Part 1 of the 4-part watchalong of Ouran High School Host Club with Amelia, Dee, and special guests Alexis Pratt and Isaac Akers! For this first episode, the team discusses their history with the series, chats about the highs and lows of the Host Club’s parody playground, and lavishes lotsa love on First-Class Protagonist Haruhi.
Content Warning: The podcast will discuss the series’ hit-or-miss depiction of gender identity and sexuality as they arise.
Hosts: Amelia, Dee
Guests: Alexis Pratt, Isaac Akers
Date Recorded: Saturday 28th April 2018
0:01:04 Why Ouran?
0:03:14 About Ouran
0:05:50 History of the genre
0:08:06 Past experience with Ouran
0:14:16 Host clubs
0:16:07 Cultural appropriation
0:17:58 Reverse harem artifice
0:21:52 Consensual fantasy
0:24:05 The twins
0:30:21 Shiro and Honey
0:33:29 Dated jokes
0:36:06 Haruhi’s gender identity
0:42:54 Tamaki enforcing femininity on Haruhi
0:46:11 Roles vs reality
0:53:36 Next 6 episodes
1:01:28 Dee’s surprises
AMELIA: Hi everyone, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name’s Amelia. I’m the editor-in-chief at Anime Feminist, and I’m joined here today by Dee, Alexis, and Isaac. If you guys would like to introduce yourselves?
DEE: Hi! I’m Dee Hogan. I’m the managing editor at AniFem. I also run the anime blog, The Josei Next Door, and you can find me on Twitter @joseinextdoor.
ALEXIS: My name’s Alexis Pratt. I’m an amateur writer and mostly just watch anime with my friends, so…
AMELIA: That’s where we all are!
ALEXIS: Right? Nothing super-special here. Just, you know, very casual anime fan.
AMELIA: So far, it sounds like we have a lot in common, so that’s great. Isaac?
ISAAC: Yeah, I’m Isaac. I am an associate features editor at Crunchyroll. I run the blog Mage in a Barrel, and you can find me on Twitter @iblessall.
AMELIA: And we are gathered here today to talk about Ouran High School Host Club.
DEE: You made that sound so serious. [Darkly] “We are gathered here today… [happily] to talk about a shoujo comedy!”
AMELIA: I think Tamaki’s rubbed off on me.
DEE: [laughs] You’re gonna be very dramatic today.
AMELIA: I just take myself extremely seriously. Yep.
DEE: Well done.
AMELIA: So, this is going to be our next watchalong series. A watchalong, for anyone who’s not listened to Chatty AF before, is where we watch six episodes of an anime at a time, and then we get together with a group of people who have watched it before and love it, and a group of new viewers—two or three new people—who have either not seen it before or not seen much of it before, and don’t really know what to expect.
And then every six episodes we record and we talk about what we think of the six episodes we’ve just seen, what we think is likely to happen, what we hope will happen, and so on. So it’s a way of revisiting a slightly older show with quite a fresh perspective.
And I’d like Dee to explain why we chose Ouran High School Host Club, because, to my memory, what happened was Dee discovered I had never seen it, and then instantly said, “We’re doing a watchalong.” And that was that as far as I could tell.
But, Dee, you had reasons for choosing Ouran, right?
DEE: I mean, that was kind of the gist of it.
DEE: We… When DamePri came out during the winter season, you watched the first few episodes and really liked it, and it just kind of came up in conversation. I was like, “Yeah, it’s kinda like Ouran but for otome games, specifically, instead of for shoujo manga.” And I was like, “You’ve seen Ouran, right?” And you said, “No,” and I… there was a very dramatic gasp on my end, and I decided that we needed to do this right away.
I think there are good reasons to have it as a watchalong other than just “I want Amelia to watch this show and I want an excuse to rewatch it.” It is arguably the most popular shoujo series in the West that isn’t named “Sailor Moon.” So, it certainly has a large fanbase and a large effect, I think, on a lot of anime fans.
I also think it talks about both genre tropes and gender norms in ways that make it a really good candidate for an extended discussion, both in terms of things we can talk about that it does well, and things that it maybe doesn’t do so great. So…
AMELIA: Can you give a bit of detail, Dee, on the history of Ouran High School Host Club? Because my memory of it is just: it showed up out of nowhere one day and was really popular, but there’s a bit more to it.
DEE: Yeah, yeah, I can give you some background details here. So, the manga was first published in the shoujo magazine LaLa in the year 2002. It is by Bisco Hatori, whose other two series, Millennium Snow and Behind the Scenes, are also both available in English. And then the anime—and then Shojo Beat published it pretty quickly in English as well, Ouran High, and it was fairly popular.
The anime is produced by Bones and it ran during the spring and summer of 2006. The anime has a very good pedigree and there are probably gonna be people who are angry at me for saying this, but I think it’s better than the manga.
AMELIA: The hot takes started!
DEE: Yeah. It’s helmed by Igarashi Takuya, who is the director, and the series composer is Enokido Yoji. These are, you know, [sarcastically] just small-time directors and writers who have worked on such minor series as Sailor Moon, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Soul Eater… They’ve also done Star Driver, which is a personal favorite of mine, and most recently they worked together on Bungo Stray Dogs. The two of them tend to work in tandem.
Igarashi has a very… What’s a good word for it? He has a very energetic aesthetic, I think, that brings out the charm and endearing qualities of his characters very well; and he also pulls from the same school of directing that Ikuhara does in some ways with his aesthetics and visual direction, which makes his productions very exciting to watch, I think.
It was then licensed very quickly by Funimation, even though this was kind of during the “anime Dark Ages” in the mid-2000s, and it is currently streaming on both Crunchyroll and Funimation. So check to see if it’s available in your region, of course.
And, again, it became as close to a mainstream hit as you can get, I think, which I always found very impressive. I’m honestly shocked I found three whole anime fans over the age of 25 who haven’t seen it. So, this is very exciting.
AMELIA: That was the first thing that came up when we started talking about doing the watchalong. Dee was like, “Well, of course we won’t possibly find anyone but Amelia who’s not seen it.” [laughs]
DEE: And then I remembered Isaac, and then Caitlin told us… She was like, “I have a friend who hasn’t seen it either!” So, we were able to find some folks. Which is good.
AMELIA: We’ve actually been turning people away from this one.
ALEXIS: I came to anime very late in life. Besides some very normal shounen stuff when I was in high school. So it’s a lot of discovery lately. Caitlin’s been taking me through a lot of stuff and then this came up. So, hey.
DEE: That’s awesome. Perfect excuse.
AMELIA: We’re really pleased to have you. Yeah.
DEE: Yeah, so, the thing about Ouran: It’s very much a response to a subgenre that had been on the rise over the ten-odd years before Ouran came out. Otome games first started coming out in 1994, and you had a lot of popular franchises launching in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Things like Angelique, HaruToki, Tokimeki Memorial—which actually gets a nod in these episodes as Ukidoki Memorial—and then on the manga side, you also had reverse-harems, which are a similar format to an otome game, that were also becoming more popular. Fushigi Yugi in 1992, I think, really popularized the genre, and then you had things like HanaKimi, The Wallflower, lots of other titles.
