Saturday, August 29, 2009

Oh No...What have I done?!??!

Readers, I have made a horrific, terrible mistake. I have succumbed to an anime I swore I would never watch - something that I use to view with horror and disgust and make fun of those who watched it.

Flashback to two years ago: Anime Boston. Darci and I were attending and noticed a whole bunch of girls and boys dressed in these silly, Renaissance and German hybrid influenced School Uniforms for some anime called, "Ouran High School Host Club." Then we saw a bunch of AMV's devoted to Yaoi (read as girls that like to watch homosexual tenancies between boys because they think it's sexy) influenced aspects of this show. Ugh, we said to ourselves, that just looks stupid and for the 16 year old crazy Otakus (super fan girls) that want to rape young boys. Gross.

Fast forward to last month. Darci and I were running low on the Netflix list and said to ourselves, "Hey, what haven't we watched in the anime section yet?" Our eyes scrolled over Ouran High School Host Club and we thought to ourselves, "Well, out of morbid curiosity we could check it out."

Oh, my, what were we thinking? Not only is this anime actually GOOD, but it sucks you in like Japanese crack that will never, ever let you quit. The story is amazing, well written, and the golden gem of this anime is that it makes fun of Otaku's while writing a ridiculous otaku-driven plot, while at the same time pulling in the comical influences of Japanese dating sim video games, Shojou cheese, and any teenage drama film or novel EVER. I especially enjoy the show's ability to poke fun at yaoi fans (and shojou otaku girls in general), which makes me lol, a lot.

Now, for the plot. I'm going to admit to you right off that I normally am not a watcher of a lot of Shojou (girly anime usually containing a romance driven plot and/or a lot of drama). I do enjoy the occasional cheese fest with a romance backdrop, like that featured in Fushigi Yuugi and the ever classic Sailor Moon, but there are only so many flower covered, glitter driven panels that I can take before I want to barf. But this anime does all of these things: roses fluttering about ridiculously, people with shining eyes dripping with tears, the color PINK thrown about like it's always in season, and RIDICULOUS high school drama and romance, and yet I want to just inject myself with this anime like it's a delicious otaku drug because the plot and making fun of itself makes it not only bearable, but enjoyable.

The story opens with Haruhi, an Honor Student who is stated as obviously only being accepted into the super elite Ouran Academy for her grades and to fulfill a quota. All the other students are so absorbed in opulence, decadence, and being rich that it is obscene. They make the royal families of European countries look destitute. The show, like many European influenced anime, takes all the beautiful and ideal aspects of historic elite culture in Western Europe and makes it terrifically Japanese. Read as: instead of a banquet with escargot, you have fancy tuna.

The one major difference from mainstream Japanese cultural influences is that these students are not obsessed with their grades at all, because they are rich, and you never seem them in class, pretty much ever. Haruhi is the only one ever seen studying because she has to put forth effort to maintain her scholarship. The other students, as the show frequently reminds us, are there to have fun and go to social events that the elite generate with obsessive style and flair. The majority of these events, of course, are hosted by what has driven the title of the show, "The Ouran High School Host Club."

You may say to yourself, WTF Mate? What is a High School Host Club? Aren't hosts in most cultural circled whores and therefore they have no place in a high school environment? Well, yes and no. They are really more like Westernized Japanese Male Geisha. Yeah, I know that seems complicated, so allow me to explain. First off, they are geisha in the sense of "a person of the arts" (so please do not misinterpret the definition of geisha). Now, this host club walks a very thin line. They have a clientele of beautiful, rich women who come to the club to be essentially flirted with and served tea and go to fancy parties or theme dinners. (Cultural note: in Japan there are actually many male host clubs where this is becoming an escape for single women. Some women drop thousands of yen on these places, and if you don't believe me look here)

The boys in this show range from 1st to 3rd years, meaning by Japanese scholastic standards they are about 14 to 17 years in age. There are 6 of them, and each has their own "moe" (meaning sexual appeal or fetish archetype). The six archetypes featured in this are: the wild type (the bad boy but not really bad), the boy lolita (obsessively pretty and cute and drives every girl in the room to say "Awww", borderline incestuous twins (boy love or yaoi which makes a small niche of girls go crazy), the lonesome prince/king (leader of the group and the one who demands he be the center of attention and have the most clients as well), and the cool guy (the vice president who is the CEO of this crazy establishment and as Darci has told me is most definitely her "moe").

To save time I have copy/pasted the character definitions from wikipedia because they are very accurate and I have more to write about:
Haruhi Fujioka
Haruhi is the androgynous heroine of the story and the Natural type. She comes from a lower-class family, but is very intelligent, so she is a scholarship student at Ouran. Her mother died when she was five years old and so her cross-dressing father raises her on his own. She is a seemingly apathetic and reluctant heroine who has no interest in pretty and flashy things, sweet food, or frivolous males. The members of the Host Club all have a sort of weakness for her and either openly or secretly adore her. Haruhi appears as if she doesn't care about the host club member's feelings; however, she actually studies each and every one of them individually and cares for them all very much. She eventually discovers that her feelings for Tamaki have grown into love.

