Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ouran High School Host Club, vol. 2

The story: In another set of wacky adventures, the club starts off the volume with physical examinations at school. Of course, there's one little problem -- what will happen if Haruhi's cross-dressing secret gets out? The second tale involves an unprecedented fight between the twins, Kaoru and Hikaru, and Haruhi can't help but get involved. But, with the way the twins are fighting, is there any hope of them resolving their differences? In the last adventure, the gang heads to a water park owned by Kyoya's family to hilariously disastrous results!

Reaction: Everything in this series is so out there and it takes nothing seriously. The characters are silly and so exaggerated in their satirical nature that I find myself giggling out loud. As far as the misadventures go, the endings aren't unexpected (things are fairly episodic still), but the physical comedy is at its best here. There are glimpses of romantic moments, but it's blushing cheeks and any feelings are relatively unacknowledged past the initial joke. I like that the focus here isn't on some kind of unending love between two characters, but on interactions between everyone in the club. It's refreshing and makes for some great visual gags.

Deep thoughts: If manga are any indication, full health examinations are a regular occurrence in Japanese schools. While the United States is in the midst of a major health care reform debate, many countries, including Japan, have a nationalized health care industry. With the exception of the United States, every industrialized country in the world has a form of universal health care.

Artwork: Sure, there are plenty of pretty boys here, but Bisco Hatori's talent really shines when it comes to illustrating physical comedy. Whether it's Tamaki's dejected face or the Hitachin twins devious planning or even Mori's stoic silence, it's all played up to great effect. The costumes and settings are another strong point -- I especially like the Arabian-themed outfits from the sixth chapter.

The verdict: Highly recommended. This shojo rom-com has a cast of characters that exaggerate stereotypes to hilarious effect alongside straight woman Haruhi. OHSHC takes all the shojo tropes and takes them to their ridiculous extreme at a breakneck speed that had me zooming quickly through each chapter. If you're looking for laughs in a high school setting with no major romantic entanglements involved, you could do much worse than this series! Ouran High School Host Club is available in the U.S. from Viz.

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