Ouran High School Host Club

Ouran High School Host Club

OURAN HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB

Watched via fansubs/DVD

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: Ouran High School Host Club is a reverse harem show based off of a long-running shoujo romance series. Haruhi Fujioka is a scholarship student at a rich private school who keeps to herself and her studies. Her life changes when she stumbles into the piano room while looking for a quiet place to study. As fate would have it, she accidentally breaks an incredibly expensive vase, and is commanded by the club members to join their organization in order to pay off the debt of replacing the vase.

Aside from the debt trope, OHSHC (as I will now refer to the series) also features gender role playing. When Haruhi is invited to participate in the host club, it is under the assumption that she is just a good looking young man. Little do the members know that in actuality she is just a poorly dressed young woman who doesn’t buy into fashion or gender-specific clothing. The members of the club soon find out her “secret” (she just didn’t bother to correct them as it was uninteresting to her), and demand she protect her role as host by cross-dressing for the remainder of the series. From here on out the plot revolves more around her role as host and protecting her identity while befriending the hodgepodge of characters in the host club.

From time to time the plot goes into mini arcs about specific characters, but for the most part the series is episodic and panders to the whims of fan service and comedy.

PLOT: Haruhi Fujioka’s a poor student who’s attending the prestigious—and expensive—Ouran High School on a scholarship. While looking for a quiet place to study, Haruhi finds the Third Music Room, home of the Ouran High School Host Club. Haruhi ends up breaking a vase worth thousands of dollars, and the Host Club decides to make Haruhi work for them in order to pay off the debt.

However, this whole plan only works as long as people think Haruhi’s a boy. Turns out, Haruhi’s a girl with short hair, thick glasses, and who doesn’t like to wear dresses to school, so everyone assumed she was a boy. The first episode is full of hijinks involving the individual club members figuring out Haruhi’s gender, and then a good portion of the main show focuses on making sure others don’t learn about Haruhi’s secret (since it would for some reason or other be drastic if the truth came out).

Primarily this show is ridiculous and over the top, with the Host Club and Haruhi clashing to hilarious effect. The Host Club has six previous members, each of whom is from a rich family, meaning they’re both extremely privileged and skilled in unusual areas, like drinking tea or combat. The Host Club’s leader, Tamaki, is especially extreme and in love with every bit of Haruhi’s commoner life, meaning the Host Club spends a lot of time trying to learn about Haruhi’s life while she gets annoyed and is blasé about it. Occasionally, characters gain depth through backstory or troubles in their lives, but mostly the anime focuses on their day-to-day, crazy-rich-person shenanigans, while the manga holds most of the plot development.

It would be drastic if the truth came out because then she wouldn’t be able to pay off her debt. Not like that really gets addressed in a resolved way anyways…

SETTING: Alright, so for the most part OHSHC takes place in the club room, with occasional trips to vacation spots or to houses of the club members. Each episode begins by introducing the audience to the club room featuring a new party theme and costumes. These settings are essential to building up the characters, as well as cracking jokes. They also serve as a means for more fan service for the ladies visiting the club, and watching at home.

OHSHC burns through just about every key episode possible. When the cast isn’t hanging out at the club in historic costumes, they’re going to the beach or a haunted house. Each opportunity allows for the characters to show off their personalities a little and to ever so slowly develop and relate to one another. I say slowly because it takes volumes of the manga for anyone to make any real progress.

Man, Ouran really does cover just about every fetish or episode theme. It’s pretty impressive and makes for a great time with them making fun of so many different genres.

SETTING: Ouran High School is insane. It’s the kind of school that can only exist is anime, where everything costs loads of money and the Host Club can afford new outfits on a daily basis to please their customers.

