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Favorite Episode
It would have to be episode 17, the one about Kyoya. I never realized before that he's my favorite character in the series. He's just so cool and attractive and powerful and cunning and cranky when his sleep is interrupted. Anyway, later in the series, episodes are dedicated to each of the host club's characters. I love how Kyoya's episode has a weird opening. He has this dream about his father, and then he wakes up to find himself in a strange place. He slowly rewinds events in his mind to figure out what he's doing there, and remembers the events of that morning. The host club (sans Haruhi) barged into his bedroom and announced that they are going to an expo, which, as Tamaki describes it, is the commoners' way of experiencing new things because they are unable to travel (he primarily knows this because Haruhi told him to get lost so she can go to the expo in peace). Kyoya is notoriously cranky when his sleep is interrupted. There is this whole sequence of him as the Low Blood Pressure Evil Lord. It's additionally funny because when Honey points it out, Mori counters with how Honey isn't in the position to say that, as he is a Low Blood Pressure Beast. Honey, unlike Kyoya however, wakes up early. Kyoya grumpily tells his friends to go to the expo if they want to, and then falls back asleep. Tamaki took this as Kyoya's consent to joining them, and everybody works to dress him up, load him into the car, and take him to the expo with them. While he's sleeping. At the expo, they get excited at the mass-produced clothes, pet shop, ice cream, and events. In their excitement, they leave Kyoya on a bench, where he later awoke. He methodically began to plan how to get home, but then he realized that his friends forgot to equip him with his cellphone and wallet. Then Haruhi finds him. The funny thing is that the title of the episode didn't appear until then, halfway through the episode. The rest of the episode shows Kyoya's personality in greater detail. For starters, he has no idea how to order in a fast food restaurant. He also has a pedantic approach to the commoner way of living. He has this knack for reading Haruhi's mind. He puts on his manners only when people of importance are watching him. He has a very cynical view of everything. He can evaluate the value of lots of things at a glance. There are also some glimpses into his home life, how Kyoya is frustrated at not being the primary heir and how his father still has great expectations of him. Kyoya inadvertently reveals that he also cares about fairness and helping others, but he hides it under the guise of doing things to benefit himself. It's nice to see that at the end of the series, Kyoya's father intends to leave the family empire to him after all.

 

Ouran High School
Host Club

Synopsis | Review

Where the hell am I? What is this? ... Ooh, it's the website I've made years ago. Hmm... *brushes off cobwebs*

Anyway, I have survived a massive Gaiaonline addiction, followed by an even more devastating World of Warcraft addiction. What helped in my recovery is watching Azumanga Daioh over and over and over. And now I have gotten back into anime and manga again. Really, sometimes I feel like I'm just cycling through my addictions. By the time I've shaken off my stupor, there's all these new romantic shoujo anime and manga waiting for me! And apparently, all the cool kids and them young whippersnappers are all about Ouran High School Host Club. So I bustled over to my closest anime dealer and got me grimy paws on this little gem.

Ouran High School Host Club was based on a manga written by Hatori Bisco. The manga first came out in August 2003, and its anime came out last April 2006. The anime has 26 episodes. It is categorized as shoujo, romance, drama, comedy, AND male harem. So I figured I'm probably getting a hell of a deal here. It's been a long time since I've gotten me grimy paws on a male harem series. Methinks the last ones I had was Fushigi Yuugi and Hana Yori Dango. There are too many female harem series out there, and not enough male harem. Rawr.

I'm also impressed by the anime's opening and closing songs. The opening theme is "Sakura Kiss" by Chieko Kawabe, and it is a very upbeat song that keeps playing in my head ("Maybe you're my love!"). I usually skip anime opening themes so I can cut back on my anime-watching time, but for Ouran High School Host Club, I made an exception. The closing theme is "Shissou" by Last Alliance, and it is more mellow. Unlike the opening theme, I didn't mind skipping it most of the time. The lyrics of both songs are quite wistful and dreamy, but at the same time, they couldn't be more different.

Synopsis
Fujioka Haruhi received a full scholarship to attend Ouran High School because she's just so darn smart. Being from a lower-middle class family, she would have been unable to attend such an expensive and exclusive school otherwise.

When Haruhi first arrived at Ouran High, she slumped around in glasses, loose slacks and an even looser sweater; she could not afford the cost of the uniforms. To make matters worse, some prankster stuck bubblegum in her long, beautiful, pin-straight hair so she had to get a boyish haircut to fix the damage. Considering that the girls all wore these billowing, long-skirted uniforms, it was no surprise that she was mistaken as a nondescript boy.

