“Only those with excellent social standing and those with filthy rich families are lucky enough to spend their time at the elite private school, Ouran Academy. The Ouran Host Club is where the schools handsomest boys with too much time on their hands entertain young ladies who also have way too much time on their hands. Just think of it as Ouran Academys’ elegant playground for the super rich and beautiful.”
To finish up with our Risembool Ranger month, we’re going to look at the 2nd most popular anime that Vic has ever been in. And it’s no surprise that he was so good in it; Vic is about as popular with female viewers as Tamaki Suoh is with female patrons to the Host Club. [Except one is way younger…and way taller. Just saying!] “Ouran High School Host Club” has to be one of the most popular shows to come along in the past few years, joining the ranks with shows like “Aria”, “xxxHolic”, and, ironically enough, “Kekkaishi”. What is it that makes this show so darn popular? Is it the unique reverse harem “Alice in Wonderland”-esque story? The characters who are both interesting and fall-over funny? The bright animation? The peppy music? Or the all-star cast of actors including the subject of this entire month? Well, fix your tie, fatten your bank account and let’s go to school.
Warnings and Notable Objectionable Content – “Ouran” is a pretty clean series, truth be told, with little objectionable content. There are moments when a yaoi-like “Twin-Cest” relationship is heavily hinted at between Hikeru and Kaoru, but, to be honest, it’s played for comedy instead of sexuality. There is also small hinting at a lesbian relationship between some later appearing characters, but once again, it’s played for laughs.
Series Availability – At the time of this printing, “Ouran High School Host Club” is available in standard DVD format in many major stores that sell anime like “FYE” and “Best Buy”, though be prepared to pay a pretty penny for it. A Blu-Ray Complete Collection release is scheduled for June of this year. If you’re looking to pick it up, I recommend you check out WalMart, as they’re slated to sell “Ouran” for under $30 before taxes. However, if you are like me and have a set budget, you can watch the series for free on Funimation’s YouTube channel in both sub and dub forms.
Story Premise – “Ouran High School Host Club” is a 26 episode series based off a manga created by Bisco Hatori. The series follows Haruhi Fujioka on her first day at the elite private school Ouran Academy. Ouran is a school that caters to the children of the rich and famous with a massive campus that rivals many castles with its lush amenities and surroundings. All this is daunting for Haruhi, a commoner, who got into Ouran on a scholarship and who cannot relate to her classmates idea of studying, which involves lounging around the library being waited on hand and foot and chattering about things WAY above her head. Distressed, she tries to find a quiet place to study and stumbles across the Ouran High School Host Club; a group of attractive boys from various grades whose mission objective is to make all women happy by any means necessary. Flustered, Haruhi tries to make a quick escape and winds up knocking over a vase worth ¥8,000,000 [or $80,000 in US currency…to put it in perspective…that’s a helluva lot of money!]. To pay off her debt, the club president, Tamaki, orders Haruhi [mistaking her for a boy due to her clothes, speech patterns and short haircut; and honestly, to look at her, you really WOULD mistake her for a boy] to join the host club and get 100 girls to request her. After a quick wardrobe change [into a boys uniform, kindly loaned to her by the Host Club boys…], Haruhi is soon thrown into the water and is an instant hit with all the girls [who also mistake her for a boy…the airheads…] due to her down to earth and kind nature. Tamaki soon realizes that his new charge is a girl, but as Haruhi is determined to repay her debt, she agrees to keep her gender a secret in order to fulfill her quota. And so “Ouran” begins, taking us through episode after episode of the mis-adventures of the Host Club as they woo their customers, deal with various issues that come along [including physical exams and an attempt to kidnap Haruhi by a local all-girls club…] all the while keeping Haruhi’s gender a secret. I must admit, I really enjoy this story. The idea of a reverse harem is unique to me, and it makes for an enjoyable viewing experience. Watching the relationship between Haruhi and Tamaki is intriguing to watch; the whole “Will they or wont they?” aura adds a unique element to the show. I also love the fact that, without even knowing it, Haruhi opens up each of the Host Club boys, letting them show their true selves to each other. The ending however is a little off-putting and I just can’t bring myself to really enjoy it. Perhaps if they left subtile hints throughout the series, then it would be okay, but I just couldn’t fully enjoy it. Overall, “Ouran” is a good story, but it’s ending could do with a bit of a polish. [20/25]
Favorite Episode – My favorite overall episode has GOT to be Episode 04 “Attack of the Lady Manager!” The entire episode, from the opening when the group is cosplaying in traditional old Japanese kimonos to the ending when Renge joins the club as Manager is nothing short of brilliant.
