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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Manga Review: Ouran High School Host Club GN 18

Ouran High School Host Club volume 18
Author: Bisco Hatori
Viz Media/Shojo Beat
200 pages

Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the entire Ouran High School Host Club manga, all eighteen volumes. Read with caution!

Tamaki wants to ask Haruhi out, but he's quickly overwhelmed trying to plan the best first date in the universe. The members of the Host Club volunteer to assist Tamaki in his endeavor, but can they save their foolish king from himself? (Source: Goodreads)
It's the end of Ouran High School Host Club. Volume eighteen is the final volume of the series. It is so weird to even type such a thing; Ouran seemed like the kind of series that could go on forever, chronicling the romantic antics of Haruhi and the host club. 
But in a way, I'm glad it ended in this way and that the ending did not turned out rushed or forced, but was natural and was something Hatori planned in advance. In fact, the eighteenth and final volume of Ouran was, in one word, perfect.

This is the volume that Tamaki and Haruhi's relationship blossoms like a beautiful flower, and they finally realize they are in love. This is also the volume that the host club finds its true path, Haruhi asserts herself and chooses her own future, and the secret of Haruhi's gender is revealed to the students of Ouran High School in a way only the host club can pull off. And manga-ka Bisco Hatori pulls it all of quite splendidly; honestly, I can't think of any long-term Ouran fan who will walk around hating this series finale.
Certainly the majority of readers want to know how Tamaki and Haruhi make it out together. And I can honestly say that a canon Tamaki/Haruhi is better than anything I could have ever imagined. They're perfect together but their individual quirky personalities don't get lost in the union. They support each other through everything, even when Haruhi decides to move to America to study in Boston for a year – but of course, Tamaki follows, as he did promise to stay by her side. And Haruhi decides to make a more rounded person of herself so she can stand by Tamaki's side as someone who deserves to be there.
Speaking of which, the scene where Tamaki and Haruhi visit her mother's grave is one of the most touching and lovely scenes out of the whole series. Seeing Tamaki declare his love and respect for Haruhi shows how much he's grown as a person since he first inducted Haruhi into the host club. Naturally, he's still a little kid at heart, but Haruhi has matured him in such a way, I'm sure he'll be a perfect husband for her. And a totally adorable father because let's be real, they are totally going to have babies and Haruhi's gonna be a lawyer and Tamaki will be a stay at home dad and the host club boys will be over at their house all the time like the big happy family they've always been.
Perhaps the one sore spot for me is how eager Bisco Hatori seems to pair everyone in the Host Club off – and to girls, all of them. Of course, readers do not have to accept her side comics at canon, but I can't help but feel odd to see her pairing these male characters off with female characters whose relationships with them were not as fully established as, say, Tamaki and Haruhi's. I'd rather see Kyoya with the “Carmen” from Spain than Miss Kurakano, but that's me – or his long-time friend Hunny, but apparently I'm not supposed to think this? Hunny is going to be with Reiko? This seems terribly contrived, but okay. The frustrating part is, Hatori makes all of these couples so adorable I have a hard time getting mad at her for not making my prefered ships canon! Darn your rascally ways, Hatori!
Speaking of Kyoya, his fans are gonna love the side story that's set in Spain. It's really his crowning moment of awesome in this series, and it wonderfully highlights his own relationship with his family and in particular his father. I'm definitely with Bisco Hatori on the matter of Kyoya; a man like him will never be satisfied unless he's working from the shadows, pulling all the strings without impedment. That's just the kind of guy he is; he can't help being the Sebastian to Haruki's Ciel Phantomhive. Oh dear, that's quite a thought, I'm sure the fujoshi readers of this blog just got really excited for no particular reason, yes? Now picture Kyoya in a classic suit, kneeling before Tamaki and saying in his usual voice with his usual face, “Yes my lord” . . . okay, that's enough, you can stop scribbling doujinshi of this scenario any time now! Actually, keep on with this, kol kol kol.
Not only has Hatori brought to the series finale the perfect blend of humor, drama, and romance, but she has also brought her top game in the form of her stunning artwork. She really excels at drawing beautiful city and landscapes, so naturally this really comes out as the gang go to Spain. The architecture and artwork and food of Spain is beautifully rendered by Hatori's pen. She's also done a great job at drawing Haruhi this volume, both in her usual host club crossplay and in some really adorable outfits as she goes on outtings with Tamaki. Sometimes, I see Haruhi and I get a case of the Tamaki – all I wanna do is snuggle her and tell her how cute she is.
I know I should feel more crushed reading the last of the Ouran series, but it's like watching old friends go off and make their own lives; seeing Haruhi and the host club study abroad in America and start deciding what they really want to do with their lives makes me so happy. I started reading Ouran High School Host Club after high school, when I wasn't doing anything and felt adrift in life. Now as I read the finale, I'm in my second year of college and considering which school to pursue my bachelor's at; I kind of feel what Haruhi has been going through, standing at a many-forked crossroads and trying to figure out which path of many to take. I can only hope I have the same strength of character as Miss Fujioka when it comes my turn to choose my own path.
The final proper chapter of Ouran ends with a photograph of the club members smiling and laughing together and having a fun time; some of the text that overlies it reads: “The springtime of their lives is far from over!! Let's meet again someday!!” Although the doors to the music room at Ouran High School will never open again with the same dramatic swirl of rose petals, I'm sure we'll one day see Haruhi and Tamaki and the rest of the hosts together one day in the future, older and wiser but still the same friends we've always loved.