When Haruhi finds herself being coerced into the rich kids host club, her life will never be the same.
What They Say
Ouran High School. An institution of extravagance and prestige where learning is secondary to luxury. Bookish Haruhi can't afford to slack, being on a scholarship and out of place among the moneyed. No matter - the Host Club is now open! A group of handsome boys dedicated to selling their charms to their bored female classmates, Haruhi is suddenly in debt to the club after breaking an expensive vase in their lair. The only way to pay for the damage? Haruhi will work as a Host! The only problem? Haruhi is a she!
Between the wildly inflated ego of the expert escorts and the potential calamities of constant cross dressing, Haruhi's freshman year looks like it will be one to remember.
Contains episodes 1-26.
After much public criticism from fans, FUNimation has made a marked difference with this release compared to previous ones. This show was never done in 5.1 for its English language track so we have a pair of stereo mixes. Going by past tradition for Blu-ray, they should be in Dolby Digital. Instead, both tracks are in Dolby TrueHD and they're very solid, significantly different from the DVD releases by a sizable margin. There's a really detailed mix here that I didn't pick up on at all during the DVD release as everything comes across as sharper and better placed. The English track sounds a couple of hairs louder which isn't a surprise since there are differences in how they're recorded. Both tracks are really good though for stereo mixes and let the show shine well.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this twenty-six episode TV series is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across three discs in a nine/nine/eight format with the episodes windowboxed to retain the shows original presentation. There haven't been too many releases in general of this aspect ratio so I was very glad to see that FUNimation did not try to zoom or stretch it. This doesn't appear to be an upscale as the bitrate is in the high twenties with a lot of moments in the high thirties, something that the upscales rarely do at all. There show is filled with bright colors, lots of solid areas, and fast sections and the transfer holds up well here. There looks to be some loss of detail when you get up very close to the screen, especially on a 70” set, but at a normal viewing distance during playback it really looks very strong. Colors have a lot of pop to them, there's only some basic stuttering you see during some of the panning sequences and there's a very solid feel overall that's been lacking in some of their other releases. I came away from this set pretty pleased with how it looked.
FUNimation has put together a really nice looking package here though they've avoided their usual format of two thinpaks in a slipcover. This time we get a slipcover that holds a digipak that fits well with the show by being a mixture of elegance and style. The front slipcover uses a good foil material to it that's not too shiny as the pinks and blues stand out really nicely. The gang is through the center in shadowed pink form while the logo is kept to the lower left. The framework is nice and it overall has a good sense of elegance to it, standing out against other titles. The back of the slipcover has the same kind of pink layout on the top and bottom while the center section has an appealing shot of Haruhi looking out from behind the summary that also lists the episode and disc count along with the extras and a few shots from the show. Everything for the HD specs are laid out clearly while the bottom of the slipcover has the rest of the usual data.
The digipak inside is pretty good as well, though it's elegant in a different way. The front has an image of Haruhi with a bouquet of roses in her hand with some amusing text next to her that's very inviting. The back has Haruhi along Tamaki and Kyoya with their “type” of expressions about them with more roses scattered around them. This opens up to the interior piece which has the rest of the cast. The full background under the discs is definitely very nicely done when you have all the discs out as the first tray has the breakdown of episode numbers and titles with their respective discs while the other two panels have a full length images of the full cast of main characters with roses about them. No show related inserts are included with this release.
The menu system for this release is really nicely done and in theme as it rounds the edges of the screen with the beautiful roses from the show while clips play in the middle of it. The navigation is kept to a decent sized box in the lower middle with a touch of elegance to the framing of it. The layout is standard design for FUNimation with the usual selections and everything loads quickly and easily. The commentary tracks are placed in the extras section and not within the episode selection like they were with some earlier releases and I continue to appreciate that. Everything loads quickly and cleanly with no problems in selections and the animations themselves look good. As is usual, the discs did not read our players' language presets and defaulted to English language.
The commentaries are the main draw across the set but the third disc has a few other extras to check out. FUNimation partnered with Viz to showcase some of the manga pages which is nicely done and we get a fun little section of outtakes from the dub cast. Add in the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences and you have a release that favors the English language dub cast but that's no surprise considering the cast itself and their level of fans.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series that’s still ongoing by Bisco Hatori, Ouran Host Club is the latest comedy to hit Western shores with a definite Japanese sense of humor. Comedies can be really hit or miss with people and I’ve had my fair share of both over the years on both sides of the equation. Having read only some of the manga in Shojo Beat a few years ago, it wasn’t a title that I was crazy over nor was it a title that really stuck with me beyond that it was a cute idea of dealing with a Host Club.
