First and foremost, I wanted to update this blog biweekly this month, but unfortunately couldn’t.
Equally foremost is the fact that I am an uncle. Me! My parents are grandparents; my grandparents are great grandparents! And my sister, my unrestrained sister, is a mother. My niece was born they day after my own birthday: September 17th. With my parents’ anniversary being the day before my birthday, this space of September is filling up. Now, I’m more reserved than I’d like to be when around the kid; I’m scared mostly that my clumsiness will do something unwanted. So I’ll save my gushing for another entry, when the child is doing more than sleeping and doing gross baby things.
This blog is prone to anniversary entries commemorating moments that are important to me, with specific attention paid to May 9 (Nintendo’s great E3), June 27 (blog’s birthday), and September 26 (Ouran’s finale.) Guess which one this entry is celebrating?
Ouran High School Host Club has penetrated my life so deeply; while I thought that over time, my interest in Ouran would fade, it’s only been strengthened. Exacerbating this interest is my high school position- being a senior, I’m suddenly much more nostalgic and appreciative of my final year. And as I’ve detailed before, my high school bears so much of a resemblance to the academy depicted in the anime that I can’t thank destiny enough for practically bringing Ouran to life all around me. As Ouran has its clock tower looming in the background during most shots, so do I have a tall, proud spire protruding from my campus. I make a point to locate it from windows in my classes, and hum the strings and piano versions of the opening theme during the transit between them.
Why has this seemingly throwaway television cartoon so profoundly affected me? It could be the similarities to my own real life, as I said before. But even then, objectively, the anime is a masterpiece. And you can quote me on that. I get more of an appreciation for it every time I watch it, which in case you’ve forgotten, is each episode on the anniversary of its original Japanese airdate.
The little things you notice more and more as you rewatch it add incredible layers of depth, complexity, and perceived quality to an already-great show. I’ll go through some examples below (note- my memory is fuzzy so we’ll be covering the first and last few eps.) (note 2- oh, and you can click to get a bigger version.)
In the first explicit metaphor, we have these lightbulbs. These confused the heck my when I first watched it, but the meaning is very simple. Each represents a host realizing that Haruhi Fujioka is actually a girl. This comes back in the finale, when Eclair Tonerre realizes Haruhi is a girl after Tamaki gushes over her like he normally does. Her lightbulb is shown only briefly, and it does not light up.
The twins in particular have a lot of rich imagery associated with them; I can see why they are the fan favorites (not to mention that it’s really two in one, I suppose.) In their flashback episode about why they joined the Host Club (ep. 20, “The Door that the Twins Opened”), they themselves state their status of affairs is a contradiction. They want to be told apart; they don’t want to be told apart. They want someone to reach out for them; they want to live in their own world without interference.
Late into the anime (ep. 21, “Until the Day It Becomes a Pumpkin”), Kaoru introduces his theory of the “Pumpkin Carriage”, which is actually very smart, and they bring it back in the finale as you see in the image on the right. Kaoru sees Tamaki’s constant referral to himself as Haruhi’s “dad” and employing various familial titles to the club members as a way of isolating his feelings for Haruhi so that nobody gets hurt. It’s related to the story of Cinderella in that the carriage is only a carriage (and they’re only a family) as long as the “magic” is in place. The moment someone ends that “magic” (be it Tamaki or Hikaru), then the family archetype will crumble and the carriage will turn into a pumpkin.
This aspect in particular bugged the crap out of me during my first watch-through. It only sticks around for three episodes before being tossed out the window by Tamaki himself, and I thought this was inconsistent. You shouldn’t implement something as smart as this and then just dump it. But while I still feel that way, I realize that it’s more in-character for things to have happened the way they did, and not only that, it was a great way to even further prove the point that the twins are different and that Kaoru is more thoughtful. Speaking of which…
Kaoru, as I said, is the more even-tempered twin. Hikaru on the other hand, is more brash and arrogant (and early on through this year’s watching, I started to tell the differences in their voices, and can now completely tell them apart.) It’s been strongly alluded to that Hikaru has a crush on Haruhi. But wait! Doesn’t this mess things up with Tamaki? Yes, and this unresolved plot also bugged me when the series ended.
Ignoring that, the way that little details here and there applied to Hikaru further drive the point home that he’s a hot-head. In the finale, Kaoru begs him to slow the carriage down but he doesn’t, and they subsequently crash. When him and Haruhi dance in the final scene, she unwittingly hurts his arm, and I’ve read theories that this means that if the two were to go out, then she would only end up hurting him. (This is keeping strictly in the anime, as I’ve not yet gotten more than halfway done with what’s currently released of the manga.)
Kyoya may not be as complex as the twins (combined or separate), but he still has a story to tell. In his flashback, Kyoya is shown to be in stark contrast with Tamaki’s light-hearted airheaded-ness, and his usual defense of being nice to their face but secretly hating them begins to break down, (and that’s another theme of Ouran: breaking down someone’s defenses so they become a better person.) Deeper than this, though, Kyoya’s father has placed him inside a box; he is to meet his father’s every expectation. But Kyoya, through Tamaki, realizes he is capable of so much more. He exceeds the picture frame he was “allowed” to draw in by over a hundred-fold, and he achieves his potential.
