It’s time to look at a long running comedy/slice of life/romance series that I finished a while back. The plot took quite a few volumes to actually start, but it did give us a glimpse of what the series could have been like. Unfortunately, the pre arc was completely terrible and doomed the series to a failing grade regardless of its improvement by the end. It’s a lesson to all other titles to not drag out your introductions too long or you’ll miss the boat.
Haruhi was ready for a nice high school adventure when she accidentally broke a very expensive vase.The Host Club wanted her to pay them back for this, but she doesn’t have that kind of money. She found her way into this extremely prestigious school somehow, but she is rather out of her depth. Everyone here is obscenely rich and that goes for the objects like the vase as well. She couldn’t hope to pay it off in a life time so the club gives her an alternative. She can spend her high school years pretending to be a guy so she can work in the club and pay off her debt that way. It doesn’t sound too promising, but it’s not as if Haruhi has much of a choice. So begins her time at the club.
Most of the early volumes are just about Haruhi experiencing how crazy the club is. The concept of the Host Club itself is rather demeaning. Essentially, they pretend to be various characters and spend their time flirting with everyone. You go to their club so you can be flirted with and it supposedly makes the girls who go there feel special. The whole thing seems rather fake though and I don’t see why people would keep on going back. It’s something that should get old quick, but the club continues to have a lot of support and so we get whole volumes to seeing this done. This plot in particular is what destroyed the series.
The fact that the club exists to give out fake love confessions and messing with people is pretty sinister. To an extent the customers know that it’s all fake of course, but they still have over the top reactions throughout and totally act as if they don’t know this. One of the “acts” that the club puts on also features Hikaru and Kaoru as a forbidden pair. Keep in mind that they’re twin brothers so this plot is the diciest of all the Host Club plays. They have to keep the act going consistently throughout the entire series. It’s pretty wince worthy to watch and the fact that it is supposed to be a funny subplot is really something. The whole pre arc was rather distasteful.
As I mentioned earlier, the series does get a little better once the plot starts. It also turns into a full blown romance drama though so you have to take the pros with the cons. Just about everyone falls for Haruhi at some point or other. Eventually, it whittles down to Tamaki, Hikaru, Kaoru, and Kyoya. Kyoya just decides that a romance isn’t worth it and Kaoru steps aside for Hikaru. Finally it is Tamaki and Hikaru and this drama goes on for many volumes.
It’s a shame because the Host Club had been very close for a long time. As always, romance is one of the only things that can drive close friends apart. Hikaru and Tamaki end up bickering quite a bit and while Tamaki always takes the high road and tries to keep their friendship alive, Hikaru doesn’t make it easy. Haruhi doesn’t make it easy either by basically playing the field by never making many decisions and being half hearted about everything. She makes a choice by the end of course, but certainly took a while.
While the romance wasn’t great, it did give us a break from the Host Club. It doesn’t get to appear almost at all during the second half of the series and that meant we didn’t need to see the Hikaru/Kaoru plays or the endless flirting in general. The school was definitely better off without the club and I actually agreed with Tamaki’s father the whole time about how it should have been disbanded ages ago. We had different reasons for it of course, but the end goal was the same. Also, actually having a plot is almost always an improvement. It at least gives the characters something to do besides the same old same old.
The art is fairly good and the author certainly had a lot of experience drawing everyone by the end. There are rarely any action scenes so that also helps ensure that the author doesn’t have to worry about the pages getting cluttered. At the most, we just had a few action scenes with Honey as a running gag is that he’s actually a top notch fighter. He’s shown to be the toughest guy in the whole series and his rival is never really able to match him. The fights were handled well enough.
Haruhi is the lead character in this series and unfortunately she is not all that good. Not only does she have a very bland design (It’s intentional, but that doesn’t exactly help her character) but her personality is more of the same. She’s not energetic, outgoing, witty, or likable in general. She’s meant to be a very quiet, but sarcastic character who gets a lot of burns in, but I feel like she takes more Ls than most leads. She’s one of the most uninteresting leads in recent memory and never got all that much better. I think pretending to be a guy for so long ended up hurting her quite a bit.
Tamaki is the main guy and is easily the most reasonable member of the host club. He just wants everyone to be together and for the status quo to never change. Unfortunately, that isn’t an option and eventually he is forced to move on. He does make a pretty bad decision towards the end of the series though as he betrays everyone and falls into the 9-5 work life. There’s no real reason for his sudden betrayal and even after he joins up with the gang again it’s hard to just forgive and forget. He was pretty extreme for a little while there, but at least he did grant Haruhi her freedom from the big debt before leaving.
His father is one of those fake characters though. One character type I don’t like is when someone’s fairly laid back and nice for the most part except when they suddenly get serious and mean. You’re meant to overlook this and remember the good ole times, but it’s not so simply. Tamaki’s Dad showed his true colors even if he’s meant to be a good guy by the end. I will admit that his plan was really well thought out though, even if it was pretty ruthless. IT was probably the most unexpected part in the whole series. Tamaki’s grandmother was even more annoying. Honestly, it was hard to sympathize with her even after the Dad made his move.
Kyoya was the next big member of the Host Club and he’s supposed to be the smart member of the group. He makes a lot of plans and always acts as if he doesn’t care about the others all that much. He’s supposed to be a nice guy deep down though and while his motives are selfish, he does stick around with the main cast. He’s a good character and the second best in the club.
Hikaru and Kaoru are pretty annoying. Their Host Club gimmick aside, they both end up going after Haruhi which was another sad subplot. Hikaru’s more unreasonable about it though as he’s willing to damage friendships and overturn everything just to prove a point. He really wanted to change the status quo if you ask me. Kaoru was mostly just around, but wasn’t all that much better. Especially since he realized that he wasn’t 100% serious about the romance, it makes the whole thing look more petty.
Honey’s all right, but I never found him particularly funny. His fight scenes did help though and I was always glad to have them around. This title could have definitely used more action as that can help any title. His partner Mori is one of the worst members of the club. He has absolutely nothing to do in the series and is just around as a side character the whole time. His role is easily the smallest and he never adds anything to the series. I certainly could have done without him.
Tamaki has a pet dog so that guy’s always fun to see. He brought a little joy into the series. One of the tricky parts for comedy titles is they have to get you invested into the series or just be hilarious in general. This series was never all that funny or humorous so then it really needed to have a fun cast of characters. Unfortunately, that never happened either. To put it into perspective, Nisekoi and School Rumble had far superior casts than this series. That ends up helping a lot because you need to have a good cast for a comedy title. An action series can get away with an unlikable cast because it doesn’t matter as much while they’re fighting. A series that’s all about talking doesn’t have the same luxury. Even more so when the romance kicks in because if you’re seeing two really unlikable characters get together, you start to wonder what the point of it all is.
Overall, Ouran High School Host Club doomed itself with its own premise. I don’t think a series about a Host Club can ever be successful if this series is a good example of how they operate. I can’t say that I’m a fan of the club on principle. Without it, I suppose this title could have been a decent romance series, but it’s not as if those rank all that highly for me anyway. You’re better off reading a series with a little more heart like Tsubasa or Liar Game. Those titles will help you understand what a proper romance is or at least brush up your analytical skills. On a side note, this series is pretty close with Fruits Basket in terms of quality so I can see how they both got really popular. At any rate, it’s another big hit that I can’t really be a part of. If you see a bunch of guys who’ve been forcing you to act as a guy for so long show up at your door as your new neighbors, follow Haruhi’s example above of how to deal with this.