By Bisco Hatori. Released in Japan as "Ouran Koukou Host Club" by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by Viz.
Yes, I can now change the information in the header from 'serialization ongoing' to 'serialized', as Ouran has finally finished in Japan. Admittedly, we have a ways to go - Viz has slowed down the release as it's caught up with Japan, and seems content to release 2 volumes a year, so it may be 2012 before we get the final volume. In any case, last time Haruhi realized her feelings, sort of, and is busy grappling with them. Will Tamaki do the same here?
Yes, he will, and it's easily the best part of the volume. We wrap up the problem of Kanoya-san, Haruhi's doppelganger, with aplomb, as the cast participates in a giant scavenger hunt that depends both on Tamaki being as over the top stupid as he usually is (the curry ingredients in particular are hilarious) and also Tamaki's amazing ability to read people. When he's not being a hyperactive spaz, Tamaki really is the perfect shoujo boyfriend, and his tender understanding of just how long he's been in love with Haruhi is a great emotional capper to this series.
Of course, Ouran is not just a romance - it's also a comedy, and a lot of the comedic elements have been, if not missing lately, at least not as insane. That certainly changes in the middle of the book, as Hatori has apparently decided that now that she's managed to have Haruhi and Tamaki work out their feelings (to themselves, at least), it's time to ramp up the wacky hijinks. How much you appreciate this depends on how much you like Ouran's ability to pile ridiculous situations on top of each other - I enjoy it in small doses, but was starting to feel as aggravated as Haruhi towards the end of things.
The final chapter of this volume deals with Hunny and Mori. They're the two Host Club characters we've dealt with the least, so it makes sense that they're getting a spotlight here as Hatori tries to start wrapping things up. I was very amused at a bit of fourth-wall leaning as Haruhi noted that the announcement Hunny and Mori are graduating soon took her by surprise, as 'it felt like we'd spent several long years together already'. Yes, we're no longer in manga time, and characters are actually allowed to graduate. As for the chapter, it seems to depend on Mori's stoicness and Hunny's supposed cake-eating childishness. Both are facades, of course, but Hunny's seems like the greater one, as he shows a maturity here that's impressive. And as always, it ends on a cliffhanger, so we won't see things resolved till Vol. 16.
18 volumes is long for a shoujo manga, and to a certain extent it does feel as if Ouran is trying to crawl towards the finish line as slowly as possible. But then, in addition to Tamaki and Haruhi's feelings, we have the outstanding plot of Tamaki's family, and that is one that I'm sure will take more than a chapter or two to resolve. Ouran may be wearing out its welcome a bit, but it's still fun, and fans of the series won't mind a bit as they come back next time to see what happens.