Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Ouran High School Host Club
With Tamaki's father and grandmother controlling his activities, the Host Club has been indefinitely suspended. All of Ouran misses not only the club, but also its leader, and they're willing to do anything to get him back. This is more true for the actual members of the club than anyone else – and Kyoya has the resources to figure out what's really going on. Will the Host Club prevail?
Although Bisco Hatori's Ouran High School Host Club hasn't been quite as much fun since it made the switch from comedy to comedic drama, this penultimate volume is still an entertaining read. Focusing more on the characters and less on the hijinks, Hatori proves that she can write more serious content nearly as well as the funny stuff.
As with last volume, the major focus here is on Tamaki. Previously he was allowed to live in the main Suoh mansion with his father and tyrannical grandmother, only to discover that this meant leaving behind his friends from the second mansion and his beloved dog Antoinette. Even worse, he was also instructed to stop associating with series heroine Haruhi, who was deemed unworthy by Grandmama. The result was a host club in turmoil and a much more subdued Tamaki than normal, both of which feed into this volume's plot. Kyoya leads the effort to understand what Tamaki is going through, and the machinations of the Suoh family behind the unwitting boy, but it is Haruhi and Hikaru who show more perception in terms of what motivates Tamaki himself.
This is one of the more interesting conceits of the book. We have been used to Hatori making out-and-out fun of the reverse harem genre to the point where it was nearly impossible to read this series and Beauty Pop back to back when they were coming out concurrently. She has, however, made some concessions to the genre in terms of which young man wins Haruhi's favor and the slowly building romance plot, so it is easy for readers to think that perhaps Tamaki will stand up for himself and what he wants when it looks like it will all be taken away from him. Such, however, is not the case. We began to see that in volume 16, and Hatori expands on it here, bringing us a hero who is not especially strong or forthright, but instead acts like the wounded, confused child that he was and the young man he is trying to be. That Haruhi can comprehend his reasoning is a point in both her favor and Hatori's in terms of believable elements of romance.
This is not to imply that this book is completely devoid of humor. Hunny and Mori, who graduated last volume to the university division, are still definitely around, and Mori provides some of the best incidental laughs with his thoughts and few spoken words whenever he appears. (You need to be watching for them, though – he's nearly always hidden in the back.) Kyoya's plan to get Tamaki out of the main mansion is full out Host Club madness and shares some distinct similarities with the fabricated ending of the anime series. The major thing to note about the humor is that it is secondary to the main plot of the book this time, and readers who weren't in this for a serious story may be disappointed.
Hatori's art is consistent with the rest of the series, being neither especially attractive nor terribly generic. Her pages remain crowded with cramped panels, often filled with screen tones, but there is still a certain readability to the book. This volume, as Hatori notes herself, is particularly text-heavy, and it occasionally feels like the story would have benefited from a slightly higher page count, but there is a lot of plot going on, so it is more or less excusable. Hatori herself shows real attention to the details of her own story, even going so far as to replicate Haruhi's initial appearance from volume 1 with the only differences being the refinement of her art over the course of the series.
There is but one volume remaining to Ouran High School Host Club, and it has been a fun ride. While this book doesn't quite live up the earlier ones in terms of pure, lighthearted enjoyment, it is still solidly entertaining and showcases Hatori's talent with character as well as humor. Towards the end of the book, Haruhi wonders what her life would have been like without the host club. Fortunately for both her and us, with these volumes around, we will never have to know.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Good fidelity to Tamaki's character, Mori is very funny, Hatori pulls off serious nearly as well as humorous.