So, you basically had an entire—most of a decade of all this material in this subgenre, and over that time, you had these different narrative conventions and tropes and character archetypes that had been really solidified.
And, so, Ouran comes into this period of time after you’re starting to see these very set patterns, and Ouran is very much addressing that and commenting on it in a way that a good parody does.
So, that’s something I find really interesting about it, and will probably keep jumping back to from time to time. But I think it’s good to know where it’s coming from, because so much of what it’s doing is playing with these tropes that existed before it.
AMELIA: That’s good. I’m really glad we’ve got your awareness of that whole genre or subgenre because there are certainly times when I’m gonna be raising my eyebrows and saying, “Why is this here? This doesn’t feel right.” And you’ll say, “No, it’s calling back to something that has been referenced.”
So, yeah. Very glad to have that knowledge underpinning this. Thank you for doing this, Dee.
DEE: Oh, yeah.
ISAAC: I couldn’t… Dee, I couldn’t help but notice that when you were doing the Igarashi-Enokido that you skipped Captain Earth? Was there a reason for that? [laughs]
DEE: Uh, it’s the only one of his shows—
ISAAC: —besides the fact that it’s bad?
DEE: I don’t… Yeah. It’s the only one of his shows I’ve never been able to finish. So I just kind of…
ISAAC: [through laughter] Well, that’s completely fair.
DEE: I just kind of went, “Let’s just ignore that one.”
ISAAC: I apologize for bringing it up then.
DEE: Oh, no, it’s okay.
AMELIA: Because that’s why you watched a little bit of Ouran before, right, Isaac? Because of Igarashi?
ISAAC: Yeah. So, I watched it… I started Ouran right after I had seen Star Driver, which Dee mentioned earlier. Which is also a favorite of mine. And I was just really in the mood for more of his and Enokido’s style, and the way they were writing, and people have been recommending Ouran to me for, I mean, a long time.
Sort of like Alexis, I came into anime a little bit late, and I kind of started with simulcast, so I’ve been going back for years and watching older, popular stuff. And in that time, I couldn’t tell you the number of times people said, “Oh, have you seen Ouran?” And I’d be like, “No.” And they’re like, “What?! You haven’t seen Ouran?”
ISAAC: And I’d be like, “No,” and they’re like, “Well, you would totally like it.” So, I’m glad to have this opportunity to kind of come back to it and really watch it in earnest. ‘Cause I did see the first four episodes after Star Driver, but then got distracted by other giant robot anime or something like that.
AMELIA: Yeah, no, I had a similar experience for entirely different reasons. I started watching it… As an anime fan, I had a big gap of about ten years, which is not that unusual, but I actually stopped watching anime around 2006, which is when Ouran came out. So, I watched a handful of episodes back then through fairly illicit means because that was kind of the only option you had at the time. But I stepped away from anime as a whole and I didn’t go any further with it.
And then ten years later, suddenly it’s an anime that everyone has seen, and, much like you, Isaac, I have people recommending it to me as soon as they find out I haven’t seen it. They’re like, “What?! How can you..?” It’s just part of the canon that you’re expected to have consumed, especially if you work as a critic. So, to not have seen it has felt like a gap.
And I remember enjoying it well enough. These kinds of over-the-top comedies are very hit-and-miss for me, so I didn’t particularly have a reason to go back to it. And I’ve been really pleasantly surprised, so looking forward to talking about that.
But, first of all, Alexis, you said that you were quite a recent… you’ve come to anime quite late in life, and you’re going through this for the first time. Do you have any of the kind of—did you have the same kind of context as Isaac and I? Were people recommending it a lot, or did you kind of come to it a different way?
ALEXIS: It never really came up until recently, when… Oh, God when did it…? I think we were discussing Danganronpa, of all things. I’ve been catching up—
AMELIA: [faux-shocked] Caitlin? That’s very out of character.
ALEXIS: [sarcastically] I know. That’s very out of character for Caitlin.
We’d been talking about it, and she made a reference to it, I think, and I was like, “I have no idea what she just said.” She looked at me like I had three heads, and that was it. She was like, “Oh, you need to watch this!”
AMELIA: [laughs] I know exactly the look you’re talking about!
ALEXIS: Yeah. And then a week later, she’s like, “Hey, AniFem’s doing a thing. You want to get in?” So, here I am.
AMELIA: Oh, that was really good timing!
ALEXIS: It was weirdly, impossibly good timing. And now, here I am. I’ve gotten six episodes in.
AMELIA: So, you know nothing about it then, other than… You just went in completely cold, or did you do any reading?
ALEXIS: I’ve seen very little of it. Namely I’ve seen reaction images taken from stills of the anime, obviously. Which, you know, everybody sees those kinds of things. But other than that, no. I’ve… I was warned ahead of time about some of the gendered language used later on, and that wasn’t necessarily a surprise. It’s from 2006. But other than that, I went in completely cold.
AMELIA: Perfect. And Dee, what’s your background with Ouran High School Host Club?
DEE: [emphatic] Well!
AMELIA: You’ve got two minutes.
DEE: I actually picked up… Shojo Beat was bringing the manga out a little bit before the anime, and I had a friend recommend it to me, so I had read maybe the first couple volumes of it, and I was enjoying it, and then I found out there was an anime.
So I tracked down the anime through those illicit means that you mentioned, because the year was 2006 and Crunchyroll was nary a twinkle in anyone’s eye at that point. But I did eventually buy the DVD, so it’s all good.
But my roommate and I watched it pretty quick after it had come out, so probably early 2007. We fell in love with it, and then we just started showing it to everyone we knew (I had a bunch of anime friends growing up). I forced them to watch it in our anime club. I kept up with the manga and finished that. I eventually bought the anime.
The anime is one of my top ten all-time favorite anime. It’s on that list easily. One of my top five favorite comedies. There are episodes that I’ve seen at least a dozen times because it was, for a long time, and still kind of is… parts of it are sort of my go-to show when I’m having a bad day and I just want to put on an episode of something and just giggle.
So, I love Ouran a lot. I know it’s not perfect and there’s a few episodes that I genuinely dislike, but overall, it’s just very warm and it makes me happy.
AMELIA: Yeah, I was really surprised, actually, how warm it does feel. ‘Cause I didn’t really remember much of it. But what I did remember was it’s host clubs, and it’s rich kids, and it’s… I remember it having the potential to be quite mean, and that’s not really there. I mean, apart from moments with Tamaki, but he’s such a clown. I think it doesn’t come across as malicious.
