Over the last few weeks, we’ve looked at all kinds of anime with different themes, stories and characters. They’ve all been quite serious, though, so let’s shake things up this week with something a bit more light hearted: Ouran High School Host Club.
Ouran falls into the genre known as “shoujo” which literally means “girl”. The anime in this category are usually romance anime, although sometimes you get slice of life ones in here too. Ouran is kind of in a league of it’s own, though. It definitely has romance involved (in fact, it is a key theme of the show), but I wouldn’t really describe it as a romance anime.
Ouran, to me, is more properly described as a comedy anime with a romance theme. This anime is best watched with the Japanese voice acting and English subtitles, as while the English dub is okay, it just doesn’t do the characters or the tone justice.
Ouran is genuinely funny, though, and even though it has the usual smattering of pun based jokes, very few of them go over your head. The whole thing is lighthearted, fun, and bubblegum pink. It’s also really well written, not just in terms of the jokes themselves, but with the characters as well. All of the main characters of Ouran High School Host Club are memorable and interesting.
The main story of the show starts out simple, but gets more complex as time goes on. Our setting is a very rich private school, Ouran High School, which is filled with students from very affluent families. The exception is the main lead, Haruhi Fujioka, a scholarship student who is from a more average family.
For a while, she is mistaken as a boy by everybody due to her very androgynous appearance. Gender fluidity is a theme that definitely comes up in this show, and is handled well while still fitting in with the comedic tone. One of the ways this is done is through Haruhi’s father, Ryoji Fujioka, a cross-dresser who works as a professional transvestite.
Things go bad for Haruhi when she looks for a place to study, stumbles into the titular Host Club and accidentally breaks a vase. Without the money to pay for it, Haruhi is forced to work for the Host Club to pay back what she owes. At first, she is just a general “gofer” doing the Club’s bidding and buying them things. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Haruhi has a gift for entertaining the guests to the Host Club, and quickly becomes a member of the Club.
(You might not know this, so FYI a host club is essentially a cafe [or bar], where there are primarily female staff, and cater to men who want drinks and attentive conversation. In the context of the show, it’s essentially paying to go on a date and be romanced, and all the hosts are male aside from Haruhi.)
Ouran is very much a parody anime. It often makes fun of itself, but it’s usual targets are the common tropes of romance anime. It parodies otaku culture, cross-dressing, yaoi and yuri, as well as the usual “love triangle” theme that often shows itself in the usual shoujo anime. It executes all of it’s parodies well, and the writing and characters work together excellently.
As I mentioned before, the Host Club themselves are very memorable. There’s Tamaki, the lead host who is a arrogant but kind hearted, and also a little bit dim. There’s Mori, a stoic and silent person who is almost always in the company of Honey-senpai, a shotocon “boy lolita” who looks like a child but is actually 17 years old. There’s also Kyoya, the intelligent and gracious yet slightly cold “accountant” of the club.
My personal favourites, though, are the Hitachiin twins, Kaoru and Hikaru. These two are funny, mischievous and do a kind of “twincest” act to pull in guests, which is oddly popular. Their antics, as they are rather ill adjusted to deal with real life, is humorous but can also sometimes take on more serious tones as well. That is very much my personal preference, and each person who watches this show will probably have a different favourite for a different reason.
For a while, the episodes are not really connected by any overarching plot. But, as things progress, a plot begins to emerge, as well as “will they won’t they” feeling between Haruhi (who the club eventually realise is a girl) and Tamaki. While overall I would rate the story of Ouran as pretty good for a romance comedy, it does suffer from being shorter than the manga.
The manga goes on for a fair bit longer than the anime, and in my opinion has a much more satisfying ending that actually feels like a conclusion. That is the main negative for the anime, is that the ending is a kind of “oh, that’s it?”. Despite this, though, the experience overall is still worth it if you’re after something funny, lighthearted and smart.
I would just recommend that you read the manga once you’re done with the anime. As much as I wish for it, I doubt we will be seeing any more of this fantastic anime. Usually, I’m not a fan of shoujo anime, I find them far too sickly and airheaded for my tastes, but Ouran stands out as something truly it’s own.
You can watch it here if you’re in the US.