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March 15, 2010

Bento Bako Weekly: Ouran Highschool Host Club 1-2

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Ouran High School Host Club
Author: Bisco Hatori (Millennium Snow)
Publisher: Viz Media
Volume: Today, volumes 1 and 2.  A sort of introduction to the series (also because, I only own volumes 1, 2, and 13).  There are currently 13 published volumes in America (volume 14 comes out this summer), and they’re up to volume 15 in Japan (so the American release is keeping up…probably as well as it’s allowed).  There’s also a 26-episode anime by Studio Bones, released domestically by FUNimation in two half-season sets, with a full set coming out this spring.  Through volume 12 the books are $8.99; Viz’s recent $9.99 price point begins with volume 13.
Vintage: The manga started running in 2003 in Japan, and was published by Viz in 2005 (though I believe it was first run in their now ended Shojo Beat magazine before bound into volumes).  It currently runs in girls magazine LaLa in Japan.
Genre: Romantic comedy.  Mostly comedy.  There’s plenty of romance in there, but it takes many, many volumes before there’s real progression.

Ouran High School is a school for the elite.  The rich, well-bred, upper-class, and talented are the only ones allowed to attend.  Enter Haruhi Fujioka, a commoner who can’t even afford to buy the school’s uniform, and walks around rather sloppily dressed in an oversized sweatshirt, old-fashioned glasses, and unkempt hair.  Haruhi is able to attend Ouran as a scholarship student, a unique oddity at this prestigious private academy.  While trying to find a quiet place to study, in a school where the students seem to loaf about with an excessive amount of free time, Haruhi enters Music Room 3, thinking it will be empty.  But inside is a strange group of gorgeous boys, who make up Ouran’s own personal host club.  Overwhelmed by their forceful personalities, Haruhi freaks out and accidentally bumps into an expensive vase, sending it crashing to the ground where it shatters into tiny pieces.  Suddenly the once excessively friendly group of boys turn on Haruhi, insisting they be repaid for the vase, which was to be auctioned off to pay for club activities.  Since this is obviously impossible, Haruhi is instead forced to join the Host Club as an errand boy.  Haruhi is a remarkably calm center in the whirlwind of over-acting and extreme excess that is the Host Club, but not everyone is happy the commoner is around.  A regular visitor to the club is exhibiting jealous behavior toward all the attention leading man and Host Club President Tamaki Suoh is lavishing on Haruhi.  After some bullying toward Haruhi, and some rather dashing acts by members of the Host Club, the group discovers something surprising – Haruhi is a girl!

Insisting that she doesn’t care either way, Haruhi decides to continue paying off her debt as a male member of the Host Club.  Of course, things aren’t quite that simple.  It’s quite a lot of work to make sure that Haruhi’s secret doesn’t get out.  If anyone outside the Host Club knew Haruhi was really a girl, she wouldn’t be able to be a member anymore, and wouldn’t be able to effectively pay off her debt.  It’s also quite a lot of work for the boys to pretend Haruhi is a boy.  This is a reverse harem story after all, which wouldn’t be complete without some love triangles (sometimes quadrangles and quin…tangles?).  Each of the six boys in the club has varying levels of love and respect toward Haruhi.  The obvious main couple is Tamaki and Haruhi, but twins Kaoru and Hikaru Hitachiin also have romantic feelings toward her.  Even cool and calculating Vice President Kyoya Ohtori, strong and stoic Takashi Morinozuka, and sweets loving Mitsukuni Haninozuka (Hunny) have fond feelings for her.

A perfect example of Tamaki’s self-centered naivety and Haruhi’s blunt honesty, in Ouran High School Host Club vol. 1.

In the first volume we’re introduced to the main cast and the story’s premise, along with some side characters that may return later.  The main cast’s strong personalities are quickly formed, and we start learning quite a bit about Haruhi and Tamaki specifically.  Everyone tends to follow Tamaki’s pace (though they protest quite a bit), and his big heart usually drags them into all sorts of crazy situations.  This time they help an awkward couple reveal their feelings for each other; and Kyoya’s wanna-be fiancee Renge arrives with chaos in her wake, as she tries to change the club members into her personal, otaku-driven preferences. There’s also a short bonus story, where the group fears Hunny’s rage over the drowning of his favorite stuffed rabbit in tea.

