[“What I’m Reading” posts are not intended to be formal reviews and generally contain spoilers for the book under discussion after the jump. Readers beware!]
A few days ago I finally sat down with volume 13 of Ouran High School Host Club, which I’ve been saving up as a special treat. Ouran is a comfort read for me. It’s always funny, often sly, and occasionally moving, and I find it to be a reliable pick-me-up after a long day.
Since I’ve reviewed the last four volumes more formally (review of vols. 9-10 and review of vols. 11-12), I thought I’d take a break and discuss volume 13 a bit more casually. After all, one of the downsides of reviewing is the pressure to avoid major spoilers. I’m all for not ruining the story for other people, but skimming over details tends to stifle other kinds of analysis. So having some non-review posts that provide separate spaces to discuss works are nice as well.
[Spoilers begin here]
When volume 13 begins, the second year Ouran students have just returned from their trip to France. Tamaki is beginning to train within the Suoh organization, while the rest of the host club is wondering when Tamaki will figure out that his feelings for Haruhi aren’t really fatherly. (The scene where they all agreen upon Tamaki’s extreme stupidity is a classic. Yes, it’s a bit mean, but it’s also sort of sweet: they do know their leader very, very well.)
The usual pleasures of the series are present here: the screwball comedy, the energetic (if sometimes overly busy) art, the adorable chibis, and the warm interactions between the host club members. All that is par for the course.
The real treat of this volume is something else entirely, however, and that’s the amount of attention being paid to Haruhi herself. Like many shōjo series, Ouran often focuses on the development of its male characters at the expense of its female characters. It’s not that Haruhi is ignored; it’s that she doesn’t get the same degree of character development as the others. Part of that, of course, comes from the fact that Haruhi is so comfortable in her own skin. In some ways, the other host club members–especially the twins–just have more room to grow. And a lot of Haruhi’s appeal comes from the fact that she’s so decidedly herself (smart, a bit apathetic, and frequently uninterested in the opinions of others) from the start. But part of it is also that Haruhi tends to be the catalyst for the other hosts’ change. It’s not an unimportant role, but it’s still a very limited one.
So it’s really nice to see Haruhi escape that limited role for a short while. Haruhi is so flustered by her reaction to Tamaki’s kiss at the end of volume 12 that she thinks that she is coming down with a cold. In one of the volume’s best scenes, it’s up to Mei to open Haruhi’s eyes (even though Kaoru is directing her to do no such thing, ha!), and Mei’s weapon of choice is a women’s magazine. I laughed and laughed when the results of Mei’s tactics were revealed. Mei and Haruhi’s friendship is exactly the sort of interaction I wish the series had more of. As I’ve remarked elsewhere lately, I love Ouran despite the fact that there are so few important female characters.
In the second half of the book, Hikaru asks Tamaki not to tag along during the first years’ class ski trip, so Hikaru can have some time with Haruhi. Love triangles in manga tend to be hit or miss with me; some work better than others. Ouran‘s take mostly works for me. First, the friendship between Hikaru and Tamaki is so well-established. Hatori’s done a really good job of showing how much the Hitachin twins owe to Tamaki, and that makes the stakes here feel real. Second, the characterization of the twins just keeps getting richer and deeper. I may wish that Haruhi got more character development, but at least the page time Hatori is spending on the Hitachins isn’t being wasted. Of all the characters in the series, the Hitachins have arguably grown up on the most.
As usual, I am looking forward to the next volume. Too bad July is so far away!