Bisco Hatori – Viz – 2012 – 18 volumes

Yay, last volume! I decided to save this one for a special occasion. Admittedly, maybe reading the end of 13th Boy would have brought me more pleasure, but it’s hard to deny Tamaki the holiday.

Two things: Again, I start to get annoyed with a series when so many characters are involved. Ouran has been cast-heavy from the very beginning, but the ending is bringing everyone forward for their one last appearance. Plus, while the storyline is all about Tamaki and Haruhi, which I absolutely want to hear about, it’s almost more about how much the other characters can meddle. Sometimes their meddling brings out Tamaki’s inner clown, which is what I want to see the most. Most of the time it’s just a bunch of characters talking. Which is the second point. This is probably the most dialogue-heavy shoujo manga EVER. All the dialogue is necessary to make each member of the host club their own character, but again, I could do with much less characters being themselves, getting all chatty over the relationship of Tamaki and Haruhi.

Those are big minuses. But it was totally worth it to see Tamaki stressing and being himself when trying to plan the perfect first date with Haruhi. Seeing him stress about what to wear, and the crazy lengths he went to in order to impress her, that’s exactly what I love about this series. Tamaki is so silly, and the stoic, unemotional Haruhi really is a good match for him. The number of times she almost bailed out on their first date was really funny, but it was just as charming when Tamaki’s bizarre plans, like magic tricks, came to bear when cheering up a lost child rather than entertaining a bored Haruhi. Also really adorable was when Haruhi occasionally called Tamaki’s bluff and caved in to his demands, which would make Tamaki speechless. It was such a funny, charming, and wonderful romance story, it’s just a shame it was buried under all that dialogue and other characters.

The volume is huge, and the epilogue contains a long story about Kyoya. It’s more Host Club shenanigans with all the characters, except set in Spain, with Kyoya and his family problems at the center. It’s a cute story, and very much in the spirit of the series. And I do love Kyoya. but at that point… I really was done reading the series, and was disappointed it wasn’t more about Tamaki and Haruhi by themselves. They do get their own, very brief, short story at the end, but it just didn’t satisfy.

But man. I did love this series. It got a little overly-serious and very talky at the end, but Tamaki makes the whole thing worth it. He’s a great romantic interest.

Bisco Hatori – Viz – 2011 – 18 volumes

This used to be one of my favorites, but a combination of the English version being caught up and spoiling myself silly on the ending means I haven’t read this in a long time. Dipping back in, I was struck by how… crazy this series is. There’s a lot going on, and this volume was mostly a talking volume. Lots of characters, lots of plot threads, lots of yelling, and the layouts and flow are a bit cluttered. It took me a long time to get into this one, and maybe that was part of it.

All of that pales in comparison to how awesome Tamaki is, though, and he makes reading this series worth it. That and the crazy sense of humor and the way the characters play off of one another for gags. It’s not the absolute best, but it’s still a great read for that reason.

Unfortunately, this volume has none of that in favor of a rather dark storyline to climax the series with. No Tamaki being silly, not a whole lot of jokes, and even the Host Club is disbanded. I actually started this volume and stopped several times, because I just couldn’t bring myself to slog through the dark and depressing stuff when the funny is what this series is good at.

Again, I like the series as a whole pretty well, this just wasn’t my favorite volume, and it was a bad one to come back on after a break. The good news is that there’s a volume after this, and all the dark stuff is taken care of at the end of this volume. I’m not even really sure what’s going to happen in the last volume, since it seems like there’s about a chapter’s worth of material left. But perhaps we’ll be seeing a lot of resolution for each character, and there’s a lot of main characters.

I am looking forward to more of the light and funny stuff this series does, so here’s hoping the next volume will end the series on a high note.

Bisco Hatori – Viz – 2011 – 18 volumes

I enjoy this series quite a bit, and I adore Tamaki to the very core of my shoujo-loving being, but now that we’re closing in on the end of the series, we’re getting into dramatic finish territory, and it’s getting tough to read. I had to put this volume down for awhile because I couldn’t do the whole sad story in one sitting.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but it’s obvious that the Ouran storyline is beginning to wrap up here. Haruhi and Tamaki are dancing around their feelings, and all that it’s going to take is a real conversation between them to cement their relationship. Unfortunately, this coincides with Tamaki’s grandmother finally getting around to letting Tamaki into the fold. He’s got his hands full with learning all about the Suoh family business, and doesn’t have… free time anymore.

There’s all kinds of sinister in this volume. Both from Tamaki’s grandmother, who has been a villain all along, and Tamaki’s father, who fails to support or even stand up for his son. The Suoh lawyer is also sticking her nose in Haruhi’s affairs, and by the end of the volume, even Tamaki says things he’s going to regret later. In some cases, immediately, when he collapses in the hallway in a comedic puddle of tears.

