Ouran Host Club
"Only those with excellent social standing and those from filthy rich families are lucky enough to spend their time here at the elite private school: Ouran Academy. The Ouran Host Club is where the school's handsomest boys with too much time on their hands, entertain young ladies who also have way too much time on their hands. Just think of it as Ouran Academy's playground for the super rich and beautiful." -- Tamaki
Haruhi enters music room #3 because it's supposedly not used and seems like a good place to study. Being a commoner only accepted because of exceptional grades is a rarity in a school for the rich. It turns out that the room is indeed occupied, by the Host Club: a group of good looking guys who entertain ladies of the school who in turn shower them with affection. During their first encounter an unfortunate mishap occurs and a very expensive vase is broken. Haruhi is offered the chance to make it up to the club by becoming their newest member. Most of the angles in entertaining female guests are already covered. They've already got the "princely" type, the "cool smart" type, the "twins / forbidden boy love" types, the "boy lolita" type, and the "strong silent" type. It's decided that Haruhi will be the "natural type" and quickly proves to be popular with the ladies. The only problem is that Haruhi is actually a girl...
The premise of this series doesn't seem like much: a bunch of guys pander to girls and... um, well yeah that's basically what they do. In this way Ouran Host Club is able to pander to fan girls, however because Ouran Host Club does so deliberately it becomes tongue in cheek humor. This also carries over to social class separation. For example, Haruhi introduces the perplexed host club to the joys of commoners (instant) coffee. The humor hooked me by the first episode when Haruhi is forced to showcase "a commoner demonstrating how to make commoners coffee" (basically pouring water into a cup).
While each of the boys provides fan girl fantasy material, they're also remarkable characters with good stories to back them up. Ouran Host Club starts with general club hijinx, but also goes into deeper into each character thereafter. Just as intriguing is how each of them ended up in the club in the first place. In the middle of all this is Haruhi: the girl who ends up being the "new guy" in the host club. With over the top personality types of the rich, Haruhi provides a very grounded view of everything. She has a few weaknesses like a fear of thunder and lighting, not relying on others, and is expectedly totally dense about the boys who are interested in her. She's also totally adorable! Last there is the club's "manager": the otaku girl who is the perfect fit to pour gas on the already raging fire of (moe) girl fandom. (Special accolades goes to her voice actor Monica Rial for superbly nailing the ominous woman laugh).
The stories are mostly episodic. While there isn't a "big plot" kind of thing, each story does move things in a general direction for everyone. For a school of the elite, stories like Honey's overbearing traditional family, and Kyoya's overbearing powerful family aren't surprising. Their stories are still good, but they get overshadowed by the unusual story of the twins: Hikaru and Kaoru.
Taking this all together, Ouran Host Club is good stuff. It has good characters, and good stories too. It is fan service heavy in a way that caters to fan girls, but the upbeat non serious approach turns this into light hearted material for humor instead of suffocating the show. I have no interest in any sort of Boy Love stuff believe me, but the reactions of the girls squealing with delight whenever it happens is always there to emphasize how silly it is. This is another thing I liked about Ouran Host Club. The boys dish out the service, the girls eat it up... and everyone has a lot of fun with it. Isn't that what being an otaku is all about? This does expose a weakness of the title in that you'll have to have a developed taste in anime to get what it's doing, so it's not a title for someone who's new to anime. Lots of fun that's worth your time.
Tamaki: Don't you think it's about time you start using your charming good looks to get more out of life? Why waste your time fighting, when you could use your cuteness to give solace to young girls with too much time on their hands?
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