On another note, the fact that a high school has a Host Club also points out how silly and unrealistic this show is. A host club, where the entire point is to chat up ladies, would never be allowed at a normal high school in Japan, but somehow it’s allowed at Ouran High School (probably because Tamaki’s dad runs it). However, Ouran gets away with having a Host Club, and the girls who visit it never tire of hearing the men pander to them and fan on their sexual fantasies. Each theme—or on special occasions, setting—is sillier than the last, satisfying that urge to laugh at the show’s ridiculousness while also admiring the characters in their costumes each episode.

It’s actually rather nice that this series throws all logic out the window. Rather than coming up with a logical explanation for everything, it just goes with the flow without caring. You might have a winter episode next to a beach one, but the series doesn’t care because the focus is character development and fan service, not a hyper-analyzed linear storyline.

CHARACTERS: OHSHC plays into the ideal character types of a reverse harem. Luckily for the viewer, the series not only acknowledges its origins, but turns these roles into a parody, and then moves beyond them.

For starters, we have Haruhi who is forced into cross-dressing to pay off her debts. Usually the lead of a series like this would be obsessing over the male characters and cross-dressing, or fighting for her dream which can only be achieved in drag. Instead Haruhi just nonchalantly goes along with events while trying to find time to study or eat food while everyone else is trying desperately to cover her tracks for her.

Then there is Tamaki, the president of the organization who plays the role of the “white prince”, but who honestly has horrible self-esteem issues which constantly make him the butt of jokes. Throughout the series Tamaki and Haruhi become thrown together time after time which ends up strengthening both their resolves. Haruhi learns to lighten up a bit and find an appreciation for the finer things in life, as well as friends, while Tamaki learns to grow a back bone and learn he doesn’t always have to have one and can depend on others around him.

Probably my favorite two characters are twins Kaoru and Hikaru. I was originally disgusted by their twincest roles in the club, but couldn’t help but find it funny that they capitalize on their being twins. As far as story arcs go, I love seeing the backstories for these two, or even the quiet moments between them. It’s pretty evident through glances and body language that the two can communicate through shared experience and total knowledge of each other. What’s even better is how they will dote on each other. I can really relate to this as I feel that I have definitely let things go in order to make my twin happier, and I’m sure it’s the same for her.

The last three members of the club get less air time. Kyouya is the miserly manager who sells out all his friends. He’s shown as a bit twisted, but there are some great stories highlighting the friendship between him and Tamaki. Then there is Mori and Honey, the two oldest members of the club. They’re a bit quirky and extreme, and get the shaft as far as story telling goes, but are still interesting in their own ways, even if they aren’t really considered romantic interests.

I have to wonder if non-twins love Hikaru and Kaoru as much as we do, since they can’t sympathize with that deep twinly love. Hm….

CHARACTERS: Ouran is a reverse-harem lover’s paradise, with each main type of character you could desire, most of whom end up with insinuated feelings for Haruhi. Haruhi’s a very fun character herself, as she’s no-nonsense and just wants to focus on her studies, not the crazy things the Host Club gets up to. It’s also easy to relate to her as a poorer person surrounded by people used to eating amazing food, since I’ve been in that situation.

Tamaki, the leader of the Host Club, is that kind of character who’s crazy over-the-top with his enthusiasm, but he’s also hiding his angst over his family situation. This makes him an appealing enough kind of character because I want to learn the truth behind him, but then I’m also entertained by him being so very silly throughout the show. I do want to see more growth or realistic tendencies in him, but Ouran’s primarily a parody of shoujo anime, so he’s fine here.

The twins, Kaoru and Hikaru, are also endearing because of how they use their twinliness. While working for the Host Club, they play up the twincest angle, which is hilarious because it’s so, so very unlikely. I’m sure some fans of this series do want the twincest to pan out, but that’s just not how these characters roll, and it’s part of what I love about them. They also have their own angst about no one being able to tell them apart, and there are some subtle differences between them, but not enough that I can ever consistently tell them apart. Mostly, they play up that funny twin angle I love so much, making them some of my favorites.