I think the worst part of all this is that it’s so talky. This series is always so funny and happy, it’s extremely difficult for me to sit through a depressing volume where characters simply sit around and discuss what they can and can’t do for 200 pages.

Oh, I have full faith in a happy ending. There’s going to be some unpleasantness to get there, though.

So that the whole thing doesn’t end on a sour note, there’s a short story in the back of the volume about how Haruhi’s parents got together. It’s all kinds of awesome, with Ryoji still more or less himself even back then, and Haruhi’s mother… well, is more or less exactly like Haruhi, save for the fact she has a secret Takarazuka soft spot.

Following this, there’s another really funny story about Hikaru and Kaoru’s grandmother. She’s just the sort of eccentric old lady you’d expect to be head of the Hitachiin family.

Hatori’s strength as a writer really is in coming up with these strong, hilarious characters that play well together, and it’s good that both of these fall in this volume with a difficult part of the main story. They more than make up for the lack of silly Tamaki in this volume. I do hope he’ll get an opportunity to appear again next volume, though.

Bisco Hatori – Viz – 2010 – 17 volumes

Oh man. Every time I read a volume of this series, I have to remember how much I love Tamaki. He’s a great shoujo manga character. So silly, and he brings out the funniest in everyone. I thought last volume was a lot of giving the reader what they’ve wanted all this time, but this volume kicks it up a notch.

I had forgotten about the surprise the club had been preparing (?) for Tamaki, and a lot of the beginning of this volume is an “Orienteering Tournament” where Tamaki pairs up with Kanoya and goes around to various challenges and checkpoints prepared by the Host Club members (most catered specifically towards Tamaki winning, though they hide it by claiming it’s an event for their patrons and Host Club-centric, rather than Tamaki-centric). The Orienteering tournament is… okay. It serves as a catalyst for Kanoya (we finally find out what’s bugging her) and also as a device for Haruhi to let Tamaki know that he should share his problems with the club rather than bottling them in. It’s important, but honestly, I’m ready to be finished with this series, and I can feel the ending coming… I’d just as soon have the volume spent sorting out the rest of the character problems, rather than going through more plot. Not that the tournament is boring or bad in any way, I’m just impatient to see the resolutions, is all.

In the aftermath, Tamaki admits to everyone that he has a crush on Haruhi, and we get to see the silliness of how he deals with Haruhi now that he’s realized this, and how his superior attitude makes poor Hikaru feel. It’s Tamaki turned way up, and there are just so many cute scenes of him freaking out or going off on tangents, or everyone trying to calm him down. He really is great, the series is 100% worth reading because he’s such a great character, and every volume spent with Tamaki in a good mood is an absolute pleasure to read.

There are two volumes left! I’m very much looking forward to finishing this series up. I’m hoping we’ll see both within the year. I am happy that it hasn’t worn out its welcome yet, and I’m also curious to see how things will wrap up with Tamaki.

Bisco Hatori – Viz – 2010 – 16+ volumes

Did you ever notice how sometimes… the Achilles’ heel of an artist is immediately apparent? I took one look at the title page and smiled a little, because as well as Tamaki and horses go together, it was immediately apparent they hadn’t appeared because she couldn’t draw them. There was a horse chapter, but I loved the essay in the back where she mentions how bad she is at drawing animals (there’s a wonky-looking tiger in the same picture), and had to have a lot of help from her assistants for the horses.

Also, I love how Hikaru has to scream “in the ‘shoujo manga plot development’ sense!” at Haruhi at one point to make sure she understands what he’s saying. That cracked me up.

Mostly though, we get the serious volume I’ve been craving. Tamaki is still maddeningly obtuse, but he wouldn’t be Tamaki if he wasn’t, and even he’s getting more and more serious about his feelings. We get a real confession out of Hikaru, what seems to be a realization from Haruhi, and a coming-around from Tamaki. Things are much more shoujo-y now, but of course there’s still the mess of Tamaki’s family and sad backstory to deal with before we get the happily ever after.

But even sad backstory is welcome for Tamaki. Even melancholy, he’s still so silly and likable that he more than carries the series through any slow spots. I got a big kick out of Hikaru and Kaoru accusing him of wetting his pants, then him admitting to being prone to “happy squirts” as a boy. It’s so embarrassing, but just so him, too.

