Wednesday, October 29, 2008

DVD Review: Ouran High School Host Club: Part One

After a two-year wait, Ouran High School Host Club finally comes to DVD from Funimation Entertainment in a Part One DVD set. Containing the first half (13 episodes) of the 26-episode series, this set will delight fans and nonfans of shoujo anime/manga with comedy, romance, great characters, and sly in-jokes.

Based on the manga by Bisco Hatori, the show takes place at the prestigious Ouran Academy where Haruhi Fujioka is a scholarship student. Looking for a quiet place to study, Haruhi stumbles upon the Ouran High School Host Club, a group of young men dedicated to pleasing female patrons.

Each guy plays up certain traits to appeal to young women. Tamaki, the “king” of the club is a traditional gentleman. Mori is a “strong and silent” type while his companion Honey looks a lot younger than his age. Twins Hikaru and Kaoru hint at a “forbidden” relationship between them and club director Kyouya is cool and calculating.

Haruhi gets mixed up in the host club after accidentally breaking an expensive vase. Unable to pay the exorbitant debt, Haruhi ends up working for the club as a host. However, unlike the rest of the members, Haruhi is actually a girl.

There are a lot of very funny moments in Ouran High School Host Club but what makes the show stand out are the sly ways it parodies traditional shoujo anime/manga conventions. It is to shoujo anime what Scream was to slasher flicks. Even if you're not familiar with shoujo anime or manga, there is still plenty of wacky humor to enjoy. A lot of humor is mined from the class difference between the rich host club members and “commoner” Haruhi. One hilarious scene has the group being shocked by the idea of instant coffee.

Haruhi herself doesn't act like your typical shoujo anime heroine. She doesn't care if people mistake her for a boy. She refuses most attempts to make her more of a “girly girl.” Tamaki is the one who sometimes gets flustered regarding Haruhi, not the other way around. The relationship between the modern Haruhi and more traditional Tamaki is a lot of fun to watch as are the ways the other guys react to her.

The 13 episodes on Ouran High School Host Club: Part One are spread out across two discs housed in clear thinpak cases. Both Japanese and English audio are available along with English subtitles. Those who watch dubs will be happy to know that English dub is pretty good. The actors get into their roles quite well and the dialogue is close to the original Japanese. Certain Japanese terms and honorifics like “senpai” and “-chan” are left in. These terms are not used enough in the series to confuse those unfamiliar with them.

There are a decent amount of extras on this set as well. Three episodes on disc one get audio commentary with some of the English voice actors. The rest of the extras are contained on disc two. Pages from the original manga version published by Viz are featured. There are over 15 minutes of dub outtakes included as well as textless versions of the show's opening and closing and some trailers for other Funimation properties.

If you are a fan of shoujo anime/manga, you should definitely check out Ouran High School Host Club: Part One. If you're not a fan, it's still worth checking out for the comedy, high production values, solid English dub, and likable characters. With five hours worth of episodes on this set, there's more than enough to get you hooked.

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