Let me say right off the bat that this review pertains to ONLY the first season of the Haruhi franchise. With that out of the way, let's begin. I will say that I've tried my very best to understand the hype and fame around this show. Unfortunately, I can't understand it. I've attempted to look at this show objectively, and here are the observations I made:
The story is honestly not as great as many people portray it as. It's about a girl (Haruhi) who is the god of the universe. Everybody in the SOS does everything in their power to prevent Haruhi from getting bored or angry, otherwise, the world is over. It's a unique premise that is done in a very cliche manner. High school. Club activities. Ring any bells? Of course they do. It's been done a billion times before.
The art is very solid. Kyoto Animation did a very good job in making the characters fluid in their movements. What I did appreciate, was the fact that the characters had their own unique appearances, save Kyon and Koizumi. The high school and club setting is portrayed well by the animators, as these venues serve as the primary locations for the majority of the show.
Of first mention is the music. The music is okay, but it's not something to really right home about. I know I may get flamed for not liking the Haruhi theme music, but it has a very similar sound to the majority of openings and endings from other high school slice of life comedies. The Japanese voice actors do a great job in their roles here in the show, but of surprise here is the quality of the English dubbed voice actors. I guess animation companies finally realized that sticking Wendee Lee behind the mic of the leading female protagonist yields good results. Alongside Lee is Johnny Yong Bosch, Crispin Freeman, and Michelle Ruff. The English dubbed cast has years of experience, and it shows in the quality.
This is the biggest gripe I have with the show. Because Haruhi is established right from the get go as the center of the universe, this idea of ego stroking becomes prevalent as the series progresses. The fact that Haruhi is a tsundere character isn't what bothered me. What bothered me was the lack of character development for each character. Kyon was the biggest disappointment for me in this show. He had so much potential to grow in the series, but didn't. Luckily, this is fixed in The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi. Ashahina doesn't grow from the bimbo girl with big boobs. She stays the same. Koizumi doesn't develop whatsoever. His entire purpose is to spout chunks of information to the audience in hopes they understand what he's talking about. Nagato is practically an emotionless rock throughout the entire show and doesn't seem to develop whatsoever. The moment when Haruhi was yelled at, or slapped, or shown the error of her selfish ways never occurred even though by episode 9, I was dying to have Haruhi realize that she can't keep having people jump through hoops for her.
In all honesty, I didn't really enjoy the show all that much. I really attempted to find some aspect I liked, but I couldn't. I found it incredibly boring and I found myself falling asleep at some points. However, the comedy was pretty funny at some points, and for me, was the only real highlight of each episode.
I cannot give this show anything higher than a 6. This show had the right premise for a story, but went about it the wrong way. The characters were a little too cliche for my liking. The art and sound were the high points of this anime. I found the anime to be boring because by the time I was half way through, I knew no character development was going to occur. Many people love this show, but unfortunately, I was not one of them.