By Bisco Hatori. Released in Japan as "Ouran Koukou Host Club" by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by Viz.
It's always very difficult for me when a volume of Ouran comes out at the same time as a volume of Special A. The sheer denseness of the two heroines threatens to overwhelm my senses. Luckily they're dense in completely different ways. And Haruhi, in this volume, finally seems to be wising up and at least starting to try to admit her feelings.
It is unfortunate that the best joke in the entire volume is on page 5. But it's such a great joke. Yes, Hikaru, you really do have to be that explicit when confessing to Haruhi. Haruhi's shock and terror when she finally gets it is also great (and a bit of a running gag, as we see her having similar expressions throughout, usually whenever she thinks about Tamaki and love).
The other best moment in the manga is Tamaki's, and for once it's not when he's being an idiot. We've seen that when he's not in complete denial Tamaki can be an incredibly sweet and sensitive person, always knowing exactly what to say. He knows exactly what's going through her mind when she confesses her insecurities, and his advice to her is absolutely first-rate. And, in a more serious vein, he also gets (for once!) some good self-analysis in at the end, when he confesses his own self-doubts to Kyoya, and the whole 'we're a family!' schtick that has been a mine of rich humor previously is inverted to show its sad roots.
Over the past couple of volumes we've begun to see Hatori-san starting to wrap things up. It's taking forever (the manga is still running in Japan, and has only just announced it's starting the 'final arc'), but we are at least seeing some resolution, as Haruhi here answers the first of her suitors. That's probably why the volume is so Tamaki-heavy. He has the longest way to go, having been a comedic character in denial for so long, and although he doesn't say it out loud, we sense here that he finally really does get his true feelings for Haruhi.
This volume is not perfect, of course. Several of the plotlines here seem to be things that were meant to be longer and then aborted. The kidnapping barely lasts long enough for its victim to be rescued, and Haruhi's lookey-likey reads as the hideous plot device that she is. I also hope, despite needing to wrap things up, that future volumes balance out the host club a little better, as this one is definitely overbalanced towards its main couple-in-denial. Oh yes, and the tora + uma pun is indeed one of the most wretched in the entire series.
Still, after many volumes of Tamaki being in lala happy playtime land in his own mind, it's good to see him straighten up and realize what's going on. Same with Haruhi. Unfortunately, this means that they're both going through a bit of angst, but such is the way of love. Definitely looking forward to the next volume to see how it plays out.