In the second volume, Haruhi’s cover is almost blown during a school physical exam; a careless remark from Haruhi causes the twins to fight with each other, disrupting the peace of the club (not to mention the entire school); Tamaki takes an elementary school boy under his wing, to teach him how to make girls happy (one specific girl in particular); and the group has a chaotic adventure at the Ohtoris’ massive, indoor prototype resort.   There’s another bonus story here, this time unrelated to the series, called “Romantic Egoist.”  It’s a cute story about a girl who gets a love potion to give to the guy she likes, but another guy ends up drinking it instead.

The cast of Ouran is a collection of fairly stereotypical, and even rather cliche, shojo character types.  Which is the point.  The series is rather tongue-in-cheek, and makes fun of itself and the shojo genre.  Also, each of the club members is meant to embody a specific type of boy (I hesitate to label it as a “fetish,” but that is sort of what I mean), to cater to the tastes of their clientele.  Tamaki is a clueless, princely leading male, entirely oblivious to his own feelings, but remarkably perceptive of others.  Haruhi is an anti-heroine, actively fighting against her role in the story.  Her blunt mannerisms and total unwillingness to perform acts that the heroine typically would are what make her so charming, and what supply a good deal of the humor.  She’s rather out of the ordinary, and she’s a fantastically strong character (in club dynamics, she’s the “book worm”).  The twins, Kaoru and Hikaru, are devilish mischief makers.  When they get bored, it’s best to be on your guard, because they see everything and everyone around them as their personal playthings.  Kyoya (my personal favorite) tends to look down his nose at the antics of the other club members (specifically Tamaki), but his cool manner and high intelligence puts him in a position to control things exactly the way he wants them.  Hunny and Takashi are a little less involved than the others, especially since Takashi rarely speaks.  Hunny takes on the role of what is known as a “shota,” because he’s in his final year of high school, but looks and behaves likes a little kid.  Takashi is the strong and silent type, and he and Hunny are practically glued to each other (they’re cousins, and Takashi is basically Hunny’s bodyguard).

Oh, sorry!  It seems my enthusiasm has gone a little overboard.  So here’s the short version:  Ouran High School Host Club is a reverse harem  manga about high school student Haruhi Fujioka, who through unfortunate circumstances, finds herself having to pretend to be a male member of Ouran’s Host Club.  The gorgeous and absurdly rich guys turn Haruhi’s normally quiet commoner life upside down.  Love and comedy abound as the group hides Haruhi’s identity and deals with their own feelings toward the often unresponsive heroine.

One final note: this is pure comedy.  If the term is unfamiliar, a “host club” in Japan is essentially a fancy bar where women can go to be fawned over by attractive men (or where men go to be fawned over by pretty girls).  It’s obviously made light of in the manga, and by Hatori herself (who mentions visiting one for research).  However actual host clubs can be very dark places.  And I don’t mean dark as in dangerous and seedy (though in some cases that exists too).  If you want to know what a real host club is like, you should watch the excellent documentary The Great Happiness Space.

For my review of the anime alone, you can go here. Next week: Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Yashakiden: The Demon Princess, from Digital Manga Publishing.  And stop by later this week for some more Harlequin eManga reviews.




  1. gia

    Ahhh, Ouran. At risk of spoiling, it’s amazing to see the manga evolve from merely a very good shoujo rom-com into a fascinating look at a group of people figuring out who they are and what they want.

    It’s a decidedly gradual but much more in-depth development in the manga than it was in the anime, so I’d recommend at least trying this series to pretty much any manga fan.

  2. Kristin

    Thanks for stopping by, Gia!
    I agree that it’s a nice look at people growing up and learning about who they are, etc. It IS gradual though; slow really. Early on everything stays fairly goofy, but the books coming out now are a little more mature, and the characters (particularly the twins, who definitely have the most obvious growth) are really changing.

    It’s there to an extent in the anime, but the focus is decidedly on Haruhi and Tamaki in that medium; an anime needs more central focus than a manga series has to have, for obvious reasons. I really love the anime though; I prefer the way the jokes play out there, and the lively animation and beautiful colors. But it obviously doesn’t have the depth of story the manga has.

