For the idle rich attending the exclusive Ouran High School, the resident Host Club offers the ideal way for beautiful ladies to while away the hours being charmed by handsome men. It certainly sounds like the last thing less well-off student Fujioka Haruhi would be interested in, but after accidentally breaking one of their expensive vases, Haruhi is forced to pay off the ensuing debt by becoming a host- the only catch being that Haruhi is actually a girl! Now, Haruhi must play the part of a gentleman in order to fulfil her obligations, but will her straightforward personality win over the Host Club’s men as well?
Comedy is often a hard thing to nail correctly, and over-the-top comedy is even more so; get it wrong, and you run the risk of wearing out a limited number of jokes, or descending into the realms of the completely random and nonsensical. Fortunately, Ouran not only largely manages to avoid this fate, but it is also one of those rare series that brings extra life and enjoyment to the original manga material.
A large quantity of Ouran’s success stems not so much from any particular originality of the jokes, as the sheer enthusiasm with which they are presented. Tamaki, the so-called “Host Club King”, is a constant source of new schemes for the club to try, whilst Haruhi and the other members are dragged along with varying degrees of interest or reluctance. It’s hard not to laugh out loud at the majority of their antics, from the latest cosplay session at the Host Cloub, to continual investigations to find out how ‘commoners’ live.
Unfortunately, whilst the majority of it is indeed very entertaining, Ouran is not without its failures. The continual reappearance of dating sim fanatic Renge (a one-shot character in the manga) is a feature that quickly wears out its welcome, whilst elements such as the nearby Lobelia Girls’ School prove to be too over-the-top to derive much amusement from.
Character-wise, Ouran’s cast falls into a selection of fairly standard types- there’s hard-working and down-to-earth Haruhi, flamboyant prince Tamaki, cool and calculating ‘shadow king’ Kyouya, loli shota Honey, strong but silent Mori, and twin brothers Hikaru and Kaoru, a pair of self-absorbed pranksters who charm the ladies with their put-on twincestuous love. Despite their seeming lack of originality, the group works well together as a team, with the more character-based episodes standing out as some of Ouran’s finer moments. Admittedly, Tamaki can sometimes come across as an annoying idiot, and the twins get far more screen time than they deserve, but such complaints are easily washed away when the scene-stealing Kyouya takes centre stage.
Visually, Ouran always remains slick and stylish, with bright colours and showers of roses to emphasise the exuberant mood. Character designs are more polished than their manga counterparts, and there is rarely an excuse to complain about the overall animation quality.
Treading so close to the line between outright hilarious and tiresomely overdone is both Ouran’s core strength and its greatest weakness. Whilst it cannot be denied that the series does trip up a few times, for the most part, it proves to be a solidly entertaining series that should provide plenty of laughs for all but the most cold-hearted of viewers.