Part 3 of the 4-part watchalong of Ouran High School Host Club with Amelia, Dee, and special guests Alexis Pratt and Isaac Akers! Refreshing points are both given and revoked as the team travels through cute B&Bs, surprise department stores, touching flashbacks, and…sigh. Lobelia Academy again.
Content Warning: The podcast will discuss the series’ hit-or-miss depiction of gender identity and sexuality as they arise. The Ouran anime English translation uses transphobic slurs in both the sub and the dub.
Hosts: Amelia, Dee
Guests: Alexis Pratt, Isaac Akers
Date Recorded: 12th May 2018
0:01:54 General impressions
0:04:40 The bed & breakfast
0:06:27 Ranka & Misuzu
0:10:46 Lobelia girls return
0:20:29 Kyoya’s episode
0:24:14 The twins’ tension
0:32:34 The noble poor
0:37:12 More Kyoya
0:41:07 Honey and being a real man
0:48:05 Next six episodes
0:55:25 Haruhi’s gender identity
0:57:18 Dee surprises
AMELIA: Hi everyone, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name’s Amelia. I’m the Editor-in-Chief of 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! I’m the Managing Editor at AniFem. I also run the anime blog The Josei Next Door, and you can find me on Twitter at @joseinextdoor.
ALEXIS: Hi, I’m Alexis! I’m an independent writer and my… I’m on Twitter at @alexilulu.
ISAAC: I’m ISAAC: I’m an Associate Features Editor for Crunchyroll. I run the anime blog Mage in a Barrel and you can find me on twitter at @iblessall.
AMELIA: Okay, and we’re talking today about Ouran High School Host Club! We’re in the middle of a watchalong so if you’ve missed previous episodes, you’ve got two to catch up on, and you do not want to miss that before listening to this.
We are watching six or seven episodes at a time… Alexis and Isaac and I have not seen Ouran High School Host Club before, much to Dee’s shock and surprise.
DEE: [laughs wryly in the background]
AMELIA: Before we begin, Dee has seen it always the way through, loves it—
DEE: [crosstalk] —Several times.
AMELIA: —and is our resident— [laughs] —our resident expert for the season. So, we’re coming at it… for it, with very fresh perspectives, very 2018 perspectives for a, what, 2006 show?
DEE: —2006 show, 2002 manga.
AMELIA: Right. So there’s a lot to discuss—more than I would have expected—and this week, we looked at episodes 14 to 20. And I have to say, I liked these a lot more than the previous episodes. I know the previous one was a really mixed bag: there were some episodes that were dreadful, and some episodes that were wonderful. But this time I just… I just sailed through all seven. I really enjoyed them, except for one, glaring exception. Which I’m sure you can all guess.
DEE: [teasingly] I bet I know what it was!
AMELIA: [laughs] How did you all find it? Alexis, how was this set for you?
ALEXIS: I… So… one episode in here was absolutely, bar-none my least favorite episode out of the show.
[Dee and Amelia make mutual sounds of agreement]
ALEXIS: Everything else was really nice. Like, starting straight off with the summer break stuff with Misuzu and the… the bed and breakfast, the pension, whatever they translate it as—
DEE: [sucks air through her teeth] Yeah, pension.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] They didn’t translate it.
ALEXIS: [resigned] Is that just… okay. So that is—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] —I have such issues with this translation, I have to say.
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] —That’s what I was wondering.
DEE: [crosstalk] It’s basically a BnB.
AMELIA: Yeah, yeah.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, this was during Funimation’s “a little too literal” phase. And now they’ve kind of swung [in] the other direction. But…
AMELIA: [sarcastically] It’s not like pension is an existing word in the English language or anything that means nothing connected to the actual meaning in Japanese, not at all.
ALEXIS: And, like… yeah. I have a lot of issues with what the dub does—not the dub, sorry, the sub, does with language in the way that people… that it ends up transmitted. That just feels… the pension thing is weird.
We’re running into the trans problem again where… they’re just, like… explicitly referring to everyone by a really hateful slur, and… it’s, you know. It’s just not good. I actually have a bunch of notes about that. But… Overall, I was really happy with most of these episodes? So…
AMELIA: We will come back to… to all of those issues, I think. Because there’s a lot to get through this time in seven episodes. Isaac, how was it for you, these seven?
ISAAC: It was kind of an interesting… almost like a grab-bag of… of episodes, just in terms of, like, what they were like generally, and what sort of material was put in them.
