Friday, December 21, 2012

Extremely Short Takes: Ouran High School Host Club

The prudent reader will scour manga review blogs or take their sisters' recommendations before ever opening a volume. I am not that kind of reader. I am the impulsive kind of reader, and have started way more series than I have seen to the end and hey, doesn't that sound very familiar? On some occasions, after a chapter or a volume another kind of instinct kicks in, the self-preservation kind, the kind that lets me drop cold many a story. Let it never be said that I'm the masochistic kind of reader.

Hence the short takes series. These manga are for the most part so bad I remember their names or so overrated I can't forget their names. To be fair, most people admit they are guilty guilty pleasures.

No ratings, because one chapter/volume does not a series make, and I'm liable to give them all 1/10 when unsupervised.

Title: Ouran High School Host Club
Author & Artist: Bisco Hatori

One of the most frustrating thing about manga is that you can't talk about it with your non-fandom friends and most of your other fandom friends from the Harry Potter and Supernatural heydays. They awkwardly shuffle their feet and you end up talking about The Avengers or whatever Hollywood's pushing out that even vaguely appeals to women, instead. The thing is, people do read manga, they just read Ouran, and Fruits Basket, and Sailor Moon, with their nostalgia goggles firmly attached. One reason why I dub myself newtype fangirl is because I look at classics with fresh eyes. It's not my fault that I missed the gravy train, okay?, and that Ouran did not become the staple of my teenage fantasies. (That, and the fact that I've never watched Totoro.)

So my friend who has never read any other manga lent me the first volume of Ouran High School Host Club. It was my attempt at integrating myself with the general fangirl populous, i.e., the pre-yaoi crowd. They have had a good point about Glass Mask, after all.

Synopsis: A poor girl rides into a rich private high school on a scholarship. She becomes servant to a disgustingly spoiled host club after breaking their expensive vase. I read it a few years ago, no lasting impression remains, I just have the vague memories of sparkles, no negative space whatsoever - you have text where? - and these cross purposes tangents that are somehow both half-hearted and furious. I loved myself far too much to continue. Though not enough, apparently, because I have just revisited the first chapter, for time-accrued-wisdom's sake, and Ouran, why must you jump from meeting the host club to bad exposition to randomly inserted backstory to the unexpected (not really) twist. Cue bishounen archetypes, the twins, the shouta, the megane, and the jerk who's contractually bound to be there and who's actually got a chance with the girl.

It was the most cluttered, fragmented, logic-from-outerspace reading experience ever. The only reason I managed to follow the plot was because I had read the back cover synopsis. Unassisted by a summary, for the life of me I cannot tell you what happens next. Ouran assumed that readers wanted the manga to get the set-up over with and get on with the shenanigans already. It gives the vibe that the mangaka finds her own story tedious, so let's skip to the wrist-grabbing, misunderstanding-abound part. That's feeble in comparison to Mitsuru Adachi's and Akira's and GTO's (and et cetera) lovingly, patiently crafted premises. Consider Touch's first chapter, which establishes family life and a romantic triangle that's no less complicated than Ouran's harem, but doing so by sampling the careless familiarity in its characters' interaction and by sensible exposition. All in less than 30 pages.

Adding insult to injury, hearsay informs me that Ouran also demonstrates problematic treatment of women (what sexist undertone?) but even discounting that, this manga is an unapologetic, utter mess.

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