  3. billy

    Didn’t they make a live-action film about that first story…Yentil? lol Good reviews!

  4. Mike

    I first thought this would be terrible show when I saw the trailers, but once I watched the series I really enjoyed it. Satisfied with the ending even though I hear it was a “filler” ending.

    May take a look at the manga one of these days.

  5. Kristin

    Well, the ending of the anime was an attempt to resolve the story. Some of the elements do exist in the manga. When you make an anime based on a manga which is incomplete, at some point you have to change the story. Sometimes it goes haywire (Kuroshitsuji), sometimes it’s nice and pleasant (Ouran). The ending for Ouran is open-ended, but still has resolution. I thought they handled it very well.

  6. […] Page) Tiamat’s Disciple on vol. 1 of In the Walnut (Tiamat’s Manga Reviews) Kristin on vols. 1 and 2 of Ouran High School Host Club (Comic Attack) Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 1 of Reversible (The Comic Book Bin) David Welsh on […]

  7. […] Page) Tiamat’s Disciple on vol. 1 of In the Walnut (Tiamat’s Manga Reviews) Kristin on vols. 1 and 2 of Ouran High School Host Club (Comic Attack) Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 1 of Reversible (The Comic Book Bin) David Welsh on […]

  8. This indeed does sound hilarious. And look at the bottom right hand corner of this webpage- a Ouran High School Host Club ad for the DVD set!!


  9. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by girlg33k_Kris: New review: Ouran High School Host Club 1-2 ( @shojobeat ) https://comicattack.net/2010/03/bbwouran1_2/

  10. […] Ouran High School Host Club, vol. 14, by Bisco Hatori.  I’ve recently decided to drop nearly all the American comics from my pull list (from the Big 2 anyway), and I’m replacing them with the rest of the Ouran books.  Things are heating up as Hikaru has finally confessed his feelings to Haruhi, and asked her out on a date.  Will this prompt Tamaki to act on his own feelings?  $9.99, July 2010, from Viz Media. […]

  11. Jade

    The first handful of volumes of this title are entertaining, but they started to lose me as they went on. The club members do become further developed, but all this development centers around Haruhi, who I felt started getting more and more two-dimensional.

    By volume 10, she’s stripped down to the barest minimum motivation and her complete lack of personality becomes a running gag. ‘I want to love Haruhi because she’s someone I want to love!’ sort of becomes the focal point of the story.

    I still really enjoyed the series up to a point though, just keep my warning in mind if the series starts to go flat for you.

  12. Hmmm…. Around volume 13 it starts changing again. Once the characters start asserting themselves and the plot actually matters…things start really happening…it gets better again. It seems to be heading toward a genuine conclusion now, though that could take several volumes still. It’s leaving the scattered chapter feel, where nothing was really connected, and there was no linearity. There’s more story and character development now, I think. Like, Hikaru is finally taking some action and confesses his feelings. And they’re all really pushing Tamaki to finally get his shit together. A new female character is introduced who starts pushing Haruhi in the right direction as well.

  13. Jade

    Ah, you must have caught up!

    I think I should start picking it up again since it gets back on track. For a while it looked like it was going to fizzle out into lame school festivals and story adaptations as the romantic interest ball got passed around for ten more volumes. Thanks for the heads up!

  14. The Angery Comic Critic

    I found out about this anime series by accident I’m normally more of a Naruto, Bleach, Gundam Wing or Dragonball Z kind of guy but this was actually a pretty good show a very funny at times kept me interested all the way till the end of the series shame it only lasted 26 episodes. Nice work also did you get the e-mail I sent about joining the staff?

  15. Kristin

    I did. Andy and I will discuss it, though I’m honestly not sure if we need anyone right now. That will be one of the things we discuss.

  16. The Angery Comic Critic

    @Kristin – Alright I just wasn’t sure if you got it. Also as I said in my e mail if my style of writing with profanity to make fun of the horrible stuff in films and comics doesn’t suite this site I can always change it up to make it more P.C if necessary. Just E-mail me back with a decision when you and Andy have the time thanks

  17. […] don’t mind over-the-top goofiness (see: Ouran High School Host Club) when it’s done well; here, it’s not.  This title is rather bland.  Even with my […]

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