[Eclair Tonerre Images]
And finally, in the finale to Ouran, Eclair Tonerre is introduced as the “villain” that tries to steal Tamaki away (and as Darry commented, is extremely ironic considering it’s usually the female lead that needs rescuing in these types of animes.) But even then, that’s not the full story. Eclair always has her opera spectacles, even in the shower. When she is first shown, we see that she uses it to “spy” on other people. The glasses demonstrate that she sees things only in her own warped way; she discards them on the road after Tamaki “opens her eyes” like Kyoya’s father said he did for Kyoya. This one wasn’t too subtle but it’s still very much appreciated.
Of course, the basis of the anime is that of a romantic comedy, but as you can see Ouran’s anime production company Bones has transcended much more than that. These are actually just off the top of my head, when I rewatch the first half next month in sequence, I’ll undoubtedly have more. The thirteenth episode “Haruhi in Wonderland” itself is one of my absolute favorites because of all the techniques it employs. I’ll be rewatching the first half next month because in exactly one month and one day (October 28), the English version DVD box set of Ouran High School Host Club is released. While I’m predictably trepidous about my favorite anime being dubbed over, I have faith in Funimation. And the real test isn’t the first few episodes- almost anyone can do comedy. It will be the second half that allows me to judge the American voice actors.
Each character has his or her own pathos and psychological baggage. Haruhi is poor and her mom died; Kaoru and Hikaru struggle to accept other people in their world; Mori has to fulfill a non-obligation to Mitsukuni; Mitsukuni, despite being the world’s top martial artist, has to deal with not being “manly enough” for his father as well as being hated by his brother; Kyoya has to do 120% all the time, as his previous brothers have already blazed the 100- and 110%-paths, even though he’ll never inherit his father’s company*; Tamaki left his mother in France to succeed his father so that his fragile mother could have money and live, all at the request of his own grandmother, and it is in this aspect of mother-less-ness that Tamaki and Haruhi are deeply intertwined (ep. 25, “The Dissolution Declaration of the Host Club”.)
But despite all of these “depressing” things, the anime never misses a beat. It’s utterly hilarious throughout (though, I did notice the amount of laughs did diminish towards the end but before the Kasanoda episodes during the flashbacks.) I can’t begin to touch on how each episode, each scene is masterfully crafted. In the hands of a different production house, this would’ve been a sappy sex anime like Kanokon, or 100% camp like countless other manga-to-anime adaptations. Bones not only took a great manga and translated it faithfully to television, but they also largely improved on it in my opinion.
* I have come to realize this past watch-through that Kyoya’s plot is perhaps my favorite of them all. Maybe it’s because it falls within my philosophy of “do the impossible.” And yes, I realize in the finale he does inherit his father’s company for a moment, before passing it back to his father. And this highlights the main focus of the anime: Tamaki. While Haruhi may be the “typical generic girl in a harem anime series” main character, Tamaki is Ouran’s bread and butter. Through Tamaki, each of the hosts come to realize their absolute full potential- all because of one person. This is incredibly inspiring, at least to me, and it drives me to be someone that positively (but subtly) affects those around me.
Well, it feels good to have that all finally documented. I’ve been meaning to post my “full” thoughts on Ouran for a while now, and I think it deserves it. It has, literally, changed my life, my outlook. With Buffy, I was trained into thinking my high school life should be like a TV show, complete with characters that would be introduced and sometimes leave; with a beginning, middle, and end; with fun times and hard times; all before I even entered high school. Now with Ouran, I have refocused. It’s the strangers I’d never thought I’d meet.
Android and the T-Mobile G1 have been making the rounds lately after being officially unveiled last Tuesday, (which I was able to follow via liveblogs during my computer class and lunch break.) I’d really love to post my thoughts but I think that, 1) this blog post is already quite long enough**, and 2) I’m already exhausted enough from articulating practically all my thoughts on the anime that I’ve accrued over the past two and a half years. And that makes me think… I discovered Ouran my first year of high school, when I was still an awkward freshmen. And now, I’m still celebrating it my senior year. I really love constants and am thrilled Ouran has been with me for so long.
Now what we need is Ouran College Host Club.
** Each entry has been getting longer than the last for about four entries now; the first of these was my largest ever when I typed it. This one actually took me almost three hours to make, and it wasn’t even really finished then either! I really, really hate keeping my thoughts in and them dumping them all in one monolithic post that no one will probably ever get through, but then again, this blog was always for me and for chronicling my high school + college life. But still, for October and November I’m gonna shoot for once a week, even though I’m busier now than I’ve ever been (and I have two study halls now too!) Oh, and the last video in this entry is currently my favorite AMV for my favorite anime- if you didn’t watch the others, I still would like you to watch this one. Thanks.