Review

by Lissa Pattillo, Jan 10th 2011

Ouran High School Host Club

GN 15

Synopsis:
Ouran High School Host Club GN 15
Tamaki remains at the side of newly transferred Miss Kanoya who's facing a family situation similar in ways to his own. While his attention to her and continued responsibility to his family's affairs takes him away from the host club, his fellow group members have organized the Ouran Orienteering Tournament. Students are invited to participant in the event that requires them to travel across the school to multiple check-points where they're challenged in different activities. The winner of the check-points must take prizes chosen at each of them to a final location for one last test. Tamaki and Miss Kanoya enter together and along the way are challenged in a variety of ways both easy and hard that seem specially tailored to their own personal dilemmas. Elsewhere, Haruhi comes to terms with her own attitude towards her life at Ouran while the rest of the school prepares for the third-years' upcoming graduation.
Review:

Has everyone finally come to terms with the obvious? Pretty close. At one time readers may have found the series getting too repetitive, but after so many volumes of psychological ping-pong there's little more refreshing than returning to the more episodic antics of this endearing cast of Casanovas here in the fifteenth volume. There's still a slight emphasis on feelings over fun yet it strikes a good balance as many of the story's most long-term issues start wrapping themselves up.

It's been a bit of a bumpy ride since the series deviated to concentrating heavily on the Hikaru-and-Tamaki-love-Haruhi-but-don't-know-it plot line. Both characters were so naïve towards their own selves that it was hard to relate. Frankly it still is. Can someone really be that unaware? In this volume the characters at least acknowledge how ridiculous it had become. Now that both Hikaru and Tamaki have realized their feelings, and Haruhi having done so herself a couple volumes back (to much amusement for readers even now), we're at the point in the romance-side of the Ouran story where we're waiting to see what comes of it. Tamaki and Hikaru have now started competing in earnest which works well to the story's advantage by feeling more akin to earlier, more comedic parts of the plot full of lighthearted rivalries. On the progression scale however, while things are becoming more transparent to all parties involved, it still feels like we've reached a distinct stalemate.

Tamaki returns to his old ways after numerous volumes of woeful brooding. His infectious enthusiasm and flamboyant antics are a welcome return and yet it begs the question of what will come of his recent epiphany. It's cute, silly and about damn time, but are individuals who have so much trouble coping with themselves even being in love able to cope with something mutual? There's a great chemistry between all the characters in Ouran but is any of it really the romantic kind among the lead crew? Despite all the build-up and some momentary blips in the density of their own self-doubt, it still feels like a disappointing no.

The artwork is a consistent treat of the series however and its progress has never given reason for doubt since the beginning, coming a long way since volume one. It maintains the same fly-off-the-page energy and fine-tuned dramatics for every imaginable scenario while also becoming more polished and consistent with each book. Certain pages are still a little overly cluttered but easily navigated despite the visual mish-mash. There remains no shortage of pretty boys, extravagant costumes and Haruhi's believably androgynous appearance (considering the company she keeps). At this point in the story the twins, Hikaru and Kaoru, also have two different hair colours in their resolve to be more distinct from one another which suits their evolving differences, though that doesn't stop them from having another game of Guess Who Is Hikaru. All other characters stand out on their own with unique appearances and vibrant personalities that always makes it easy to tell them apart. It's a real testament to Bisco Hatori's skill and practice with this series that she's able to keep such a large multi-character cast not only easy to follow but all distinct and memorable.

Returning side characters in this book include the ever-dedicated Kasanoda and the occultist Nekozawa, among others, and they all come together for a school-wide event marathon proposed by a more club-involved Haruhi. Miss Kanoya, the kind new student introduced previously, remains at Tamaki's side as the two traverse the specially selected events. It's a fun chapter that not only gives everyone a chance to shine on their own, with each character manning a different event-station, but also a good way to bring the Ouran Host Club back together in a way they haven't been in a while. Perhaps most importantly it lets everyone, readers included, see how determined Haruhi has become to be more proactive in everything she does.

With only a couple volumes left, the second half of this volume begins gearing up for the finale with a sudden reminder to the club members that time does indeed move forward. Hunny and Mori, both third-years, are now only a short time away from graduation which means the club as they know it will soon be no more. As students across the school challenge the duo while they still can, Mori is notably distracted and the volume ends on a cliffhanger-esque note that, though a bit surprising, was perhaps always an inevitable confrontation none the less. Meanwhile the subplot involving the Suoh family continues in the background as Kyoya continues his research on the snooping lawyer.

With lose ends tying themselves up, there's a lot of satisfying material to be had in this volume of Ouran High School Host Club. How the characters handle all these newly discovered feelings, uncovered psychoses and upfront showdowns with one another remains to be seen but there's little doubt it'll be a continued fun time watching it all unfold.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall : B+
Story : B
Art : A-

+ Dragging plot points of self-discovery are resolved and series feels nostalgically similar to its first half with humour and misadventures; Haruhi has found a nice middle-ground between enthusiasm and lethargy while Tamaki returns to his more lovably obnoxious self
Characters struggling so much against the obvious and self-involved that it becomes not only unbelievable and unsympathetic, but still just outright ridiculous sometimes

Story & Art:Bisco Hatori

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Ouran High School Host Club (manga)

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