Mangaka: Hatori Bisco
Years running: 2002 – 2010
Genre: Reverse Harem, Romantic Comedy, Gender Bender
Cheapest to Buy (Volume 1 New Copy): amazon.com
Cheapest to Buy (Volume 1-18 Used Copy): ebay.com
Ouran High School Host Club is a nostalgic favourite of manga anime and manga fans. Some consider it one of the best romantic comedies and rightly so. Reception in Japan and overseas has been phenomenal, allowing for not only an anime adaptation in 2006 but also a live adaptation and film in 2011 and 2012 respectively. It is a series that is not going to be forgotten easily because of the way it has decided to pursue character dynamics and stereotypes.
Fujioka Haruhi is a freshman attending Ouran High School, an academy where only the rich attends, under a scholarship. While trying to find a room to study in, she stumbles into a clubroom. That clubroom is home to the Ouran High School Host Club, a Host Club run by six beautiful guys who entertain bored and beautiful girls. She generally has no interest in the workings of the club until she accidentally breaks a vase in the clubroom. Of course, being a scholarship student attending a school for the rich, she can’t pay for a new vase so Haruhi (being mistaken as a boy) was roped into being a host in order to pay her debt to the club. Turns out life being a host isn’t so mundane and Haruhi and the boys have a good o’l time performing their hosting duties. Every day has something new to bring to the table and it’s no surprise that the relationship between Haruhi and the boys would only grow.
Just like most shoujo, there isn’t clear story arcs because the manga just follows Haruhi’s time in the host club interacting with the customers that come in and out of the club doors so I will start with the aspects of the manga that I like and dislike.
Spoiler warning for those who don’t wish to see them.
For those who are new to the manga world, ‘otaku’ is a term used to describe someone who is a HUGE fan of anime and manga. To put into context, if you have a friend who has a ton of anime merchandise collected from anime conventions, lots of manga, and talks non-stop about Japanese manga and anime, then it’s safe to say that friend is an otaku.
International fans of manga and anime don’t really like to describe themselves as otakus (in the places where I have lived over the years, this seems to be the case) because it is associated with ‘nerds’ who basically have no life besides their anime merchandise and body pillows lol ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
In Japan though, being an otaku is just a part of culture. There’s really not much shame in it but just like any kind of subculture, there are the hardcore otakus, the closet otakus, the otakus who buy all the limited-edition merchandise, and a lot more of those stereotypes that will take me forever to list here.
Ouran High School Host Club is technically a parody of otaku culture because one prominent part of it is cosplaying or in the more extreme cases, cross-dressing.
In the manga, the members of the host club dress up in a lot of flamboyant costumes in accordance with a theme that they will provide to their female patrons. Haruhi is not too keen on some of the costumes that she is forced to wear (and it shows so hilariously on her face hahaha ꒰*⑅˃̶͈ ৺˂̶͈⑅꒱੭ु⁾⁾·° ) but it’s part of being a host I guess.
Haruhi is cross-dressing as a male throughout her days in Ouran High School and her father is a cross-dressing hostess. The manga portrays how Haruhi takes to cross-dressing (she’s very ok with it due to her father’s profession, it’s the others that are so shocked) and the comedic situations that come with being a cross-dressing girl in a co-ed school.
Seeing the otaku tropes and the times when I would go ‘omg this is so true!’ really entertained me because I’ve never seen otaku culture being portrayed in such a way. It’s something I remember so clearly about Ouran High School Host Club and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have some laughs over some of the most ridiculous tropes.
I remember saying that shoujo manga is full of perfect guys who are personality-wise just as wonderful as their looks.
Related post: What is Shoujo Manga?
For those who don’t know, ‘bishounen’ basically means ‘pretty boy’ which describes a really aesthetically pleasing guy, you know, the kind you would admire like a statue of a painting.
Shoujo manga is well-known for having bishounen guys (with great personalities I might add) and since Ouran High School Host Club is technically a shoujo manga, why wouldn’t it also address the bishounen stereotypes as well as otaku culture?
