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As I write this review, I am presently at episode 18 of Ouran High School Host Club as a part of a marathon with my anime club. This is my third viewing of the series, and I am still impressed and amused by it even now. Even now, no shoujo series before or since has had the same kind of impact on me.

When I first saw the series a little over a year ago, my first impressions before the end of the first episode were “oh gods why am I watching this.” To say I was skeptical when I first heard the name and saw screenshots would be an understatement, and up until the last minutes of the first episode (which was also shown to me in the same anime club, though as one of our semester series) I was staring at it more like it was a train wreck.

After all, it seemed outwardly like a simple, typical shounen-ai series with little other substance. There was so many stereotypes of a genre that didn’t interest me heavily running around that up until the final punch I only watched with something of a morbid fascination.

The final punch of episode 1 was a series hook on par with the first five minutes of Full Metal Alchemist for me. In one moment of sheer storytelling brilliance, the revelation that the “young boy” at the center of a “shounen-ai” harem was in fact a girl who now was being forced into a fish out of water story somehow instantly appealed to me… and it became a black horse for my favorite show of 2006.

And from there it only got better. At first a simple amusing parody/satire of shounen-ai, the series grew quickly into something a bit deeper and more heartfelt and real than just about any shoujo I had seen since Kodomo no Omocha. As important to me as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in 2006 and still one of my favorite shows in recent memory, I feel now is as good a time as ever for my review of this show.

Art Direction

At first, my only thoughts about Ouran’s art was how pink it was. Everything was so pastel, and the halls of this rich academy so pink, that it came as a bit of a weird shift to my eyes.

And yet looking at it now, it really couldn’t be more perfect. Studio Bones took a fairly generic shoujo art style (there being little in the manga art style that distinguishes it from any other shoujo) and brought it to life gorgeously. The coloring, definitely designed to appeal to girls, also serves to exaggerate the shoujo aspects, building an atmosphere ripe for satire.

And beyond just the style, the character designs and animations are consistent and expressive. From Haruhi’s frustrated facefaults to the twins excellently mirrored yet unique movements to Tamaki’s screen-filling exaggerated motions, every character would be perfectly portrayed even in a silent movie. Heck, Mori practically IS a silent movie character, and his stoic randomness in the background shows a hilarious playful side behind the taciturn giant. And then there is the pure insanity of Renge, who appears in a whirlwind of flower petals, flames of moe, and high speed motors, giving short bursts of sheer CRACK to the series whenever she appears with her Ojousan laugh.

And then there’s the faces themselves, the most important part of the characters. So much attention and care is put into every little feature of the facial expressions, facefault or serious, that every scene is given the perfect emotion that needs to be portrayed. Cartoony enough to be lively and expressive while serious enough to show anything in the full spectrum of emotions that only shoujo can really portray, the faces alone make the art come alive.

To say I love the art now would be an understatement. Visually, it is probably the most impressive display Studio Bones has given us, and it proves to be exceptional for the series it is in.

Sound Direction

Listening to Tamaki now after hearing Mamoru Miyano in Death Note is freaking creepy. Seriously, the man has one voice, and yet it works so well for loud idiots and evil masterminds alike. Every time Tamaki utters an enthusatic “KEISAN DOURI!” (to all you Death Note fans, yes, that is exactly what Light uses for “Just as planned!”) I imagine Light having gotten into L’s sugar supply.

Tamaki is my favorite character in Ouran, and a good part of that comes from Mamoru Miyano’s voice. Even if it is kinda scary now.

The voice acting in Ouran is IMPECCABLE. Though Miyano is my personal standout pick, every other character is so expertly portrayed it’s hard to find any faults. In the main cast or the side characters. Every actor and actress gets their voices so perfect. Be it the goofy comedy or the serious emotional scenes, it’s never even slightly above average: it’s just PERFECT from start to end.

The music itself isn’t as big of a star as the voice acting, but in a series like this, it doesn’t need to be. Even then, the classical music is such perfect ambient mood music I can’t fault it at all either. Like the art, the sound is everything the series needs it to be.

Story Direction

And yet, as perfect as the art and music are, the story itself is truly the series most exceptional component. It’s episodic mini-story done right. It’s good enough to appeal to both genders. It’s overarching character based story and its simple messages on family do a little more than just entertain.

The cross-gender appeal comes from its nature as satire. Whenever the series goes right into fanservice for the female viewers, the IN-SERIES fangirls kyaa~~ away and eventually any guy watching the series observes that the show is actively MOCKING its female audience with the shallow, rich NPC females running around every which way, and these scenes become humor rather than horror, especially with the absurdly over-the-top twincest scenes. It actively parodies moe by lampshading every single instance of it. Hell, the character Renge is a walking lampshade of everything fangirl, and she’s terrifyingly hilarious because of it.

But when it gets past the satire and to the actual character growth, the series is shoujo at its finest. The appeal of shoujo always lies in well done character drama and growth, and beneath the bishounen features of the host club lies a collection of truly amazing characters. Tamaki, Hikaru and Kaoru, Kyouya, all four manage to be emotionally powerful due to their unique cicumstances and characterizations. Even the sweets-and-cute-things obsessed Honey and the eternally stoic and random Mori manage to show their unique and interesting sides through their own relationship and mini-plots.

Worth special mention, at least to me, is the most emotionally deep and interesting character, Suou Tamaki. While outwardly a loud idiot, and he really is oblivious to so many things, Tamaki represents a character I actually relate to on a level. His reasoning for creating the host club, and the way he views student groups as family, shows a level of heart behind his seemingly narcissistic exterior. Indeed, the way he invariably sees the best in people and will always, ALWAYS put himself out for others shows he is anything but the narcissistic “prince type” and more a true hero. The shoujo equivalent of Kamina in his absurd nonsense and unbridled charisma, Tamaki is, as I have said, my favorite character.

However, the glue that holds the fabric of the series and its cast together is its heroine, Fujioka Haruhi. While a fairly standard shoujo lead in the vein of Fruits Basket’s Honda Tohru, Haruhi nonetheless manages to forge her own unique path simply by being a commoner in the realm of, as her catchphrase says, “damn rich bastards.” Her role as tsukommi jabbing at an entire SCHOOL of boke would be enough to make her a standout, but she goes beyond that as a cute and charismatic female lead, as easy to associate with as it gets.

And then theres the stories themselves. The individual cases that serve as the vessels for all the growth. The minor characters that wander in and out of the show, just as interesting as the main cast they help enrich. From the heartfelt backstories of the individual hosts to the over the top comedy episodes that STILL provide insight, there isn’t a single weak link through the entire series. It starts strong and gets even better in its second half. If anything, the way it grows is… well, the best thing I can compare it to at this point is Gurren Lagann.


I rant about Gurren Lagann and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya so much I often forget how much this series matters to me as well. Along with those two series, this show is one of my three favorites for its excellent, perfectly honed use of shoujo both as comedy/satire and drama. Watching it again, I find it truly exceptional.

Final Impressions:
Art Direction: Consistently amazing in every way. A+
Sound Direction: Perfect voice acting and excellent mood music for every occasion. A+
Story Direction: The very best of shoujo, be it in comedy or in drama. A+
Overall: As excellent as Gurren Lagann and Haruhi, and it stays fresh with each viewing. A+