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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Manga Review: Ouran High School Host Club GN 17

Ouran High School Host Club volume 17
Author: Bisco Hatori
Viz Media/Shojo Beat
192 pages

Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the Ouran High School Host Club manga so far. Read with caution! I mean it! Don't read this review if you are horrifically behind on the series - like seven books behind kind of behind. That means you, Mom! (Yeah, my mom reads Ouran, you wanna fight or something?)

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.

Read my review of this volume after the jump!

Volume seventeen of Ouran has a lot riding on its shoulders, being the penultimate volume before this enormously popular fan favorite shoujo series comes to a close. Storylines have to at least show they are coming to a draw; characters have to come to major revelations that can bring their respective arcs to a smart close. And what Bisco Hatori does in this volume is all of the above and then some; her second-to-last entry in the Ouran series is a beautiful portrait of the entire cast as a whole and brings many major plots to their respective conclusions – and then ends on a note that will have shippers of a certain persuasion clawing at their bookshelves, wishing they had the last book already. This is Ouran at its finest and a good sign that this series will be bowing out on a high note very soon.

If the cover wasn't a giveaway, this volume of Ouran is centered on one character above all: Tamaki Suoh. If you don't like Tamaki, you are gonna hate the hell out of this book, and this entire current story arc is probably wasted on you considering it's so Suoh-centric. But for those who think Tamaki is the absolute bees' knees (i.e. myself) than this current arc is a blessing in manga form, especially if you love seeing character development and relationships unfold before your very eyes, whether it is his relationship with his grandmother or his will-they-or-won't-they relationship with everyone's favorite female host club member Haruhi Fujioka. I could go on and on about his lovely stupid face and his stubborn goofy solutions to all of his problems and whatnot, but believe me; Tamaki fans will love this one.

But it isn't just about Tamaki's beautiful face. Erm. It's truly an ensemble piece, exploring the entire Host Club's reaction to Tamaki's situation and how they respond to it in their own unique ways. As the Suoh family drama develops, we see a lot of their characters come out and show what makes them such a unique cast. I especially loved how it highlighted Kyouya's unique friendship with Tamaki, one that gets a lot of page time the more that the connection between the Ootori and Suoh families comes out in the open. 

We also see a good portion of the Ouran High student body, including Renge, who shows that she is still the ultimate fujoshi-style criminal mastermind of the host club despite not actually being a real member of it. Not to spoil too much, but the plan she crafts together at the end of the book involving pretty much everyone seen in the series so far is amazing, and that is the understatement of the century. I love Renge, you guys. Thank goodness for diabolical fangirls like her.

So if you have been deeply emotionally invested in the Suoh drama drama since the beginning, you will find that your investment has been paid off this volume. Ditto if half of your enjoyment of the series so far has been due to the colorful cast of secondary characters that populate the Ouran 'verse, as they truly rise to the occasion during Tamaki's time of need and get a lot of yummy page time for their efforts. And if you ship two certain Host Club members together? This is now your favorite volume released in English so far, okay? It just is. You will want to blow up a copy of the last page of chapter 80, frame it, and hang it up on your wall after this. 

In other words: Bisco Hatori knows what she's doing and she knows what the readers want, and she has gone beyond the call of manga-ka duty in delivering us a fine prelude to the end of Ouran High School Host Club. I can only hope that the actual series finale delivers on everything that Hatori has promised with this latest installment in the Host Club story; it certainly deserves it.