One day, she wandered into the school's third music room. Inside were six beautiful high school guys. They comprise the school host club, which exists to provide hospitatility to female students for a price. The president is a junior named Tamaki Suou, a very amorous guy with European good looks. The vice president is another junior named Kyoya Ootori. Cool, level-headed, and hailing from a very powerful family, he is the mastermind of the club while Tamaki can be considered as a... uh... figurehead. The other members are also just as remarkable because they are other archetypal bishounen for the ladies to ogle. Mitsukuni Haninozuka, otherwise known as Honey, is a senior who looks like he should still be in elementary school. However, under his shota exterior, he is a martial arts genius. Takashi Morinozuka, also known as Mori, is another senior who is tall, athletic, and looks every inch the handsome bad boy... but he rarely speaks. He and Honey are cousins, and he is very protective of Honey. The two of them together make a pretty shota scene. And there is the first-year Hitachiin twins, Hikaru and Kaoru. They generally act as one mischievous unit, but later in the series, Hikaru is characterized as more mean and Kaoru as more nice. They get off on providing lustful yaoi twincest scenes to screaming schoolgirls.

During this initial confrontation with the host club, Haruhi was so overwhelmed that she inadvertently backs into and breaks an eight-million-yen vase that belongs to the club. In order to pay for it, she had to work as a host until the cost of the vase is paid (which will take her forever). When the host club sees her beautiful eyes behind her owlish glasses, they waste no time turning her into a handsome, all-natural, boy-next-door who has feminine good looks. At the end of the first episode, the whole host club discovers that she's actually a girl (Tamaki's the last one to find out), but she remained a member of the club because... uh... they just like her that much. And Kyoya wants the vase paid for.

The rest of the series shows us the backgrounds and personalities of the host club members. It also showcases the different people who get involved with the host club, such as a girl who wants to be Kyoya's fiancee and then becomes manager of the club, the heir to a Yakuza empire, a music prodigy who becomes the club's "rascal" member, the rival "beautiful people" club from the all-girls Lobelia High, and the newspaper club. Through the various incidents that the host club gets itself into, the members grow closer to Haruhi and become acquainted with the commoner way of living... primarily because they love stalking Haruhi whenever school is not in session. They discover that they like instant coffee and ramen, for instance (me too!).

The attraction between Haruhi and some of the guys grow. At the onset, Tamaki is very obvious about his affections for Haruhi, even though he is quite confused and think that he has only paternal feelings for her. Hikaru experiences what it's like to be attracted to a girl for the first time, and it does not agree with him. In the manga, Kaoru is actually the first one to confess to Haruhi. And at the end of the anime, Kyoya's father tells Tamaki's father that he would like to have Haruhi as his daughter-in-law. It seems the only ones who have escaped Haruhi's clutches are Honey and Mori, which is just as well because they're graduating soon. But then again, I haven't read the manga, so I'm not really sure if they did get through without falling for Haruhi.

The end of the anime threatened the existence of the host club. Tamaki decided to disband the club and move to France to be engaged to a wealthy heiress, for the sake of saving his mother. Kyoya's family turns against them so that they won't be able to stop the match, but Honey and Mori were more than enough to handle the army sent after them. Haruhi desperately runs after Tamaki and his fiancee in a horse-drawn carriage. Tamaki jumps out of the convertible, meets Haruhi in the air, and they crash into the water. Yay. And the host club lives happily ever after.

Review
I like this anime. It's very... animated. Each character is very distinctive... except for Haruhi herself. It seems like there's so much energy put into making sure that each of the guys stand out that there's not much energy left in making Haruhi a memorable character. She is simply outstanding because the story revolves around her. She's not really hate-able, but she's not really adorable, either. She's just... nondescript. She just reacts to the things around her. Be that as it may, I'm very interested to see who will end up with her. Perhaps a more evolved romance will bring out her defining characteristics.

Have I mentioned that I love the opening song?

Towards the end, the anime feels rushed. It seems its creators suddenly realized that they're nearing the end of their 26-episode limit and have to figure out a way to end the series with a bang, fast. I mean, really. I was not at the edge of my seat when Tamaki hollowly announced that he's disbanding the host club. I knew it was a ruse. I knew they would live happily ever after. And I had some inkling that I would be left hanging about who Haruhi will end up with... which I was. And for that, I am disappointed. I like romantic happy endings. Ouran's ending indicates that it is only the beginning of some romantic rivalry between Tamaki, Kyoya, Hikaru, and Kaoru (Kaoru because I peeked at the manga).

The artwork is a very interesting mix between dramatic character portraits and regular anime scenes. There is definitely this exaggeration of the host club's attractiveness, which provides comic relief.

If you're searching for a romantic anime to swoon over, you may not be satisfied with Ouran High School Host Club. However, if you just want to laugh and have a good time and get into an obscenely luxurious alternate reality and have really cute guys to look at, this one's for you.

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