Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 18

By Bisco Hatori. Released in Japan as “Ouran Koukou Host Club” by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by Viz.

At long last, one of Viz’s most beloved shoujo series is coming to an end. We’ve had all the drama, we’ve had the love confession, so all that’s left is wrapping things up. Luckily, for the most part that means a return to the comedy that was one of the main reasons that fans loved this series. From Tamaki’s over-the-top reactions, to Haruhi’s deadpan remarks, to Kyoya’s smiling nastiness, there’s something for everyone here. And it’s all topped with a layer of sweetness that will give you cavities – but in a good way.

I should probably mention right now, though, that some BL fans of the series may end up being annoyed. Ouran has a huge BL fandom, as many reverse harem series tend to, and the artist enjoyed playing up to it – though always in a silly way. However, now that it’s the end of the series, she does little panels devoted to what happens to the cast when they grow up. A note to authors of books or manga with romantic entanglements – fans HATE this. Telling folks who love to write fanfiction that all of their romantic avenues are blocked by canon just grates. So when Ouran fans started off Vol. 18 by having Hunny married off to Reiko, I suspect the reaction was less “awww, so cute!” and more “Noooooo, he’s Mori’s!”. Be prepared for this throughout the book.

As for the book itself, I had wondered what Tamaki’s reaction to Haruhi’s confession would be like. It’s pretty much exactly as I predicted – which is what makes it fun, of course. Tamaki’s tendency to overdo everything, his naivete at basic day-to-day living and yet his mastery of reading other people are all on display here, and I think after 18 volumes we no longer worry about how he’ll function as an actual responsible adult. The same goes for Haruhi – the change in her over the course of the series has been astounding, and here we see her actually being openly affectionate with Tamaki.

The series proper ends about 2/3 through the volume, so we get two ‘side stories’ taking place after the series. The second is just 6 pages of our main couple being adorable, but the first is full-length, and focuses on Kyoya and his family issues. The author notes in comments that she wanted to leave Kyoya’s story open-ended as it would be very difficult to realistically wrap it up that fast – it will take years. So instead we have Kyoya being clever, but still not quite clever enough to think ahead of his father, which is his main goal. He also clashes with a woman from another family who’s being engaged to one of his brothers. Seeing their sharp, nasty barbs towards each other – all delivered, of course, with bright and happy smiles – made me happy. And of course the rest of the Host Club is there as well, making this probably the funniest chapter of the volume.

As with all harem series that deliver an actual ending, this is going to upset a few people. But I suspect the majority will be delighted. Ouran has been an over-the-top romantic comedy which, even if it got a bit melodramatic towards the end, never stopped delivering entertainment. It’s been worth the wait to have it fully come out here. v(I do wonder if Viz will license Hatori’s new work, The Bullshit Delusional Opera, when it comes out in Japan. It may need a title change.) Congratulations to Haruhi, Tamaki and the cast!

Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 17

By Bisco Hatori. Released in Japan as “Ouran Koukou Host Club” by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by Viz.

It’s the second to last volume of Ouran, and things really aren’t getting any funnier. Not that there isn’t humor in this, especially towards the end, but the main thrust of this volume remains the family drama surrounding Tamaki and how it gets resolved. We’re in full soap opera mode here, and the tension is so high that even Kyoya loses it and starts screaming.

I was rather surprised at how well all of this holds together considering that so much of it is a giant infodump that’s hurled at us. The huge, convoluted plan that Tamaki’s father has would seem completely ridiculous until you remember that it’s Tamaki’s father, who has proven before to be as overdramatic as his son. Of *course* he would use the convoluted, overcomplicated plan! Actually, the family dynamics here are one of the best parts of the volume. Haruhi remarks how Tamaki, his father and his grandmother all share a bullheaded stubbornness, and we certainly see that here. I was quite p;leased with the depth that the grandmother got in particular, and I hope the final volume gives us some more resolution.

We also get some more of Tamaki’s mother. Given how she’s been presented as this beautiful-yet-weak fragile woman, it makes complete sense that she seems to suffer from the Ouran version of Love Story Disease, where one grows more beautiful the sicker one gets. That said, what little we see of her shows she’s not merely a potted plant – I loved her casual beating up of Tamaki’s father over what he did – it’s meant to remind us of Haruhi, I think. I suspect that Haruhi and Tamaki’s mother will get along swimmingly after the series ends.

