“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.”
These first lines from protagonist, Tamaki, sums up the basic premise of Ouran High School Host Club. Our main protagonist and middle-class student, Haruhi, accidentally stumbles across the Host Club when looking for a quiet place to study and a chain of events happen that end up with Haruhi working as a host. The catch being that Haruhi is actually a girl, though her incredibly boyish appearance and deep voice could convince you otherwise, so the club has to keep that secret from their female guests.
Ouran High School Host Club is a reverse harem as instead of a guy being surrounded by a bunch of beautiful females, it instead has a girl being surrounded by a group of attractive males. However, what makes Ouran different is that it both pokes fun at the tropes from harems and also is far more developed than a typical harem. The male characters at first glance represent anime stereotypes such as the prince, the cool type, the stoic type, twincest and the lolita, and the male characters play up to that to draw their female guests in. However, what’s different is that when the females aren’t around, we see that all of these males are far more three-dimensional and this becomes very apparent when we learn about the backstories of these characters.
This anime is massively comedic and there are many laughs to be found in every episode, whether it be from the characters and their interactions, to the visuals. Many jokes are very meta and even break the fourth wall. Now usually when a series like this tries to tug at your heartstrings or dip its toes in drama, it can backfire, but in the case of Ouran, it almost always works in its favour. When this anime delves deeper into its main characters, there are some heartbreaking stories to be discovered and considering that this is an anime about the most extravagant, richest and fortunate people in society, it’s amazing that all character problems are easy to empathise with.
Given that many people watching are likely to have a class standing similar to Haruhi, the grand animation of Ouran only adds to the feeling of this Host Club being a completely different world. Another thing that adds to this sense of richness is the soundtrack, mostly orchestrated, containing classical music.
Where this show could have really gone wrong is with the dub because the Japanese version is incredible. Whilst I can’t say that the dub surpasses the sub, I can say that it might be just as good. Caitlin Glass plays the straightforward and deadpan Haruhi whilst keeping her likeable to the audience, and she is always including that small hint of femininity in Haruhi’s voice. Another notable performance is Vic Mignogna as Tamaki, played through all his shades; charming as a host, comedically manic when off the clock, oblivious but not completely idiotic, and ultimately caring. The other members of the English cast all have great performances and it’s clear that they were having a lot of fun making this anime as the chemistry is one of the biggest selling points. Another point in their favour is that there is a lot of Japanese vernacular in Ouran,and the dub keeps that in their version so the characters really come across as Japanese. This really combats the neutrality that is common with dubbed animes.
From beginning to end, Ouran High School Host Club is a lighthearted anime that has massive laughs and emotional character moments, and it balances the two in a way that isn’t seen often. Ultimately, Ouran is an anime that celebrates anime and anime fans without being pandering or condescending.
Written by Xenia Grounds