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)!




3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ariane Beldi
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 10:38:15

    Hi there! I just found this blog, because your review of Ouran High School Host Club popped up in my WordPress “reader” under “manga”.

    I have a bit of a different take on this series, but I can understand why you didn’t enjoy it. As a starter, I must say that I saw the anime version. I haven’t read the manga yet, so I don’t know how much both versions are alike or different. From what you say, it seems at least that the first volume and the first episodes are following exactly the same line.

    I think the reason why the characters are so inconsistent and the gender issue is caricatured is because the whole story is actually a spoof of shojo manga. All the many features of this genre are crammed together in a satirical way, underlying the most kitschy aspects of these series in a mock story. Each character personifies some aspects of the shojo genre and their gathering into one “club” is what makes the whole series hilarious, because it is so unlikely. In the anime, there are many hints at that. The characters actually address the audience several times and they often talk about themselves as if they were conscious of being mere characters and more particularly, mere spoof characters.

    Tamaki is the one who does it most, and this is what makes him so weird, because he also acts as if he is completely oblivious to what others think and what is happening around him. On the other hand, Otoori, who seems to be the smartest of the group and the one actually in charge, even though he doesn’t talk much and remains often in the background, turns out to be the one the least aware of what is really going on.

    Haninozuka and Morinozuka are certainly the most hollow characters of the whole cast, but in such a satirical way that they succeed in appearing funny and somewhat charming. Mori is so shallow that he doesn’t express anything and hardly says more than 3 lines of dialogue in 26 episodes! Hani is the caricature of the shotakon that has nothing better to offer than pastries and little twinkles. Ok, he hides some supernatural martial art capacities behind his childish attitude, but this just underlines how empty he is. Absurdly, they both understand nonetheless quite clearly that all this is just a spoof and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

    The twin brothers are, in my opinion, the most interesting characters, because although they seem to be merely combining two different types of shojo stories, shonen-ai and incest love, they are actually more a caricature of the monomaniac otaku who only seeks those who resemble him most, because he is so afraid to confront different people.

    Haruhi is whole in whole the least interesting and most boring protagonist in the story, because she is so down-to-earth and focused on what really matters (her school education and sparing money for later). The whole goal of the series is to watch her slip little by little into the spoof and satirical world of the Host Club until she finally fully accepts it.

    I believe that if you take the whole series as a mere spoof of shojo, then, you can start enjoying it. It is just a satire of a genre and the story shouldn’t be taken seriously in any way. It is really aimed at people who have a long experience of the shojo series, citing mockingly not only the typical characteristics of these stories but also all kinds of cultural references to the larger Japanese popular cultural industry. I would rather see this series as a fun half-mocking, half-lauding homage to the whole shojo genre.


  2. Misheal Crocker
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 20:02:54

    Thank you Ariane for your comment. I will admit that the anime may translate better than the manga did because none of the audience addressing and realizing that they are a character ever happens in the first book. This could probably make a huge difference in the story, it would help clarify even more how this is something of a satire. Truth be told it helps knowing that it is a satire which could be part of my initial distaste.

    All the same despite what the twins might be characterizing, incest no matter what the cause is just too much over the top and wrong, and it bothers me a whole lot. Part of my issue might come from the work I’ve done with fan fiction (I used to moderate on a site for it) particularly Harry Potter which some may be surprised at how dark and twisted things get. People love to play with Fred and George in such a way and it is just sickening and wrong this is why I included the picture I did because when the actors Fred and George were faced with and told these things that was their response, and I stand by that stance no matter what point or non point a person is trying to get across.

    Also, I still find issues of how homosexuality is addressed in the story and how girls are still portrayed as inferior. I don’t care if it is a satire and mocking something else the issues and homosexuality and femininity are issues that are still being fought for and over even today, and the goal of the manga – to be a satire, could have been handled a lot better in my opinion.

    With that said I will admit that had I know that this was aimed for an audience familiar with shojo and Japaneses culture as a whole I would have held off in reading it because despite having been on a manga kick recently my knowledge is still growing in this genre – and the same is true of my knowledge of Japanese culture as well.


  3. Mandi M. Lynch, author
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 04:50:25

    I will never ever ever get used to women in books/tv/movies/etc being weak and helpless.


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