Nigel, AKA Bubblegum Senpai, was voted most likely to die due to an accident involving a cuddle pillow. Haruhi Suzumiya for Life.
Long Ago, the Four Heroes Lived Together in Harmony. Then Yuki Nagato Arrived.
Author's note: Names used here will follow that of the narration in the anime series and light novels, minus the honorifics. Therefore, characters that Kyon would normally refer to by their first name will referred to here by their first name, and characters that Kyon would refer to by their surname will be referred to here by their surname. Honorifics will not be used as to make this article accessible to as many readers as possible.
Goku. Naruto. Saitama. Shaggy.
Many names have been tossed around in the debate over who the most powerful character in anime is. But forget everything you know, because I'm about to explain why a high school girl is actually the most powerful character in anime.
"But Nigel," I hear you say. "Some of us already know Sailor Moon could beat Goku." Sit down, my child. I love me some Sailor Moon, but I'm not referring to Usagi. I'm referring to Yuki Nagato, from the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya series.
In this article, we will discuss exactly who and what Nagato is, what her powers are, how they've been observed in the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya series, and create the argument that she is the most powerful character in the anime universe.
The "Haruhi Suzumiya" Universe
Before we discuss Nagato's powers, it's important to set the stage, so a brief overview of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and who Yuki Nagato is seems like a good place to start. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is an anime series based on the paranormal Haruhi Suzumiya series of light novels, and the anime series shares it's title with the first novel in the series. This article will mostly focus on the anime and especially the subsequent film The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.
In the series, Kyon coincidentally befriends the eccentric Haruhi Suzumiya, who is bored with a normal world. She yearns for excitement and fun and adventure, but finds the normal world lacking. After trying every single club their high school offers, she decides to create her own club and eventually her and Kyon are joined by Yuki Nagato, Mikuru Asahina, and Itsuki Koizumi to form the SOS Brigade, a club devoted entirely to appeasing Haruhi's boredom.
But these three members are not what they seem, and neither is Haruhi for that matter. Asahina is a time traveler from the future, sent to investigate an anomaly that occurred three years prior. Nagato is an alien of sorts, part of a collective consciousness that detected an explosion of "data" that occurred three years beforehand. Koizumi is an esper whose powers awakened three years ago along with countless others. The one thing that really is certain though, is that Haruhi Suzumiya is behind all three incidents, even if she doesn't know it.
Haruhi herself, is somewhat of a God. She has the ability to make her wishes reality, though she doesn't know it. In fact, Koizumi's organization of espers even worship her as such, believing that Haruhi destroyed the whole world three years ago and created a new world *almost* exactly like that one, but with things such as aliens, time travelers, and espers. Haruhi's ability extends beyond that though. Basically, when she wants something to happen, or if she thinks something isn't right, it just kind of happens.
The scariest part? She doesn't know she's God. And the SOS Brigade, on top of their individual missions to investigate Haruhi, have also committed to ensuring she never finds out she's God, and to keep her entertained so she doesn't accidentally reset the world again.
Yuki Nagato's Role in the Haruhi Universe
As mentioned earlier, Nagato is the SOS Brigade's resident alien. While we all have an idea of what comes to mind when the word "alien" is mentioned, Nagato is not quite like that. Rather, this is where the series goes into the paranormal and science fiction bit, and in this case, information theory. In the book it's more of a psuedoscience, as it doesn't exactly get the finer details right, but that isn't important.
Basically, in quantum field theory the universe is made up of information, every point a "yes" or "no" about whether there is something there. In communications and computation science, these bits are referred to as data. In the case of Nagato, a bunch of this data formed a collective consciousness called the Data Integration Thought Entity (or Data Overmind in the novels). As an ethereal being it cannot communicate with humans directly, and has thus made several avatars on Earth, because humans have achieved a certain level of self awareness. Nagato is one of these avatars.
As a thought entity, the Data Integration Thought Entity can manipulate quantum information, but not create it. The sudden explosion of information created three years prior to the events of the first novel have garnered the Entity's interest as it seeks to evolve itself, and thus Nagato is created to observe Haruhi. So Nagato is essentially the physical representation of an intergalactic computer program that permeates the universe, and how she wound up joining the SOS Brigade.
Nagato is fairly powerful. As a member of the Data Integration Thought Entity, she can essentially treat the universe as a computer program. Remember, the Entity is made up of quantum information and has the ability to manipulate quantum information (something that in actual physics would violate all of thermodynamics and entropy). Now, let's be clear. The Entity isn't a single mind. Rather it's a collection of minds with different roles and functions working together to perform a much larger function, not unlike how computer programs work. That means that there are others like Nagato, with similar powers and skills, however, it is implied in the anime, and much more so in the novels, that Yuki is still uniquely skilled even among them.
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A Skilled Hacker
Let's start with the mundane skill. Nagato is an extremely skilled hacker. This was revealed in an episode where the Computer Club challenged the SOS Brigade to play a game over network that they designed. Kyon asked the Brigade to not cheat, that is to not use any of their supernatural powers to help the Brigade win. After being suspicious of how well Yuki was doing, it was revealed that Yuji was indeed "playing within the limits of human ability."
She then revealed that what the Computer Club was doing could be called cheating. She had hacked the game and found that they were playing special copies of the game that allowed them all sorts of advantages, from seeing the entire map to being able to teleport to behind SOS Brigade members. Nagato then got Kyon's permission to reverse the fortunes and give the Brigade all the advantages and remove them from their opponents.
It makes sense that she'd be good with computers, since the whole universe is just a giant computer to her. Though I imagine that our computers are rather primitive and rudimentary to her.