Like I… I feel like I felt like the previous few sets had a little more, like… I mean obviously, we’re going by very arbitrary, breaking up by six—or, six episodes, seven episodes, seven episodes again, and then six at the end. But I felt like there was a little more sense of structure to the previous two sets that we’ve done, and these ones felt a lot more scattershot.
Which is not really necessarily a bad thing for a show like this, since it’s a comedy and it’s about gags and just having fun with the characters, but… That difference was something that was kind of interesting to me, just in the way the whole collection felt overall.
AMELIA: That makes sense. It felt… we got kind of individual character episodes in this seven, didn’t we? With a fair number of them.
EVERYONE: [noises of mutual agreement]
ISAAC: Which was nice, yeah.
AMELIA: Yeah, ‘cause one of the things we said we wanted at the end of the last set of seven, was to get more in depth in the individual characters. And I do think we had that… to an extent.
So let’s talk a little bit about—you know what, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. Alexis, do you wanna go through some of your notes on the worst episodes?
ALEXIS: Oh man, okay, so: here’s my thing with the bed and breakfast, like… two-parter. Is.. they… I have so many problems with the way this sub treats the character versus how the actual anime treats. Like, not just Misuzu, the owner, but also like Ranka later, and… just the way they treat the Zuka Club too. It’s so rude and shitty and it just feels terrible.
Whereas the show, like… everything is like, “Oh yeah, that’s just them,” and… it’s not treated awfully, but the use of such a straight-up just hateful… this is a bad slur, this is not something that anyone is interested in reclaiming. It’s not, whatever, it’s just… it sucks.
It’s so, just… fucked up and awful and… I hate it because it taints the show for me almost. Even though I love Ranka, I love Misuzu, and the “rating the boys with the points” and everything else was honestly hilarious, it’s just… yeah. It really tainted an all right episode and a very bad episode into being much worse.
AMELIA: Yeah, I totally agree with that, and everytime—everytime it comes up in the subtitle, I’m like, “No, not again!” It’s just constant. And I think at this point as well, Misuzu is not in a host club. Like, he’s a trans woman, right, at this point: I think it’s clear this is not somebody putting on a costume, this is somebody who is living as a woman.
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] Yeah, like, they have left—
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] —they’re not using any, like, male-coded name at all, they are… they left behind their family. I went looking up some stuff later on and apparently, there’s like some backstory there with… her having a daughter—
ALEXIS: —and the daughter is like, mad at her because… you know: abandon the family to go run a bed and breakfast which is… kinda fucked up. But also like… It’s an interesting touch because she’s not playing at it. She’s not just like, “Oh, I just do this for work!” Which is kind of how they treat Ranka as, so it’s like… no, this is full-time. This is really.
AMELIA: But Ranka… Ranka’s presentation was quite surprising to me. Because [it] seems Ranka out-of=costume would act like a man-full man. Like, would be masculine, would be kind of code switching between the two. There is a lot more blurring of those boundaries than I expected, actually.
ALEXIS: No, absolutely. I think that’s like, um… I don’t know, like, maybe there’s more to it in the manga. I’m really interested to find out more about this character almost because I want to know, like… what the original intent was.
Are they just doing this as a job because they enjoy it? Are they doing this because this is, like, the only avenue that’s open to them because they’re trans? Like… trans and sex work, it kind of comes together for a lot of people who get marginalized, so like… you know. I was—
AMELIA: And fortunately, we have someone here who has read the manga, I do believe—
DEE: [crosstalk] I have! And I’ve actually been re-reading the stuff that happens after the anime, just to kind of—‘cause I thought these questions might come up as we got to the end of the story!
AMELIA: Funny that!
DEE: Yeah, all right, so are you asking about Ranka, or Misuzu?
ALEXIS: Ranka, specifically. [crosstalk] Because that’s more—
DEE: [crosstalk] They don’t really go super in-depth into Ranka’s backstory. The sense I get from it is that Ranka enjoys presenting, uh… as a woman—feminine, I’m not—again, the language can be fuzzy, especially when the show, clearly, is kind of fuzzy on how they’re dealing with the characters too. [Ranka] seems to enjoy it and works at the club as a way to express that aspect of their person, sort of in a public and professional quality.
It’s—again, I’m hesitant to describe Ranka as “trans” because there is more, I think, switching and blurring there. Um… and again, because they do very consistently refer to themselves as Haruhi’s dad.
Misuzu, I would more specifically say should be read as a trans woman. Misuzu shows up more and more in the story as it goes because Mei, Misuzu’s daughter—spoilers, I guess, if folks listening to this are gonna read the manga! Sorry, I’ll try to keep this as vague as I can. Mei’s daughter becomes kind of a regular recurring character and she and Haruhi are friends.
