhi Suzumiya is the story and characters. It can be quite hard to remember that at it's heart, the story is a high school drama. However, it disguises itself so well with creative time travel mysteries and characters that you can't help but enjoy yourself immensely while reading it, just wondering what exactly is going to happen next? The time travel mechanics are very well developed and many of the main cast such as Asahina, Haruhi, Nagato, and Koizumi are very well developed over time. They can at times be annoying and/or self centered, but their charming personality and features keep you constantly entertained.
However, this manga isn't without its share of problems. The first one being the main protagonist Kyon. For a manga with such a varied interesting cast of characters, its quite baffling that the main protagonist is quite literally bare bones boring. He's a normal guy who is very nice and with a good sense of duty. He barely goes through any development throughout the story and he almost always does what's right. That might of been partially what the author was going for by including a normal student among a bunch of supernatural students, but there is no reason what so ever for making Kyon uninteresting. Normal I could handle, but boring with no character arc is just unacceptable. Maybe this changes in the later volumes after 15 (still waiting for the rest of the English releases), but I highly doubt it.
The manga also tends to ramble on for quite a long time in order to explain itself. The author feels the need to explain everything including it's sometimes complex plot points, to character motivations in the form of many inner monologues. It does hurt the enjoyment factor quite a bit. This is a visual medium after all, a bit of subtly would be nice. Some of the best moments in the manga were subtle character changes that were expressed only through drawing. Unfortunately you can count those moments on one hand. The art also is pretty good but nothing great. The artist however definitely got much better since the first volume and I find myself liking it more and more.
Overall, the manga version of 'The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya' is just as enjoyable as the anime was, perhaps even more so due to the thankful reduction of the Endless Eight arc. It hits all the key story points accurately and I had fun reading it. Once again, I haven't read the light novels but I doubt it is much different than what I got (I could definitely be wrong). The writer is after all the same in both the light novels and manga.