chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)
[personal profile] chomiji

Take the teenaged cast and episodic nature of the old "Archie" comics, strain them through some "Comedy of Manners" novels (I'm thinking of Kushner's Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword, and Wrede and Stevermer's Sorcery and Cecelia, but their common ancestors, the works of Jane Austen, would probably be even better), add a dash of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and a generous helping of the showiest, wooziest aspects of modern Japanese life. Beat until very, very light and fluffy ... and maybe you'd come up with Ouran High School Host Club.

I actually enjoyed this quite a lot, which is extremely strange, because it has very little in common with the other manga I really love.

Ouran High School Host Club,
vols. 1-3 (review)

The set-up is that Haruhi Fujioka, a poor scholarship student at ritzy, exclusive Ouran High, wanders into the all-male Host Club one day while looking for a quiet place to study. Her clothing makes her look like a boy, and when she accidentally breaks an $80,000 vase (waiting to be auctioned off for a fundraiser), the club members decide that "he'll" have to work off the debt by attracting patrons (almost always girls). Here I finally get to apply the tag line that I felt bad about using with sweet, earnest Fruits Basket: "And hijinks ensue." Because this series, like the Host Club itself, seeks only to amuse.

Plot? What plot? Ouran don't need no stinkin' plot. Basically, there's a series of silly setups. Haruhi and the boys - glamorous but profoundly melodramatic and love-happy "King" Tamaki, vice-prez and saturnine financial whiz Kyoya, flamboyantly gay twins Hikaru and Kaoru, very short and sweetly spacy "Hunny" (who's always toting a plush bunny), and tall, silent Mori (who's there to keep track of Hunny and the bunny) - are tossed into them, and proceed to bounce off of each other and whatever additional elements show up. See the Host Club entertain and later dispose of the bitchy Queen Bee who has it in for Haruhi! See them straighten out the mutually misunderstood lovers! See them celebrate the traditional cherry blossom festival! Snarky dialog and cheerfully over-the-top flourishes ("Pointless flood of roses!" notes a helpful bit of marginalia, as Tamaki suddenly gains a background of blossoms) keep things rolling along whenever the slight plot structure threatens to give way.

Running jokes also help to keep things from falling apart entirely. One of the most persistent involves an invented family where Tamaki is the father, Kyoya the mother, the twins their sons, and Haruhi their daughter. "At the age of 17, I have three kids?" Kyoya muses at one point - "Where has my youth gone?" (Hunny and Mori are not part of this nuclear meltdown family - they get stuck with being the couple next door.) Mori's silence and devotion to Hunny cause him to play the faithful dog in several episodes: Lassie as a 6-foot 2-inch high school senior, complete with the ability to track his master by scent. The boys' fascination with Haruhi's plebeian lifestyle (mostly as they imagine it, fueled by movie and TV dramas) is another never-ending source of gags, leading the boys to experiment with instant coffee and packaged ramen, among other exotic delights.

It's weird, but I even find some bits of this gagfest touching. The motherless Haruhi, whose father works as a bartender, has had precious little pampering in her life. The Host Club boys, as shallow and clueless as they are, nevertheless mean well, and end up assisting her in all sorts of ways. For example, in one episode, a discussion of the best swimsuit to suit Haruhi's nearly non-existent figure reveals (in some of those helpful little notes) that she's wearing a sports bra, "just in case," that was supplied by the club. There's something simultaneously warped and gallant about that, and it appeals to me.

So, as odd as it may be, this series is becoming something of a favorite - even though it makes a really weird companion to Samurai Deeper Kyo and Saiyuki.

Date: 2007-05-24 06:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ouran rocks. It's just so silly and over-the-top. It's hard to choose who my favorite is, though I usually default to Mori(he and Haruhi are the only sane ones, it seems)

And one could argue that all three of those make for odd favorites...

Date: 2007-05-24 06:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
mostly but not completely back in action(Storm Riders perked me up quite a bit, but then, if a couple of hot messed up guys with swords trying to kill each other doesn't fix me, I'm in dire straights) but better than the rest of the week.

And that's one of the big draws of SDK really...that and the fact that they're all looney and most would be bad guys in any other book.

Not familiar w/ S&C, no.

Date: 2007-05-24 09:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yukimura and Hotaru wouldn't get along...or Yukimura and Shinrei, probably...and he and Akira would probably kill each other(hmm...maybe there's a good reason Yukimura's usually off doing other things...)

In another book...well, Bon, Sasuke, Akari, Yuya, Tora and Yukimura would probably still be the good guys, but not the others, who'd be ambiguous at best. But hey, when your main character is a murderous nutjob whose favorite passtime is copping feels on a 16 year old girl, the hero/villain line is a little easier to cross.

S&C does sound good.

Date: 2007-05-25 03:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you for explaining to me why I like Ouran. I was really beginning to wonder.

Date: 2007-05-25 10:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Pretty much all of them, I think.

Of course I've read Sorcery and Cecilia--did you know that there are also two sequels. And I think the Kushner books are currently out of print, so I haven't had a chance to pursue them; though I did love her short story "Charis" (it was a Borderlands thing--speaking of which, if you haven't read Emma Bull's Finder and War For The Oaks, then shame, shame).

Date: 2007-05-25 11:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Heh, not meant to be belligerent or nasty, just joking. Ah, I love the internet.

I have to say, I like modern comedies of errors much better than the works of Jane Austen herself--I guess I just find Austen a little too bitchy and a little lacking in human feeling, though her books are somewhat entertaining.

Date: 2007-05-26 01:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Heh, understood. I tend to be a veeeery sarcastic person IRL, and I often forget that that doesn't always come across on the Series of Tubes.

Oh dear. If it helps, I'm not in AP English, because we don't have AP English at my weird liberal private school--but I did take an elective in 19th century British lit, so I had to read Austen for school.

Date: 2007-05-26 02:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I told you you'd love it. To quote: That's what it does. It sneaks up behind you and attacks you briefly, leaving you hyperaware to its cracktastic presence, and if you are weak, it sucks you into the fluffy, floral hive and gently eats your brain.

Hikaru and Kaoru aren't so gay. Just wait until volume 5. I mean, they're pretty gay for each other, but... [ominous trail-off, even though I'm sure that you can figure out what happens re chapter three]

("Pointless flood of roses!" notes a helpful bit of marginalia, as Tamaki suddenly gains a background of blossoms)

Wait until you get to Haruhi wondering, "Was there always a windswept ridge here?"

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