Tamaki Suoh
The president of the Host club and the Prince type. He is extremely passionate and kind, always ready to help people, and has an interest in many things. He is considered the most attractive of the hosts, as he is the prince "type" and the president of the club. He is also very intelligent (2nd in his class behind Kyoya), and a gifted piano player. He is very sincere in what he says, and takes his role to please girls very seriously, which stems from his deep love of his mother. However, the other club members recognize him as an idiot most of the time because he is very dense about his own situations (though perceptive about others), very silly and melodramatic at times, and somewhat selfish and narcissistic. He also has an odd obsession for the "commoner's lifestyle" and loves ramen and instant coffee (considered "commoner food"). He considers the Host Club to be a family and named himself father and Kyoya as the mother. His father is the superintendent of Ouran High School and his family is one of the wealthiest families in Japan. His mother was forced to leave him so he would hopefully one day be recognized as the heir of the Suoh family by his grandmother, who does not like him. Tamaki is half-French and half-Japanese and considered to be very beautiful. He later discovers he possesses feelings for Haruhi, yet, he believes this love to be fatherly love and not romantic. Later, in chapter 64 of the manga, he comes to realize that he is indeed in love with Haruhi, not as a 'father' but as a man. This is revealed in chapter 67.

Kyoya Ootori
The vice president of the Host club and the Cool type. He is often called "Mother" by Tamaki and "Shadow King" by the rest of the club. He is behind most of the Host Club schemes and the other club members tend to go along with whatever Kyoya says, sometimes even favoring his leadership over Tamaki's. Despite their opposite personalities, Kyoya and Tamaki have been best friends since their last year of middle school, when Tamaki transferred to Ouran. He is a third son and has spent his whole life honoring his family name and yielding his true abilities so as to not overshadow his brothers; however, it is clear that Kyoya has more ambition, drive, and talent than both of them. Throughout the series Kyoya refers to the fact that as he is a third son he won't inherit his father business, although he has slowly started to come out of that mindset after his becoming friends with Tamaki. He believes life is a game and will lose out if he doesn't have 'fun'. He also manages most of the finances with the club and has a habit of not revealing important information to the other hosts until the problem at hand is already over.

Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin
Identical twins who used to reject others and are the Little Devil types. Only recently after they joined the Host Club did they start to open up and allow other people into their world. They are the same age as Haruhi and are in her class, and so have a special bond with her; Haruhi was the first and only person who is able to tell the twins apart, something that both had secretly longed for. They enjoy playing "games" and tricks on classmates, especially Tamaki. Kaoru is nicer, more sensitive, soft spoken and more mature than Hikaru. Hikaru, on the other hand, is very immature and somewhat mean but has a shy and sweet side, the mean part of him is mostly because he has trouble expressing his feelings. Kaoru tends to have a more high pitched voice compared to Hikaru, who has a lower voice, which makes it easier to distinguish which twin is which. Episode four comically insinuates that Hikaru is the "seme" of their relationship when the twins are concerned over the script of a Host Club movie in which they play basketball players which seems to reverse the roles. The twins later on discover that they too harbor feelings for Haruhi. Kaoru doesn't love Haruhi enough to want her only for himself (because he values his relationship with his brother more), so he ends up letting Hikaru be the twin who loves her romantically. After this development, the twins begin to attempt embracing their differences.

Mitsukuni Haninotsuka
Also known as "Honey" and the Boy-Lolita type. He looks like an elementary school child rather than the 17-year-old third-year student he actually is. Honey is obsessed with sweets and anything cute, much like his youthful appearance would dictate. Honey is loved by the other characters for his cuteness and has a nickname for everyone (such as Haru-chan for Haruhi). Honey carries a plush bunny (called "Usa-chan") around with him. Despite his childish looks, he is deceptively strong and highly skilled in martial arts. He is usually found with Mori, his cousin by marriage. Honey comes from a family that owns a nationally-renowned dojo and are known for their martial arts abilities. In one episode it was said if his full combat abilities were unleashed, he would be considered a threat to national security. Though it appears to be a fa├žade, his cute side and serious side are both very real. After Tamaki explains to him that being himself is "true strength," he resolves never to change.

Takashi Morinotsuka
Also known as "Mori" and is the strong but silent type. He is the tall, stoic character. Mori dedicates his life to Honey by protecting him and only gets angry when Honey is injured or harmed. However, he is also very close with the other club members and many classmates look up to him because of his quiet but gentle nature. He usually only speaks when he deems it necessary, and responds to questions mostly with monosyllabic answers. Mori's family has served Honey's family for years, until a marriage two generations ago made them cousins. Even though the servant-master bond was technically broken, Mori still serves faithfully as Honey's guardian and best friend.

(Haruhi trying to flirt with clients.)

So how does Haruhi end up in this crazy circus? Our protagonist is searching for a quiet place to study when she stumbles into the host club, who think she is a boy. While scaring her and confusing her simultaneously with their ridiculous personalities and unusual habits, she stumbles into an 8,000,000 Yen Vase and breaks it. This puts her into the debt of the host club and thus she has to work off the debt by becoming a host (after they realize under her crummy clothes and hair cut that she is actually quite beautiful in a gender-bending way). Soon into the first episode, they discover she is actually a girl but decide to help keep that a secret so she can continue to be a host (and so that the king, Tamaki-kun can hit on her as much as possible because he is obviously falling for her).

The show spirals into a series of dramatic plot lines and exaggerated character stories that would suck in just about anyone. We even know guys who like this show and admit that it is addictive! Sexual tension and sexuality-driven jokes are frequent, and one of my favorites so far involved the pitcher/catcher metaphor IN AN INNOCENT JOKE which is just ridiculous. Tamaki-kun's constant attempts at making Haruhi love her are poor and funny at the same time. The characters break the fourth wall and the art, character design, and animation are super pretty. Just take my word for it, get past your shame and rent this anime. If you are a guy, just netflix it and no one will ever know. Just do it people! I'm serious! (Darci says if she buys this anime as a box set she is almost positive it will be a little bit sticky...ahahaha awesome)

Alright, I've ranted enough. Get out there and enjoy some cheese, people. Cheese is good for you!

Your 23 Year Old Secret Otaku
Lady Lara Jones

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