Manga-ka: Bisco Hatori
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: December 2011
Synopsis: “Tamaki’s father and grandmother, the heads of the powerful Suoh Corp., are behind the Host Club’s suspension and the plan for Haruhi to be shipped off abroad. Now the Host Club members must pull out all the stops to save their beloved leader from his family’s infighting.”
We’ve arrived at the penultimate volume of Ouran High School Host Club – you’d think it was the end reading it though. It feels like all the stops were pulled out for this amazing climax. The romance, the friendship, the favours of acquaintances, the company power plays, the family struggles, medical breakthroughs and a race against the clock. No volume of manga I read throughout this entire year had me as giddy and tight gripped on the pages as this one.
Most impressive about this seventeenth book was how cinematic the pacing was. It brings everything together in a way that’s paced to get the utmost reaction from it’s readers and it darn well works! For those who’ve seen the anime, take the racing drama of the final episode and then multiple that by the dozens of additional plot points building over the span of the manga series. I would love to see an OVA based on this series’ end, and the layout of these pages read like a fantastic storyboard.
There are a slew of secondary characters brought in at just the right moment to aid the leads and show their appreciation. These scenes are heart-warming as well as nostalgic, especially with the manga being released over so many years in English. It’s fun seeing the story reach back to use some of it’s many character resources, and their individual resources in turn. Brief as these moments are, it’s great seeing these prior characters get some time to shine and remind us they haven’t been forgotten.
One of this book’s biggest triumphs, however, is probably that Bisco Hatori made me feel sympathy for Tamaki’s Grandmother, a feat I was skeptical could ever be possible. For all her actions, plotting and alliances, everything collapses around her here. All cards are on the table, all plots and purposes finally revealed – and it’s actually a surprise who gets the shortest end of the stick. His Grandmother is hit with the worst case scenario when it comes to her goals. Underhanded as some of her methods were, seeing someone’s hard work pulled out from under them like a rug, leaving them down on the ground, isn’t easy to watch.
Of course that’s not to say I didn’t still feel a lot of resentment and anger towards her, with the same being said for Tamaki’s Father as well. Well-intended as some of their actions were – be it for their company’s survival, a matter of pride or a skewed sense of family obligation – there’s no excuse for all the games they played and those they manipulated into playing them. The threats, the blackmail, the shutting down of the host club – Tamaki may have the love and patience to see past it but most others certainly don’t. One of the best individual moments is where a particular character reacts passionately to the situation, screaming out loud what so many characters and readers are thinking but don’t have the chance to say. It’s not who you’d expect either which makes it all the more effective.
Leave it to Haruhi to be the level-headed one amidst all the emotional and financial upheaval though. As things beyond her control erupt around them, inner monologue on her part does a great job showing her progression as a character. While outwardly it seems like she may not have changed that much, that in itself speaks a lot about how internal her changes have been, especially as someone who is always very into herself emotionally. The progression feels very believable. It leads up to a crescendo of actions that we know she wouldn’t have done when this all started. Bisco Hatori plays on this fact by having Haruhi dress like she did when introduced way back in volume one. Perhaps what impressed me most, however,was how much I believed her being in love with Tamaki. It’s something that I saw coming as an eventuality but was convinced there was no way it could be handled in a way so as to be believed. I was proven wrong!
Speaking of progression, Bisco Hatori’s artwork has come so far. It always hits me when I open a new volume and get a few pages in. It’s really cleaned up and solidified and this same kind of effective storytelling couldn’t have been done with the way it was drawn before. I love staring at all the artwork, from the way screen toning is darker but delicately used transparently over line art for hair and outfits, to how tidy the panel layouts have become while maintaining their original energetic charm. I really hope we see newer works from her after Viz Media’s run of Ouran is complete.
With so much happening in this book, it’s a wonder there’s another volume coming. I have trouble imagining it topping this one. Still, after all the excitement here, it’ll be great having a last volume to finish tying up any loose ends, few that honestly remain, and winding us down. Besides, who reading this series could read that final page and then handle thinking there’s no reactionary events coming? The opening pages of volume eighteen will be much anticipated indeed. The last volume of Ouran High School Host Club comes out in June 2012.
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Book bought from Strange Adventures