DEE: I think Ouran does a very smart job in—pretty much from episode one—of establishing that Tamaki and most of the other hosts are idiots, and Haruhi is kind of our moral center. So, when they’re being ridiculous, we’re supposed to just laugh at them and not take them seriously and then you kind of look to Haruhi to see what we, as an audience, are supposed to actually take out of things. S
o, you know, Haruhi complaining about the damn rich people disconnected from reality, or how they get way too hung up on gender norms and things like that, I think that… And, again, there’s some stuff in there that’s worth criticism, but I think because the show does establish so early that these are the clowns, like you said, it makes it a lot… it makes it feel a lot warmer and nicer about some of the genre antics they get into.
AMELIA: Yeah. One of the other things that I noticed is, last time I saw it, I was in the middle of a Japanese degree. I’d never been to Japan. I was quite… All of this was new. I couldn’t understand Japanese at that point except for bits and pieces. Whereas now I’m watching it as a Japanese speaker; as somebody who’s been to Japan; as somebody who’s a lot more familiar with anime in general from a critical perspective—and the idea of rich kids finding host clubs as aspirational is so weird to me now.
Because host clubs are really not a pleasant thing. Well, I mean, I’ve never been to one, because… Can you imagine some guy trying to charm me in a bar? It doesn’t…
AMELIA: It doesn’t go down well. But it’s something that… I’ve had friends who studied host clubs. I’ve had friends who have been a fan of going to host clubs. I’ve heard the stories. I’ve seen the pictures. It’s not something you would expect rich kids to set up a club with this romanticized aspirational perspective. Maybe “aspirational” is not the right word, but “romanticized” certainly is.
My understanding is that the biggest market for host clubs is actually sex workers. They finish their shift and they go somewhere where they don’t have to put on a face and be performative themselves, and so it’s quite a gritty world, is my understanding. And there are documentaries out there of the things that the hosts have to do to get people to keep drinking alcohol, which is how the bars make their money. It’s quite an unpleasant underbelly. And you’ve got these rich kids in a school that has Big Ben in the middle of it?
AMELIA: Big Ben Tower? Which is very bizarre. And as an English person watching it… They’ve got that one moment where they talk about the antique markets in London, and it’s so strange to have these things mashed together.
And something else that kind of bothered me a little bit is that baked into the premise is that every week they’re doing a new setup to please their clients. And this goes [in] kind of cultural-appropriation directions more often than I would like. You see them dressing up as Arabian kings and things like that, and that… I didn’t enjoy that aspect of it very much. Did anyone else?
ALEXIS: Yeah, they jumped into it immediately on episode two with the “Oh, I showed Tamaki a Balinese travel brochure and now here we are. We just spend 500,000 yen on a bunch of plants and this crazy costume.”
DEE: Live toucans and pythons.
ALEXIS: Yeah, man.
AMELIA: I guess it’s in keeping, because these are rich, sheltered children and the idea of cultural appropriation wouldn’t have even occurred to them. It didn’t occur to a lot of people in 2006, especially. Watching it in 2018 as somebody who’s quite conscious of these things was actually a little bit… [sharp inhale]. I had a few moments where I was like, “Oh no, please don’t do this again,” ’cause they have this Polynesian thing in episode two, and then in episode five, six, I think it is, they go and make him an Arabian king.
ALEXIS: Yeah, it was six. They do the whole… Yeah.
DEE: Yeah. The host club is very equal-opportunity culturally insensitive costumes. So, that will be a thing that will probably continue to ping for you. They… In later episodes, they’ll do some more Japanese-themed ones too. Not that that makes it better. But, yeah. That’s just them doing these crazy, fantastical themes based on different stories and cultures and histories… is a recurring thing. Yeah.
AMELIA: And it’s not necessarily criticism, because, again, these are very privileged young rich kids. This is exactly what I would expect publicly educated kids in England to do, quite honestly. Sorry, public education like Eaton or something like that. Extremely elite.
So that is what I would expect of rich kids anywhere, is to have that insensitivity. So, it’s not that it doesn’t work and it’s not that it’s a dealbreaker. It just… I think you just notice it through this lens.
DEE: It’s not something I think I ever necessarily picked up on because, again, it just struck me as “these goofball high school kids.” Watching Ouran this time around is gonna be kind of fun, because I’ve never… I’ve always just watched it to laugh, and I’ve never really looked at it through a critical perspective, so this is…
AMELIA: Oh no! I’m so sorry. [laughs]
DEE: No, no, no, this is good! I like doing stuff like this. This is a good… I’m already picking up on things that I hadn’t before, so I think that’s great. I think that is totally a fair criticism too, though, because I think there are times in the show where the characters are being ridiculous, and somebody calls them out on it, and so you know that the writer is aware of it and is letting us know, “This isn’t really okay,” or “This is silly,” or whatever.
And that… Haruhi thinks it’s extravagant, but the cultural appropriation aspect is never really touched on. So, I think that’s totally a fair criticism, that it’s ridiculous but not properly addressed in the show itself.
ISAAC: Well, and it all ties into the—when you were saying earlier, “they’re all idiots”—to me, it’s like, they’re idiots, but they’re not just idiots. They’re rich idiots, specifically.
And you know how Utena has their little refrains that they do—the little speeches that characters give over and over again? And the one that Ouran has is the little monologue that Tamaki does at the beginning at most of the episodes where he’s talking about introducing the host club and being like: “This is a super-luxury place for the super-rich kids where they come to hang out and have fun.”
And he brings up the topic of wealth in relation to this multiple times, and it’s a playground. That’s the word they use to describe it. And, so, when you’re talking about cultural appropriation, everything that they do is contextualized inside this little bubble of “for them it’s all this game that they’re playing” because they’re bored, basically. They’re a bunch of bored, rich idiots, and this is what they’re doing to have fun.
AMELIA: That’s a really good way of putting it.
DEE: Yeah, that’s true. I think there’s an aspect of… Amelia, you pointed out that this is very different from a regular host—from what host clubs in the real world are like. And a part of me thinks what Hatori was more interested in here is using the host club as an excuse to really call out—maybe “call out” is not quite the right word, but to really highlight the artifice of a lot of the archetypes that were present in these reverse-harem stories.
So, with the host club, you have… It’s just doing away with the idea that any of this is grounded in reality. It’s like, “No, this is a fantasy. This is a fantasy universe that everyone is aware is a fantasy universe and they’re all just taking part in this big game.”
So, you know, all the characters have their roles and their types that get brought up on the regular, and everyone seems to be aware of it. The students who come in know about it, and the hosts, obviously, again, they’re all very aware that they’re taking some characteristics that are a part of themselves, but then exaggerating it for this game they’re playing that is sort of making these girls happy.
And I think in some ways that’s a commentary on the reverse-harem subgenre as a whole. And what I like about it is it calls out the fact that a lot of this is bullshit, but it doesn’t really judge anyone for enjoying that. It’s like, “Yeah, this is a fantasy, but it’s an escape. It’s something fun that these girls are enjoying.” And everyone is aware it’s just this fun thing they’re enjoying.
