ANIME NOSTALGIA SERIES
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
- Animated by studio BONES, which means the production values will be great but the story will be messy… What? It doesn’t have much of a story? Well, in that case it is a great show!
- Directed by Igarashi Takuya, who also took up Sailor Moon Stars, Soul Eater, and Star Driver. I can’t say I love all his works but he is definitely versitile.
Ouran is a fine example of how a seemingly tired formula can be presented in an interesting way. Make no mistakes about what the premise is; it’s still the same old stereotypical shoujo where a frail dumb girl is surrounded by a bunch of hunks. What makes it so special is how it made use of ALL the clichés, then made fun of then in a sort of parody of the genre, and after than DEVELOPED the characters past their mold. So in a way it is three things at the same time (a good reverse harem, a parody of reverse harem, and a developed reverse harem). Depending on which one of these elements you choose to focus on, chances are you will like the show no matter what your preferences are. Yet it is only by seeing it as a whole where the beauty of the whole thing surfaces.
Let me make it clear that I am not a fan of reverse harems. Not by a longshot. I find them all retarded idealistic romances for prepubescent dumb girls who are still waiting for the prince from the fairy tales to appear and have a dreamy time together. So I didn’t fancy the (standard) reverse harem aspect of the show yet I must admit that it’s pulling the shoujo strings perfectly. We have the “Poor-good-hearted-dumb-chickTM”, in an elite school of super perfect rich bishonen stereotypes, having to cross-dress in order to pass as a boy, while fending off the romances from other chicks and having to deal with the constant erotic teasing of the hunks. The premise is so damn ideal to the point it works fine for its genre. Plus, the production values further make it cooler than it already is by making everything look dashingly splendid. The school is brimming with luxury, vivid colours, and snobbism, to the point you get to love it for what it is.
Then there is of course the parody of the whole thing, where they take every single stereotype and create puns and misunderstandings based on common belief. This is a nice extra if you just got fed up with the genre and want to make fun of. Most of the jokes are ok, although they do feel like they repeat after awhile. Not that I minded it that much; it is after all a parody of clichés and did the best it had with the material it was offered.
The best part of the whole show is of course how it eventually builds up on the premise and fleshes out its characters. Most such shows barely try to present their cast as anything other than a collection of statues, permanently frozen in a boring predictable and simplistic mentality. In this case though, they actually provide far more juice to each character by offering backdrop stories that excuse their attitude. So although the show begins with a group of snob bishin caricatures (and a token dumbass girl in the middle) along the way a line of flashbacks and dialogues provide revelations of how each one of them is more than he appears to be. Which is cool.
Before you start imagining that I am making it look like an amazing portrait of psychological immersion, let me make it clear that it is by no means a deep, thought-provoking personal drama. The characters grow over their initial image but they are still from super fleshed out personalities. And the overall plot is not complicating at all; in fact most of it is a storyless parody of the initial premise. It is the fact that unlike most of its genre, it moves beyond the obvious and tries to excuse everything being as such. Basically, everybody is just playing a role, imposed by his social status and the expectations of his family and fellow students. It is a direct contrast to how the heroine is forced to cross dress as means to follow certain demands, imposed by her status as a poor person in dept and making use of her natural beauty. On a basic level it is very captivating as it is showing how people are forced to play roles they never chose, while at the same time doing the best of whatever privileges they were born with, bodily or economic.
So without trying to present this show as the most amazing socio-political dramatic comedy of all times, I am just going to say that it is the best Reverse Harem ever made in anime, for the reasons stated above. Its story is by no means the best thing after sliced bread, and the characters never feel so alive that you think they can jump out of the screen or something. It’s the combination of very good production values, along with a premise that goes beyond the obvious, and a set of characters that become very sympathetic to you for excusing their ideal role to be just a façade. Marvelous!
Highly recommended if you are fans of reverse harems, school comedies, or just want to make fun of decades old clichés.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (looks nice)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (plenty)
SOUND SECTION: 8/10
Voice Acting 3/3 (fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 7/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 2/2 (rich context)
Plausibility 1/2 (so-so)
Conclusion 1/2 (simple)
CHARACTER SECTION: 9/10
Presence 2/2 (bold/funny)
Personality 2/2 (cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 2/2 (everyone gets some)
Development 2/2 (everyone gets some)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 9/10
Historical Value 3/3 (all-known)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high if you like its style)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely well-made to the point of forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 7/10
Art 1/1 (looks nice)
Sound 1/2 (sounds ok)
Story 2/3 (feels generic at first but develops nicely)
Characters 3/4 (they are good for what they are)