Manga-ka: Bisco Hatori
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: June 2012
Synopsis: “In this screwball romantic comedy, Haruhi, a poor girl at a rich kids’ school, is forced to repay an $80,000 debt by working for the school’s swankiest, all-male club–as a boy! There, she discovers just how wealthy the six members are and how different the rich are from everybody else… Final Volume!”
There are plenty of series that stop after the big love confession – take several of CLAMP’s work, for example – and while sometimes I look at that as a lazy exit, most times I’m grateful. It drives me nuts when characters fall in love and suddenly they seem to lose all their individual traits that made them so likeable when ‘single’. Now they’re just ‘in a relationship’, like it’s a package-deal personality set. Ouran High School Host Club, however, doesn’t do either of these things and for that is easily one of the best finale volumes I’ve ever read.
The previous volume of Ouran ended with Haruhi admitting she’s in love with Tamaki. Here in volume eighteen, that scene continues on to the point where both – each naive and stubborn in their own way – come to open, obvious and clearly stated acknowledgement that they do both love each other romantically. Now a couple, Tamaki is deadset on making their first date the most amazing, spectacular, memorable and perfect thing it can be. Of course that doesn’t work out, at least not like he ever intends it anyway. Tamaki over shoots, his friends interfere, luck goes awry, chaos ensues – it’s the usual Ouran club chaos and I loved it.
Amidst all the fun and hijinks, what really stood out to me was Tamaki’s understanding for Haruhi’s feelings. While he was thrilled they were together, he respected and appreciated the fact that she would still be Haruhi. She wasn’t suddenly going to get really girly and gush over him. She’s not about to leave her introvert bubble and announce her love to the world, though she’ll be very honest about it should someone ask. Most importantly, she can’t and won’t drop her dreams and hard work because of him, a personal dilemma the two deal with together to some surprising but adorable result. There’s a wonderful mutual respect shared between them both that spoke volumes for their character and the writing, showing that two strong individuals can in fact be stronger together while still maintaining their individuality.
While the date story is a fun chapter, the bulk of the book actually consists of the Ouran host club flying down to Spain. It all starts because of a request Kyoya’s Father makes of him. Naturally everyone needs to tag along, and having been out of high school and already on the look for adventure, this was the perfect opportunity for education and entertainment alike. After the big climatic love reveal, and subsequent date story, it felt a little weird having everything shift to another character (notably Kyoya) and having someone new introduced just for the sake of this story. Still, the trip takes place some time after the story’s climax so it serves as another example that even when big things change, some things never do – the Ouran High School Host Club is on the case again!
Another highlight of the book was the inevitable, and ever-anticipated, reveal of Haruhi’s gender to the patrons of the host club. The reveal couldn’t have been any better and I literally laughed out loud when it’s painfully, and gloriously, apparent to readers what actually transpired. That it would later be spelled out for everyone was all the more entertaining.
After eighteen volumes I was hooked on Bisco Hatori as a writer, but I’m also now completely smitten with her artwork. It’s come a long way since this series started and where it is now, I want more. Lots more! The consistency of her inking, the clean but eye-popping detail in clothing and backgrounds, not to mention the well utilized screen toning which makes me smile every time I see that pretty dark gradient on Haruhi’s head. It doesn’t look like the manga artist has any on-going series started up since Ouran’s completion, but anything short, long or one-shot she puts ou,t and we have made available to us, you can bet I’ll be there to buy and oogle.
Sad as I am to see the series is over, I have to give the utmost kudos to Bisco Hatori for handling it so well. She gives her readers epilogues in story format, letting us see the characters make their decisions on where they’ll go in life (for now!) and each character gets a moment’s lime light. We get to see months pass – measured neatly via Haruhi’s hair on a visual level – and the results are as charming as the journey getting there. I feel so happy for these characters, legitimately pleased as punch to see them get their happy, imperfect but totally workable endings. Ouran High School Host Club proved to the very end that the magic doesn’t stop when the school bell rings.
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Book bought from Strange Adventures