Thursday, July 26, 2012

Manga Review: Ouran High School Host Club

Ouran High School Host Club (18 volumes)
By: Bisco Hatori
(5 out of 5 stars)

Let me preface this post by saying I am a total noob (aka newbie) when it comes to manga and anime (graphic novels and comics, too, for that matter). My friend, Mike, is always sending me links to anime clips and giving me lists of stuff I should watch. Most of the time I think it's completely wackadoodle (like the one where there's a princess who is a ballerina who turns into a duck...something like that...). I was hanging out with Mike and my other librarian friend, Lauren, and they teamed up and forced me to watch the anime of Ouran High School Host Club. We watched maybe two episodes before they had to leave, and the whole time I'm watching I'm thinking that this stuff is cray-cray. This was Sunday.

By Tuesday, I'd watched all 26 episodes.

Within 2 weeks I had read manga volumes 1-17, minus 4 and 8; volume 4 was missing from the library and had to be reordered and volume 8 was checked out. When I got to the end of 17, I was all "This is how the story ends?!? NOT COOL!" Then I found out there was one more volume, and it was going to be published within the month. (This is not the first time I've lucked out with book series and publishing dates; I didn't start reading the Harry Potter series until about 6 months before The Order of the Phoenix was published. Unlike most other HP fans, I didn't have to wait years after Goblet to find out what happened when He Who Must Not Be Named came back!)

See, here's the thing: every now and then I completely geek out over stuff. When I was in college, I watched the first two Mummy movies and the first two HP movies on a loop. My roommate would come into our dorm and just look at me, roll her eyes, saying without words, "Again?" Since then, other obsessions have included the new Doctor Who (this obsession is ongoing and is unlikely to ever stop), Leverage (an awesome TV show on TNT), the Marvel movies (I heart Tony Stark!), and most recently, the Ouran series.

Here's the deal:

A girl from a low to lower-middle-class home is super smart and gets into the uber-elite Ouran Academy in Japan. She's a girl with a plan for her future and she's determined to succeed. Since her dad doesn't have a lot of money, she couldn't afford one of the super expensive uniforms, so she wears some slacks and her dad's old sweater. Combine that with a short, shaggy haircut and old glasses, Haruhi's gender isn't apparent on first - or second - glance.

Trying to find a quiet place to study, she enters what she thinks is an empty music room. Alas, it isn't empty. Haruhi has mistakenly wandered in to the Host Club head quarters. (At this point, I should probably attempt to explain a host club. In this story, the Host Club is a group of super-rich and gorgeous guys who basically cater to the whims of the girls at Ouran by spending time with them at the club, telling them how pretty and talented they are, and basically being what every girl wants in a guy...while they're at the club. All this happens without dating or any kind of real relationships.) So while in the music room, Haruhi accidentally breaks the club's vase worth $80,000 and finds herself beholden to the club. The club president, unaware that Haruhi is a girl, decides that she will act as a member of the club to pay off her debt. Chaos and hilarity ensue when the boys realize Haruhi is a girl, but make her pretend to be a boy to continue paying off her debt.

So the plot sounds almost as wackadoodle as the princess-ballerina-duck story, but it's really well written (and illustrated) and there's so much character growth and emotional interactions that this series really is fully realized and a lot of fun. Over the course of the story, both Haruhi and the boys learn a lot about each other, friendship, and what's really important in life. I love the characters and the way they develop throughout the story, and the final book wraps up the loose ends and feels very satisfying (though I kinda wish she'd keep writing - it's always sad when a great series ends!).

I totally recommend this series, both the manga and the anime. I did enjoy the manga more, though - the anime was completed long before the manga series ended, and I like where the manga story went more than the anime version. That being said, they were both fun. This series may appeal a bit more to girls, but manga lovers will dig it, whatever their gender.

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