The Bottom Line
An “inverse harem” story—one girl, many cute guys—that starts on a note of total fluff and by degrees becomes downright heartwarming. It’s in the same approximate vein as Fruits Basket, but without the supernatural elements and with a female main character who’s more masculine in her outlook than most of the boys are.
- Genuinely funny romantic comedy that centers around characters, not just situations and gags.
- Inspired and hilarious visual direction.
- The setup and story might not seem like it could appeal to a broad audience, but it does.
- Director: Takuya Igarashi
- Animation Studios: Bones
- Released By: Animax, NTV
- Released Domestically By: FUNimation Entertainment
- Audio: English / Japanese w/English subtitles
- List Price: $69.98
- Anime Genres:
- Related Titles:
- Fruits Basket
Guide Review - Ouran High School Host Club
Haruhi Fujioka’s not most people’s idea of the typical student at the prestigious (and gigantic) Ouran Academy. She’s not ridiculously wealthy, she doesn’t have powerful social connections, she’s far from being a social butterfly—and she’s as feminine (in her own eyes, anyway) as a stick of wood.
One fine day while looking for a quiet place to study she blunders into one of the music rooms, where the Ouran Academy Host Club holds court. They’re a clan of six meticulously-groomed, dashingly handsome young men who give the girl students something to swoon over in their spare time—in short, exactly the kind of people Haruhi doesn’t feel she has the slightest connection with.
That changes when Haruhi mistakenly knocks over a vase worth some eight million yen, and to her horror finds herself in debt to the club for that much. Since she’s broke they offer her a deal: she can dress up as one of the boys, and work off her debt by being one of their fellow hosts. To everyone’s surprise, most of all her own, they find she looks quite snappy in a man’s getup.
Ouran works first and foremost because it’s funny, and in a way that I was worried anime (and manga) had forgotten about: by using clashes between characters as the source of its humor. Most of the jokes spring from the way Haruhi’s down-to-earth, dontcha-gimme-no-lip attitude collides head-on with the Club members, most of whom are far too rich or self-absorbed for their own good. The most self-absorbed of the bunch is the Club’s leader, Tamaki Suō, laboring under the perennial delusion that he and Haruhi are soulmates, and the merest hint of the suggestion that the possibility exists of someone else stealing Haruhi’s affections causes him to blow all his gaskets at once.
The other Club members are a bit more restrained than Tamaki, but supply at least as much humor in their own ways. The devil-may-care twins Hikaru and Kaoru, perennial fan favorites, play head games with others (mostly of the “can you tell us apart?” variety) and function as a sardonic two-man Greek chorus on most of the action. Big and silent Takashi pairs up with, of all people, the baby-faced Mitsukuni, out of a loyalty that continues from both of their pasts. And cool, detached Kyoya provides a base of calm from which Tamaki’s mad plans spring like weeds shoving through the sidewalk.
Haruhi’s way of dealing with all these folks is to simply stand her ground, explain herself without pretense, and if they can’t accept how the Little People live their lives, then tough. She’s not just a rational center to the show, but a source of pride for everyone watching: if she can face down these goofballs and survive, the rest of whatever life throws at her should be a snap. That’s a big part of the show’s compulsive watchability, apart from its wildly funny visual direction. The opening episode, especially the visualization of the Club slowly realizing Haruhi is a girl (via lightbulbs flickering on), is some kind of classic in that regard.