Tag Archives: manga

Books (Manga): Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori

Mori, Hunny, Kyoya, Tamaki, Kaoru, Hikaru & Haruhi (center)

I found the anime first, on one of the bazillion streaming sites we now have. The show reminded me a bit of Utena, not in content but in style. Since I love Utena, I was excited to try this show out, even though it lacks the magical realism of Utena.

At the center of Ouran High School Host Club (OHSHC) is Haruhi, a “poor” scholarship student to this prestigious school filled with the offspring of the rich and sometimes (or in certain circles) famous. Because she cannot afford the $3000 uniform, Haruhi attends her first day of school in one of her dad’s old sweaters, which is oversized on her underdeveloped frame. You can probably see where this is going. With her moppy short hair and her indeterminate clothing, Haruhi is mistaken for a boy. She doesn’t much care either way (her dad is a transvestite), but when she stumbles by accident into the Host Club and breaks an expensive vase, she’s told she will need to join the club to work off the debt.

It’s a fairly flimsy excuse for a rom-com, but at least the author doesn’t attempt to stretch the fiction too far or thin; the host club members figure out pretty quickly that Haruhi is female. The key is to keep the clientele in the dark.

For those who are wondering, a host club is a place where beautiful people entertain and flirt with customers. In the usual sense, the women are the employees and men visit host clubs to feel special as these women give them their full attention. (Also, host clubs are typically for adults.) But OHSHC is clearly a reverse harem fantasy, and here the beautiful, rich boys flirt with female students and melt their hearts.

There are seven main characters. Haruhi, as previously described; Tamaki, the idiot “king” of the club; Kyoya, the scheming VP; mischievous twins Hikaru and Kaoru; cake-loving Hunny (who hides great martial arts power within his tiny frame); and strong, silent Mori. Something for everyone, right? Wouldn’t that be the point of such a club anyway—to have the right kind of guy for any possible occasion?

The result is largely predictable fluff. There are 18 total volumes of manga, and the first half of them are fun but largely nothing special. Things take a more serious turn in the second half of the series as family dynamics and other relationships are explored.

As someone who mostly enjoys deep characters, this manga didn’t completely serve my interests. Mori and Kyoya are the closest things to “deep” that we’re given, and they aren’t examined all that closely. Kyoya does get a bit more page time (if that’s a thing) than Mori.

Haruhi is blunt and practical, but overall I was mostly indifferent to her. Tamaki is too over the top for me; I found him to be too much of an idiot to like him, despite his good nature. Since he ends up the focus of a lot of the story, I found myself wishing the spotlight would fall elsewhere. But when it sometimes did, those stories highlighting the other characters often fell flat for me. I guess it’s clear where the author’s heart was, and that’s fair. It’s just that my heart was not in the same place.

Still, this is a fun, fluffy series and a fair way to bide time. I have a video review with more details on my YouTube channel if you’re interested.

Current Manga Reads: Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle and Takane to Hana

I know I’m supposed to write Reservoir Chronicle with some crazy intercapitalizations, but just no. Also note that the “to” in Takane to Hana is the Japanese for “and.” In the English version, it’s represented by an ampersand.

Years ago, I started reading Tsubasa and even watched some of the anime. As a huge fan of CLAMP, it seems like it should have been exactly my thing. But I couldn’t get into it. Now, some ten years later, I’m trying again. I’ve made it through 18 volumes… Which leaves me some 10 more to go.

Tsubasa reads like CLAMP doing AU fan fiction of its own work. It features favorite characters but in different settings and literally different worlds. Some of it I really love, like the interactions between Kurogane and Fai. But as someone who never really understood why everyone love Sakura so much (she’s too perfect to be interesting), and who never got into the Sakura x Syaoran thing… Well, Tsubasa leans heavy on that. Meanwhile, my favorite characters, such as Touya, Yukito, Subaru, Kamui, and Seishirou, are [thus far] extremely ancillary.

Also, some of the plot has gotten a bit convoluted. It’s been semi-explained but… Maybe it’s just the translation, but I feel like I’m missing some of what’s happening. It might also be because the battles are often illustrated in such a way that I can’t actually tell what’s going on. I’ll keep reading, mostly in hopes of more Kurogane + Fai, and in hopes of seeing my other favorites return at some point, but right now this one doesn’t hold a candle to Cardcaptor Sakura or Tokyo Babylon.

