Finally, a show for commoners!
Boy meets girl! Haruhi Fujioka is a commoner student admitted to the super-fancy Ouran Academy, where she stumbles across the Ouran High School Host Club: a group of gorgeous schoolboys who spend their free time catering to the female populace. After breaking a vase by accident she’s inducted into the club to pay her debts, but the boys mistake her for a boy and hijinks ensue! (Oh, and she also meets a bitchy princess who throws her bag in the pond. Boo!)
Ouran High School Host Club (boy I can’t wait to type that name a million times) is exactly as I remember it, almost a decade later: a joyous, cutesy, risqué romp with captivating characters and a deliberate desire to make its audience feel good. This isn’t some cookie-cutter high-school drama where a bunch of sad stereotypical kids deal with sad stereotypical problems; it’s a fresh and exciting take on romance, sexuality, classism, and identity. (It’s good, is what I’m saying.)
One thing I wanted to mention right off the bat is that I’m actually watching the dubbed version of the show. Normally I’ll choose sub over dub every time, but I’m picking the dub this time for two equally important reasons:
- The first time I saw the show (back in ~2010) I watched the dub, and
- I personally think dubs work much better for comedy shows than other genres.
Dubs have a tendency to feel “goofy”, especially if they’re of lesser quality. I’m sure if I went back and watched an episode of Code Geass with the dub, I’d find it harder to feel the darkness and terror that the sub provided. But Ouran is a comedy — a big, bold, blazing comedy — and hearing these big jokes in English really helps them land, for me at least. Plus the dub has an amazing voice cast and it’s obvious from the first episode that a lot of work has been put into it.
Another technical note about this show: the animation is beautiful, and actually quite distinctive. Bold lines, bloomed colours, a rich and opulent colour palette; this show has such a strong, unique style to it. I found myself constantly taking screenshots throughout the episode, simply because there was so much to see in every frame. I also really enjoyed the constant use of text and cutaway imagery in the show, the visual jokes add a second layer of comedy onto the scene itself.
Finally, I’m just kind of amazed that a shōjo anime from 2006 can offer such a positive transgender message. This is a show about choosing your own identity, about being who you want to be, not who everyone else wants you to be; it’s about finding a group of people who want to help you find your own true self. And that’s great! I was worried this was going to be a little Will and Grace-style problematic (good for then, bad for now), but the show’s core message is still perfectly valid, thirteen years later!
Some more notes before Haruhi breaks something:
- Once again, let me to take a moment and add all these names to my spellchecker. Haruhi, Tamaki, Mitsukuni, Kyoya…
- The OP is great; I always say that abstract, thematic OPs are so much more interesting than the dull, old “lets just do a slideshow of characters standing around”.
- The blinking arrows are such a great and simple joke, I’m amazed I’ve never seen something like that done before (or since).
- I’ve always found Mitsukuni a little creepy in concept; of all the hosts you could imagine for a show like this, “tiny lolita boy” seems like the worst.
- I wonder if the creators saved money by animating the twins as mirror images? Hmm.
- I love how the show builds up Princess like she’s going to be some major antagonist, and then just ditches her in the first episode. It really sets the tone for the series.
That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow for the next episode of Ouran High School Host Club!