Ouran High School Host Club, vol. 1-2

Ouran High School is the school where Japan’s wealthy elite send their children. When Haruhi Fujioka, a poor scholarship student, wanders into Music Room 3, looking for a quiet place to study, she instead finds the headquarters of the school’s Host Club.

Made up of the six richest, handsomest boys in the school, the Host Club caters to female students burdened by a surfeit of leisure time. After breaking a vase worth $80,000, Haruhi is forced to dress as a boy and join the Host Club in order to repay the debt. Ouran High School Host Club is a celebration of all things shoujo, managing to good-heartedly spoof almost every aspect of the high school romance genre. The members of the club include Haruhi, our cross-dressing heroine, and Tamaki, the handsome, and somewhat dim, club president. The other members cover the spectrum of shoujo-hero: Kyoya, the scheming glasses-type, Hunny, the shota-loli-type, Mori, the strong and silent-type, and Hikaru and Kaoru, the shonen-ai twins.

There is something for everyone in this reverse-harem and manga-ka Bisco Hatori plays it to the hilt with the biggest of big-eyed girls and the floweriest of romantic backgrounds. A consistent level of sweet humor is maintained throughout and the characters are all endearing without becoming cloying. The artwork is clean and the layout easy to follow, despite the number of roses and curlicues on not quite every page. Because the twins do play up the boy’s love angle, libraries in very conservative areas may want to reserve this series for older teens, but any fan of high school romance manga should find something to giggle at while reading Host Club.

Volume 1
Haruhi is welcomed to Music Room 3 by the members of the Host Club, who assume by her attire that she is a boy. When she accidentally knocks over a very expensive vase, she is put to work as a servant, then as a host, in order to pay for the damage. By the time Tamaki, president of the club, figures out she is actually a girl, Haruhi already has a fan club among the Host Club’s customers. While preparing for the Club’s Christmas party, Tamaki insisits Haruhi learn social dancing. Expecting to teach her himself, Tamaki is disappointed when one of the customers volunteers to dance with Haruhi. As Haruhi and the girl get to know each other, Haruhi learns that the girl is engaged to a boy about to transfer to a school in Europe. The Club works out an outlandish scheme that naturally works to bring the couple back together. Renge arrives at the Host Club’s door and announces she is Kyoya’s fiance. It turns out Renge is a huge fan of Uki Doki Memorial, a dating simulation game, and Kyoya looks just like her favorite character. Renge then proceeds to try to turn all the Club members into reflections of the game’s characters. Volume one of Ouran High School Host Club, like most first volumes, serves as a vehicle for introducing the major characters and setting up how the rest of the series will proceed. The humor in the story depends on the audience being familiar with the high school romance genre, but even those who have only read a few will easily pick up most of the jokes. Because Haruhi–albeit cross-dressing most of the time–remains consistent as the down-to-earth straight-man, she keeps the other over-the-top characters from causing the stories to spin too far out of the realm of the believable.

Volume 2
As volume two opens, thoughts turn to spring at Ouran Institute…and spring, of course, means it’s time for Haruhi’s annual physical exam. The boys are wild to protect Haruhi’s secret and come up with suitably outrageous schemes to fool the doctors into believing Haruhi is really a boy. Once that adventure is over, the Hitachiin twins find themselves with nothing to do, so they create a little drama to pass the time. Finally, the Host Club decamps to a resort, where Kyoya has secretly signed the Club up to act as guinea pigs in testing the new attractions. With chapters acting as short stories, each vignette serves to further explore the relationship between Haruhi and the six hosts. While on the surface the stories’ slapstick humor and sheer goofiness accentuate the stereotypical roles each boy plays, each story draws attention to the boys themselves, focusing on Tamaki’s need to protect his family, the twins’ sense of isolation, or Mori and Hunny’s instinctive teamwork. The volume ends with a short story, Romantic Egoist, about twins, who may or may not be descended from witches, and the love potion they provide for a lovesick student. Although the story is independent of the main Host Club storyline, the mood, plotting and artwork mesh.

Ouran High School Host Club, vol. 1-2
by Bisco Hatori
Volume 1 ISBN: 9781591169154
Volume 2 ISBN: 9781591169901
VIZ, 2005