Anime Retrospect: Ouran High School Host Club

MANGA:

Writer: Bisco Hatori

Publisher: Hakusensha (Japanese) Viz Media (Englsih, NA)

Original Run: September 2002 – November 2010

Volumes: 18

 

ANIME:

Director: Takuya Igarashi

Studio: Bones

Licensed By: Funimation Entertainment (NA) Manga UK (UK)

Original Run: 4th April – 26th September 2006

Genre: Drama, harem, romantic comedy

 

CAST:

Haruhi Fujioka – Maaya Sakamoto (Japanese) Caitlin Glass (English) 

Tamaki Suoh – Mamoru Miyano (Japanese) Vic Mignogna (English)

Kyoya Otori – Masaya Matsukaze (Japanese) J Michael Tatum (English)

Hikaru Hitachiin – Kenichi Suzumura (Japanese) Todd Haberkorn (English)

Kaoru Hitachiin – Yoshinori Fujita (Japanese) Greg Ayres (English)

Mitsukuni “Honey” Haninozuka – Ayaka Saito (Japanese) Luci Christian (English)

Takashi “Mori” Morinozuka – Daisuke Kirii (Japanese) Travis Willingham (English)

INTRODUCTION:

The series is set primarily in Ouran Academy, a prestigious high school set in the town of Bunkyo in Tokyo, Japan. It starts and follows on with central protagonist Haruhi Fujioka; an honour student who despite the lack of wealth, was allowed into the school due to her outstanding grades in middle school.

Near the start of the school year, Haruhi searches for a quiet room to study – as the other groups of students are making it impossible in other areas – and comes across the Third Music Room. Suspecting it to be abandoned and unused, she enters, but much to her surprise, the room is in use. As stated by Haruhi herself: “When I opened the door, I found was the Host Club.”

Due to Haruhi’s masculine appearance – short hair, an oversized mauve jumper and black trousers – she was mistaken as a boy by those who were occupying the room. Whilst trying to escape the cornering of the members, she accidentally knocks a pedestal with a costly vase placed atop it. With it smashed to smithereens, Haruhi must repay her damages; however, with their knowledge of her “commoner” status, they come to the agreement of hiring Haruhi as a member of the Host Club to repay her debt.

One by one, they each discover her femininity in various ways. Once it is revealed, Tamaki instantly develops feelings he can’t even properly clarify for Haruhi and everyone treats her like any other woman – but go through various lengths to keep her womanhood hidden away. Especially in tricky situations, such as during physical exams, they will do anything through any lengths to keep the girls of Ouran Academy out of the know of Haruhi’s female truth.

Ouran 2

THE HOST CLUB:

The Ouran Host Club is a club, set up a year prior to the show’s setting by second-year students Tamaki Suoh and his forced-to-be friend Kyoya Otori. The club’s main activity is entertaining fellow students – female students.

Through the means of serving tea and coffee, presenting baked goods and exaggerating their attractive strengths for the ladies’ pleasures, the boys spend a great majority with various “clients” who request their time with them.

The members include the two co-founders, along with third-year students Takashi “Mori” Morinozuka and Mitsukuni “Honey” Haninozuka and first-year twin brothers Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin.

Tamaki labelling himself as the “king” or the Host Club leaves Kyoya to handle with the business side of the club; this includes planning and financial matters. The others have less important duties in the matter of the club’s management.

As of Haruhi’s damaging a treasured vase, valued at ¥8,000,000 (US$80,000, translated), she is at first brought in to the club as their errand boy, and also referred to as the club’s “dog.” Even after discovering her true gender, she is kept in the club and instead of errand boy; she’s bumped up to be a fellow host. Much to the club’s joy, Haruhi proves to be popular with the academy’s female students and attracts many clients.

 

Ouran pic

OTHER CHARACTERS:

Outside of the private academy, there are other characters that involve themselves in the member of the host club; more specifically, they involve themselves with Haruhi.

One set of characters that recur in the manga and anime are three students from a rivalling school: the St. Lobelia’s Girl Academy. These three characters are from the school’s Zuka Club. The Zuka Club is one that specialises in the performing arts.

The featured members are President Benio Amakusa – nicknamed Benibara-sama – vice president Chizuru Maihara, and first-year student Hinako Tsuwabuki. Each member takes a sudden disliking to the Host Club and founder Tamaki specifically, mainly for their club’s activities of entertaining young ladies attending Ouran Academy. They are repelled by the actions of each member, proving their views with their theatricality.

President Benio is seen as a celebrity school-wise, having her own fan club set up in her high school and a “guardian club” for people to act as her protection. She is also openly homosexual and is shown flirting with her fellow students at St. Lobelia’s; this is a parallel to Host Club President Tamaki. In the series, Haruhi comments on Tamaki and Benio’s similarities but they are angrily dismissed by the latter.

In revenge to Haruhi’s initial denial of their offer to transfer to St. Lobelia’s, blaming it on Tamaki and the Host Club, Benio plots to trick Haruhi into spending time with them and eventually to steal her first kiss. As expected, the club save Haruhi before Benio’s plan is accomplished.

One other recurring character is in relation to the Host Club, but she was not a true member. She was the self-assigned club manager Renge Houshakuji. Her introduction is an unconventional one; once residential in France with her father, Renge’s growing obsession with a decision-making school game caused her to soon connect one character to a Host Club member.

