Book Review – Ouran High School Host Club vol 1 by Bisco Hatori

Title: Ouran High School Host Club vol 1

Author/Illustrator: Bisco Hatori

Format: Paperback

Written: 2002

Translated: 2005

As I had said in an earlier review, I am in a bit of a manga kick and I’m trying to find something that I have enjoyed as much as the Sailor Moon series or the Alice series, but nothing has hit me just yet.  I decided to try Host Club because I remember long ago a friend telling me how it was great and how she loved it.  I will admit in looking at the book I see what she loved about the series, and I am reminded of how our tastes differ.  Not to say this friend and I don’t share similar tastes in other things, but in the case of this particular manga our tastes are very much departed.

The basic story premise is the story of a poor girl who has a scholarship to a very rich and exclusive school.  She starts out by searching for a quiet place to study and finds herself stumbling upon the high school host club.  She is mistaken for a boy, and as she tries to get away from the rather awkward situation she breaks a very expensive vase, and has to settle the debt somehow.  The President of the club decides instead of making her a grunt boy who does all their errands for them, he decides to make Haruhi a member of the club.  Her job will be to bring in and entertain several clients.

Haruhi is then transformed form what they think is an average looking guy into a very attractive looking guy who wins over a lot of customers.  After all of this has taken place they learn that Haruhi is in fact a girl.  Haruhi is fine being mistaken as a boy not caring about gender differences and continues to play a guy because she is more apt to get clients as a boy than as a girl.

Now before I go further into giving my thoughts on the book, I will take a minute to explain what a host club is for those of you who may not know.  In Japan, there are places called hostess and host clubs, a hostess club chiefly employs females to entertain men and host clubs are the opposite.  (And by entertain, I’m not meaning a strip club).  It is a place to have a drink and talk with the opposite sex, the most that happens in the club is hugs, kissing, and an occasional dance (according to my research on Wikipedia).  In the high school scene of the book tea and cakes are served and again nothing more than the kissing and dancing happens.

Over all, Host Club is a comedy and I’m beginning to think comedy manga is not my thing.   A lot of the characters were over the top and just dull.  When I read manga, I like a bit of substance and a story, not something episodic with over the top incidents.  Aside from that, I have some issues with how gender is played with.  On the whole, save for Haruhi, girls are over simplistic and giggly and have no substance.  (True, the guys get that way too in this manga but they have more substance than the girls).  Then, I wasn’t fond of the semi incestuous relationship between the twin brothers, I mean getting near kissing and offering to take each other’s clothes off in a ‘perfect’ way is ‘no bueno’.  I mean, if it was just two guys rather than brothers that is a different story.

Additionally, I didn’t like how they handled Tamaki’s (the club president) reaction to Haruhi.  From the start, Tamaki is attracted to Haruhi and that is fine, and even the surprised remark of “wow Tamaki going for a guy?” Is okay, but I don’t like how when Haruhi was revealed to be a girl that “Ah yes Tamaki must have known subconsciously that Haruhi was a girl because he wouldn’t fawn over a real guy like that!”  That kind of frustrated me and was just handled poorly in my opinion.  I also don’t like how Tamaki’s main mission is to “re-awaken” the feminine side of Haruhi, it almost translates to him wanting to make her inferior and just like all the other girls, instead of accepting her being boyish (even if she does look great in a dress).  Over all, the book just annoyed me and I will not be picking up the second one at all.  I give this manga a 1 out of 5 because yes, it annoyed me that much (and it wasn’t that entertaining)!



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