And so I like that it… I think there’s some stuff done in some of the later episodes that we can talk about as we go, where it draws a line between the fantasy and bringing that too close to the real world. But I don’t think it judges people for wanting to indulge in a little fantasy, and I appreciate that about it.
AMELIA: I struggled with that a little bit, because, I mean… The biggest issue I think I have with Ouran, the biggest thing I wince at when I see it, is the twins. And watching the girls watch the twins, every time I see it it brings up everything I’ve ever read about how women fetishize gay relationships through BL, and it’s… I mean, I’m just too immersed in that commentary, I think, to really not take it seriously when I see it on-screen, and I’m like, “Oh no, is watching this…?”
I don’t know. It feels quite uncomfortable to me to watch these… For a start, they’re brothers, and that’s already a bit… [laughs] Didn’t enjoy that. But then there’s… The episode I really didn’t like very much was the health check episode, where you’ve got these girls just standing as an audience to see these boys take their shirts off, and I don’t like seeing any anime characters take their shirts off in these kinds of situations. I’m just not interested.
So, having that as the centerpoint of that joke, and having it be the twins, and having them be talking about playing doctor at home, and having this whole bank of girls just standing and watching with blushes: “Oh, thank goodness we get to see them touch each other shirtless!” It was all a bit much. But… I mean, I’m fairly hardline about this kind of thing anyway, so that’s the only thing that I really didn’t enjoy.
Alexis, how was it for you? You’ve been a little quiet so far.
ALEXIS: So, here’s the thing. I really like the twins as characters when they aren’t playing to the, “Oh, but we’re brothers!”
AMELIA: Yes. Exactly.
ALEXIS: Because the episode that was focused on them was actually hilarious, and I also really enjoyed Haruhi seeing straight through them every time. And just… I really enjoy them when they aren’t being awful caricatures of BL romance.
AMELIA: There was that beautiful moment at the end of the twins’ episode where Haruhi sees through them again even though they swap their hair dye. She sees through them again and she walks away. And one of them just looks at the other one.
DEE: [crosstalk] That is one of the best… It’s such a good moment of visual storytelling, where Hikaru is looking straight at Haruhi, and Kaoru is the only one who glances to look at his brother and then glances back again and kind of realizes that things are changing. Sorry, what were you gonna say?
ALEXIS: I just really like a lot of the way this anime is shot in general, just the… There’s so much going on in most shots in a way that you don’t see in a lot… If I imagine this anime in 2018, I don’t think it would be nearly as flamboyant or crazy. Maybe that’s just because I’ve been watching Persona 5, the anime, and that’s been kind of just standing there and casting spells or talking. It’s hard for me to imagine it coming out now, and looking like it does.
AMELIA: You might like DamePri Anime Caravan.
DEE: I might recommend… Well, I would say check out Igarashi’s other works, because that very visually dynamic, energetic style is something that’s big for him: is to keep the movement and tell the story as much through what’s going on on-screen, both in terms of the big foreground actions as well as the way characters are reacting in the backgrounds, and things like that. I mean, he’s a really good director, so that’s certainly part of it, too, I think.
AMELIA: The comedy is so strong, and the aesthetic is also so strong. Isaac, I think you mentioned Utena, and that was my first thought when I started watching the first episode with the huge, over-the-top imagery, and it completely rang that Utena Bell for me. But obviously that’s kind of the only thing that’s really Utena-like.
But, at the same time, the comic timing is spot on. The voice actors, they’re perfect. And it was surprising to me that they also had this really quiet moment at the end of the twins’ episode where, as you say, the storytelling was just… not perfect, but it was really subtle, and to have all of that in a single show, and a comedy show as well, I was not expecting that. At all.
ISAAC: The thing that was really interesting to me about that episode, the twins’ episode… It starts off with them on the bench together holding hands and talking to this girl, and when I saw them on the bench, I thought, “Oh, I’ve seen this episode or character beat before, but it’s always been with female characters.”
How many times have I seen in an anime where it’s two sisters against the world? And, I mean, I was reading a young adult fantasy novel recently, and it was the same thing. Two twins, these two girls against the world. And, I mean, I think some of this just comes from, you know, being in this particular genre, but I was like, “Oh, I’ve seen this, but it’s with boys. What are they gonna do with it that’s different?”
And I actually don’t know. I think in terms of the general emotional arc, it’s similar to things I’ve seen before, but… It was just interesting to me that it started serious and then went [to] this framing device and then went really silly. And I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of all the in-between stuff, like the fight. But, again, that final moment, that shot where one of them looks at the other and back at Haruhi, is really stunning because it adds so much more weight to everything that’s come before.
ALEXIS: Yeah, getting to see someone… Because they’re both played for comedy the whole time in every other episode. Seeing them have an emotional, serious moment was actually incredibly effective, and I think we mentioned it before, but I do appreciate that the show can do both.
DEE: Yeah, kind of just going back to that opening scene to the flashback with them on the bench—which, by the way, is so well-storyboarded. It’s a bunch of shots of them in mirror parallels, both sides of the image: perfect symmetry. And then the little girl shows up and suddenly the camera is tilted and from a distance and… Oh, it’s so good! Sorry. [laughs] Sometimes I get excited about framing.
One thing I really like about that episode is it comes… The timing’s very good, ’cause it comes right off the heels of the Renge episode, where you’ve got this character who shows up who doesn’t really see that line between reality and fantasy, and is trying to impose all these archetypes onto these actual—quote-unquote “actual”—people.
And Haruhi sort of snaps at her about, “You should probably not judge people by appearances. You should take the time to get to know them.” And then the next episode with the twins, we really see that in action with the way Haruhi can tell them apart because she’s spent time actually getting to know them as people.
And I think that opening scene does a good job of establishing… Again, I keep coming back to this balance between the artifice and the sincere, where you see how the twins—growing up, people kept seeing them as a single unit, and it was clearly something that bothered them when they were young. ‘Cause they sort of challenged her, like, “No, which of us do you actually want to spend time with? Do you have any idea that there’s a difference between the two of us?”
But then now that they’ve gotten into high school, they’ve taken these insecurities they had and made them into their whole sort of persona: the thing that makes them stand out. Which I thought was very true to adolescence and how you can sometimes take these things that bother you and then be like, “No, no, no, this is my identity now.”
But, also, the way the show plays with that and how maybe that’s not super healthy, and they need to start moving away from that outside of their roles in the host club. So, I thought that episode was really good.
AMELIA: There’s another episode I want to talk about. We’re getting through so much. It’s really great. I’m conscious of time. There’s the episode where the young boy… Episode 6.
DEE: Shiro. Shiro Takaoji.