Yuki Nagato is also a skilled combatant. Early in the series Nagato got into a fight with another member of the Data Integration Thought Entity who had tried to kill Kyon to observe how Haruhi would react. Nagato came to Kyon's defence and what was witnessed was two aliens with the same powers fighting each other. Nagato almost lostt he fight, as she was impaled multiple times, but through her ability to hack the universe, she managed to erase the false room her opponent had created, and then essentially deleted her opponent.
Sure, hacking the universe might seem like cheating, but as mentioned, her opponent—who has the same powers—had created something of a fake room of her design, specifically to prevent outside interference and severely restrict Nagato's powers. Think of it like a firewall of sorts. Nagato had to hold her own in the fight while simultaneously also trying to break down the firewall, and she managed to do just that.
Manipulate Reality and Time
This is where we start exploring the extraordinary. As mentioned, the Data Integration Thought Entity has the ability to manipulate or control quantum information, sometimes in ways that define laws of physics. Rather than just focusing on this power, let's look at what Nagato can do with this power instead, because it seems more like she actually has multiple powers, but all of this is tied to her primary ability to hack the universe like a computer program.
The first one is her ability to change time, and to also have her experiences outside of our normal concept of time. And when I say she has the ability to change time, I don't mean time travel. The SOS Brigade already has a resident time traveler. I mean she can bend time to do what she wants.
Think of it as an Alcubierre Warp Drive. An Alcubierre Drive doesn't actually travel through space, it theoretically stays stationary while Space travels around it (though "stationary" is relative). She can do the same thing with time. She can make time move at different rates in different spaces.
In one episode, Kyon and Asahina travel back in time three years and Asahina is unable to travel back to the present. So they seek the help of past Nagato. After synching herself with present Nagato to get a better grasp on the situation, she leads them to a bedroom and tells them go to sleep. Seconds later she opens the door and wakes them up, in the present day. Nagato froze time inside the room, while time outside the room continued to move as normal, such that no time passed for Kyon and Asahina.
In another instance, showing how Nagato doesn't experience time like we do, Haruhi had created a time loop that no one knew about. In a desire to have a Summer break that never ends, a closed time bubble was created so that the last month of Summer vacation would repeat, and everyone's memories were reset. This was discovered when Asahina tried to contact her superiors in the future, and found out the future doesn't exist. Basically, all of time, forward and backwards, outside of this month long cycle didn't exist. Except for Nagato. Nagato was the only person who maintained memories of the previous cycles, fifteen thousand five hundred and thirty-two cycles all told. While she could have stopped it, she didn't because her role was strictly to observe Haruhi. However, this endless cycle took a toll on her leading to her greatest display of her power...
More Powerful Than God
In the film tie-in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon wakes up in a world with no Haruhi. He still maintains all of his memories, but seems no one else has. None of the members of the SOS Brigade remember him. Asahina is a normal student, popular among all the boys with her own fan club, and Nagato is the shy and introverted lonely member of the literature club. There are no aliens, no time travelers, no espers, and no God.
Haruhi and Koizumi are students at a nearby private school, and most of Kyon's days are spent in the literature club, developing a close friendship with the human Yuki Nagato, who's developing a bit of a crush on him, while Kyon tries to unravel exactly what's going on using a single clue the Nagato of his timeline gave him.
(Major spoilers in the next paragraph)
This is because the Nagato he once knew used her powers to create a normal world. That's right, Yuki Nagato stripped God of her powers, and used those powers to undo everything Haruhi subconsciously did, leaving one failsafe and the decision up to Kyon as to which world he liked better.
Yes, Yuki Nagato is more powerful than God. Though, after this incident, she voluntarily put limits on her abilities. Think of it as rewriting her program so she can only operate within certain parameters, and was assigned a chaperone from the Data Integration Thought Entity to keep her from going rogue again.
Does She Have a Weakness?
She doesn't have weaknesses at our human level, but she does have weaknesses. Namely, there is a second data entity called the Sky Canopy Dominion. While not as advanced as the Data Integration Thought Entity, they are a similar alien entity made up of quantum information that has become sentient. Unlike Nagato's entity, they believe that the key to advancement lies in another humanoid.
Because the Sky Canopy Dominion cannot communicate with the Data Integration Thought Entity directly, their avatars on Earth will attempt to communicate with each other. For unknown reasons—likely the fact that the Sky Canopy Dominion is not as advanced—attempts to communicate have an almost virus like affect that can make members of the Data Integration Thought Entity experience rage or even symptoms like an illness. When Canopy member Kuyou Suou attempted to communicate with Nagato, it made her significantly weaker and eventually bed-ridden.
Additionally, in the earlier scenario from The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya where Nagato had recreated the world so that no one had powers and the world was normal, Kuyou Suou was not affected, so even with her powers not limited, members of the Sky Canopy Dominion tend to be immune to powers.
Without revealing major plot points, Nagato's job was changed to observing both Haruhi Suzumiya and Kuyou Suou, and another member of the Data Integration Thought Entity was tasked with trying to seek members of the Sky Canopy Dominion and establishing communication with them.
Because Nagato, without limits placed on her, is extremely intelligent, a skilled fighter, can resist the powers of a deity, strip God of their powers, and rewrite the universe including changing people's past, and has only one weakness, she is an excellent candidate for the most powerful character in anime.
The common thread for most people in this discussion is often physical strength, usually acquired by training, which should be commended, but if they were going against Nagato, she could rewrite history so these characters never developed an interest in training, and that they would be ordinary people instead.
Never underestimate an extraordinary high school girl.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Nigel Kirk