There’s kind of a whole arc about Mei—about Misuzu continuingly trying to reconnect with his daughter—sorry, her daughter, God! And, um… Mei really doesn’t want anything to do with her because of this feeling of like, being left behind.
It’s—the language is problematic because it does sort of frame it like Misuzu chose this lifestyle, and that’s obviously not great. But the actual way the arc ends is basically, Mei says, like, “If you wanna win me over, then you better live this life that you”—quote-unquote—“‘chose’ to the fullest.”
So, it does have kind of a nice ending where Mei sort of accepts Misuzu’s life as a trans woman running this BnB in Karuizawa, and the two of them reconnect and have a much better relationship going forward. But I don’t think there’s ever a time when you see Misuzu not, um… presenting in a dress with feminine—presenting feminine, like you do with—where Ranka will kind of shift between the two.
So, I would say Misuzu is very, very definitely intended to be read as—again, insofar as the author, Bisco Hatori, understands trans people, which I would say is probably not amazingly well. [wry laughter] I would say Misuzu is intended to be read as a trans woman.
ALEXIS: Yeah, okay. Thank you.
DEE: Yeah, no problem!
ALEXIS: This is like, that’s an important thing that I feel like gets lost. So… yeah.
AMELIA: Can we also talk, a little bit, about… the Lobelia Girls and their—
DEE: [while laughing] —get the bad stuff out of the way!
AMELIA: —lesbians!! [wryly] Ha-ha! Give the bad stuff out of the way! Can we talk about—they—why are they here? Why are they ruining this beautiful anime? Why?!
AMELIA: —it’s so frustrating!
DEE: Yeah, everytime they show up, I cringe. I kinda forgot there was a second Lobelia episode, or maybe I forgot how bad it was. This stretch of episodes, there’s not a ton in here that—for the most part I like them, but there’s not any in this stretch that I just adore, except for maybe the Kyoya and Haruhi episode, which we’ll talk about eventually.
Um… so I don’t… it’s not a batch that I would go back to to just, like, rewatch an episode, so some of these I’ve just kind of forgotten about since it’s been a while since I’ve watched it all the way through.
I think what the Lobelia Girls are trying to do—and the one thing I liked about this episode—is I think they’re intended to be kind of a mirror of the Host Club. And, in this particular episode, there’s some really nice framing work—I should share the tweet with you guys that I tweeted out yesterday when I noticed this. When they show up at Haruhi’s house and kidnap her, the framing and angles and shots are beat-for-beat identical to when the Host Club kidnap’s Haruhi and takes her to that pool that Kyoya’s family owns.
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] Well, that’s— [unintelligible due to crosstalk]
DEE: Beat-for-beat the same shots. So, I think there… I think there’s something—again, we’ll talk about all the really bad stuff in this episode too. Because there’s a couple of layers of context—and, again, the predatory lesbian trope and things like that that I think really fuck all that up. But there’s a sense that what they’re trying to do here is show you that the Host Club has improved and come further in terms of their relationship with Haruhi and each other.
And so the Zuka Club is kind of like the Host Club when Haruhi first met them. And so they kidnap her and they throw her into costumes and they kind of jerk her around. And in that same episode, the Host Club is like, “We have to rescue Haruhi!” And they see her on stage and they go, “Wait: if this is what she wants, we should respect that.” And I think that’s a really nice. Because, again, this is ten episodes after they kidnapped her and took her to the pool, again, using the same framing.
So I think that’s a really nice, kind of subtle way to show how they’ve gradually gotten better over the course of the episodes without, you know, like… throwing a bunch of blazing lights on it, and you know really… What’s the phrase; I’m blanking. But anyway, so, I think that’s sort of what the Lobelia episodes are attempting to do, is kind of this mirroring of the Host Club.
There’s also that cringing joke—that cringe-worthy joke where they worry that Haruhi’s gonna end up in debt, and that she’ll have to like, pay with labor. And I’m like, “You know that’s what she’s doing with you guys, right?!”
AMELIA and ISAAC: [laugh]
DEE: So again, I think there’s a lot of—I think there’s a lot of parallels that they are attempting to make. I think that it gets complicated in what is unforeseen by the creators in the fact that there are these… um… There are really shitty tropes that relate to real world harmful behaviors about, like, predatory lesbians that comes through with the girls that doesn’t necessarily [come through] with the Host Club. So that’s where it gets real, real bad.