AMELIA: Yeah, and this is the other kind of issue that I have with the whole premise of Ouran… Not the premise exactly, but the characters. We’re gonna see this again and again. So, we’ve got Honey, who looks like a literal child. I mean, he is a literal child, but he really looks like a literal child. And he… The reason the girls come to the host clubs, for everyone else, seems to be because they are attracted to these boys. And with Honey, it’s something a bit different, but it’s all kept in the same kind of category. And that’s a little bit uncomfortable, anyway.
And then you’ve got this little boy who shows up. And while Tamaki’s kind of showing him what he does, so that he can learn how to please women, he makes this comment about “Love knows no age.” It’s fine if he’s a young boy. “You turn me into a young boy when I look at you.”
And it’s… I don’t know. That seems to be something that Ouran‘s quite comfortable with: that idea that having these young boys there was a point of appeal, was a point of attraction, even if it’s not dressed up as sexual attraction, exactly. I don’t know. There was something about that that… I think that’s gonna bother me a bit in future weeks as well.
ALEXIS: Yeah. I agree. And especially with the way that episode ends, where he’s literally surrounded by women, talking about his long-distance girlfriend that they email about every night, while they all just fawn over him, was… Oh my God.
The show is great, but it’s also a lot.
AMELIA: [laughs] And I don’t like it when people do that in the real world, when they’re like, “Oh, does your one-year-old baby have a girlfriend?” All of that. I don’t like any of that in real life, so kind of seeing that played up a little bit for laughs in this… I just didn’t find that beat funny at all.
So, I don’t know if we’re gonna dig deeper into that ground with Honey, or whether we’re gonna—as we did with the twins, we got to see a bit past the twins, and as you said, Dee, we got to see a bit of the reason of why they’ve ended up leaning into this thing that they’d been uncomfortable with in the past, and leaning into it as part of their high-school persona. Maybe we’ll see a bit more of that with Honey. I have no idea.
ALEXIS: I really hope we do, because on the surface, I enjoy Honey just being—
ALEXIS: Yeah. Just… He’s a cute presence that balances out the ridiculousness of Tamaki and the low-key homoeroticism of the twins. And whatever’s going on with Mori, the tall, silent guy who’s had maybe five lines so far.
ALEXIS: He works as a good foil, and I really hope they do something with him, because I want to enjoy him.
AMELIA: Yeah. Mori at this point is just a non-entity, right? He’s just there for Honey to climb on. And to call him by his first name, which is obviously something people like to see.
But I’m just kind of keeping in mind that Tamaki… In the health check episode, he kind of describes the rest of them as the “Homo-homo supporting cast,” which… doesn’t look so good in 2018. I’m sure it didn’t look that great in 2006 either.
But it’s… By him saying that about all of them, that was kind of an “Oh dear” moment for me, because, yeah, okay, the twins are playing this up. Honey and Mori? They’re not… They don’t seem to be, but is that what’s intended to be read into it? Is that how Tamaki sees it? That they’ve kind of paired off?
That doesn’t seem to work because Kyoya seems to be there on his own, or if anything, Kyoya and Tamaki play off each other.
DEE: Mom and Dad!
AMELIA: As this kind of… Mother-Father thing. And also, at the beginning, when they’re talking about the health check, and there’s an image of them standing shirtless, saying, “Oh, maybe this is the year my height finally overtakes yours!” or something.
And it’s… I don’t know. It just… The “homo” thing in general. That is a line that comes up again and again. And it’s a bit awkward. And “okama” comes up as well, which they translate as “a queer,” which is [through gritted teeth] delightful. Could be worse, as we know, from Hunter x Hunter. Could be worse. But.
DEE: Yeah, no, to go back to… Yeah, the twincest stuff, the shotacon stuff, it is not super-duper comfortable. It’s one of those things I can kind of brush aside because I think what the writer was doing, was to take these unfortunately pretty popular tropes within the genre and to hold them up to a light and go, “Hey, guys. This is weird. See? Haruhi thinks this is weird, so maybe we should not.”
But I don’t… I think because the show’s first goal is to be a comedy, that it does not dig into that the way that it should. So, I think it’s totally fair to be uncomfortable with that, definitely.
ISAAC: To me, it’s kind of… The whole comedy and then problematic stuff is sort of how I feel like is a good way to describe the whole show, because I feel like it’s these… A lot of these nice things that it does and funny things that it does that kind of rests on this really troublesome bedrock, and it’s just like…
I feel like I’m in a constant state of ambivalence of, “Oh, I like the way that this thing happens on the superficial surface level.” And then, as soon as you start thinking about it anymore than that, I start to be like, “Okay, this is actually much more troubling to me.”
For me, the biggest example of that is Tamaki and the way that he treats Haruhi. ‘Cause I feel like there’s a really genuine feeling that I get from him and the way that he feels about Haruhi and wants to care for her and keep her around—keep her as part of their little in-group. But then, at the same time, he’s always talking about, “Oh, it’d be so much better if you were in this cute dress or if you made friends with the girls and went off and did girly things.”
ALEXIS: When they literally dress Haruhi up in a middle-school dress and miniskirt for the sixth episode so they can sneak in and then everyone else walks in behind her. “Oh, yeah, we just did this for fun.”
ISAAC: And there’s a leg shot in there, too. That’s right before they come in, which shocked me, because I was not expecting that at all.
ALEXIS: They lingered on that miniskirt shot, like, “Aw, man. Look at that.”
AMELIA: Which is a shame, because Haruhi, herself—and I’m using she/her pronouns, but Haruhi doesn’t seem to really care about gender.
ALEXIS: Oh, God, no.
AMELIA: And that was so refreshing. I’d forgotten how they handled that, and I think it’s done so well and I think still, to this day, that does hold up.
ALEXIS: Oh, I absolutely agree. Watching this with no context, I absolutely adore Haruhi. Just the instant, “Oh, I’ll just use ‘ore‘ now,” at the end of the first episode was shocking and incredible in a way that I never expected.
AMELIA: And she sustains that. I don’t know. Should I be using she/her pronouns? Should I be using they/them?
DEE: I… Okay, I’m speaking obviously from the perspective of someone who’s seen the whole anime and read the whole manga. I think she/her is fine. I think Haruhi is the kind of person who, if you used a different pronoun on her, wouldn’t care. But I think if she had to pick… ‘Cause she generally comes back to—again, this is in itself inherently problematic, but at the beginning when they’re like, “Are you a girl?” she’s like, “Eh, biologically.”
Which I think is kind of where she stands is: “Well, I was assigned female at birth. And I don’t really care. So that’s fine. That’s what I’ve been going by my whole life.” Which, again, there is an inherent problem to the concept of—anyway, you guys know, “biological” gender.
But, to me, Haruhi… She kind of continues to come back to, “Oh, they’ll find out I’m a girl. Oh, I’m actually a girl.” She seems okay with that concept, she just doesn’t really care if she presents as a different gender. So, I don’t think she would mind whatever pronoun you used on her. And some people—some agender folks, it’s a sense of not having a strong sense of gender one way or the other, which I can kind of relate to, to be honest.
