One day, Haruhi Fujioka, a nonchalant scholarship-student at the prestigious Ouran High School, breaks an $80,000 vase. To make things worse, this vase just happens to belong to the school’s Host Club – a group of super-rich and super-handsome male students who spend their free time buttering up and entertaining the female population of Ouran High. in order to repay the Host Club, Haruhi ends up joining their ranks as the newest host; forced into servitude until the debt is repaid. One problem: Haruhi is a girl.
‘KISS KISS FALL IN LOVE’ is a line that will be stuck in your head for hours
Ouran High School Host Club (we’ll call it Ouran to save my hands from carpel tunnel) may seem like your typical shoujo** manga at first. Obviously Haruhi, a poor working class girl, will kiss kiss fall in love with one of the gorgeous hosts right? Well it certainly has many of common tropes you find in 90s manga***:
- Gender bending – because what manga is complete without a little cross-dressing? Haruhi hides her female identity, mainly just so she can work as a host, but also because Haruhi literally doesn’t give a shit.
- Bishonen – or “pretty boys” for those among you who didn’t actively spend your middle school years obsessively consuming manga. Every single boy in the Host Club is a real hunk. The prettiest of which is Tamaki Souh, the Host Club president. He’s total hottie with blonde hair, blue eyes, and all the charisma in the world. Sparkles and roses appear every time he step into a room. Angels sing. Adonis weeps in jealousy.
- Megane – Kyouya Ootori, vice president of the Host Club, is smart, bookish, and suave. And yes, he pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose with his pointer and middle fingers in a way that makes all the Ouran girls’ noses bleed.
- Loli type – Mitsukini “Honey” Haninozuka, the oldest member of the Host Club, looks and acts like a 3rd grader. He’s never found without a stuffed bunny in one hand, a piece of cake in the other, and a bunch of flowers in the background you know, for that extra kawaii factor.
- Yaoi undertones – or better yet, “twincest”. The Hitachiin twins, Kaoru and Hikaru, play up their… uh… brotherly love for their customers.
- The stoic type – Mori-senpai. He’s tall, he’s got dark hair, he’s handsome, and he never talks. The perfect man.
- Harem – well a “reverse-harem”. Here we have the seemingly plain and unassuming female protagonist, Haruhi, surrounded by the aforementioned cast of stereotypical hotties – each one with their own lovable quirks.
- Add to this the occasional accidental kiss, the taboo indirect kiss, angry forehead veins, giant chibi heads, halloween-time tests of courage, heavy doses of fanservice, banana peels on the ground, doki-doki moments and basically every trick in the book – aside from magical girl transformations
Ouran takes these overplayed tropes, cozies up to them, and then flips them over WWE style
So why should you read Ouran? Surely you could get all these same kicks reading any other shoujo manga: CardCaptors Sakura, Skip Beat!, Hana-Kimi, and Maid-Sama! to name a few. To manga newbies, those manga would be a great place to start your journey into the wonderful and magical world of shoujo. But to those tired of the same storyline(s)over and over again, Ouran takes these overplayed tropes, cozies up to them, and then flips them WWE style. Instead of the typical teenage-angst ridden romance, Ouran is a romantic-comedy with a heart of gold.
Ouran pays homage to every stereotype in the manga bible but subverts just enough of them to keep things fresh yet familiar
Tamaki-senpai, host club president, spends his days trying to get Haruhi, his kouhai, to notice him. Kyouya, the calm and collected megane, is actually a devious mastermind who enjoys puppeteering the host club. The twins, the incestuous comic relief, have a tragic reason why their emotional (and maybe physical?) bond is so strong. Honey-senpai, the adorable loli-type, is actually a world-renowned martial artist, feared by all. Mori-senpai, always strong and silent type, is just a gentle giant. And to turn the entire shoujo trope on its over-sized manga-head, Haruhi, the female protagonist is neither a helpless maiden pining after a crush nor a clumsy yet charmingly brash go-getter. She simply just wants to be left alone.
If you don’t have the time or energy to read the manga (basically if you suck) or if you’ve already read the manga and need some more Ouran in your life, the anime is pretty great
Ouran pays homage to every stereotype in the manga bible but subverts just enough of them to keep things fresh yet familiar. A light-hearted beach day may turn into a survivor-style trek through the jungle. A simple school physical exam may require an Ocean’s 11 level of infiltration and extraction. The characters are all hilarious and lovable in their imperfections, and every chapter drops these characters in situations so uniquely outrageous and unpredictable that you won’t be able to put the manga down.
PS. If you don’t have the time or energy to read the manga (basically if you suck) or if you’ve already read the manga and need some more Ouran in your life, the anime is pretty great, just avoid the English dubs. And as for the live-action Japanese drama, some people say it gets better with time but I literally could not get past the first episode.
*Kiss Kiss Fall In Love technically a line from the anime opener but it’s just too good not to mention
**Shoujo refers to manga targeted towards teenage girls. Basically the Twilight novels of the manga-verse
***Ouran released in 2002 but everyone knows the 90s didn’t end until 2004