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Ian Wolf's review
"Love is the delightful interval between meeting a beautiful girl and discovering she looks like a haddock." – John Barrymore
I must confess that I have come late to the delights of Ouran, which is a shame because this has very rapidly become one of my favourite manga series. What makes it worse is that the next one to be published by Viz, number 18, will be the final volume.
This review looks back at the previous 17 volumes of Bisco Hatori's work; starting way back in 2002, before the anime series began which first caught my attention only a few months ago, to the more recent volumes which have taken the story beyond the TV version.
For those who have yet to come across the series, the setting is the Ouran High School, an elite educational establishment which makes Eton College look like a run-down South London comprehensive. Every pupil there is stinking rich, except for scholarship student Haruhi Fujioka, who came into the school via merit. On the first day of term Haruhi encounters the school's "Host Club," consisting of six handsome male students who spend their time entertaining their female colleagues, each of whom fits into a particular romantic type, these schoolboys being Tamaki (the school's Prince Charming), Kyoya (the cool one), Hikaru and Karou (the little devilish twins), Hunny (the cute one) and Mori (the strong, silent type.)
At their first meeting Haruhi accidentally breaks a priceless vase and is forced to join the Host Club to pay off the debt. However, it is some time before they finally realise that there is a problem: Haruhi is a girl. This however does not faze narcissistic club president Tamaki who decides that Haruhi has to pretend she is a boy throughout her schooldays.
There is plenty to attract the average reader, apart from the rather attractive Host Club members. Part of the reason I enjoyed the anime, and for that matter the manga as well, is that the comedy relates to certain British aspects, thus making it translate across the boundaries. The main example of this is the subject of class. For a long time social standing has been a subject of British humour and in Ouran this same topic crops up. This is due to Haruhi, who is a fish out of water coming from a relatively normal background, if you ignore the fact her mother died when she was young, she is cross-dressing at school and her father is a bisexual transvestite. Because everyone else at Ouran is so wealthy, they are amazed by some of things she does, like drinking instant coffee, which results in it becoming a school craze.
In terms of the vast wealth of the other characters, the only problem I really have with it is trying to translate what sort of club these people would be in if they were British. The closest I can get to is to think of a sexually attractive version of the Bullingdon Club. This results in two problems: Firstly, this instantly conjures up the rather disturbing mental image of sexy versions of David Cameron, George Osborne, and Boris Johnson; and secondly the fact that if those guys did exist they probably would end up voting Conservative (or whatever the Japanese equivalent is) which for me is a turn-off.
With regards to the differences between the anime and manga, these became clear straight away. The first were the issues with regards to not just the spelling of Hunny's name (in the anime it is spelt "Honey"), but also some aspects of his appearance. In the anime he is very small, but in the manga he is a "colossal" 4 feet 9 inches tall (with the supposedly ability to shrink at will.)
However, there were also some other changes surprisingly early on. For example there is an entire storyline from Volume 6 in which the Host Club battle the American Football Club, lead by Takeshi Kuze (who has the odd habit of eating oranges without peeling them) to see who gets the prime spot in Ouran’s Cultural Festival. This story never made the anime and neither did Kuze.
Following on from beyond the TV series, there was much made in the way of character development, with certain secondary characters taking bigger roles, most notably scary-faced Yakuza son Kasanoda, who joins the school's Gardening Club and often brings Haruhi presents of food that he grows.
Then there are other significant storylines. Kaoru falls in love with Haruhi, and he and Hikaru attempt to become more independent from one another, which results in Hikaru in Volume 12 dying his hair a different colour so that they can be told apart by everyone. Then there is the continuing plot concerning Tamaki's relationships, not just with his family, but with the Club as well, especially Haruhi. Also Mori and Hunny eventually graduate from Ouran, but still form part of the Host Club. In the later volumes the plot has become more dramatic in tone, but there are still moments of humour, in particular with regards to Tamaki's general idiocy. It may not be as "laugh out loud" funny as the anime, but this is normally the case with written and performed humour. Stuff that is said out loud is always more likely to get laughs than stuff you read quietly on your own.
The art is very well done too, whether it is landscape pictures of the school, the Host Club's cosplay which often beings chapters, or the simpler touches such as Hunny's cute flower-decorated speech bubbles.
I would happily recommend Ouran High School Host Club to anyone, whether they are a anime/manga fan, a comedy fan or a fan of romantic fiction. I am just hoping that the final volume rounds off the series well.
|Score:||10 out of 10|
|Review By:||Ian Wolf|
|Date Published:||Mon, 5 Mar 2012|