DEE: Yeah. So, it’s not like…I think I’d be really hesitant to say Haruhi is trans, because I don’t think she has a strong enough sense of being a gender other than the one she was assigned at birth, but I think you could probably make an argument for her being agender, just in the sense that she’s much more focused on being seen as Haruhi than being perceived as any particular gender.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] And this is something that we very much [unintelligible beneath crosstalk]
DEE: [crosstalk; nervous] Does that sound okay to you guys? Did that sound okay? I want to make sure I’m not…
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] No, that absolutely tracks.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Totally.
DEE: [relieved, nervous chuckle] Okay.
AMELIA: And this is something that we would definitely like people to tell us how they related to Haruhi: how they feel that she presents, how they connect to her character. If you feel that she would prefer they/them. Let us know. This is something we’re completely open to discussing. So, especially if you are a viewer who is not cisgender, who feels a particular connection to Haruhi, let us know. We want to talk about it.
DEE: Yeah, absolutely.
AMELIA: Yeah, nothing in this discussion is supposed to be prescriptive, so just… “Because the Anime Feminist podcast said it, therefore it is so.” Absolutely not.
DEE: Yeah, I’m not trying to write anything in canonical stone here. I’m just saying that from my perspective, as someone who’s been involved in the franchise for a bit, that’s the read I get on her.
I think you can definitely say she’s gender-nonconforming. ‘Cause she doesn’t seem particularly into dresses. She doesn’t hate them, but she gets—her reaction to them dressing her up and putting her in high heels and makeup was one of the more relatable… It was beautiful. It was the most relatable moment. I tweeted out a joke tweet that said “If I tweeted ‘It me’ with a screenshot of Haruhi every time she did something that I was like, ‘Oh yeah,’ you guys would block me because I’d be spamming your Twitter feeds.”
But yeah, they’re like, “You look so cute!” And she’s like, “I don’t care that I look cute. It’s really hard to walk in these shoes and my face feels weird.” I’m like, “Yeah. I get that.”
AMELIA: Yeah, your view of her… It rings true with what we’ve seen so far. So, absent any kind of contradicting evidence as we go, I think, let’s… If you want to use she/her, use she/her, if you want to use they/them, use they/them. We encourage conversation and comments and response on social media. But that’s how we’ll approach it.
DEE: Yeah. That’s a good idea.
AMELIA: But, yeah. I think that completely rings true. Because, then, when she has the health check come up and she’s just like, “Oh, yeah, they’ll discover I’m a girl,” she doesn’t seem particularly bothered by that.
ALEXIS: She’s more worried about the eight million yen she owes them.
AMELIA: Yeah, exactly.
ALEXIS: Everyone saying something different to her, which is what it is. It’s an interesting reaction, and it says a lot about what she cares about as herself.
AMELIA: And the “commoner” thing that they lean into…I find it hilarious, but also, as an English person, this is obviously so taken from English high-society, aristocracy, that kind of thing. Got a royal family, got that royal baby, all of that.
It’s really strange to watch because I’ve got such a chip on my shoulder about class. I am squarely lower middle-class, that’s how I grew up. But it’s… I’ve met people like that. [laughs] And it’s always really uncomfortable, so seeing that on-screen as comedy…
It is funny because we’re kind of positioned with Haruhi, and kind of laughing at the ridiculousness, so it’s totally fine. But it’s really… Again, it’s just really strange seeing this mash-up of English aristocracy-inspired upper-class and also contemporary Japanese school and host culture, which is not what you would expect from this series at all.
Although, host culture gets romanticized a lot in Japanese pop culture as a whole. The idea of hosts being the ones who heal women’s hearts, et cetera… That’s not new. That’s not unique to Ouran.
So, let’s just talk for a few minutes about where we want to see it go from here. Isaac, you had some thoughts on this? The next six episodes.
ISAAC: Yeah. So, I guess I was kind of… I sort of talked about this a little bit, but with the layering of problematic things on top of comedy. And I guess… Especially for the class stuff that we were just talking about, I do sort of feel like, because a lot of the—especially the direct rebukes, like Haruhi’s, “Damn these rich people!” and whatnot—because a lot of that is presented as comedy, to me, it lacks some critical bite, because it’s like, “Oh, ha-ha! These dumb rich kids. They’ve never seen instant coffee before.”
Which, as a “fish out of water” thing, I do find… I think it is really funny, but at the same time, with how in-your-face and kind of abrasively rich a lot of the stuff the host club does is, I would like to see them bring something that has a little more bite than just these one-off quips. Which, of course, we’ve got a lot of the show to go before… So it certainly has time to do that.
The other thing I think that I would really like to see is eventually… I mean, I’m torn here. I can’t decide if I think Haruhi or Tamaki is cuter, and… because they’re both so cute! I’m kind of invested in this little ‘ship dynamic—one-way love from Tamaki to Haruhi.
But at the same time, like I said earlier, the way that he treats her a lot of the time when he’s not being genuine and kind and just overall a good person—which, I think it’s been hinted at that that’s the core of who he is—but there’s still all this artifice and these expectations he imposes on her. And I’d really like to see the show challenge [him] and force him to change the way that he treats her, and treat her more in accordance with how she wants him to treat her versus all these expectations.
And I think, given what we’ve seen in the show so far, I think there’s a chance that’ll happen, probably. Hopefully. Because other characters have been more seriously rebuffed by the show for treating people like they’re stereotypes or like their vision. I think episode four does that really strongly with Renge, because it’s very much like, “Okay, we’re gonna put you all into your little boxes,” and then it’s like “No. This is not how people are.”
But then at the same time, you’ve got Tamaki at the end of that episode doing the exact opposite of that episode’s lesson for Renge, so I’m like, “Okay, so when is he going to change that so I can have my ‘ship, but be happy about it?”
AMELIA: That’s not a requirement.
ISAAC: I want to have my cake and eat it too, is what I’m saying. The show, so far, is stopping me from doing that.
AMELIA: We’ve not talked about how it handles romance and ‘shipping, which, for a show about a host club, we probably should have discussed that.
There was this moment at the end of episode six where… What is it Haruhi says? It’s like, “So, is this the same as…” Shiro’s deeply in love with this girl who’s also ten, and he’s—what is it? They’ve given him this advice about having a wholehearted love, and Haruhi kind of says to Tamaki, “Oh, is he like you in this way, too? Do you feel a wholehearted love?” Is that right?
And Tamaki’s like, “Yes, absolutely. That’s exactly what I’m like.” And he says it completely sincerely. And Haruhi looks at him for a moment, and it felt like if we were gonna get a two-way ‘ship, that was the moment for it.
When Haruhi looks at him, and she doesn’t blush. She doesn’t look thoughtful or anything. She just smiles and says, “Oh, really?” Or something like that, and it’s just a really casual response that read, to me, as if she’s thinking, “Oh, that’s actually really nice.” But not in terms of “This is somebody who’s attractive to me.”
