Ouran High School Host Club
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 21 of
Ouran High School Host Club ?
How would you rate episode 22 of
Ouran High School Host Club ?
Things can't stay the same way forever. It's an obvious, but necessary lesson for people, especially romantically confused high schoolers. And with only a few episodes of Ouran High School Host Club left, it's one at the forefront of Kaoru's thought processes. It's stressful for him, but it's great for me, since as you know I've been quite curious to see the series address the question of how he and/or Hikaru would engage with a potential relationship with Haruhi. The issue isn't resolved yet, only formally brought up as of this episode, but we at least get a peek into how Kaoru views the conundrum. Realizing what he was hanging onto, he's couched it in the metaphor of Cinderella's carriage: A cozy, dreamlike situation that nonetheless must revert to a pumpkin at some point. It's a decent expression of the transience of friend groups and adolescence, even if the pumpkin provides the only tangential thread with which to tie the whole thing into a Halloween episode.
Naturally that means the actual action of episode 21 is facilitated by a good old-fashioned ‘Test of Courage’, bringing Haruhi and the twins together with the guest-star character of the Class Rep (from a bygone time when ‘Iinchou’ was commonly translated as ‘Chairman’). It's a solid structural idea for the layering of the base concepts of this story, predicated on the central concept of fear, specifically of the unknown. The Chairman has a host of classical phobias owing to the standardized fears of the dark and the unknowable, but here he subjects himself to them anyway because he fears the deeper unknown of losing his relationship with co-council crush Kurakano. As Ouran has employed so many times before, this is broadly intended to serve as a microcosm of the issues our actual main characters are grappling with. Kaoru and the Chairman are both comfortable in the carriages of their current relationship situations, but they're going to have a limited opportunity in the near future to step off before it crosses the pumpkin line.
The Chairman's plotline works neatly enough in the space of this episode, but Kaoru's hasn't necessarily cleaned up as effectively. My biggest issue with it is that they really should have started examining this idea earlier if it was going to factor in such a majorly long-term way running towards the finale like this. So much time was spent specifying the exact nature and motivations of Kaoru and Hikaru's sealed-off setting of sibling-self that just acknowledging a romantic interloping into that felt like a momentous development. But now we've apparently committed to even further examinations of that romance plot by the finish line, so the solution of characterization is to allow a now-distinguished Kaoru to voice these concerns to us that he's apparently always had. It's funny, because I think it's actually a really good idea for an arc for this character in this situation – I just wish we'd gotten to it earlier so I know we'd have more time for it.
Because timing aside, this is compelling to watch on its own terms, even if the metaphor is so forced that the other characters have no idea what Kaoru is talking about (which makes for a pretty funny gag). Furthermore, I think he may be stressing the importance of romantic relationships over close-knit friendships more than he needs to. Teenagers, am I right? It ironically makes me want to see Kaoru fight to preserve his relationships with Hikaru and Haruhi more rather than resigning himself to serve as a martyr for them as they move onto another stage in their lives. Least of all because I'm still convinced that Tamaki's actually the most logical endgame choice anyway. You see, if Ouran had been able to draw me into these fifteen-year-old shipping wars earlier, I'd have ended up even more of a fan than I already am. Plus this is just overall a pretty funny episode in-between all that stressed-out self-doubt, with the other boys doing their hilariously half-assed monster impressions. As heavy as the meditations of Ouran get, I wouldn't want it to forget its primary comedic goals, which are back in force in the next episode.
Yes, once again the paired episodes I consumed here consisted of a more dramatic detailing with the twins and a funny-in-front farce that shortchanges another character who could really use more proper focus. This go-around in Episode 22 got my hopes up for Mori specifically. It's admittedly not a good sign when the other characters are gleefully breaking the fourth wall to remark on how little he's actually done throughout the series, and I guess it only makes sense given how he's paired up with the also-underutilized Honey. It's true, but they shouldn't say it. So it goes that Mori is only tangentially involved in this supposed focus episode to make room instead for its particular guest star. But I'm going to let you in on a secret: I'm actually not that bothered by that because Episode 22 is really great anyway.
A lot of it's down to the strength of said guest-star: A ‘Syndicate’ heir named Kasanoda with one of the worst cases of resting bitchface I've ever seen. He at first seems to merely embody Ouran's recurring ‘don't judge a book by its cover’ philosophy as a personal quest: He wants to get those around him to see past his fearsome looks so he can enjoy time with them as friends. Mori's own development aside, it makes Kasanoda an immediately endearing character because we can see how earnest he is about this desire. He's the classic example of a badass with a heart of gold, but he's not even that badass! And if he's not facilitating deep examinations of Mori's character, he's at least providing an opportunity for the others to explain how he gets by merely as a glorified accessory for Honey. As with dressing all the boys in Shinsengumi outfits at the beginning of this episode, it can't be said that Ouran doesn't know how to have fun with the basic building-blocks of its charms.
But Kasanoda's genuine charms are what let a lot of the extremely silly humor in this episode land. We want to see him succeed in all the ridiculous efforts the Host Club put him through because we know what a sweetheart he really is, and it's also nice to see the boys of the club just generally united around assisting someone for what feels like the first time in a while. It's a classic-feeling Ouran High School Host Club plot that still finds time to deploy the more late-game advancements of its ideas. The major one that stood out was how Kasanoda pushed Ouran's appearance-judging moral one step further. Apart from his appearance and even his frightening outbursts, it turns out Kasanoda's peers (including his adorable attendant Tetsuya who turns out to have his own secret backstory) actually do see him as a generally great guy, because they're aware of him as the type who's welcoming to everyone and who takes care of wounded baby birds in his down-time. So it's not just about appearances; the way someone outwardly expresses their attitude can't be fully trusted as a method of character-judgement either, according to Ouran. It is entirely about your actions and how loudly those speak to who you are.
I'm not sure if I fully agree with all of that, given my opinion that your general treatment towards people should affect their perception of you. There's also an odd line towards the end about how the boys “can tell just by looking who the bad guys are", which while it seems intended to comment on how they've learned to judge character, runs counter to the overall theme of this story on its face (as it were). But the presentation of that core idea still works within the narrative of the episode, because Kasanoda is so well-drawn just in this single entry we get to know him in, and each step of his development reflects a stage of that learned life-lesson. It's all to the point that even as I'm concerned about them trotting out the gag of him walking in on Haruhi changing to end the episode, and possibly leading into a more dubious second plotline with this guy in the next episode, I'm still quite excited at the prospect of having Kasanoda stick around.
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