Underrated Manga: Ouran High School Host Club

Posted by Guest Author on Jan 11, 2008 in Comic Books |

Underrated Manga: Ouran High School Host Club

With American anime sales on a downward trend, a lot of attention is being paid to its partner in crime manga, the Japanese comics that are often adapted into anime (if they’re not already adaptations themselves). In North America and Europe manga has exploded, but the sheer volume of manga published in Japan means that not every series makes it over here— and even the ones that do don’t always get the attention that they deserve! So here’s one of our Top Ten Underrated Manga that we recommend that you should get your hands on:

Ouran High School Host Club

Haruhi Fujioka is the only scholarship student at the swanky Ouran High School, an unenviable role at a school full of kids so rich that they actually have a host club as part of their after school activities. A host club is a place where women pay large amounts of money to spend time with good-looking men, just chatting and flirting.

One day Haruhi accidentally stumbles upon the host club while searching for a quiet study space and then knocks over an expensive vase that was to be auctioned off to make money for the club. As a result, Haruhi becomes the club’s gopher to make up for the debt.

It isn’t until after the club’s members have performed a makeover and turned Haruhi into a popular host that they discover that Haruhi is, in fact, a girl. She seems to have no qualms about pretending to be a boy, however, and so she remains acting as a male host and hijinks ensue.

The manga and subsequent anime adaptation are immensely popular among a certain set of female readers— mostly ones who like yaoi, a subgenre of girls’ manga about beautiful men and the romances they have with each other. Host Club isn’t a yaoi manga, but it often plays on the archetypes; most of the club’s hosts play on their patron’s enjoyment of “boy’s love.”

And yet, the series tends to get written off by everyone else as merely a wacky parody, when it deserves more credit as a subtle coming-of-age drama. To be sure, the humor of the series is all over-the-top and often pokes fun at stereotypes in girls’ manga. But take a peek underneath that layer and you’ll see that unlike most girls’ manga, the drama of the series comes NOT from contrived romantic angst, but from a group of high school kids growing up and finding out who they are.

Still running in Japan and being released in English by VIZ Manga, Host Club is chock-full of heart but too often dismissed as a pile of gags.

Gia Manry is a Portland, OR-based professional writer specializing in pop culture/entertainment writing. Read up on more of her work at giapet.net or hire her at GiaManry.com.

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