A classic case of, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it – Ouran Host continues in the second half of the series with more of the same, a lot of great comedy and some interesting characterisation when the anime gives us a unique original ending.
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…
Cliques and social politics are skewered in this satirical anime series about a somewhat androgynous girl named Haruhi who attends an elite high school that's almost entirely based on a system of clubs. Haruhi eventually works her way up to becoming the leader of the all-male Host Club after working as their "dog" to pay off a debt. Included here are the final 13 episodes of the first season.
For this review, I watched the show in Japanese. Set in a standard 2.0 format, it still works very well and is very clear – there are no transition issues between sound and subtitles, and switching to English in the 5.1 format I encountered no problems either. (Listening to the commentary in particular showcases the switch in stereo and how much could have been with the 2.1) No problems whatsoever.
The video as before visually is excellent – very clear and concise and no problems in timing with the vocals and subtitles, and in gorgeous colour it works very well with wide screen effects. Unfortunately, the major problem I had with the previous set is still present in this set, i.e. the subtitles with the signs. Whenever a subtitle appears which requires a translation of a sign, on it’s own it’s not a problem. However, when someone is talking at the same time, it causes a lag between sign subtitle and verbal subtitle, meaning it’s very out of synch. In other releases (both US and UK) this problem is resolved normally by having one subtitle at the top and the other at the bottom, but for some reason, both subtitles are done at one end, one after the other, causing a bit of a problem to say the least. This is a problem in the English version as well as there is no separate option to just use the sign subtitles so if you want to know what everything says, you NEED to put the subtitles on, causing a lot of annoyance. So basically if you’re a dub fan, it’s a real pain to keep switching them on and off unless you’re able to read them without the subtitles. An unfortunate problem that could have been easily rectified.
No packaging was provided with this disc.
The menu is exactly the same as the previous discs, simple in allowing for selecting to play all, episode select and extras, upon a pretty background of Haruhi and Tamaki in a background of roses. It’s very simple and unexciting as no movement or background music, but it’s simple and does it’s job.
An apology goes out to Manga for the previous review as in fact, the English commentaries ARE on the previous set – and there is one on this set when the voice actor of Chika (Aaron Daisuke) joins Haruhi (Caitlin Glass) in a booth to booth commentary. However, the reason I didn’t find them was because they were on the episode selection and not in the extras which is where I usually expect the commentaries. Like previous, some pagesfrom the Viz release of the Ouran Host manga are on there, but if you’re a dub fan then the commentaries raise the bar. I need to mention the previous discs which involve hilarious comments from Greg Ayres and Todd Hakenborn (the twins) of the psuedo-yaoi-incest they portray and how they think of it, and of course fan favourite Vic Mignogna (Tamaki) gets to shine as he talks to Caitlin on how badly he wanted this role and how it compares to his other roles. The grade from the previous disc is an A – due to several hilarious commentaries, and whilst this set only has one, it’s still a lot of fun.
A show like Ouran Host doesn’t draw you in with plot, it draws you in for simply being fun to watch. Comedy and mostly likeable cast means you’re going to have a good time, and the second half continues that with a few little twists.
Most of the set continues the Host’s escapades with each other, and with others – whilst episodic, are all unique and funny in different ways, with little bits added to make the characters click further. One of the mini-arcs is a biggie because Haruhi goes over to work for a friend of her cross-dressing father (who is also a cross-dresser) named Misuzu, which caused panic for Tamaki thinking (as he does) that Haruhi is missing, has been kidnapped, sold to slavery, etc. Of course, when the truth comes out, it becomes a competition for the Host Club to see who can gain the last room in the pension (or in Tamaki’s case, to try and get onto Haruhi’s friends list on her mobile phone) – the twins steal the spotlight mostly in this arc, mainly Hikaru as the twins begin to separate their identity, as Hikaru takes a dislike to an old friend of Haruhi’s, others noting it’s jealously and that maybe he cares about Haruhi a bit more than he would like to admit. It leads to a finale where Haruhi’s fear of thunderstorms causes Tamaki to berate Hikaru when he ditched her after one bad mood too many, into a surprising sweet ending.
Most of the episodes don’t deal with serious elements, as it’s how the characters are, and everyone has a moment or two to shine. Honey for example gets an episode where his younger brother challenges him to a couple of fights which leads to a funny bet (and we see just how weird Honey really is…) whilst even Mori gets a moment to shine (and get lampooned about his lack of screentime by Tamaki and the twins, even Honey!) when he takes on an apprentice named Kasanoda, a yakuza child who whilst having a scary face, is surprisingly kind and wants nothing more than to play with his friends. The Club helps out as only they can, but ends in hilarity when Kasanoda find’s out Haruhi’s secret…and when he requests her in the next episode, the combination of yaoi fangirl squealing and Tamaki turning to stone had me in stitches. Kyoya also gets a key episode, where we flashback to how polar opposites Tamaki and Kyoya became friends. It’s funny just seeing how Tamaki is one of the few people who can get under his skin, and show his true terrifying side. He gets another episode as well when he finds himself in a market, kidnapped by the other Host Club members and with no money, has to rely on Haruhi to escape (and get vengeance). It gives little insights of that his character isn’t just the ‘demon lord’ and that he too possesses some kindness. The Zuka Club also gets an episode, which is completely over the top, the Halloween Episode focusing on two side characters and the twins was probably the funniest of the bunch, and the Newspaper episode showcases that whilst Tamaki is as dumb as a rock, it’s also the reason why everyone likes him.
The last two episodes do an anime original ending (due to the manga still being done in Japan) which showcases a lot of family ties, especially for Tamaki as his grandmother turns up at the Ouran Fair and basically gets him engaged to a woman named Éclair, who apparently can get Tamaki to see his mother. The plot revolving Tamaki’s past, his origin and why he’s been ostracised from his home are all explained and it leads to Tamaki having to give up the Host Club – however none of the gang are willing to accept that, even Haruhi. The finale where all the Host Club showcase what they can do and how much they like their club, leads to a sweet ending which brings some nice closure to the series that you wouldn’t think needed some closure. If there were some niggles, there are minor ones – namely that Renge and Nekozawa didn’t get much air time considering how hilarious they both are, a lot of the focus seemed to be on the twins and Kyoya more so than Haruhi and Tamaki, and the airtime between the main characters wasn’t split evenly so it was like the show was trying to deviate you to make favourites. However, as a comedy show, it’s hard to think of anything better in a school setting outside of Azumanga Daioh or School Rumble. Also kudos for an excellent dub, with Vic Mignogna in particular really capturing Tamaki to his own melding – making it a great show to watch in either language.
Whilst not plot-driven and unbalanced as the characters were showcased on screen, Ouran Host successfully hits the school comedy genre and gives something to make everyone smile. All the characters are individual with their own gimmicks, meaning there is something (and someone) for everyone. The ending is a bit bittersweet, as there was so much to cover and still a lot of unanswered questions, but overall it’s a pure joy to watch. As a comedy, top class and highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Ouran Host Club Manga Preview
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV – Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers – Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.