Haruhi mostly has it easy here, getting to see Tamaki’s serious, stubborn yet noble side. It’s the side that’s easiest to fall in love with, and she has far fewer issues with it. Of course, she’s fallen in love with *all* of Tamaki, which also means you get his goofy, over the top side as well. And she *does* love that side, and not merely tolerate it. There is a wonderful inner monologue right towards the end of the volume where Haruhi reflects on joining the Host Club. Just as Haruhi keeps Tamaki grounded and attempts to tone down the worst of his excesses, so Tamaki shows Haruhi a world that she would never have otherwise experienced. I know this is a reverse harem manga, and there are many Ouran fans who would have preferred that Haruhi end up with Hikaru or Kyoya. But I think Hatori-san did an excellent job of showing why Tamaki is the real winner here.

And at the end of the volume those feelings are finally admitted in the open. After the catharsis of seeing Tamaki and his mother reunite, even if only for three minutes, Haruhi finally takes all the emotions that she’s felt over the past 17 volumes and tells Tamaki that she loves him. We don’t hear his response, of course – there’s still one volume to go. Somehow I’m going to guess he’ll overreact. Now that almost all the drama of Ouran has been resolved, I’m expecting a return to high comedy for the final one. Sadly, it’s another six-month wait. The curse of being caught up in Japan!

Ouran High School Host Club Vol. 16

By Bisco Hatori. Released in Japan as “Ouran Koukou Host Club” by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by Viz.

The series continues to wrap up, which unfortunately means that this volume, while excellent, is a lot more serious than previous ones. We have to resolve Tamaki’s family situation, and that’s just unhappy – his grandmother seems to despise him, his father is strangely aloof and uncaring, and halfway through this volume he’s forced to abandon everything else that might possibly influence him. It’s really brought home here how good he is at putting up a facade, even when he’s alone – it helps to drive home just how crushed he in in the moments when that facade cracks.

This is not to say there is no comedy at all, luckily. Hunny and Moru finally have their fight, and Mori’s demands turn out to be both sensible and amusing. I liked the contrast with their father’s playing shogi, and reminding me a lot of Genma and Soun in Ranma. Likewise, the accidental kiss between Tamaki and Haruhi here is very well done, absolutely terrifying both of them, and giving Tamaki a great moment of self-doubt when he’s discussing the incident with… um, his dog, but it makes sense in context. I really liked “Don’t worry, the new Tamaki is not as stupid as the old Tamaki.” Very true!

Sadly, he then moves back to the main mansion, no longer in exile. While he initially thinks that’s cause for celebration – as does everyone else, and I love his discussion of it with Haruhi – it turns out to be a trap, one he realizes only after he’s walked into it. What’s worse, he realizes that the ones he loves are at risk, and that he has to protect them at all costs. Because this is a manga, you know what that means – telling Haruhi that she can leave the club if she wants to now, and that his affairs are none of her business. Yeah, you can imagine how well THAT goes. But to no avail – for this cliffhanger, we see Tamaki’s father ordering the Host Club shut down.

As for Haruhi, she’s still not very good at all about dealing with her feelings for Tamaki, even if she now realizes them. Her expression after the accidental kiss is funny but also a wee bit disturbing – how repressed has she been that this will freak her out that much? And it’s bookended with the end of the volume, where she’s alone in her apartment during a thunderstorm, painfully aware of how much Tamaki has helped her and his absence right now. Hopefully her emotional breakdown here will lead to greater resolve.

There are two short stories at the end of the volume. The first gives us backstory on how Haruhi’s mother and father got together, and is very sweet. You can see why Haruhi wants to live up to her mother’s dream. The other introduces us to the twins’ grandmother, who is just as eccentric as the rest of the family, and is another good look at how, while the twins seem to run roughshod over everyone they know, in reality they are quite easily manipulated. At least before the manga begins…

So we’re definitely at a low ebb in the manga, and unfortunately we have to wait till December for the next volume. This particular volume was quite good, though, especially if you like the serious, more angsty side of this manga.