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[R1 DVD art]
AKA: 桜蘭高校ホスト部, Ouran Koukou Hosuto Kurabu (Japanese)
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama, Shoujo
Length: Television series, 26 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by FUNimation.
Content Rating: PG-13 (sexual themes, swearing)
Related Series: None
Also Recommended: Fruits Basket, Peach Girl, Hana Yori Dango, Fushigi Yuugi--basically any of your
Notes: Based on the manga by Hatori Bisco, serialized in Lala. The manga is available in North America courtesy of Viz.
Rating: Five StarsFive StarsFive StarsFive StarsFive Stars
 

Ouran High School Host Club

Synopsis

Haruhi Fujioka is a poor tomboyish student at Ouran High School, populated exclusively (except for her) by the wealthy. She was only able to attend thanks to a scholarship. Looking for a place to study, she enters a music room, only to find that it's being used by the Ouran Host Club. The guys of the host club intentionally play up their attributes to please the customers, which even they realize is silly, but it does work like a charm. (Mainly because the boys are all able to embody the shoujo and shonen-ai stereotypes that most female otaku lust after.) Haruhi thinks it's all ridiculous, and promptly excuses herself from the pompous spectacle. On the way out, she totals an expensive vase, and is then locked into servanthood for the club until her debt is paid off.


Review

Okay, so this isn't the most original plotline ever produced. (It sounds a great deal like an old original "anime" I wrote back in high school.) "Girl-dresses-up-as-a-guy-and-is-surrounded-by-several-hotties?" Where have we heard this story before?

Anyway, that's not important. What is important is if all the popularity for this series is based on anything substantial. In the case of many fansub projects, the extremely popular titles turn out to be really over-rated. Well, I am happy to report that this series is fresh, smart, and absolutely addictive.

This is because Ouran can appeal to both sides of the anime fandom: the veteran anime viewers who are tired of seeing the same character cliches re-hashed series after series...and they expect us to take it seriously. Great news: you are NOT supposed to take these pretty boys seriously. You get all the bishounen archetypes here: the prince, the shadowy one, the bi/incestual mischevious twins, the loli-shota little cute boy (who is a high school senior, 4rlzOMG!) and the tall, brawny brute who is a big softie. So newbies love this series too--because it fulfills that necessary fanservice requirement.

The real treat is, they know they're hot. So why not flaunt it? And better yet, why not make an enterprise of the whole thing? Take all the "reverse harem" series you love--Fruits Basket, Marmalade Boy, Fushigi Yuugi, Haruka Naru Toki no Naka de, Angelique, and Hana Yori Dango (okay, not all of them are technically reverse harem, just run with me here) and then put all of the writers on crack.

Ouran is to Fruits Basket (or any other reverse harem series) as Kodocha is to Marmalade Boy. You have the spastic, absolutely insane Sana-chan in Kodocha, whereas the beautiful, melodramatic Tamaki-senpai in Ouran could not be any more flamboyant.

The animation is crisp, bright, and even poetic at times. Best of all, the snappy movements of Tamaki-senpai are exaggerated perfectly, his lanky arms and broad shoulders (or flowing blond hair or towering legs) are prone to monopolizing the entire screen. The framing in the shots for this series are perfect in emphasizing the dramatic presence of each of the characters, and really makes it easy to grow attached to every single one of them.

The music just adds to the pleasure. Much like Hana Yori Dango, which is also set in a prestigious rich kids' private school, Ouran utilizes classical music to set the mood for the series, though the obligatory slow BGM version of the (Avril-esque) opening theme is known to slip in during what I assume are "character developing" moments?

Finally something must be said about the main character. Voiced by fan favorite Sakamoto Maaya, Haruhi is the eye in the hurricane. She is really the only sane character in the entire series, which is great. She thinks the boys' antics are lame--as are the girls' reactions. Speaking as a non-shounen-ai fan, who just "doesn't get it," I greatly appreciate and thusly relate to her character.

The cast is colorful, multi-dimensional, and thoroughly entertaining. Unlike Fruits Basket, however, Ouran concentrates more on the comedy--at least for the time being. We catch glimpses of serious angst-worthy backstories every once in a while, but within a blink's time, one of the characters does something outrageous to distract us, and it is never heard from again.

Then again, the series is only the tip of the iceberg (the manga is still running in Japan)--and much like Sugar Sugar Rune, the episodes seem to consist of nothing but what would usually be deemed as "filler episodes." But that is what made Love Hina so popular, so why not give us girls some fun? The final episodes do give us a glimpse of serious conflict, but it is quickly resolved, with just enough open ended-ness to keep the fandom alive and well.

Great for shounen-ai lovers and haters alike, this high school comedy hits on all the right notes. (Eye-candy for the girls is a bonus, and Haruhi is cute!)Melissa Sternenberg

Recommended Audience: Due to the sexual themes, this series is best for teenagers aged 13 and up, I think. There isn't a lot, but enough.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Ouran High School Host Club © 2006 BONES/NTV/Hakushensha Publications
 
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