ISAAC: Well, and she has a number of moments like that throughout these first six episodes. Whichever episode had the kite that was flying up and down through the episode as a barometer of her feelings. I can’t remember which. I think it’s episode three.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Three?
DEE: [crosstalk] It’s the third one. It’s the medical exam one.
ISAAC: It’s going up and down, and it’s down when he comes out dressed up as her with the wig, yeah. But then at the end, he says something really thoughtful about the doctor as they send him off on his way, and the kite loops back up, and you can tell really clearly what Haruhi thinks of Tamaki.
I don’t think at this point there’s any sort of romantic attraction going that way, but there are those moments: when he’s helping her find her wallet in the pond; at the end of episode six where he’s like, “We’ve done a good thing”… I don’t know. When he shows those moments of who he genuinely is… I’m kinda into that, so I mean… I’d understand if Haruhi was like, “Oh, nice boy. Nice boy.”
DEE: Yeah. I think a lot of Ouran is about these people who have taken on these roles, and then Haruhi trying to strip that away and see how much is bullshit and how much is who they actually are. Which, again, I think the progression in Renge’s episode to the twins’ episode does a really good job of showing that central theme and thrust of the series. So, I think what you’re talking about, these moments where Haruhi and Tamaki have these genuine moments with each other, is a part of that for sure.
AMELIA: It’s so good. It’s so beautifully handled. I actually even liked the story of episode two, which we’ve not discussed.
ISAAC: It’s so cute!
AMELIA: [crosstalk] It’s adorable!
AMELIA: And it’s so beautifully handled. And I remembered episode one really clearly, because I’ve seen that a few times. Then I got to episode two and didn’t remember anything. And it was just…
They’ve come back to this theme twice now, the idea that if you are interested in someone specifically, you have to do something specific for them. You can’t just be Generic Attractive Person. You can’t do generic things. You have to really focus on them. And that was—in episode two, that was just handled beautifully, and it was really touching. It was genuinely touching. I wasn’t expecting that.
It was really romantic. It was just… It was so sincere in the midst of all this ridiculous, clownish bored rich kid episode. It was… I was honestly taken aback by it. It fits in with what we said earlier about how it covers—it manages to balance so many different things well, like comedy, and also sincerity, and also its aesthetic and also comic timing and so on. It does everything to a high standard.
DEE: Yeah, and I think what you’re talking about is what I sort of touched on in the beginning and said I wanted to come back to it at some point, is the idea that the host club is this fantasy, non-reality that people are indulging in, but that the series is attempting to establish a boundary between “Okay, this is a fantasy thing, and this is an actual, real-world thing.”
And so, you know, everything with Renge where she’s actually starting to mess with actual people is perceived as being wrong ’cause it’s like, “No, now you’re putting these fantastical fictional tropes that are just supposed to be this goofy fantasy that you can escape to onto actual people, and that’s where the problems happen.”
But then, I think, with both Kanako in episode two, and then Shiro with the piano in episode six, the host club recognizes, “Oh, these feelings are genuine. This isn’t just us playing around in this escapist realm.” And they recognize there being a difference there, and they treat those situations differently. I think that’s what you noted there and why that moment is so genuinely sweet.
ISAAC: They say that the mission of the host club is to bring happiness to the girls, specifically, but in those episodes, the sense I get is, that’s what they say, but a lot of the times, it’s like they’re bringing happiness to everyone, not just to girls. When they do these really genuine, generous things, which is something I really like.
AMELIA: Mm-hm. And an obvious point of comparison for Ouran is actually Hana Yori Dango—Boys Over Flowers—because you’ve got this girl who’s this fish-out-of-water surrounded by very elite rich, silly boys. And it’s not handled in the same way at all. [Ouran is] so much… It is so much warmer, I think.
Hana Yori Dango, especially the earliest episodes… It can be pretty hard-going. She’s treated very badly. She has a lot to overcome to get to a point where they see her as a person worthy of respect.
But Haruhi gets that very quickly. I mean, respect is a really odd concept in this context, because it’s such a ridiculous show, but they do embrace her. They do—even when highlighting things about her as a commoner or as representing the common people, it’s always done with this sense of affection that is completely absent from Hana Yori Dango, and it just makes it so much more pleasant to watch.
I’m already looking forward to the next six episodes. I can’t wait to watch them through. I rewatched these first six episodes before coming to this podcast because I just enjoyed it so much. And I only watched them for the first time yesterday.
ALEXIS: Whoa. [laughs]
AMELIA: You get through them quickly. I mean, I did a Kill la Kill, and that was [emphatically] hard work. I set aside an entire day to get through six episodes of Kill la Kill. It was such a struggle. This is a breeze. This is a delight.
DEE: I’m so glad to hear that.
ALEXIS: I ended up marathoning these last night because of work scheduling screwing up my time for watching anime, and this was a joy. I sat down for five episodes, and then I realized, “Oh, I just watched two and a half hours of anime.”
ALEXIS: It’s like, “What?“
AMELIA: And where do you hope it’ll go from here, Alexis?
ALEXIS: I really wanna see more of these genuine moments and also just… I really want Haruhi to rebuff the shit out of—sorry, I dunno if we’re doing cursing here.
DEE: [amused] Oh, yes, we definitely curse here.
ALEXIS: [laughs] Okay, good, good. I really want to see Haruhi just slam Tamaki about his insane fantasies. I get that that’s part of his whole character, but just the stuff that he thinks about her sometimes is really… It feels really weird to me, because it’s this total gap between the way that they treat each other. And this weird… It’s… It’s hard for me to put this together.
Because Haruhi is presenting as male for everyone so much of the time, the way that he thinks about her as, “Oh, put her in a dress. I really want to see her hang out with this girl and grow more feminine.” It feels really skeevy in a lot of ways for me. And I really hope that that gets toned down. I know it’s probably not gonna. But, you know, I can dream.
Other than that, I really want to see more of the interiority of the boys. The twins’ episode was a serious high point for me. And I really wanna see more of those episodes, just to learn more about these boys, ’cause I enjoy most of them, is the thing. So… I even enjoy Tamaki when he’s being Tamaki. [There are] just parts of him I do not enjoy.
AMELIA: Tamaki’s my favorite.
DEE: I think he does have some very restrictive ideas about gender that—which is what’s bugging you and Isaac and me, too, this time around. It was the kind of stuff when watching it the first time, I just went, “Well, Tamaki’s an idiot.” And this time through, I’m like, “Oh, this is also kind of harmful, Tamaki. You should maybe back off on that.”
ALEXIS: Yeah. I’m glad that most of his wishes are not acted on, but also, some of them are, because in the sixth episode, got that miniskirt. [groans]
AMELIA: By then, he’s got allies, hasn’t he? Because the twins are also into it at this point.
ALEXIS: Yeah! That’s the thing.
AMELIA: Joined in.
