When Haruhi finds herself deep in debt to the Host Club, the only way to pay them back is to become one of them…
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 1-13.
What We Say:
Ouran Host Club has a pair of relatively straightforward stereo mixes for both the English and Japanese language tracks that are encoded at 192kbps. The series is really just dialogue driven along with some outlandish sound effects and incidental music so a stereo mix suits it perfectly well and captures the intent nicely. Dialogue has some good placement at times but nothing that’s really noteworthy in general, especially on larger setups, but it does a solid job overall if conveying the wackiness of the series in a clean and problem free manner. We didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.
Originally airing in 2006, the series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Comedies still tend to be done in this format though it’s still somewhat surprising to see even from 2006 a full frame series. The show has a lot of great visuals to it and a lot of it looks fantastic across this two disc set of thirteen episodes presented in a 7/6 format. Ouran Host Club has a lot of very vibrant colors to it and they generally look quite good. There are intentional soft scenes here and there but by and large it’s a very appealing show. There is a bit of noise throughout certain scenes as well as some banding that’s prevalent because of the shows budget, but nothing comes across as overly distracting or terribly problematic. The few problems that there are here are pretty small when taken into context of the entire set so it’s just a few minor bits here and there that are occasionally visible.
Ouran Host Club is done up in a two disc thinpak set inside a simple cardboard slipcover to hold it all. The front cover of the set is certainly appealing, more so to fans of the show, as it features all of the main characters there in small cute form outside of Tamaki and Haruhi. They’re given full large shots with Tamaki having his arm around Haruhi and it all looks very cute. The colors are very girlish with soft pinks and purples as well as the numerous roses. The back cover is fairly traditional as it has a good cast shot of everyone in their rgular mode along the top and then a solid summary of the basics of the series premise. Add in a few shots from the show itself in a strip and a listing of the discs total number of episodes and the extras and you’ve got a solid package overall, though it may scare the boys away a bit
The two thinpaks inside are quite cute as well. The first one has a full headshot illustration of Haruhi which is very soft and appealing while the second has one of the twins done in the same way, albeit with a blue background instead of the pink that Haruhi had. The back covers show darker images of both of them in a different way along with a very simple breakdown of what episode numbers and titles are on each respective volume. Each cover is also fully reversible with the first one showing Tamaki while the second has the other twin.
The menu design is simple but one that sets the mood well. With a bit of instrumental music to set the atmosphere, each menu is made up of a cast shot of the characters. The first one uses the cover artwork from the slipcover for example and it looks all the more vibrant and appealing here. The navigation is along the left side slightly and it’s all very easy to move about with. Submenus load quickly and access times are nice and fast. The layout is certainly basic but it’s one that works well and fits the show nicely enough. As per usual, the discs did not read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English language with no subtitles.
The bulk of the extras are on the second volume though it depends on what you consider bulk. The first volume has a commentary track to it but you only see it if you go into the actual episode selection menu as there’s no actual extras menu. The second volume has an extras menu to it and it’s in there that we see the manga pages that Viz has presented, a brief bit of dub outtakes which are certainly amusing and quite welcome as well as the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
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.
Visually, there’s a lot that is appealing about the series. The first is that the series really gave me a Super Gals feeling just by the use of the shadowed shot of the cast against their logo at one point. The way they were presented just made me think of that from the Super Gals opening instantly. So taking that kind of animation style, giving it a huge dose of the kind of visual design you got from the academy in Revolutionary Girl Utena and then filling the lead cast out with pretty boys surrounded by simple yet attractive women in school uniforms, you get something that’s definitely appealing to the eye. There’s a lot of soft pastel colors used throughout it, but it’s the architecture that draws you in more, especially when they really use it to enhance a scene. The last episode on this disc does a takeoff on Alice in Wonderland and there are some very strong Utena-like set pieces here that make the comparisons all the more apparent. With great fluid animation in a lot of scenes, very strong character designs even with them working off of basic archetypes, Ouran Host Club is a great visual experience and one of the better ones for a comedy series.
With a less than engaging experience with the manga early on, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the anime, especially considering the way its fans and advocates absolutely rave about it. While I won’t put it into the top tier category of comedy series I’ve seen, it’s very easy to call this one of the best I’ve seen in quite awhile. It has all the hallmarks of a good show with fun characters, an ability to play off each other well and a willingness to go the road not taken for a gag. Even when they go to the fanciful, such as the last episode, they play it just right and kept it fun and moving. There are slow moments to be sure here and there, but they only help to make you care about the characters more and to see where they’re going next. I had a grand old time with this show and can’t wait to see the second half of it. Fans of the series will be tickled pink by this overall and it’s definitely been worth the wait.
English 2.0 Language, Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, English Director/Cast Commentary, Ouran High School Host Club Manga Pages
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.