Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya)
TV, 14 Episodes, by Kyoto Animation
Genre: School life/supernatural, with a bit of a lot of other genres mixed in. Mainly comedy.
Plot Synopsis: The story revolves around the crazy antics of a most uncommon high-school student: Suzumiya Haruhi. Her eccentricity, together with her perpetual bad mood and sour demeanour, is (deservingly) legendary, arriving to the point of greeting her new classmates at the beginning of term with one of her most famous quotes:
"I have no interest in ordinary humans. If any of you is an alien, an esper, a slider or a time traveller, come and join me. That is all!"
As you see, this here is no normal schoolgirl.
But, when she was about to give up finding something interesting in the school (having previously joined and quit every single club and/or association in the school, because, quote Haruhi, "they sucked"), a conversation with one of her classmates, Kyon, gives her an idea: if there's no club that does anything interesting, she'll simply have to create it. Kyon (which will have the role of narrator throughout the series) is forcibly sucked into her project, and so, the SOS Brigade is born, and the fun begins. I won't get into more detail, because nothing I said would do justice to the presentation... just watch it.
Note: The series is every bit as eccentric as its protagonist, and has a lot of peculiarities. First is, the chapter order is nowhere near chronological, which helps keep the suspense and the fun. Second, little advice for first time watchers: the first episode is not part of the series, yet it is. It might seem very bad, but there is a good reason why that's that way. I'm sure you'll find the reason yourselves (hint: look at the credits at the beginning ).
Story 8/10: The story looks very random at the beginning, but when you start getting into it, you realize that there is a lot more to it than it looked like. The way plot threads cross one another is delightful for those who like detail. Nagato's "superiors" and her nature, the Agency Koizumi comes from, and, especially, the full extent of Haruhi's "peculiarity" (which I won't spoil here)... and in the middle of all that, the reactions of a normal, well-grounded schoolboy (Kyon) to Haruhi's endless crazy ideas.
Characters 11/10: Ok, I know I shouldn't be giving a rating higher than 10, but, seriously, the characters in this series are absolutely awesome. Each and every one has a distinct personality, and all of them are pretty empathic: you can easily feel for them, and identifying yourself with one or more members of the cast is almost automatic. Haruhi's endless genkiness and strong will; Kyon's mix of tiredness and bemusement when reacting to Haruhi's ideas; Yuki's inability to fully understand common humans and constant watch... The character interaction in this show is just great.
Animation 10/10: As we all know, Kyoto Ani tends to deliver top notch quality animation. Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu is no exception. The expresiveness of every character is great, and the amount of detail is totally awe-inspiring, to the point that, in the concert of Episode 12, the motions of the guitarist and drummer are almost perfectly exact with respect to the song played.
Voice acting 9/10: The japanese voice acting is very good. Hirano Aya manages to give true life to Haruhi, who has to be one of the most darn difficult characters to voice ever. All of the others do their roles very well. Kyon's voice actor even manages to get the sarcasm across even if you watch it without subtitles and don't understand a word of japanese.
Oh, and the music is awesome. The ending's dance is simply epic (I swear I'll manage to learn it even if it's the last thing I do), and Haruhi's rendition of God Knows on Episode 12 is just beautiful.
Overall 10/10: Best anime I've watched in years. Great characters, funny as hell, and, amazingly, very surprising (and it's been a lot since last time an anime managed to surprise me). Really, this is heavily recommended for anyone who wants to have a good time.