Ouran High School Host Club

My experience with anime and manga has mainly been through Aaron. After ten years together, he has a feel for things I would probably like, and introduces me to them. That’s how I found out about Neon Genesis Evangelion, Serial Experiments Lain, Tonari No Totoro and all the other Studio Ghibli movies, and all my other favorite anime (of which I may or may not have yet finished watching the entire series). Hence, I get exposure to a lot of robots and mecha (like Eva), or blatant mind-fuck anime (like Lain, and like Eva), and some sci-fi type titles. I haven’t really gotten into the shonen titles, because I’m not much for ninjas and hack-and-slash type entertainment.

However, I am also not a overly girly person by nature. I shy away from anime featuring bishonen or magical girls or anything overly girlish. If not for Erin’s manga review of the Ouran High School Host Club, I would certainly have passed it by without a second glance. I mean, really. A bunch of obviously bishonen guys on the covers of this manga, and with a pink and purple cover, no less? Please.

Erin’s review piqued my interest, though:

By 2002 host clubs were all the rage…. Rich women would pay big money to talk to hot young men. Ouran High School Host Club is the high school equivalent thereof – idle rich girls at a private academy hang out with the host club’s hot young men in an ornate, unused library. They’re not looking for sexual favors later, but they might want a date.

The protagonist, Haruhi (Haru for short), stumbles unknowingly into the club, breaks an $80,000 vase, is mistaken for being a hot guy herself, and is forced to work as a host to pay back her debt. At least one character is surprised to discover that Haru is actually a frumpy girl and not a guy – as a scholarship student she simply couldn’t afford the school’s fancy uniforms.

Much of the humor of the book is derived from fact that Haru is middle class while the boys are upper class. They’ve never had instant coffee or instant ramen! Haru has never had fatty tuna! The rest of the humor stems from Haru’s calmness as she is surrounded by metrosexual prettyboy dramaqueens, many of whom need their egos stroked continually. Haru becomes the calm in the middle of the host club maelstrom.

Ever since listening to this review on the Ninjaconsultant podcast, I’ve been buying up the English translations of the Ouran High School Host Club manga. And just last week, Aaron told me that he’d heard that the manga was being made into an anime — so, of course, I went out and downloaded the fansubs via BitTorrent.

Maybe it was just my inexperience with the act of reading manga (right-to-left just ain’t natural to me), but it took me watching the anime to finally realize why it is that I love this series so much. Sure, there are the guilty pleasures of looking at cute (yes, cute, but not necessarily handsome) high school boys. Even more than that, though, is the protagonist’s view of the metrosexual guys she’s forced to hang out with, and the flighty fluffies who come to the host club to drool over them.

The biggest draw for me, I just realized, is the satire. The stereotypes are fantastically funny: the supposedly popular guy whose ego gets crushed whenever anyone sees through him, the twins who border on having just a little too much “brotherly love”, the baby-faced Senior who carries around a stuffed bunny, the smart and diabolical schemer behind-the-scenes. Even Haru is kind of dull-witted at times, more so in the anime than in the manga, which makes for hi-jinx and hilarity when the punch line needs a little more beating into the ground to be truly funny.

There are six volumes of the manga available in English, and currently there are 13 episodes of the anime, which is still in production in Japan. Until Ouran is licensed in the U.S., I will valiantly download and watch every fansubbed episode, and be proud of myself for reading a manga and watching an anime that Aaron didn’t find first.