Ouran High School Host Club
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Ouran High School Host Club ?
How would you rate episode 12 of
Ouran High School Host Club ?
Episodes of Ouran High School Host Club can take a while to get going sometimes, can't they? Both the eleventh and twelfth episodes I watched this week theoretically have focal concepts behind them, but take huge chunks of the beginning to go through shenanigans getting there. It speaks to that established breezy sitcom energy of the show I've remarked upon before, where the actual stories we're getting to aren't as prioritized as the characteristic goofiness. The problem arises though, when there aren't a lot of jokes or even inherent humor in the meandering setup, turning Ouran into a watch-checking show more often than I'd like sometimes.
Episode 11 is probably the worse one about this. Introducing adorable little guest-girl Kirimi to act like Tamaki is her brother should theoretically be a really cute, really basic setup for Host Club happy-times. But in practice what we end up with is similar to the shortcomings of the Shiro episode: This small child shows up and just kind of irritates and confuses the club for a bit before they cut to their underlying issues. Kirimi is at least decidedly more endearing than Shiro, being kind of generally sweet, but her own adoration of Tamaki doesn't get overtly silly enough to be very entertaining, and her ‘recognizing shoujo tropes she's way too young for’ schtick doesn't pop up more than a couple times.
It makes for an introduction that seems to go on even longer than it does, but the other issue with the plot here is that even when it does actually start up, it still feels like it takes extra chunks of episode time to set itself up. It's kinda neat that the show brings back occult-club kid Umehito, if you remember him, but the positively labyrinthine backstory concocted to reconcile his established appearance with his worked-into role as Kirimi's brother almost doesn't seem worth the connection. And that's without taking into account how laboriously the family's maid and butler spend time explaining all of it. There is one mildly good gag about just how overly-dramatic said maid is, but it doesn't really attempt to carry the whole bit, and the result is that it seems like we've sat through half the episode before we've finally settled on what it's really about.
To its credit, that core plot works pretty well once it's expended all that energy constructing itself. There is honestly something touching about the backstory of disconnected roles between siblings Umehito and Kirimi, people who want to connect with each other but have been stymied by sheer oddness of circumstance. We didn't get much characterization on Umehito in his previous appearance, but here I think Ouran does an effective job of making him out to be someone genuinely wanting to change for the sake of a person he loves, but finding the will to do so is as difficult for him as I think it would be for most of us. It takes so much time to get there, but there's a satisfaction to him smashing through that window to go save Kirimi from a stray cat. And showing how that's led to their connection at the end, even as Umehito regresses to his creepy-cloaked looks, stands as another articulation of Ouran's core message: It is not our appearance that defines us, but our actions.
The episode is also pretty funny when it finally gets going, predictably heralded by Renge jumping in full-throttle. I think it's probably for the best that Ouran uses her sparingly, but strategically-deployed as the girl is, she's one of the show's most entertaining assets. It's also neat to see the series continue its habit of lightly dropping just hints of backstory, such as the suggestion that Kyoya may be struggling with some sibling issues of his own. And for some of her misgivings in doing so, it's nice to see that Haruhi makes a pretty good big brother herself for Kirimi for a moment.
The twelfth episode, focusing on my favorite little body-slamming bunny-boy Honey, spends a similarly long time just hanging in the club room with the characters goofing about nigh-plotlessly. Before the title card even rolls we're treated to an extended yarn about Tamaki and the twins being afraid to wake Honey for fear of incurring his wrath over staining his beloved stuffed rabbit. There's tales of family tragedy spun, mythologized backstory, and an odd demonstration of how the actual power dynamics of the Host Club may work apart from the hierarchy of visual cues. So while it was all decently funny, I did wonder how these elements may play into whatever plot they were building to. Then it turned out that the latter two-thirds of the episode were just about Honey having a toothache.
That's not really all there is to it, but it's close. Honey gets a cavity, so the club bans sweets for a few days, and the little guy pulls some shenanigans to try to get around it. It's incredibly elementary stuff, and unlike the earlier waterpark episode, doesn't reveal many more depths about Honey beyond the fact that he can act in a manner befitting his diminutive appearance occasionally. We at least learn his real age (he's supposedly 17?!), and it's kind of funny a couple times to see him basically run through the stages of grief over candy, but ultimately feels like as many empty calories as the kid's beloved sweets.
I did enjoy the few bits we got in this episode about Honey's better half Mori, at least. It's a very attention-getting swerve into a subplot, suddenly seeing him being confessed to by a girl only to turn her down alluding to being devoted to another (three guesses who). It almost seems to come out of nowhere, but I was pleasantly surprised to see them tie it to Honey's struggles by the end: Mori's devotion to Honey is so absolute that his personal self-flagellation for failing to protect him from a cavity is to compel his adorable charge to start hating him. There were shades of this in discussing the depths of Mori's loyalty the last time this subject came up, but it does definitely come across as a bit more of a dangerously dependent dynamic now.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, these characters need elements that make them more dicey and messy in their portrayals to make sure they're interesting. That makes it more compelling to watch them evolve, and at least Honey is trying to get Mori to stop blaming himself so much for all his own failings. And their make-up prompts an appearance with amusing reactions from Renge, so this part's a winner all around. These are both fine episodes of Ouran in the long run, but I wish they'd spaced their storytelling content and real humor more evenly, instead of leaving me with chunks of episode that felt like filler in a show that's already pretty inconsequential a lot of the time.
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