A complete parody of everything that is a staple in shojo manga all crammed together in one ridiculous show.
Haruhi Fujioka is the poorest student at Ouran High School, a school which is made up of Japan’s wealthiest and most prestigious students. Haruhi looks like a nerdy little dormouse of a man with messy hair and an unstylish nonstandard uniform. Therefore Haruhi looks totally out of place at this prestigious school. When trying to find somewhere to study Haruhi wanders into the seemingly empty third music room. Haruhi finds that a handsome sextet of students have turned the music room into a host club for the wealthy girls of the school. While trying to get away from the bizarre members of the club she accidentally smashes an eight million dollar vase. The host club forces her to become their lackey to pay them back for the vase. Two things get Haruhi out of having to do menial chores for the club. The first is that Haruhi has natural charm and grace that makes her a natural host. The second is that she is a rather pretty girl. Certain members of the club are more surprised than others when they learn that Haruhi is actually a girl but no matter what it greatly changes the dynamic of the clubs interactions with her.
Haruhi’s situation with the vase is brief and really only exists to get her into the club. It’s brought up randomly when a joke calls for it. The host club was founded to make girls feel happy and to do good things when they feel like it. This series really doesn’t have an overall plot so it does perfectly well with its bizarre one off scenarios and events. It also makes it great to turn on whenever and laugh it up.
The cast is rather delightful bunch of assorted miscreants and fetish characters but this is by design. While each character obviously fits into a stereotypical archetype of shojo manga they still retain likable qualities that keeps them from feeling like merely microwaved leftovers. Lots of comedies try to use stock characters for comedic effect but they often feel like cardboard cutouts merely propped up for jokes. I feel as the series adds depth and nuance to all the major characters while still keeping them comically amusing.
Well, the thing about archetype characters is they exist because people like the archetype. And believe it or not, some writers can use them well and make you love them as you have loved all other characters like them before and some writers fall flat and create boring, seen-it-all-before feelings. You can’t use an archetype without bringing something to the table and Host Club brings it all. And while you have shojo eye candy flying all over the place, you know it is just one colossal joke. The guys of host club are schemers and they know exactly what is going to bring in the customers, so that is what you get.
Haruhi is the master straight man of the group. With a wide variety of deadpan expressions she takes everything the host club throws at her as best as anyone in the same position would be able to. She is smart, independent, and sassy when she wants to be. The only thing that seems odd is Haruhi’s odd variable skills of observation. When it’s plot convenient Haruhi is an eagle-eyed and empathetic girl who notices even the slightest changes in mood of other characters. Other times she is an oblivious to everything and anything that is going on around her. Side note: Narutaki loves Haruhi with long hair.
Haruhi is interesting although I wasn’t really a fan of her till they started giving her something to do other than have no reaction to our host club cronies. But that starts to dissipate as we learn about her family, she ambitions, and her friendships that develop. She definitely stands out as a strong female but I felt her better moments were when she realized she could, and sometimes needed to, rely on others.
All of the members of the host club have unique relationships with one another. The series is more about friendship than anything else and it does it very well. Personally I find the friendships to be the strongest thing about the show because within that there is room for so much hilarity and drama. In fact, some of the best moments are the episodes when you learn how the host club got together. Everyone has a special connection to their king. Speaking of Tamaki, he in particular really becomes a developed character in these episodes. You start to realize that he has more going on in his head that you previously imagined.
Tamaki is the charming blonde foreigner who is half Japanese archetype. Tamaki is basically Irresponsible Captain Tylor but in charge of a host club instead of a spaceship. At first glance Tamaki seems like the incapable playboy with absolutely nothing of significance going on inside his head. But as the series goes on we learn that Tamaki can and often does put his rather sharp mind and ability to read people to good use. On the other hand, it is also very clear that much of Tamaki facade of being naive and gullible is quite real as well. One of the main mysteries of Tamaki is how much of his supposed silliness and clueless nature is real and how much of it is an act. I don’t think we ever really learn what the answer is but we definitely get a better idea by the end of the series what the percentage of clue to clueless is. Also when Haruhi is not around (and sometimes when she is around) Tamaki is most often made the straight man of the group.
Most people that know me well could spot from a mile away that I would love Tamaki. Tamaki’s personality is essentially my most favorite type of character in any series. But Tamaki is this character ten-fold (as with everything in Host Club, it deals in extremes). He has a free-spirited and goofy nature punctuated by his bouts selfishness and narcissism. However, his moments of kindness are shining and sweet. I find these things very appealing because many times it hides a darker past, but the character has choosen a somewhat positive way of dealing with it. Tamaki is the kind of guy that after watching a while you will always be wondering how much he planned and how much things just fell into place. Did I mention that he is beautiful and blond?
Hikaru Hitachiin and Kaoru Hitachiin are devilish twins. There main shtick at the host club seems is always implying that they have a incestuous homosexual relationship. In reality the Hitachiin twins are consummate manipulators and practical jokers. Everyone and anyone seem to exists for their amusement although their favorite targets are without a doubt Haruhi and Tamaki. They seem to have an odd amount of respect and admiration for Tamaki despite how much they seem to ridicule and manipulate him.
The twins are a paradox, they are the same and they aren’t. Their relationship is really well explored in the series. I think they are probably have the most growing up to do but that is what makes watching them a treat. You have the feeling they are moving toward something and a change will follow. As with most of the guys in the club, they love themselves a lot. But not to the point of all the fujoshi squealing in the club. They are in the same class at Haruhi and might be the closet friends she has. They love to rub that in the face of the king.
