Friday, June 10, 2011

Ouran High School Host Club Vol. 16

By Bisco Hatori. Released in Japan as "Ouran Koukou Host Club" by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by Viz.

The series continues to wrap up, which unfortunately means that this volume, while excellent, is a lot more serious than previous ones. We have to resolve Tamaki's family situation, and that's just unhappy - his grandmother seems to despise him, his father is strangely aloof and uncaring, and halfway through this volume he's forced to abandon everything else that might possibly influence him. It's really brought home here how good he is at putting up a facade, even when he's alone - it helps to drive home just how crushed he in in the moments when that facade cracks.

This is not to say there is no comedy at all, luckily. Hunny and Moru finally have their fight, and Mori's demands turn out to be both sensible and amusing. I liked the contrast with their father's playing shogi, and reminding me a lot of Genma and Soun in Ranma. Likewise, the accidental kiss between Tamaki and Haruhi here is very well done, absolutely terrifying both of them, and giving Tamaki a great moment of self-doubt when he's discussing the incident with... um, his dog, but it makes sense in context. I really liked "Don't worry, the new Tamaki is not as stupid as the old Tamaki." Very true!

Sadly, he then moves back to the main mansion, no longer in exile. While he initially thinks that's cause for celebration - as does everyone else, and I love his discussion of it with Haruhi - it turns out to be a trap, one he realizes only after he's walked into it. What's worse, he realizes that the ones he loves are at risk, and that he has to protect them at all costs. Because this is a manga, you know what that means - telling Haruhi that she can leave the club if she wants to now, and that his affairs are none of her business. Yeah, you can imagine how well THAT goes. But to no avail - for this cliffhanger, we see Tamaki's father ordering the Host Club shut down.

As for Haruhi, she's still not very good at all about dealing with her feelings for Tamaki, even if she now realizes them. Her expression after the accidental kiss is funny but also a wee bit disturbing - how repressed has she been that this will freak her out that much? And it's bookended with the end of the volume, where she's alone in her apartment during a thunderstorm, painfully aware of how much Tamaki has helped her and his absence right now. Hopefully her emotional breakdown here will lead to greater resolve.

There are two short stories at the end of the volume. The first gives us backstory on how Haruhi's mother and father got together, and is very sweet. You can see why Haruhi wants to live up to her mother's dream. The other introduces us to the twins' grandmother, who is just as eccentric as the rest of the family, and is another good look at how, while the twins seem to run roughshod over everyone they know, in reality they are quite easily manipulated. At least before the manga begins...

So we're definitely at a low ebb in the manga, and unfortunately we have to wait till December for the next volume. This particular volume was quite good, though, especially if you like the serious, more angsty side of this manga.

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