Monday, May 30, 2011

Ouran High School Host Club

This is another series that's high on my list of all time favorite series. If you haven't watched this one you're probably wondering why that is. It's a reverse harem anime, right? And a flighty story about a bunch of rich guys catering to the whims of a bunch of rich girls in a fancy high school for the rich? Geez! Can you get more derivative and boring?

The answer is that this is definitely not a derivative and boring series. It's seriously funny, in places it's hysterically funny, and the plot is surprisingly deep along the way.

So yes, Ouran High School Host Club is a reverse harem anime which takes place in a high school for the extremely wealthy. The main characters are the sons of extremely wealthy families plus one displaced special student (seated in the first picture) who is railroaded into joining their Host Club. If you haven't seen this anime series and plan to do so, go watch the first episode before reading any more of this blog because I'm about to spoil a great first episode.

Fujioka Haruhi is a poor student who is attending Ouran on scholarships and who doesn't even have money for a uniform. In the first episode Haruhi is disheveled and nerdy looking. Quite by accident, Haruhi runs afoul of the Host Club. This first episode is absolutely priceless, as each member of the Host Club comes to the realization that Haruhi is a girl, not a boy. In this picture to the left she's wearing girl's clothes and is obviously a girl, a look entirely different from her original one. It's amazing how long it took me to come to that realization the first time I watched this series. After the Host Club members all realize it, they decide to keep the deception going and have Haruhi join the Host Club as a Host.

The plot line in this series is exceptional. The surface, obvious plot is just the activities of the Host Club, including the various cosplay the Hosts do and their interactions with other students and between themselves. However, the real plot lies much deeper than that and is why I enjoyed this series so much. Each of the Hosts is an interesting individual with unique gifts and unique problems. The Hosts include: Suou Tamaki, who's father is the school headmaster, and who created and leads the Host Club; Ootori Kyouya, who's family owns multiple hospitals, medical supply businesses and a small private army, Hitachiin Kaoru and Hitachiin Hikaru, who are twins that no one can tell apart, (seen in the picture to the right above); Haninozuka Mitsukuni (Honey), who is the heir of a martial arts school and a martial arts master; and Morinozuka Takashi (Mori), who's family has been allied with Honey's family throughout history. Honey is shown in serious fight mode in the picture to the left below. These individuals are brought together by Tamaki to form the Host Club, and along the way in the series, the background of each one, and Tamaki's interactions with them is revealed.

Tamaki and Haruhi are the most interesting characters in the series from my perspective. Haruhi's mother has died and Haruhi lives with her father who works as a cross-dresser in a bar. Haruhi is pretty intuitive about people, and is quite straight-forward and accepting of other people and their idiosyncrasies. Her only real interest in attending Ouran is studying and doing well and the Host Club to her is a massive waste of time when she gets sucked into it. Also despite her general intuition about other people, she can be oblivious to social mores. She is also the only person in the world who can tell Kaoru and Hikaru apart.

Tamaki is the most fun character (picture to the right). He vacillates back and forth between being apparently totally clueless and then making incredibly astute readings of the other characters' needs and desires. He comes across as such a soft-hearted airhead that his insights into the others characters and problems is really brought into sharp focus. He is the driving force behind the Host Club; he brought them all together originally and he keeps them together. Along the way it is revealed that he has problems of his own. It turns out he is the half-Japanese, illegitimate son of the school headmaster. He is not accepted by most of the Suou family, but he is the only son of his father so he is tolerated as the possible heir.

When Tamaki decides to form his Host Club he starts with Kyouya who is already his friend. Kyouya may be my favorite character in the series, shown here to the left. He's the 'shadow king', the power behind the throne, if you will. He handles all the finances, makes all the arrangements and just basically facilitates whatever Tamaki has decided to do. He's a financial wizard and his abilities become apparent at the end of the series. His back story about his early interactions with Tamaki is also my favorite subplot to a series that has several good ones.

Each of the Host Club members has a 'schtick' they play off of as Hosts. For Tamaki, it's his looks and his incredibly suave moves with women. For Kyouya it's his megane-looks and his cool reserve. Haruhi "plays off" her rookie status and her ingenuous behavior, which actually turns out to be basic Haruhi rather than a role. The Hitachiin brothers, play off 'brotherly love' for the Host Club, as well as other people's inability to tell them apart. They switch places with each other regularly, which works on everyone except Haruhi. These Host Club members are second year high school students, with Haruhi, Kaoru and Hikaru being in the same class and Tamaki and Kyouya being in a separate class. Honey and Mori are the third year student members of the Host Club. Both are martial arts experts and although in the Host Club they play off Honey's little kid looks and Mori's cool aloofness, they are surprisingly the muscle behind the Host Club when muscle is necessary. Mori is the tallest Host, shown here towering over Haruhi in her Host uniform, and Mori and Honey are usually a pair.

Overall, the story is about the various antics of the Host Club, but more than that, it's about the growth of the Host Club's individual members, and the ways in which clueless Tamaki affects and changes each of their lives. This is about a group a friends, basically, how they became friends and how they help each other along the way. The series manages to make this basic story fun and interesting. If I had to cite a negative, I would say the music is only so-so. However for entertainment value and a great story, the series is well worth watching.

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