Characters – Our series starts out with Haruhi Fujioka, the new girl on campus. Haruhi is a unique breed of student to enter Ouran Academy; she’s not rich by any means [having gotten into the Academy on a scholarship] and her living situation is somewhat sad; her mother passed away, and her father…well…we won’t get into that situation, but suffice it to say, he works hard for the money. As a leading female character, Haruhi is one of my favorites. She’s so real and down to earth, acting as the Host Club’s anchor and moral conscience. It’s easy to see why the girls who visit the host club are drawn to her and why some of the boys in the host club are too, including Host Club president, Tamaki Suoh. Tamaki is a unique breed in every sense of the word; he’s 1/2 French, 1/2 Japanese, and 100% spazzy dork. Kyoya Otori, the club’s right hand man, number cruncher and information expert is a guy who you love to have in your corner if you need connections. His rich and influential family has pull all over Japan and beyond, and Kyoya is not above using it to better the Club. It’s nice to see that, every so often, Haruhi and Kyoya will take a step back from some insane moment involving the other members of the Host Club and pretty much say to each other “Heh, look at those idiots…” Hikeru and Kaoru Hitachiin are twin troublemakers, often playing tricks against others for their own amusement. For the ladies, they can also go into “Twin-cest” mode, hanging off each other in compromising positions acting out forbidden love scenes that would make any girl swoon and any guy roll their eyes. Honey-Sempai is the loli of the group [despite the fact that he’s actually a high school senior] and he uses that to full effect for the girls, letting them swoon and baby all over him. His protector, Mori-Sempai, is a strong and stoic fellow who rarely speaks and who has sworn to protect and look after Honey-Sempai. Add to that the boy-crazy otaku and Club Manager Renge, and you have a cast of characters that’s as colorful as the school itself. It is a joy to watch each and every one of them, and I found no real problems. [25/25]
Animation – The animation for “Ouran High School Host Club” seems to operate on one rule, and one rule only–BRIGHT. “Ouran” is a very vividly colored series. While at times it can get a little overwhelming with the various shades of pink and purple [especially with regards to the Music Room where the Host Club is located–seriously, all that pink can make your head hurt…] it is an overall good-looking series. The character designs are very interesting, as all the characters seem to have long limbs and appendages. It reminds me of “xxxHolic” in a way [A show that I will be reviewing at a later date, of course], but much more controlled and realistic. [11/12.5]
Music – “Ouran High School Host Club” has a unique style of soundtrack. “Sakura Kiss” by Chieko Kawabe is a catchy, upbeat and infectious opening theme song, which really gets you feeling good about the episode that you’re going to watch. Like with a few of Funimation Entertainment’s other projects, the opening theme song was re-recorded in English by Kristine Sa with slightly altered lyrics, and honestly, it sounds just as good. The end theme, “Shissou” by LAST ALLIANCE is good, but the English version, as recorded by Justin Houston, is heavily lacking. I just don’t get the same feeling from the English version as I do from the orignal Japanese. This is one case where maybe they should have left well enough alone. The incidental music of “Ouran” is filled with orchestral tones and swells that sound rather nice to listen to, and it sets the tone for what the viewer is watching, but there are times when it just seems too present. Perhaps this was just a production issue, I don’t know. But at times, it kind of pulled me out of the show. [9.5/12.5]
