I hate to admit it, but I sometimes have preconceptions about a show before I sit down to watch it. When Ouran High School Host Club passed my way the shiny pink artwork and crazy amount of high school boys striking poses around a pile of roses, I wasn't looking forward to watching it. Almost immediately I had flashbacks to Wallflower (which was a series I wasn't keen on) and the blurb on the back about "handsome boys", "make your fantasies come true", and "romantic prince" didn't fill me with confidence. You know what though? The show is actually pretty entertaining.
Ouran High School Host Club started out as a manga by Bisco Hatori in 2003 (still going strong) and received an animated adaptation in 2006. Comprised of 26 episodes the show found itself licensed by FUNimation and today we're looking at the three-disc Blu-ray release.
In case you're unfamiliar with the show, and in all honesty there's really no reason you would be, Ouran is a romantic comedy that takes place in a high school (if you couldn't figure that out). The premise here is that Ouran High School is a private school for the elite and only the most affluent, well-to-do members of society may have their children attend there. As true as that may seem, there's one student who is an exception to that rule and he's allowed to be there on account of having the highest grade in his class.
In the first episode of Ouran High School Host Club we're introduced to Haruhi Fujioka, who is a shabby looking bookworm from an underprivileged upbringing. Haruhi is basically going about his business and looking for a quiet place to study when he comes upon an unused music room and opens the door. What he finds on the other side is the Host Club, which exists solely as a place for girls with time on their hands to go and be doted on by attractive guys who also have time to kill. It's a luxury for the girls, but also serves as a statement for how shallow privileged kids are.
When Haruhi enters he's assaulted by the guys and we're attacked by a rampant display of yaoi. Tamaki, the president, is entirely full of himself, Kyoya is the vice-president and the brains of the operation, Mori is the muscle of the group, Honey is the cute young one, and twin brothers Hikaru and Kaoru are gay comic relief (seriously, they frequently act "homo-homo" as Tamaki refers to them in one episode). To say this group is eclectic would be an understatement, and naturally Haruhi is put off by their eccentric behavior. Unfortunately, as he's backing away from Tamaki's advances, he accidently breaks an expensive vase and is held via blackmail as the Host Club's dog.
The Club makes Haruhi do all sorts of menial chores for them, but that changes when they take off his glasses. Haruhi seems to have what it takes to become a member of the Host Club, and they quickly put him to work, essentially pimping him out to the girls that come to see them. The twist here is that soon enough it's revealed Haruhi is actually a girl! So, I guess that means the show wasn't entirely homo-homo to begin with now, was it?
Much of the show from this point revolves around Haruhi's interaction with the rest of the group and their attempt to hide her true gender from the rest of the school. Since she's such a successful member of their Club, and they all seem to have a crush on her, they do whatever they can to keep her around. Predictably a romance develops between Tamaki and Haruhi at some point and there're plenty of awkward moments scattered throughout the episodes here. This particular plot is played well and you eventually really grow to care for the characters.
While the show is rather episodic and typically follows a theme of the week, the character development and humor truly stand out. The flamboyant crew works off each other incredibly well and the lines the script feeds them are often downright hilarious. It took a couple of episodes for the outlandish brand of humor to win me over, but when it did I was hooked.
If you have a soft-spot for quirky comedies then know that Ouran High School Host Club is as goofy as it gets. The show oozes personality and stands out thanks to its flamboyant personalities and lively script. The Haruhi being a girl, but disguised as a boy mechanic works well and the Club's reaction to her is continuously priceless. Sure, not every episode in the count of 26 is a homerun, but it doesn't need to be. This show is a blast overall and bashed my expectations into bits.
Ouran High School Host Club is presented on Blu-ray with a full 1080p resolution with AVC codec and original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The box declares that the show is presented in 16x9, but sorry that's not the case. The quality of the image is quite good with a razor sharp picture that offers vibrant colors and absolutely no grain or compression. There are some instances of minor aliasing and there's a little haloing around the black lines, but in all honesty neither occurrence gives rise to concern. The quality of this show's presentation is fantastic; just not perfect.
Dolby TrueHD English and Japanese 2.0 tracks are included on this Blu-ray release of Ouran High School Host Club. Considering this really isn't a series that needed a 5.1 presentation it's really not missed. The dialogue has a crisp, clean presence on the soundstage and all music and effects come through perfectly clear. The English track is the more boisterous of the two, but in fairness it doesn't really work the soundstage. In that sense it feels as though the TrueHD was wasted, but given the material what's here is every bit as solid as one would hope it would be.
Some textless songs and trailers are included here for bonus features. There are also some outtakes, two audio commentaries, and a selection of the translated manga from VIZ. The attention to detail with this release is certainly appreciated, and the outtakes stand out as the most enjoyable feature. This cast seemed to have a great time producing the show and the outtakes, and commentaries, proved that.
Ouran High School Host Club isn't a show for everyone. There are yaoi undertones, jokes of a questionable nature, and the material can be somewhat dry at times. However, this show truly stands out in every other way. The sense of humor is unique, the characters absolutely pop, and there's just such a good-natured feeling one gets from watching the series. It's not a total breath of fresh air, but it's enough off the beaten path that lovers of quirky anime will definitely appreciate it. I'm going with a strong recommendation for this one!
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