Ouran Host Club takes place in the very elite private Ouran Academy, a place where the wealthy kids go to while away their hours and days for school. It’s not a lazy school by any stretch, and academics are certainly considered important, but they play practically no role within the show itself outside of a few nods here and there. With the kids being so rich and the academy being as elite as it is, there’s little surprise that there are some unusual clubs within it. The Host Club is made up of several of the very best of the best young men in the academy as they utilize their obvious gifts to become something more. They’re doing it because it’s fun, they enjoy the women and they enjoy the grandeur of it all but also likely because they enjoy the attention. There’s also some financial gain out of it as well which doesn’t hurt in the slightest.
Started only a couple of years ago by Tamaki, the Host Club has taken over one of the large music rooms for its club. Filled with numerous comfy couches, chairs, tables for tea and so forth, it’s an elegant place that’s occasionally accented by some actual musical instruments. Within this room during the various hours of the day, many young women visit and are entertained by the Host Club members who dote on them, treat them right and make them feel special. It’s the epitome of what you see in the professional business world of host clubs and bars just taken down to a high school level and run by the filthy rich but incredibly nice guys.
Into this club comes something rather unexpected. Haruhi, a student on a scholarship, ends up stumbling into the Host Club out of curiosity and it does nothing but cause trouble. The bespectacled and mousy young student ends up crashing into a stand which causes a very expensive vase worth eight million yen to break. Before you know it, Haruhi is now made a member of the Host Club in order to serve out repayment of the value of the vase. Haruhi’s character is one that Tamaki is very drawn to and finds himself becoming very curious about since Haruhi is able to connect surprisingly easily with the girls. Harhui’s poor nature is a problem though as they can’t even afford the school uniform because of the cost. Add in a few other problems and it’s easy to see why Tamaki thought Haruhi was a boy.
That’s the opening gag to the first episode of the series, which then becomes far more amusing as the setup is pushed to the side. Deciding to keep Haruhi’s gender something of a secret, Tamaki and the others get her all dressed up in a proper uniform and put her to work. She becomes rather popular in short order, much to her dismay, and she also finds herself bonding rather well with the other boys in the club. They’re all basic archetypes of course, something that’s pointed out plainly when a new female transfer student arrives from Paris and she knows all of them by the simulation games she’s played. The way that Renge is able to cut them down to size so easily – and accurately – strikes them hard, some more than others, but it points to that predictable aspect of the show.
Within the club, the characters are all between two ages and are fairly close. Haruhi checks in at sixteen while Tamaki is at seventeen. After them, it splits a bit more and in some amusing ways. Kyoya, the vice president of the club, is another second year student at seventeen who is the cool calculating type that deals with all the financials. He’s also the one that uses his family’s wealth in the show the most, often by calling in his own personal police squad or showing off the various projects that the family has. He’s the embodiment of the handsome, dark and reserved type that is also very calculating. Balancing him out is a pair of twins named Hikaru and Kaoru. These two pretty boys are first years that are in Haruhi’s class and they play up the whole homoerotic incest angle very amusingly. They’ve been quiet and reserved for years, not even talking with other classmates much, but that changed this year and more so since Haruhi joined the club. They play up their brotherly love in dramatic ways that sets all the girls hearts ablaze.
The really strange pairing is that of Mitsukuni and Takashi. Both are third years students at age eighteen and they’re actually cousins. The two families go back a long ways to the days when Takashi’s family would be the lifelong servants of Mitsukuni’s family, but that’s long since ended. You wouldn’t know it by the way Takashi takes care of Mitsukuni though, which is made all the more amusing because Mitsukuni is better known as “Honey” because of the way he carries himself. He comes across as little more than an elementary school aged student because of his size but also because of his eternally sunny expressions and his absolute adoration of all things sweet. At the same time, he’s an accomplished martial artist and highly temperamental when it comes to his precious bunny. Honey is a very amusing character overall and one that brings in the outlandish comedy at times because of how he’s designed.