Certain people we both know seem to think that Hikaru is the closest thing to a legitimate rival for Tamaki over Haruhi’s affections in the series. We both think she is a little bit crazy.
Honey and Mori are sort of a package deal. We rarely if ever seen them as separate people. Honey is the shota bait super hyper cute high schooler who has the body of a little boy. He loves cakes and candy and happens to be as sweet as sugar as well. Mori is the stoic kendo club captain that watches over Honey like a bishonen gargoyle. They are almost as close as the Hitachiin twins to the point where I almost don’t feel that weird seeing yaoi doujinshi about them.
I don’t think it is an mystery why Mori is always shown with Honey. Mori is tall, dark, and handsome and Honey is short, sweet, and cute. I hear the moe chants in the background. But seriously I wish both of these characters had more screen time and a lot more character development. Heck, for a while there Mori had the most intimate relationship with Haruhi out of everyone.
If Tamaki is the lively soul that keeps the Host Club together as a family than Kyoya is the the cold machinery that keeps the host club running. The Shadow King is the masterful, almost villainous, brains of the group. He is the man that organizes the club, keeps everyone in line and in check, and makes sure it turns a profit. These are abilities that no other man in the club could even hope to have. He has a definite competitive spirit which is not obvious but clearly fierce when exhibited. In the manga, he seems to have a subtle crush on Haruhi but is mostly just a supporter of Tamaki in the anime. For some reason he is my favorite member of the host club. I guess I like his ice cold demeanor and subtle style.
The Shadow King is essential to the club. It just plain wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without him. He also completes the necessary glasses, smart guy of their shojo fantasy club. Tamaki and him are almost polar opposites and so they play off each other very well, creating one of the most dynamic friendships in the story.
The romance aspect of this series gives it some of its moments of drama. But once again, this series is so over the top that most of the time it is used for gags. There are some very sweet moments that will have you gushing but for the most part it sticks to what it does best, silly. And to add to its shojo parodying, of course a good portion of the club is in love with Haruhi, for some reason.
Everything in Host Club is played up with the volume turned to 11 for comedic effect while still remaining somewhat loosely based on a coherent storyline and reality unlike spastic comedies such as Excel Saga. They often throw ten jokes at you every ten minutes and parody every genre under the sun (especially shojo genres) but it never comes at anything more than a brisk pace. Too often such comedies seems to have little in the way of a strong plot. Host club manages to constantly be funny while still telling a individual story each episode. It also knows when to take it slow and just let us get to know the characters or to build a little drama and romance while still falling in the comedy category.
Host Club is character driven because it is a situational comedy. With the main characters, there is always something to love. The random side characters that pop-up, like the club “manager” and the president of the Dark Arts club, just to its cast of perfect weirdos. There is nothing much going on as far as over arcing story but who cares? Everyone needs a hilarious show that you don’t have to think too much about. Ouran fits that bill to a tee.
For shame Narutaki. For shame. You forgot to mention Beelzenef. Without him what is this show? I also really like the Yakuza so who tries to learn to be make friends with people from Mori. His story was hysterical. I think it’s also criminal to forget Renge, the resident fujoshi, and her running commentary and helpful suggestions from her limitless knowledge of anime, video games, and burning moe passion.
Alright, alright. I couldn’t go on without mentioning the hilarious president, and only member of the Black Magic Club, Nekozawa and his hand puppet Beelzenef! His appearances are brief but totally hilarious, as the door to his club randomly appears where ever he needs it to. Also any sort of light send him into a state of shock, haha.
Having read the manga I find that they hit almost all the highlights. This means that often certain episodes are the combined plots of two to three different stories from the manga. I feel that this let them get as much of the manga as they could into 26 episodes while still letting you get to see who everyone in the club really is. The only thing they really left out was Kyoya’s feelings for Haruhi. Any scene where Kyoya seems to show affection for Haruhi in the anime is either modified or played down from how it was in the manga. I assume they removed it because they just have less time than the manga but I felt his crush added some charm and depth to Kyoya.
It is always hard to completely develop a large cast in just 26 episodes, so that would be my initial reasoning for them removing Shadow King’s feelings. But they do hint at it a little. So instead of doing it only half way, I think they moved the story in a more direct fashion.
The anime also has an original 2 part episode to end the series. It ties together all the themes of the show pretty well. It is as clear an ending as you can get for an on-going romantic comedy.
While I know the anime’s ending wasn’t totally concrete, I felt it was pretty clear on certain levels about the feelings of certain characters. But it wasn’t so definite that you would be thrown off if in the manga it doesn’t end the same way. I really enjoyed the last two episodes even though a lot of the slap-stick and gags were missing from it.
All in all Ouran High School Host Club is a comedy for both sexes. It is shojo but I think it is funny enough and witty enough to win over any male who does not mind a little bit of flowers and bishonen. Plus, they are constantly mocking flowers and bishonen. Females don’t even need to be told why they will like Host Club. It is just a fact. I am just worried that Funimation will drop the ball when they market Host Club. They have a sure fire hit on their hand they just have to sell it correctly. I sort of wish we lived in a world where Host Club could get on TV but I’m not naive enough to ever think it would happen any time soon.
I brought up this concern when I found out about the license. I feel like they are going to market to girls period. This show has a much more broad appeal if they play their cards right. Show up the slap-stick, the gags, the parody. Instead I imagine trailers with flowers, pretty boys, and romance. Blah blah. It’s not that this isn’t the core, because it is, but the show has the potential to bring in a wider audience, bringing in bigger numbers, and actually do well as a shojo title. The DVDs are due out later this year, although there is still no date announced.