It’s almost time for the school festival, so Mafuyu has been spending more time as Natsuo, patrolling the school with Hayasaka, and trying to uncover the mystery of the disappearing students. It’s a little difficult, however, with Bancho/Okegawa hovering around her suspiciously. Still, Okegawa and one of his former lieutenants, Goto, offer to help “Natsuo” figure out why students are disappearing at 5 pm from the halls and returning with no memory of what happened to them. Mafuyu finds out first hand when she becomes the next victim. To her absolute surprise, one of the classes has been abducting students to try out their ideas for the upcoming festival – a cross dressing maid cafe. The large and rather awkward boys of Class 2 have donned maid costumes and are trying to figure out the best ways to entertain customers. Having solved the great mystery, Mafuyu (as Natsuo) offers to train them so they stop abducting students. Meanwhile, Okegawa and Goto try to figure out why the school’s delinquents have been so quiet lately, and are jumped by a group of boys from nearby Kamiya High. After quickly dispatching them, Okegawa discovers that someone led Midorigaoka Academy’s gang in unprovoked attacks on Kamiya students, and things are getting dangerously close to an all out war between the two schools. On the day of the festival, Kamiya High students start pouring into Midorigaoka, ready attack anyone who looks even remotely like a delinquent. Okegawa springs into action, and even enlists “Natsuo’s” help, though he lets slip that he might know Natsuo is really Mafuyu. In her panic, Mafuyu loses sight of the real issue, but Okegawa calms her down and gives her instructions. Okegawa and Goto go off to stop the Kamiya students from entering the school grounds, while Natsuo and Hayasaka take care of the ones who are already inside. In order to not draw attention to the fighting, Mafuyu comes up with a plan to disguise the fights as a festival event, and no one at the school realizes that a riot nearly destroyed everything. With their interference, the plan Shuntaro of the student council had formed with Okegawa’s other former lieutenant, Kawauchi, falls apart, and the school’s reputation is saved. The fight’s not over for Okegawa, however, as the delinquents of Midorigaoka issue a challenge to the Bancho. Who is, of course, “Natsuo,” but Okegawa insists on fighting this battle himself, and goes off to meet Kawauchi and his former gang members alone. Kawauchi’s motivations are finally made clear via flashback, detailing his friendship with Okegawa, and the extreme admiration he held for his powerful, no-nonsense Bancho. When Okegawa was defeated by Natsuo, and the gang fell apart, Kawauchi grew resentful and became disappointed in the one man he looked up to. Now he wants to destroy him. Okegawa easily fights off the entire gang, and an increasingly irritated Kawauchi, who was supposed to direct from the sidelines, loses his cool and decides to take Okegawa head on. Once Okegawa teaches Kawauchi a lesson, in his own distinctive way, Shuntaro returns to the student council president in defeat. To prove to Shuntaro why his “perfect” plans always fail, President Hanabusa issues him a challenge – pull off a perfect prank on Mafuyu.
Oh, man, this manga is hysterical. It’s completely ridiculous, really (tough looking high school boys abducting students to practice their maid techniques). But rather than roll my eyes at its absurdity, I practically laugh myself off the furniture. The series continues to be filled with energy and wonderfully timed humor; it’s amazing that Tsubaki has been able to keep the energy level so high through nine volumes already. There’s a surprising amount of dialog for how silly the story is, but it’s still a quick read. And it’s still as charming as the first volume was. The main plot isn’t really going anywhere, and the romance aspects certainly aren’t, but who cares? It’s not often a series can generate so much genuine laughter from a reader. Even during the more serious parts of the book there’s humor, and it’s well placed. Tsubaki’s art is great for visual humor – a blank face, goofy expressions, chibi comedy. It’s easy to pick up on. This volume focused a lot on Okegawa, who is one of my favorite characters. The guy is just really sweet and pure-hearted, but he’s also the strongest guy in the school and lives for a good fight almost as much as Hayasaka or Takaomi. He’s a great character, and watching him try to awkwardly navigate relationships with his friends is a delight. Like when he can’t stop staring at Natsuo, because he thinks he might be Mafuyu. Or how he doesn’t care that it was a girl who kicked his ass and stole the title of Bancho from him, because it was Mafuyu, and Mafuyu is just Mafuyu; she sees through to the real Okegawa. He seems to respect her more, but he doesn’t go into worship mode like Hayasaka, thankfully, so hopefully their friendship will continue to grow. In fact, Okegawa is more likely to start treating her like a normal girl, even knowing she’s been running around fighting all over the school. Hayasaka is starting to, as well, but he’s blissfully unaware of her more…active side. He’s more of a background character this volume, though, since Okegawa has the spotlight. And Takaomi barely makes an appearance. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s great that all of the characters get time to shine, and it’s never more than about a volume’s worth before things return to the status quo, so readers are never away from their favorite characters for long, whoever they may be.