The rest of the main cast is also great in their set roles. Kyouya’s the cool, bespectacled type, and Mori’s the tall and quiet type to Honey’s short, hyper self. Everyone balances out the craziness of the other characters, which makes for a well-balanced, if hectic, group of characters. The show makes sure to give every character their due time in the spotlight, but the focus is definitely on Haruhi and Tamaki, who you can guess pretty quickly are the series’ preferred couple.

Welp, I know who I’d pick. :3

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: OHSHC was created during the era of the lanky stick characters. Therefore everyone is drawn in a long tubular manner and all have macaroni limbs and are very flat. Honestly this doesn’t bother me, as it fits in well with the comedic feel of the series. Everything else is so over-the-top and stylized, why not have the characters be as well? One of the aspects I love about shoujo manga is the abundance of screen tones and flowers, and the anime does the manga justice by using special imposed imagery on everything. It works especially well in the big reveal moments which lead into fan service jokes.

This series is very easy to watch and the animation is nicely consistent. The colors and designs of the backgrounds are all beautiful without being so over-the-top as to be distracting to look at. The animation does an excellent job of drawing attention to the characters and plot, rather than away from it. I found this to be a pleasant surprise as most shoujo anime series tend to go over board on the details, distracting from everything really going on *cough*Vampire Knight*cough*.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Ouran has beautifully silly, but top-notch, animation to match its subject matter, making it work out as a comedy both through the gags and through the comic timing and animation. There are no corners cut here like in The Wallflower—every episode receives its due attention to making the jokes as funny as possible, and the animation team never lets up on making everything look great. Some corners do get cut every now and then, just like sometimes the animation is better than normal, but this is the kind of series where the creators knew how to spread out their budget to make an all-around strongly-animated show.

The character designs also contribute to the comedic effect, with the characters fitting into standard shoujo archetypes while also exaggerating them a little bit. The most obvious example is Honey, who’s 17 or 18 but looks like a small child, but the exaggeration shows up more subtly, too, in the poofy shoulders everyone has and the shiny quality to everyone’s appearance. Beyond that, the characters all look distinctly individual (though not too different from characters in other series), and they’re of course all attractive enough to bring in a solid audience of fangirls.

OVERALL: In a lot of ways OHSHC reminds me of the anime version of Fruits Basket. Wonderful set up, interesting characters, great backstory, but little chance to get into the meat of the series in one season. The biggest issue with this series was that it doesn’t really have time to finish and get to the good stuff. However, the amount of time it does cover is enough to give you some laughs and a great time. If you’re alright with a series being left hanging open, then definitely give this a watch. As Crystal says, it’s a great parody of the genre that also panders in it.

Then if you’re still looking for a way to end it out, borrow the manga from a friend or the library. It’s so long you’ll probably not be able to buy it all, but it’s worth reading to completion. And since you all know by now I usually like the manga more, I’ll just say that while I like that the manga goes into detail more, the actual jokes and interactions were easier to follow along with in the anime. So aside from the further exploration, I really do prefer the anime as a medium to tell this story.

OVERALL: Essentially, Ouran can have its cake and eat it, too. The succeeds both as a parody of the main archetypes and ridiculous plot devices of shoujo manga, but then the series wields those same kinds of devices for a more serious effect. The characters will interact in completely silly ways one episode, and the next the viewer will be given an insight into their character. Ouran plays a balancing act between being funny but also serious enough to keep its audience coming back for more, and it performs admirably. I can’t think of any other shoujo series that balances these two elements so well, especially with such a ridiculous premise. If you’re interested in shoujo anime at all, you should’ve already watched this. And if you’re a newcomer to shoujo, Ouran would be a good place to start, with a heroine who couldn’t care less about being in this kind of series and a premise that mostly makes fun of the standard shoujo trappings.

FINAL SCORE: (8/10) FINAL SCORE: (9/10)

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Edit: This was the original content of this post.

This week’s review is being postponed because of a death in the family and unexpected travel. Due to lack of time, this week’s review will be pushed back until next week. In the meantime, please enjoy this boat.

-W

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