But yes. We finally, finally, finally got a fanservice-y volume. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for all this time, even though nothing is yet official. I have a feeling that the next volume won’t have much to do with this one, and will likely be extremely depressing, but all the same, I need my happy end for this series, and I can almost taste it. There can’t be more than a few volumes left. I don’t like everything about it (too many characters, too many gags), but I like Tamaki enough that I’ve been eating new volumes up with a spoon for years and will continue to do so until the end.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Bisco Hatori – Viz – 2009 – 15+ volumes

Sigh.  I just want the story to get to the point.  I can tell it’ll get there eventually, but it’s going at an agonizingly slow pace.  There are a few major things that happen in this volume.  Big things for both Haruhi at the beginning and Hikaru at the end of the volume, and we also learn something important about Tamaki in between.  The chapters that go along with Haruhi’s revelations are adorable and play the plot point up just enough.  They are incredibly enjoyable, and are funny, sweet, romantic, and completely in-character for all involved.  There’s also an adorable scene between she and Tamaki that was worth the price of admission for the volume by itself.

I guess I can’t complain too much about those aspects of the story, but still… there are a lot of side stories that go along with these things, and new plot points are emerging that make it seem like the plot still has a ways to go before I’ll get to see what I want.  And in the end, it’s kind of silly to criticize a shoujo manga for not getting the main couple together.  I mean… that’s what they do.  They get the main couple together, and then end.  That’s why I read them.

Even so, ski trips aren’t always on the agenda, but that’s what happens here.  Granted, the ski trip is where the important plot point concerning Hikaru happens, but even so… though lots of character development happens, it’s still part of Haruhi’s new agenda to “experience more.”  If all that stuff has to happen, I guess it’s okay that it’s at a ski trip, and it’s really not filler at all… but it kind of feels like it anyway.  But only because it is a ski trip.

There’s also a bit of an explanation as to why Tamaki is such a late bloomer, but it’s a silly one, and I was disappointed that it was the reason even though it makes sense in the context of the story.  To make up for it, we get a chapter about young Tamaki’s move to Japan.  It was hilarious and made me love Tamaki even more, if that’s even possible.  The other thing about this volume is that we are right on the edge of Tamaki character development, and to see him looking serious, or sad, is uncharacteristic and quite striking.  He’s a good happy character, so to see him sad is doubly effective story-wise, I think.

But… yeah, I’m still ridiculously addicted to this series.  It’s funny and romantic and I’ve even grown attached to the huge cast of characters, something I generally hate.  And it looks like there’ll only be plot and character development from here on out, and… I’m sure the slow and thorough development this series takes will be good for me in the end, and put it way above the average shoujo series.  When Tamaki and Haruhi get together, it should be very sweet indeed.

I get into these childish mindsets where I don’t really want anything else from a series except my favorite parts.  Quite often, this is because the series is great, and pretty much all of it is awesome, but the fact remains I fly through the books looking for whatever it is that I want.

Now, this volume had  few really great story segments in it.  At the beginning of the volume, Hikaru and Kaoru get into a vicious fight.  Kaoru retaliates by monopolizing Haruhi and basically shutting Hikaru out until he (Kaoru) confesses his feelings to Haruhi.  He’s got a couple ulterior motives, too.  This actually got a bit… deeper than I would expect from this series, and there were some pretty strange issues both Hikaru and Kaoru addressed, but it was quite good, and their confrontation had been building up for quite some time.

Elsewhere, Kyoya is taking his class trip to France and looking for Tamaki’s mother so that he can report back.  This takes a long time, and wasn’t all that interesting or rewarding (it may pay off in the future) but he invokes Troyon, so I forgave this particular story segment.  He is searching fo her in Barbizon, which gets one to thinking of Fontainbleau forest, which then makes me think of CHOMO, and then…

Wait, what?  The topic?

My earlier point about only wanting to read about things I want applies here, because Tamaki isn’t actually in this volume until the very end, and he’s the very best thing about this series as far as I’m concerned.  There are a few brief scenes where Tamaki is with his father, but the longer, better section is where Haruhi figures out that Tamaki has not gone on his trip.  There’s even a cute, fanservice-y scene between the two at Haruhi’s house, and we get to learn Tamaki’s real French name.  It sort of made up for the fact he wasn’t in most of the volume.

The two moments that made me laugh out loud were also Tamaki’s doing.  At one point, he sends Kyoya a really horrible text message (horrible in the fact that it was full of misspellings and colloquialisms and little pictures and stuff).  The part that made me laugh hardest was when Tamaki’s father described a scene from Tamaki’s childhood that kept building up embarassingly until he mentioned that Tamaki would get so excited he would pee himself.  I’m not sure why that struck me as so funny, but it was awesome.

I’m DYING to see some buildup between Haruhi and Tamaki.  Things look to be moving in that direction for the next volume, so I’m really looking forward to it.  A lot.  Tamaki is one of my favorite shoujo manga characters at this point.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.