As for Takane to Hana, well… I really dislike using the term “guilty pleasure” because I do believe we shouldn’t be ashamed of things we enjoy, but in this case, given some of the problematic foundation of this story, I do feel pretty guilty about it. Hana is a 16-year-old high school student whose older sister forces her to sit in on an arranged marriage meeting in her stead. The prospective groom is 26-year-old Takane, wealth heir to a major corporation. What follows is Fifty Shades lite. There’s no sex, of course, but we do have a bossy rich boy and a naive young lady. Then again, I haven’t read Fifty Shades, so I could be way off the mark. Hana doesn’t hesitate to sass Takane; that’s the very reason he’s taken an interest in her. She the first person not to chase him for his money and status. The result is something that is part endearing friendship and part… er…

When I was sixteen, I went out with my mom’s friend’s college-age son a few times. That was weird enough (though not all the reasons for the weirdness were age related). Takane is past college and working, so… The manga tries to paint him as juvenile in attitude, thereby making the gap not quite so yawning, but it’s still a bit… Like, if a 26-year-old guy were hanging around my teen daughter, I’d think he was trying to sell her drugs or planning to kidnap her and traffic her or something. Hana’s parents don’t do that because her dad works for the company Takane is heir to and he wants to keep his job. Nothing like an additional threat of unemployment to spice up a romance, right?

And yet. AND YET. This manga (of which I’ve only read the first three volumes) manages to walk that very thin line so that the relationship, such as it is, does not come off as creepy. Or maybe I’m just desensitized to it. Maybe I should feel even worse than I do about it. Like, this is something I feel like I should not enjoy, should even be protesting, but I can’t stop reading it. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

God, I hope they have the next few volumes at the library tomorrow.

Books: Revolutionary Girl Utena by Chiho Saito

I love Touga Kiryuu. So much so that the one and only time I went to an anime convention, I cosplayed as him. But at that time I’d only ever watched the anime. I’ve owned this really nice box set of the manga for a few years now, and I finally decided to read them.

Me as Touga Kiryuu c. 1998

Shoujo Kakumei Utena is a pretty strange story. Utena Tenjou [note: I’m writing the names in the English order of given name first] lost her parents when she was young, and while grieving her loss one day, she went wandering through the city and fell (or nearly fell?) in a canal or river. But a “prince” saved her. He gave her a ring with a rose seal on it and promised they would meet again some day. Every year she receives a letter from the prince. Finally, some seven years later (Utena is now 13), he says they will soon meet.

Utena transfers to Ohtori Academy, an elite boarding school whose symbol is the rose. In so doing, she stumbles onto a strange ritual performed by the student council (of which Touga is president). They duel for possession of a girl named Anthy Himemiya, who they call the “Rose Bride.” They think being her groom will give them powers “to revolutionize the world.”

It only gets weirder from there. At some point the center of the story ceases to hold and it begins to make less sense; the threads of story are pulled too thin to form full connections. That said, I still really love these characters. Utena is perhaps the least interesting (as is sometimes the way of main characters); the council members are far more fascinating. The angry Juri, the sweet but sister-hounded Miki, the obsessed Saionji… And of course Touga. My favorite. In the manga Touga proves to be even better because he’s given more depth of character, which I appreciate. But I do also much prefer the character designs in the anime.

This manga doesn’t take long to read, and it’s worth reading if you don’t mind a story where you walk away unsure of what exactly happened. There are many “side stories,” too, with maybe alternate universes or??? They’re all good, but they in some ways contradict the main manga. I guess it’s just the author playing with her toys and trying new things with them. Fair enough. If I had characters this amazing, I might do the same.

Manga: Fruits Basket, Collector’s Edition 2 & 3

We recently started watching the anime for Fruits Basket on Crunchyroll, and that made me want to check out the manga it’s based on. Lucky for me, our library has a fairly good selection of manga. We’ve come a long way from my having to order from Japanese bookstores and then painstakingly translate to the best of my abilities… Which were not particularly strong…

After skimming the first Collector’s Edition—which is what our library has, rather than the individual volumes—and discovering that #1 ended right around where the anime we’d already seen did, I skipped that one and went on to #2, therefore getting ahead of the weekly episodes. Now I’m curious to see how much of what I’ve read will make it into the show.

Fruits Basket is about Tohru Honda (note that I’m anglicizing the names by putting first name first), an orphaned girl who bizarrely ends up living with an aloof classmate named Yuki Soma (sometimes spelled “Sohma”) who, along with other Soma family members, is cursed with a spirit of the Chinese zodiac. That is, whenever he’s embraced by a non-Soma member of the opposite gender, Yuki turns into a rat. Because he’s cursed with the spirit of the Chinese zodiac rat. ::shrug::

It’s exactly the kind of setup typical of this strain of anime, quite comedic but tempered with some heavy sentimentalism and the usual teen angst. The mix is highly satisfying. However, the story is far easier to understand via the anime; the manga is crowded with characters whose names are similar (and each one has several nicknames besides), and the art sometimes makes it difficult to tell what is actually happening. Despite these weaknesses, however, I find myself utterly addicted, reading through the omnibuses as quickly as I can get my hands on them. I’ll be so sad when I’ve read it all…

It’s been a long while since I’ve found a manga that I like this much. Hopefully I can discover another great series to sate my appetite once I’ve made my way through this one. Suggestions?