Story wise, the show runs through a lot of rather predictable ideas throughout. That isn’t exactly a bad thing since with comedies like this, it’s the characters and how they interact with each other that makes it work. Ouran Host Club has a lot of its fun centering around the oddness between the two different sides of life. Haruhi can’t believe some of the things that these kids do and deal with, how they live their lives, while the rest of the Club feels the same about her. When they’re introduced to her instant coffee, it becomes fascinating and ends up being popular within the club. At the same time, they’re woefully disconnected from the real world and are fascinated when they see how Haruhi really lives and as they try to be sensitive to it. Especially when it comes to her father, which is a brilliant left field play that left me speechless before I burst into laughter. The stories all tend to be sort of slice of life things in a way for any private academy show, but taken a bit more humorous and with an affluent slant.
As the series progresses, each character has some time spent on them where we see their past and the things that have shaped who they are. Some are more interesting than others to be certain, such as Honey and Mori’s stories being the weakest ones for me. Honey’s past where he was the ace karate instructor isn’t bad, but the way he’s confronted by his brother who thinks he must be an alien because of the way he devours sweets just feels out of place. Having Tamaki being the one who “saved” him years earlier from the life of being just a karate instructor and unable to enjoy the sweets that affect him so is cute and all, but Honey has that kind of personality about him that’s difficult to really get into. He swings from one side to the other in personality only once in awhile and the serious side of him feels awkward at best.
Most of the characters are rather well developed however. Twins Hikaru and Kaoru get a good bit of time as they’re working down two particular issues with their lives. Their past where they were told that they’d likely never find anyone that could tell them apart pushed them towards games where they mess with others for their own amusement and they continued to become cold and distant towards most people. Tamaki made a dent in them with his capricious ways but also with his insistence on figuring out who was who without any help and without just guessing. His persistence sort of won them over in the end, but it was more how he approached them by talking about their inconsistencies being their best trait. More interesting however is the plot where Kaoru has started to realize that the two of them must start finding their own paths and they can play the role of twins like this for only so long. With Hikaru being rather infatuated with Haruhi, there’s some cute play going on there as Kaoru encourages Hikaru to explore his emotions.
The most interesting character for me was with Kyoya as we see how he’s lived his life as the third son of a powerful man, knowing that he can never formally exceed them nor take over the family business. His past when he met Tamaki is fascinating since he’s working hard to live within the framework that he’s been given for his life, but Tamaki is showing him a way to exceed that and to live the life he wants. Kyoya’s initial friendship with Tamaki is driven because of Kyoya’s father and the way he sees everyone as potential for a deal of some kind. But Tamaki isn’t the kind of personality that can allow for that and he frustrates and overwhelms Kyoya as things go on. Watching Kyoya during this is one of the best parts of the show, especially when he’s the “lost boy” in the department store with the gang and shows a very different side of himself with Haruhi.
Of course, the series must end by dealing with Tamaki and exploring his past as well. His life is one that’s certainly complicated as we learn with his flashback as Kyoya explains it to Haruhi. Being an illegitimate son, he’s in an awkward position where he can inherit everything, but there are issues to be overcome. The one that’s strongest in his life is his grandmother who has a deep dislike of Tamaki and issues with her own son over what happened in the past when he went to France and took a wife there. With how events sent him back to Japan, it explains a lot of his personality but also explains why things turn decidedly dark at the end as he has to figure out what to do with his life.
That seems to be one of the main themes as the series progresses on towards the end, some achieving a better idea about it than others. When Tamaki’s grandmother arrives at the school for the school fair, it sets the stage for an unsurprising ending in that the fate of the club is challenged. With so many parents disliking where their children are because of the club, Tamaki’s belief in what he does is shaken and other things start to color his perceptions. While this segment plays out rather predictably, and with some very fun white knight and white princess moments, it’s the epilogue piece that really sold me even more on the show and made it all worthwhile. The conversation between Tamaki and Kyoya’s fathers was priceless, again for Kyoya more than anything else, as it shows exactly how these young men are growing up to take control of their lives and on their own terms. You couldn’t end on a better message.
After having an initial less than enjoyable experience with the manga, I wasn't too sure how I'd like the anime. Thankfully, the anime adaptation proved to be a lot more enjoyable to me as it's something that I think worked better in this form. The characters leap off the screen, there's a sense of fun that doesn't feel as forced and it all feels a lot more engaging as it works through the various stories. This high definition release adds a lot to the show with its presentation with strong colors and vibrancy, excellent lossless stereo audio and a great looking package. Ouran Host Club is a surprisingly fun show that clicked well for me and it was fun to revisit the show again. Definitely a recommended edition for the series.
Features Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentaries, Ouran High School Host Club Manga Pages, Outtakes, Textless Songs
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
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