Title: Ouran High School Host Club
Author: Bisco Hatori
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 18 (final volume), $9.99
Vintage: 2011 by Hakusensha in Japan, June 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Romantic comedy
At long last, Tamaki is able to meet with his mother again, though their reunion is very short. He also has long talks with both his grandmother and his father, and finally everything is straightened out within the Suoh family. Tamaki can now focus on his feelings for Haruhi. The Host Club reopens and things go back to relative normalcy, except now that their feelings are clear, neither Tamaki nor Haruhi knows how to take the next step. Tamaki, who oozes charm and confidence as the Host Club’s Prince, becomes absorbed in planning the perfect first date for him and Haruhi. Far too nervous to think rationally, he enlists the help of the other club members, only to discover that Haruhi would be happy just spending time with him. When the day of their first official date arrives, the club members gather together to ruin their date, but end up running themselves ragged to save the overly enthusiastic Tamaki from himself and make the date go smoothly. After some rather wild adventures at an amusement park, Tamaki takes Haruhi on a surprise trip to visit her mother’s grave, where he tells Mrs. Fujioka his plan to care for and watch over Haruhi always. Even if she goes somewhere far away. Because Haruhi has decided to accept Ouran’s offer to send her to America on a scholarship for a year of study, hoping to broaden her horizons even more than being a member of the Host Club already has. Tamaki calmly supports her decision, much to the surprise of the other club members, who are upset that she’s leaving, but understand why she feels she must. To send her off in style, the club decides to hold a farewell party, where they plan to make good on Haruhi’s final request – she doesn’t want to leave without telling everyone the truth about her gender. The boys throw a lavish masquerade ball, gambling that the time Haruhi spent with the girls who visited the club will allow them to accept her for who she really is. At the end of the ball, Tamaki reveals why he’s been so calm about Haruhi leaving – he’s going with her, and will be living right next door! Tamaki’s dreams for a happy, lovey-dovey lifestyle, and Haruhi’s for a calm year of focused studying, are dashed when the entire Host Club shows up and announces that they will all be spending the next year in America…and are all living in the same building as Tamaki and Haruhi. The official story ends there, but there is also a side story that focuses on Kyoya, when the gang follows him to Spain to meet a woman who is supposed to marry into his family. The devilish Nanako Shoji is is ready to cause all sorts of trouble for Kyoya, who is essentially assigned to be her babysitter, but he’s more than a match for her. However, when the gang discovers that Nanako doesn’t want to get married, and would rather spend her life freely exploring the culture of Spain, they all, including Kyoya, decide to save one last damsel in distress as the Host Club.
It’s the final volume of Hatori’s super adorable romantic comedy, and it does not disappoint on any level. Long time fans will finally see the resolution of both Tamaki’s family situation and the relationship between Tamaki and Haruhi. The rest of the characters’ futures are left open-ended, though Hatori includes short notes on where she thinks each of her main characters will end up. Mostly, though, she leaves things up to the fans. There’s nothing left unresolved, however. At some point in these 18 volumes, all the story lines have been wrapped up quite nicely. Tamaki finally gets to see his mother again, the Suoh family problems get straightened out (Tamaki is accepted by his grandmother, etc.), Hikaru comes to terms with his feelings for Haruhi, Kyoya decides where his place within his family is, Tamaki and Haruhi officially become an item, Haruhi’s true gender is revealed to the other students of Ouran, and so on. There’s even a short bonus chapter showing Haruhi and Tamaki’s life in America while she’s in school. The entire volume is filled with humor, heart warming moments, charm, excitement, fulfillment, and a pleasant glow of happiness. It takes a bit longer than usual to read; I’d forgotten how much text Hatori can cram onto a page, and this volume has a higher page count than normal. Fans should be happy to see everything wrap up nicely. I know I was left feeling it was a solid conclusion, which is all I really ask for in a series finale. So farewell, Ouran; hopefully we can get a conclusion to Millennium Snow now.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.