The summer 2020 anime season’s surprise hit Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out is all about how a loner college student named Sakurai gets his life turned upside down by his energetic kouhai Uzaki. Uzaki is a classic “manic pixie dream girl” – a term coined in 2007 by film critic Nathan Rabin that refers to boisterous female characters whose only purpose in the story is to give a sad-sack male protagonist a new lease on life through wacky antics and bright smiles. One of the most prominent anime examples in recent memory is, of course, Haruhi from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
Even though this kind of character is usually portrayed in a negative light (mostly because it smacks of shallow wish fulfillment for male viewers), it’s possible for her to be well-written and likeable despite that. So, let’s compare Uzaki and Haruhi to see which one of them is the better manic pixie dream girl!
The best way to bring joy and excitement into a lonely male protagonist’s life is through exciting experiences out in the real world, and Uzaki and Haruhi are both masters of the craft. Naturally, Uzaki’s cat cafés and Pokémon Go trips can’t really compare to reality warper Haruhi’s giant bug battles and murder mysteries in terms of scale, but at least Sakurai is never in any danger when he hangs out with Uzaki. Kyon routinely has to work with the other club members to keep the fabric of the universe from unraveling as a result of Haruhi’s antics, and if he refuses to indulge her whims, she could inadvertently destroy the world.
We’d say that Haruhi’s approach is more effective, since the inherent danger forces Kyon to come out of his shell to a much greater degree than Sakurai. But both Sakurai and Kyon admit to themselves at some point that they’re happier being with their manic pixie dream girls than they were alone, so at least both sets of exciting experiences accomplished their goal.
Characterization and Likeability
Even though Haruhi is a beautiful and talented girl with an offbeat, fun-loving personality, she’s also kind of a horrible person. She sees nothing wrong with blackmail, drugging, and molestation as long as it amuses her, and the rest of the SOS Brigade just has to put up with it or else. Mikuru has to endure constant groping and humiliation, while poor Yuki got caught in a time loop for hundreds of years just because Haruhi didn’t want her summer vacation to end. It’s an interesting subversion of the “has no purpose other than brightening Main Character-kun’s life” aspect of the manic pixie dream girl trope, since Haruhi does all of these things for her own sake and drags Kyon along because she wants company. Still, just because she has depth doesn’t mean that she’s likeable, no matter what the show and her legions of fans may tell you.
Uzaki, on the other hand, has less nuance but feels like a more realistic and appealing character. She’s known Sakurai for a long time and doesn’t want him to wallow in solitude forever, so she latches onto him – first as a sort of project for herself, and then later as a genuine friendship. She’s certainly pushy and obnoxious, but she also cares for him when he’s sick and takes his feelings into account when she’s planning activities for them to do together. She may not be as independently minded as Haruhi, but we’d much rather hang out with her because she seems like a decent human being.
Haruhi Suzumiya is a beautiful and powerful memelord who subverts the audience’s expectations by having a mean streak a mile wide. And, while that’s interesting from a storytelling perspective, it takes away from the manic pixie dream girl spirit by being endlessly frustrating to watch. Hana Uzaki isn’t anywhere near as complex, but she adds a refreshing kindness and stability to the archetype that warms our hearts. Because of that, she’s the better manic pixie dream girl in our minds.
What did you think of our overview? Who do you think is the better embodiment of this age-old trope? Do you think we were too hard on Haruhi? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!