Performances and Production – “Ouran” was created by Studio BONES and directed in Japan by Takuya Igarashi, a director known for such projects as “Soul Eater” and “Ojamajo Doremi” [Known in the US as “Magical DoReMi”; a Saturday Morning cartoon back in the day on Fox Kids lineup.]. In the US, the project was helmed by veteran voice actress Catlin Glass, who also took on the role of Haruhi. A talent both in front of and behind the microphone, Catlin get an all-star performance out of her all-star group of actors, including herself; giving Haruhi a voice that almost eclipses the original Japanese. She sounds convincing as both a boy and as a girl, which is the general idea of the story. Vic Mignogna as Tamaki is darn-near perfect. He plays the entire range of emotions from goofball to depressed to seriousness right on par with the original actor. If “Fullmetal Alchemist” didn’t make Vic famous, then this role certainly would’ve. J. Michael Tatum acts as a perfect counter-balance with his cool and controlled voice. He is, to quote the commentary, the Spock to Tamaki’s Kirk. Greg Ayres and Todd Habberkorn as the Hitachiin twins Hikeru and Kaoru are hilarious to listen to. They harmonize so well together when speaking in unison, and they actually sound like twins, yet their voices have subtile differences that make them unique. Travis Willingham as Mori is…well…the few times he DOES speak, he sounds very cool. Finally, Luci Christian as “Honey-Sempai” is just down right adorable. Other characters, such as Monica Rial as the otaku Host Club manager with a “Powerful Motor” Renge, Patrick Seitz as the secluded Umehito Nekozawa, and Mike McFarland as Haruhi’s father, Ryoji Fujioka make this a dub to enjoy. [25/25]
Story and Premise: 20/25
Final Grade: 90.5/100 = 90.5% – (B+)
Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra)
- According to the directors commentary track, a pink bunny, similar to Usa-Chan [Honey-Sempai’s stuffed bunny], hung by its ears from the recording studio at Funimation Entertainment.
- In Episode 16, Haruhi holds up a small yellow ball that holds a striking resemblance to a chibified version of Edward Elric from “Fullmetal Alchemist”, another Studio BONES creation.
- In episode 7, Renge cosplays as Kisaragi Quon from the anime “RahXephon”.
- Although Hikeru and Kaoru are ment to be twins, and even though there are multiple occasions when they speak in harmony, their English voice actors, Greg Ayres and Todd Habberkorn, NEVER recorded together due to scheduling issues. They each recorded their lines separately. Their Japanese Voice Actors, as customary, recorded their lines together.
- In episode 25, the laptop that Kyoya uses has a symbol of pineapple in it, an obvious parody of “Apple” Computer. A “Pine”apple computer is also used by Koushiro “Izzy” Izumi in the anime series “Digimon: Digital Monsters”.
So what does that leave us with? Well, simple. “Ouran High School Host Club” is a show that anyone can enjoy, even with its rough ending. With its unique reverse harem story, memorable and loveable characters, decent animation and music, and an all-star cast of actors that makes this one of the most popular dubbed series in anime, “Ouran” is a show that should always deserves a first or second look…so long as you can afford it.
And so, with the end of the “Ouran High School Host Club” review, we bring “Risembool Ranger” month to a close. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after reviewing all these shows is that, love him or hate him [and, well, let’s be honest, some people tend to do the later…], when all is said and done, Victor Joseph Mignogna is one of anime’s best English voice actors, a great role model for others in the industry, a good Christian man, and an overall decent human being, and heaven knows the anime community owes him a debt of gratitude…and maybe a couple of glomps from a fangirl or two. Now that “Risembool Ranger” month has concluded, it’s time to get into the month of May, but before we do, we have ONE MORE review left to do! Yes, the 4th review as picked by contest winner “HK”. So hold onto your socks, because they are about to be thrown into the world of..