Each member of the host club is representing a bishounen stereotype that you would typically see in shoujo manga:
Tamaki is the princely type (aka. Mr Perfect)
Kyouya is the cool type (aka. Mr Cool in glasses. Newer tropes for this one make the guy perverted as well)
Mori is the strong silent type (usually this type is insanely kind and gentle too)
Hikaru and Kaoru are the little devil type (aka. the guy who teases you just to get a reaction)
Honey is the cute type (usually these types look insanely young for their age)
Haruhi is the natural type (I’m not too sure about this one. I think it means that you are generally likeable??)
With all the bishounen stereotypes all presented as the main cast of this manga, it makes for a very dynamic cast that is extremely entertaining to watch. All the characters are so unique even though they are representing stereotypes which is kinda ironic in a sense. It’s really something to behold because we rarely see shoujo manga dive into the realm of stereotypes associated with it. It’s all about romance and emotional development with shoujo manga so if you want to see something a little different, this manga will not disappoint.
Wow! I am on fire with the anime/manga exclusive terms today hahaha!
To those who don’t know, a ‘fujoshi’ is a type of anime/manga fan who is very into BL or ‘boys love’ and spends a lot of their time shipping various male characters together (whether the pairing is canon or not).
Anime News Network’s Rose Bridges regards Ouran as the first example of ‘fujoshi comedy’ where the content of the series, in general, caters to shipping-obsessed fangirls. The cast is predominantly male and there is tons of comedy spliced in that insinuate boy x boy couples so the fangirls go wild with imagination at what could have been (*≧▽≦)ﾉｼ))
One concrete example of this is Hikaru and Kaoru. When they are serving in the club, they like to do things that imply extreme romantic attraction to the other (of course it won’t happen for real, they’re siblings lol) as a form of entertainment to the customers that come in.
I personally don’t consider myself a fujoshi but I can see where the idea came from. Ouran kinda pioneered future works where this shipping culture becomes more prominent. If you have been in the manga/anime scene as long as I have, you would know that some shippers can really take things to the extreme if others don’t support their favourite boy x boy ship. Ohhhh boy, it can get crazy. I don’t really like the fact that Ouran is kinda responsible for the crazy shippers in anime and manga we have today but if you wanna see the work that started it off, then Ouran is you go-to.
Ouran is actually a reverse harem series so it was kinda expected that Haruhi’s relationship with the other guys in the host club will be explored instead of her with just one guy.
Romantic progression in reverse harems tend to be slow because there is a need to give each guy a chance to interact with the heroine. It is a little frustrating for those romantic hardliners who love a romantic story in their shoujo manga and they complain about it a fair bit.
In Ouran, Haruhi has pretty good relationships with all the guys in the host club and even though she does pursue an exclusive romantic relationship with Tamaki, she remains close to the other guys who support her relationship with Tamaki all the way.
Of course, because this is a shoujo manga, there has to be some drama before the heroine and her chosen love interest get together. Usually, the drama can be a bit over the top and draggy but for Ouran, not only did the drama make sense with regard to the direction that the manga was taking but it lasted for around 2 volumes (9-10 chapters) only. It wasn’t so eye-rolling that it made me want to skip pages and I really appreciated that.
Even though the romance started properly in the last two volumes of the manga, I think it was something worth waiting for. Slow burn romances work really well if the characters are fully developed and the story makes a lot of sense or to sum it up, make sure it’s well-written or it becomes boring.
The romantic progression was almost perfect in my opinion. Given the story context and the nature of the characters, the romance taking the slow approach was the way to go.
Haruhi as a Heroine
Haruhi is a really independent woman. It is very clear to many readers who first pick up Ouran.
With her mother dying when she was little and her father having to work nights to support her education, Haruhi becomes someone who isn’t used to be pampered and looked after. She does know when to ask help when needed especially as she is cross-dressing in a co-ed school and needs to hide her gender from the guests.
I do admire that side of her because damn, she is really capable which is rare in a typical shoujo manga.
However, Haruhi can be pretty hard-headed and I remember pretty clearly that I was irritated at her for being a little distant with regard to her feelings of helplessness or her confusion over whether she likes Tamaki in a romantic capacity. For someone who is street smart, I didn’t expect her to be this fickle at times.