ALEXIS: I really hope that, because of that, this doesn’t turn into them all ganging up to try and get Haruhi into weird situations. I suspect it won’t, but I could see the route that they could take to go there in a less well-produced version of Ouran by a completely different maker.
AMELIA: Yeah. If it were a lazier show, that is totally an option they’d go for.
ALEXIS: Exactly. But, you know, I don’t think they would.
ISAAC: Well, next episode is a pool episode, so I guess—
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] Oh boy!
ISAAC: That’s the moment of truth, isn’t it?
AMELIA: Okay, I’ll look forward to the next recording.
ALEXIS: Yeah. Oh, man.
AMELIA: Yeah. Tamaki’s my problematic fave. I love every moment he’s on-screen.
DEE: That is fair.
AMELIA: I love his voice actor. I think he’s hilarious. I think that the… Because so much of the comedy centers around Tamaki and his actions. He’s so over-the-top, and I absolutely love it. I can’t get enough of it.
But I completely take every point that everyone has made about, yeah, he is kind of skeevy and kind of awful and a complete rich idiot. And he’s not always very nice to watch, but I just enjoy him so much. I can’t help it. So he is a high point for me.
At the same time, everything you said, Alexis, about wanting more interiority and wanting more of these quiet moments: absolutely. I think they’ve built a really strong foundation on which to have those moments, and it doesn’t feel out of place. It doesn’t feel jarring.
‘Cause comedy does that sometimes where it’s comedy, comedy, comedy, all-of-a-sudden-serious-moment. And it feels out of place. And I think Ouran‘s set it up so that, actually, it could hit any of these notes and it feels cohesive. And that’s incredibly well-done for six episodes.
ALEXIS: Yeah. By episode two, the way that that was structured, where it was comedy and then it kind of abrupt-shifted into this girl that they were working with and figuring out what’s going on between her and the tea guy. I forget his name, sorry. But yes.
AMELIA: His name—it doesn’t matter.
ALEXIS: That hard pivot into drama and figuring it out worked so well that I trust them with it now. So, now it’s a thing. I really want to see more of it.
ISAAC: Amelia, did that episode help you understand the appeal of childhood friends?
ISAAC: [fighting off laughter] Did you feel it? Did you get it?
AMELIA: I did not object.
ISAAC: I get it. Can’t tell if that’s progress or not.
AMELIA: Genuinely, I have a big eyeroll reaction to young people proposing to each other. This is something that’s not new. I just… [groans] I’m not impressed by it ever. Whereas, in this moment, because of the very specific context of young, rich kids. I think it kind of worked. And it didn’t even occur to me until afterwards: “Wait, that was ridiculous.”
And I say this as somebody… One of my favorite films has a young couple proposing at the very end. I’m not gonna say its name actually, in case it’s a spoiler, even though it’s thirty, forty years old. [chuckles] You all know what I mean.
But even that, I roll my eyes hard at that moment. And, in this episode, I did not. So that was progress. But, in general, childhood friends… There’s still a way to go for it, but yes, it’s a start. You can suggest more [unintelligible] for me to…
ISAAC: Yeah, okay. You start with the best and go up from there.
ISAAC: [giddy] She rides in the teacup at the end. She’s so happy. The teacup ride.
DEE: It’s cute.
AMELIA: Yeah. It’s a really sweet episode. I really loved it.
In terms of what I want to see next: definitely more interiority, as we’ve said; definitely more respect shown to Haruhi by Tamaki would be really nice. The two of them connecting is really good, really authentic.
But something much more superficial is: the twins mention going to Haruhi’s house. I really want to see that. I really want them to set foot in Haruhi’s world and see if the tables turn when they’re on Haruhi’s turf and she doesn’t have to—
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] She’s not playing by those rules.
AMELIA: —be as… Yeah, exactly. I’d love to see that. So, I hope we get to see that. I really want to see them set foot in Haruhi’s world, and see what it’s like from that side.
And I really want Haruhi to stand her ground a little bit more, there. Because she tends to be more passive when she’s in the host environment, which makes sense. She’s working for the people she’s in debt to in a school where she doesn’t fit in and where she’s there by the grace of her good grades and reputation, so she doesn’t have a lot of freedom there to screw up. Whereas if she got these guys out of there, I think it might be quite different. The power dynamic might shift a bit. I’d quite like to see that.
Dee, from our discussion—
DEE: [crosstalk] I hope Haruhi gets to eat fancy tuna. That’s what I hope.
AMELIA: That’s what I was going to say! That’s what I was going to say! That’s exactly it.
DEE: Oh, was it? Perfect!
AMELIA: Yes, genuinely! I completely forgot this, like, “There’s something missing.” Yes! That was it. I want to see Haruhi eat this fancy tuna.
ALEXIS: They keep teasing it.
AMELIA: And I hope they don’t save it. I hope they don’t save it for the very last episode. That would be so sad.
ALEXIS: But it would be so emotional.
AMELIA: It would be so emotional. What a climax to the series. My goodness.
DEE: The real love story in Ouran High.
AMELIA: I’d watch that.
So, Dee, from our discussion today, has anything surprised you? Or did it go pretty much as you would have expected?
DEE: The discussion went about the way I thought. The things that surprised me were more things that, as I was watching it, I was like, “Oh, this is stuff that really didn’t ping on my radar the first time through. I bet we’ll discuss that.” And we have. We have discussed those things.
So, a lot of the surprises for me came from watching it because, again, even though I’ve seen some of these episodes a dozen times, I’ve not seen the entire show all the way through in a while.
So, again, looking at it more from a critical perspective and the things it does well and the things it doesn’t do so well, has led to some surprises with… Some of the ways that Tamaki acts that I’d never really thought too much about. Again, some of the genre tropes that are used in the show as kind of a commentary on the genre but are still uncomfortable tropes, as you rightfully noted, are definitely points that surprised me a little bit going in.
But I think the conversation went about the way I was hoping it would. I’m glad everyone is enjoying it, because my biggest concern was [faux-frantic] “What if they don’t like it? What if it’s actually bad?” So I’m glad you’re all having a fun time.
AMELIA: I was surprised by how good it is. It feels like a genuine high-quality series, and I wasn’t really expecting that.
ALEXIS: I would agree with that, honestly. I came in with no expectations at all. I’ve heard people talk about Ouran in glowing terms, but it’s an anime from 2006, so I was like, “Okay, how much of this is going to be rose-colored glasses?”
AMELIA: Like nostalgia.
ALEXIS: Yeah. So, I’m really pleasantly surprised to enjoy it as much as I have. Even with whatever reservations.
AMELIA: So, it sounds like we’re all looking forward to the next six episodes, which is always a great way to end a first watchalong.
AMELIA: Okay, let’s wrap it up here for today. We will be back next week.
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So, thank you so much to Alexis, Isaac, and Dee. We will be back next time with episodes seven to 12 of Ouran High School Host Club.
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