Ouran High is a school for the extremely wealthy or, in Haruhi's case, the extremely talented. But no amount of talent will help when Haruhi accidentally drops an eight million yen vase in a music room. The vase was the property of Ouran High School Host Club, a group of attractive young men who, for a fee, provide their time and affections for their lovesick clientele: the female students. Fascinated by this strange new specimen, a poor and clumsy commoner, they force Haruhi to work for them until the debt is repaid; but they get a lot more than they bargained for...
StoryThe strongest episodes in the Ouran High School Host Club are essentially nothing more than character development. In them, the show will take one of the characters and crack his very soul open for all to see. The standouts are by far Kyouya, a self-proclaimed egoist who ends up being anything but, and the identical pair of twins, whose need for personal individuality conflicts with their inability to relate to anyone else. Unfortunately, excluding both the brilliant beginning and the fantastic character-building episodes, much of the storyline feels uninspired and dull by comparison. While watching through many of the middle episodes of Ouran, one gets the feeling that the writer is complacently leaning too much on his characters. The biting satire of the first few episodes eventually gives way to safe and surprisingly routine comedy, a problem that is compounded by the fact that there is no significant plot until near the end. Worse still, the wonderful character development is limited to only a handful of episodes; in the rest of the show, the characters remain tragically static. The result is somewhat uneven. There are superb episodes, but sadly, Ouran is not quite the superb show that I was hoping for. At no point is the plot ever bad, but with more ambitious writing, Ouran could have been the best of its genre.AnimationThe character designs are appealing and colorful, which is almost all that a shoujo show really needs to be good. However, Ouran also happens to excel in other departments as well. Backgrounds are detailed and lively, and movement is never jerky or awkward. However, the best part is probably in the surprisingly clever and creative visual humor. In particular, I enjoyed the deliberate overuse of roses and sparkle effects – a nod to the visual techniques of other shoujo shows.SoundOne cannot mention Ouran’s characters without praising the remarkably talented seiyuu behind them. Put simply, these characters would have only been half as likeable with lesser voice acting. The most obvious case of this is with Haruhi. Due to the character’s transgendered nature, voice-acting the character in a way that was at the same time believable and pleasant is something that few seiyuu could actually do. However Sakamoto Maaya (who was equally wonderful as Lark in Gunbuster 2) pulls off the feat fantastically. The rest of the seiyuu are nearly as impressive – there isn’t a weak link anywhere. The music is serviceable without ever standing out all that much. Suitably wacky songs play during the (numerous) comedic moments, while pleasant instrumental music is used for the more serious moments. I enjoyed the OP, but didn’t like the song enough to actually download it.CharactersThe characters are easily the best part of Ouran Host Club. For one, in an age of generic, unmemorable shoujo leads (the interchangeability between Full Moon wo Sagashite’s Mitsuki and Fruit Basket’s Touru comes to mind), Haruhi stands out as a unique and thoroughly loveable protagonist. As in other shows, she serves as a “normal” grounding to contrast with the comparably wacky supporting characters. However, at the same time, she is anything but average. Equal parts intelligent, blunt, and pragmatic, her piercing wit doesn’t ground the other characters idiosyncrasies so much as puncture them. The result is always hilarious, and makes for one of the best characters of the year. For the rest of the characters, the show brilliantly recognizes the numerous archetypes of the shoujo genre, and manages to build its characters in a way that both lampoons and transcends the stereotypes. To mock these shoujo “staples,” the anime’s characters cynically play to them in an effort to garner popularity among the girls of their high school (one character deliberately acts like he’s eight for the lolicon points). On the other hand, to transcend the stereotypes, all of the characters in the show are far more complex than they initially appear. Beneath each one-dimensional façade is a compelling, loveable, and unique character of surprising depth and believability.OverallOuran Host Club is a good show that could have been extraordinary. Anyone who watches the first episode can see the amazing potential in the show; the premise is clever and feel-good, the characters are loveable and unique, and the seiyuu are just plain wonderful. Oddly enough, only a lack of ambition on behalf of the writers really prevents the show from rising to the amazing heights of shows like Azumanga Daioh and Princess Tutu. However, the fact that this anime could have been more doesn’t change what this anime is: an undeniably witty and charming shoujo comedy. If you enjoyed Fruits Basket, there’s very little chance that you won’t love this.
This won't be a good review because I honestly don't know what to say except I loved it. I didn't like the shoujo genre, still don't, but I love this. First off some complaints: 1) I wish the opening credit animation style was used in the anime every once in a while. Its a very neat style that I couldn't take my eyes off of. 2) It stops. At only 26 episodes. I know the manga goes further than the anime and I wish that the anime could have continued on. Reboot anyone? :) 3) *spoiler* because I realize this might be an important thing for some, just skip to 4. . . . . . . . Haruhi doesn't get with anyone. My ship didn't sail, your ship didn't sail. To continue with the metaphor, the dock is full and no one wants to leave apparently. They spent the last few episodes hinting that some of the boys would start declaring their love for Haruhi but it never happened, I assume because the rest of their school thinks that she's a boy. But still. I want to see friendships deepen and romances blossom. Is that too much to ask? 4) The Lobelia Girls. I realize they were designed to be hated but that was a bit too much. They went beyond harassing Haruhi to try to get her to leave Ouran and make a bad name for ordinary feminists with their over the top man hating ways. No thank you. That aside, here's what I love: 1) Haruhi. She's very relatable and loveable. She treats the boys of the Host Club with loving sarcasm and is unafraid to question them. Smart, dependent and absolutely not worried about getting a boyfriend, she's a breath of fresh air in the ridiculousness of this anime (in a good way of course). 2) The anime is funny. It makes fun of itself, whether there's cross-dressing, or overly dramatic shoujo moments. The entire thing highly unrealistic, but it recognizes and embraces this, using Haruhi to point this out. At the same time, it doesn't cross the line to offensive (at least most of the time. Those damn Lobelia girls need to learn a thing or two about respect and the signs of harassment dammit!) 3) The twins. As a twin myself, they were by far my favorite (and the most attractive) characters in the show. Though the fake incest thing that they pulled in the Host Club irritated me, their humor and loyalty to themselves and their friends won me over. 4) Everything? Like seriously, I love this anime too much. I need more, I'm addicted. Yeah, I can read the manga and I will, but the anime needs to get on it and be more! So 10/10. Because I'm obviously a reliable and non-obsessive compossed reviewer here. :)
- 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.
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