But it goes to show that capable women are still women in the end. They can get confused over-complicated emotions so I guess it’s 50-50 for me. I like her independence, I’m not too fond of her bull-headedness.
The Host Club in General
What would I kill for such amusing friends??
Even though they are representations of bishounen stereotypes, each member of the host club is still an individual person that isn’t so strictly defined by the stereotype that they are representing.
For example, Tamaki may be the princely type but he is really naive and childish which is really hilarious (ᗒᗜᗕ)՛̵̖ This is a far cry from the typical princely type in regular shoujo manga where they are so capable and gentlemanly. Of course, Tamaki can be really attractive and gentlemanly but his childishness brings out a more human side to him and makes us love him as a character more (and we love ‘making mushrooms in the room’ Tamaki a lot ٩̋(๑˃́ꇴ˂̀๑) )
Besides Tamaki, each member of the host club has qualities that don’t confine them to their stereotypes which can be endearing or annoying. It’s like me and my own group of friends which is neat to see.
Beef With Rich People??
As we all know, Ouran High School is a school for the rich and while reading this manga, I had the feeling that Hatori has some beef with rich people because the rich people in this series have attitudes that are grossly over-exaggerated.
Like how the guests were shocked over drinking instant coffee for the first time or the host club members were aghast when Haruhi revealed that she had never eaten fancy tuna in her life, it was a little triggering and amusing at the same time ꉂ ꀞꀞꀞ(ᕑᗢूᓫ∗)˒˒
Just so you know, Haruhi isn’t poor at all. She’s from a middle-class household.
4.7 out of 5 mangabooks
First, my general review:
Ouran High School Host Club belongs to a group of timeless classics that has remained in many hearts of fans in Japan and overseas. A pioneer of fujoshi comedy, the unique characters and heroine really make for an entertaining read that will make you laugh in your seat for a long time. Although the romance is a little lacking and is slow, the dynamics between the characters and the parody elements make for a great read that will no doubt put a smile on your face.
Now, for my personal review,
I watched the anime before reading the manga. I was disappointed with how the anime ended because it felt kinda cut short. A lot of fans, including myself wish for a reboot of the anime. Fruits Basket got one, why not Ouran?
Regardless of how the anime ended, I put this title as one that I would read when I’m feeling a little love-lorn and sad because the comedy is really uplifting. Who wouldn’t want friends like in the host club? They’re so fun to be around, I kinda wished I had more diverse friends at times.
Haruhi is a great heroine overall. She is independent and smart. She knows how to handle difficult people and is really good at talking to others about their problems. However, like I mentioned above, she is really hard-headed. I mean that is good at times but at the worst of times, she just ends up getting hurt and feeling really sad in the end because she isn’t willing to do something because it would inconvenience others. It took Tamaki to be restricted by his paternal family for her to realise that she loves him. While things worked out in the end, it could have gone a different direction had she not had friends like the ones in the host club who are so crazy that they will do anything to see their friends smiling and being beside each other.
The beef on rich people was something I thought about for a while because while some rich people are spoilt and pretentious who had never tried instant coffee in their lives lol, others live pretty normal lives like the commoners below them hahahaha.
Ouran really takes the cake with the over-exaggerated rich people attitudes. It is funny in some places but a little insulting in others. My advice is to really take it how you will, it’s really just a joke in the end. This manga is all about comedy afer all.
It’s great that Ouran touched on otaku culture and bishounen stereotypes because not many mangakas do that in favour of original stories. The manga has done so in such a creative way that doesn’t make the international otakus feel left out which is something I will really admire Hatori for.
In all, Ouran High School Host Club is a must-read that all manga lovers should pick up. You don’t need to be a shoujo manga fan to read it because as far as I know, this manga isn’t like any shoujo manga I’ve ever seen so far.
If you are interested in reading Ouran High School Host Club, click on this link to buy volume 1 today on amazon.com
As always, if you have anything to say about this review, feel free to comment down below, I’d love to hear it 🙂