Our thoughts from the monthly Mangaforum
- http://www.twitch.tv/mangaforum – 23rd October
For our October read we read Ouran High School Host Club, a manga series by Bisco Hatori, first published in Hakusensha’s LaLa magazine in September 2002.
The series follows the school year antics of the ‘Host club’ of 6 guys, after they take on the arguably asexual girl (Haruhi Fujioka) into their Host Gang who they subsequently disguise as a boy so she can repay a debt after breaking an expressive vase. The Host club is lead by the extremely camp and flamboyant Tamaki Suoh – their motto is to “give women exactly what they want” by each embodying a stereotypical romance trope seen in a shojo manga, and Haruhi becomes their “Natural” edition.
The manga finished in November 2010 but the series has also been adapted to anime and a live action and visual novel game.
So, What we all thought in a nutshell;
- Neither Lex nor I, realized that it was meant to be a satire/parody before we started reading; This led to preconceptions being shattered in the best kind of way.
- There are definite thematic differences between the manga and anime;
- The anime is purely enjoyable silly-ness while the manga seems to actually be more inline with the tropy shojo.
- I can’t believe I don’t see more cosplay of this??
What we liked – there’s a lot of say (about the story, via the anime).
For something presented as a drama/reverse harem/romantic comedy, I’ll premise by saying this is not as shojo-sickly saccharine, teenage-over-emotion-bullshit as you would dread; But I need to re-enforce that there are significant differences between the manga and the anime.
About the Manga; Although Lexa is tolerant to the archetype shojo romance type of story, I’m not; And because we didn’t know it was meant to be a parody of that genre, I found it very hard to get the motivation to start reading, from the pure dread of the level of cringe and eye-rolling I was expecting to experience. I bought a physical copy to make it easier and committed a morning; And my first thought was “What is going on here?…” Unfortunately, that thought never really went away…(More about what I didn’t like below)
So unsurprisingly following my frustration with the manga, I was reluctant to try the anime; but after a significant push from Lex, and seeing as I was hung over with no plans to move from my sofa, I sat down to watch the anime… and I was happily surprised.
The anime carries everything much better. The characters are better formed, the script is funny, the sense of parody much clearer and better developed, and we understand that the characters know they’re extreme and play that “role” for their host-ees.
It’s also recklessly, boarder-line ‘Politically correct’, and, possibility my favorite thing about the series is the complete disregard any sensitivity about gender boundaries and sexuality – who cares? There is no line between “masculine” and “feminine” and absolutely no shame is portraying either other the other. Tamaki and the second in command, Kyoya Ootori, refer to each other as the “Mummy and daddy” of the group, neither of which bat a eyelid.
There are also quite a few strong, unapologetic female characters; One in particular is the self-appointed “manager” of the host club (Renge; pronounced Reng-gay) an unapologeticly focused otaku, who ascends from the depths of the host room every now and again to forcibly guide the boys into the manifestations of shojo-stereotypes she know will drive the girls wild.
Oh and Haruhi’s dad is a cross dresser – and this is both accepted immediately by all and hardly even questioned. (*spoiler* Haruhi’s mum is dead, but at one point Haruhi’s dad says that the mum knew he cross-dressed and still loved him so he really doesn’t care what other people think….A heterosexual man cross dressing in a loving stable marriage, totally accepted by the child and community….YES!)
The President of the Host club, Tamaki, is probably both Lex and I’s favorite character and carries the tone of the show with his outrageous emotional standards and fabulous costumes. He has a comedic ego but is also kind, fun-loving
What we disliked.
So, as much praise as I have the story and overall ethos of the Host Club series above, the manga gave me a headache. I think the main problem is the art; The panels are densely drawn out on the page, and the style is definitely going for that “fem-man” shojo look, so there isn’t a lot of distinction between the characters, and way to much screen tone; And because of this, and because there are so many characters from the start who’s thoughts and speech all over lap, it makes the whole thing confusing and cluttered; This, in turn, kills the comic timing, and none of the parody translates at all. It was very easy to get lost in the movement between panels and my initial notes described it as a “chaos of characters”.
I think it works much better as an anime, because the colour, animation and sound enables there to be much more distinction and clarity for jokes.
More interestingly, we also felt there was a slight difference in the “feel” of the story. The manga arguably portrays the Hosts and characters as less humorous, taking themselves quite seriously about their Club roles, elitist, with no sense of fun; For example, my first impression of the girls being “hosted”, was that they were snobby and very particular, which is shown through the Host Club’s shame about Haruhi being so poor and needing to partially hide this from the girls they’re hosting. The anime is much more lighthearted, treating Haruhi’s Poverty as more like something the boys can’t relate to but are eager to accommodate and feel empathy about. It all just seems much more friendly…
…Oh except for that rape-y episode… what the actual fuck….
Tune in next time at http://www.twitch.tv/mangaforum 19th November for another great read and some Convention chat!
Don’t forget to follow us on twitter and Youtube too, where we’ll posting our thoughts and faces- https://twitter.com/themangaforum.
As always, We look forward to hearing what you think so comment below!
Lara and Lexa