When her father tells her of the business he was starting with the Otori family, upon showing her a photo of Mr Otori and his three sons – one of which was Kyoya – she was ecstatic to learn she had seen him before and started a fake romance through the means of her video game with a similar resembling character. Once knowing his whereabouts, Renge alone flies over to Japan and enrols herself in Ouran Academy in the hopes of finding Kyoya. Not long into her search, she finds him in the Host Club and immediately declares her being his fiancé, despite the two never meeting in person.

As her admiration is still apparent through her stay with the Host Club, she puts all her effort into aiding in duties similar to Kyoya’s own. She proclaimed herself as the overall manager and since their meeting, she had set her sights on Haruhi; throughout the series, she had seemed to have never discovered Haruhi’s true sex and has kept a crush on her.

The only relative of Haruhi’s ever shown in the series is her father Ryōji Fujioka. As her mother passed around ten years prior to the series’ start, she is never seen but is mentioned and shown in photographs and flashbacks. From a young age, Haruhi grew dependent and she showed this trait since her introduction in the series; this is one that also worries her father and he grew overprotective of her.

In addition, from before her mother’s passing, Haruhi’s father grew to have a likening to women’s clothing. After his wife Kotoko’s death, Ryōji became a professional transvestite and even takes a job working at an okama (cross-dressing bar) under the name “Ranka”. The reasoning behind his transvestism is that he felt he couldn’t love another woman. He was also considered bisexual himself.

As a condition of his overprotection of his daughter, Ryōji takes a dislike to Tamaki as he notices the possible romantic connection between him and Haruhi. However, the two have similar personalities and act almost identically towards Haruhi.

Even if he was one to worry over his daughter, it was shown that after Kotoko’s passing, Haruhi was taking more care of him than he was of her. In a flashback, it was shown how a young Haruhi refused to tell Ryōji of her parents’ day at school; his first initial prediction was because of his penchant to dress in women’s clothing. However, Haruhi clarified with him that it was because she felt he needed as much rest as he could get on his day off.

REVIEW AND COMMENTS:

Having being familiar with the series, both in anime and manga formats, I know the series as deeply as to say I know the story inside and out, forwards and backwards. How? I, being what would be labelled as an “otaku”, have seen my fair share of reruns of Ouran with the courtesy of my DVD collection but I wanted to rehash the show and watch what I had seen many times by now. Why? Well, because that is what Ouran High School Host Club (OHSHC) is: an anime to enjoy time and time again.

With a dip into the shōjo division, this series is proven to be one that can keep the balance of comedy and drama throughout its run on paper and on screen. With the cliché of a young man and woman meeting coincidentally, such as Haruhi and Tamaki, the twist of Haruhi’s gender-ambiguous appearance was a source of comedy from the start until the end.

That is what this series does best in its terms of comedy: twisting romantic clichés that are overplayed to a ridiculous extent in soap operas and rom-coms to parody them just the correct amount. As its 15 BBFC rating on the DVDs would have you believe, it isn’t all innocent and lovey-dovey and friendly for the young ones. In fact, the subject of homosexuality is also discussed at certain point in the anime from the start when upon first impressions, Tamaki believed that to be Haruhi’s sexual orientation and stated he wouldn’t believe someone like her – or as he believed, him – would be “openly gay.”

Altogether, the subject of sexuality and gender is a point of drama, romanticism and is a source of major hilarity throughout the series.

In terms of characters, I believe they became that little more real when they take their turns to break the fourth wall. We all know such a practice can be perfectly scaled or horrifically overused;  however, it is the former with OHSHC as it is mainly Tamaki that takes his charming stare to the viewers as he talks through the “romantic comedy” that is their world, which he is aware is an anime. He tells of himself and Haruhi being the couple and the other Host Club members are the “homosexual supporting cast”.

I feel Tamaki is where the majority of the comic relief originates from. With his obnoxious behaviour, as noted by Haruhi, and big-headed façade as the “king” of the Host Club, he opens himself to criticisms and harsh comments which quickly belittle him into a dimmed corner in whatever room he is in (this has been labelled by fans online as “Tamaki’s emo corner”) as he weeps in silence until he gets an apology or a compliment to boost his confidence back up to its overflowing limit.

Upon first glances of the character, they would appear as two-dimensional as their animation but as the series continues, each character develops and it’s visible to the viewers that they each do differentiate from the group. One example of this happening in the second half of the series is with Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin.

With the Hitachiin twins, they were always seen as a “one and the same” team; just them against the world, as they would put it. Starting out as two halves of a whole, it soon develops of how Hikaru and Kaoru change from being completely identical and it is in a positive light. As any other even in the Host Club, their evolution of sorts was brought on by the introduction of Haruhi Fujioka. 

All in all, this anime is a relieving change from the usual school-central show with love and kisses and the over-the-top actions of the boy and girl in question.

If you enjoy the obvious mocking of clichés, the blatant charms and idiocy of school boys and the supremacy of the fairer sex all put together in a greatly-drawn anime, this is for you.

 

 

 

RATING: 4/5 

VERDICT: Must. Watch. Again!

Written by Joanna Cosgrove

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