ISAAC: [crosstalk] Yeah, it’s… it’s kind of weird—
DEE: [crosstalk] But I did wanna at least throw out that parallel, because I thought that was neat how they did the framing there. [To Isaac] Go ahead, sorry.
ISAAC: Oh no, well… I was thinking about parallels in terms of the Lobelia Girls and the Host Club as well, and… to some degree, I almost feel like there’s maybe an intent that doesn’t quite come through in execution of like, using them as sort of, like, a mirror for the Host Club? Because the Host Club—and how ridiculous they are—sort of gets normalized over the course of this show. Like, how ridiculous they are just because we spend so much time with them, and they become like… the world or the lens through which we’re seeing this show.
And when you see the Lobelia Girls doing a lot of the same stuff, you know it’s presented kind of like “Oh look at how weird this is!” and so it’s sort of… I feel like maybe trying to hold up a mirror to the Host Club and being like, “Don’t forget these guys are pretty wacky too!”
But it’s so much—I feel like it’s so much meaner to the Lobelia Girls in the way that it presents them that it doesn’t really work.
ALEXIS: Yeah, I think the problem there is, like, what you referred to where they straight-up don’t get time with them. So, we don’t get to see the same “other sides” of these characters. They’re just one-note yuri jokes.
DEE: Yeah. Exactly.
ALEXIS: And… it just… that’s all they are, and that’s all they can ever be because you know, you have two episodes with them. That’s it. So… you know. It sucks.
DEE: Agreed: not a good episode.
AMELIA: When they showed up again—‘cause I don’t look at, like, the descriptions or anything, but I did see the episode titles before I clicked in and started watching. And I saw Lobelia, and I thought, “Ugh, maybe they’re trying to redeem them?”
Sometimes that happens—people are introduced, they’re problematic, they get better. [deep sigh] Nope. Not at all, not in the slightest.
DEE: [crosstalk] They got worse!
AMELIA: [crosstalk] It was horrendous.
They got worse! Like, trying to force a kiss on Haruhi in front of Tamaki and her dad and her friends and the entire student body of, like, the Lobelia Academy. It’s… it’s trying to humiliate her, I guess, and it was like…
There were some parts of that episode that I really liked. I thought some of the visual comedy was so well done. When she leaps off that platform as if it’s some romantic dive, and just, like, flattens Tamaki when she lands on him. I laughed out loud at that. And when they went to her face and we’re sort of expecting to see this ethereal, beautifully made up girl, and it’s way over the top and it’s… it’s kind of stage make up and kind of clownish.
There were moments like that that I enjoyed, but they weren’t at Haruhi’s expense. It felt like a lot of the stuff with the Lobelia Girls, it was kind of at her expense. I didn’t enjoy watching her be put in that position. Like, it’s not that fun when the Hoist Club—in the early days—is doing that stuff too. But as you said Dee, it does seem like they’ve kind of moved on; they’ve kind of improved from those early stages.
DEE: And most of the time when Haruhi says, “No, knock it off!” the Host Club will back off. Or Tamaki will look like, “Oh, I didn’t realize you didn’t like that!” and, like, cry in a corner.
DEE: But the Lobelia Girls, they don’t get that moment where it’s like, “Oh sorry, we didn’t realize that this was a problem.” Which I think a large stretch of these episodes is about the Host Club becoming more aware of others, you know, and building those kind of… considerate bonds with other people.
So the Lobelia Episode is—again, I think it’s supposed to be a touchstone to show how far they’ve come—but the Lobelia Girls don’t get any kind of… It’s just like you guys said, they’re just kind of a mean, one-note joke. So it’s a really jarring note in the midst of a nice little stretch of ensemble cast episodes, I think. So…
ISAAC: I will say though in terms of: Amelia, your mentioning the visual comedy, the joke that did it best for me was Haruhi’s deadpan delivery of her lines.
ISAAC: Which, at least in the sub, is just incredible, and I laughed every single time she did it.
AMELIA: It was great! It was like they had all these kind of expectations, which are completely tropey. They expected that she’d suddenly show up and have amazing acting ability, that she’d look really beautiful and feminine. That she’d have a lovely singing voice, and it was just all subverted straight away.
That was a really fun part of that episode, and I feel like there’s more that they could have done there. Like Haruhi showing up in an all-girl environment: like that’s something they could have actually, really enjoyed without going to these predatory lesbian sterotype tropes. [sighs]
That could have been so interesting to just get Haruhi into that environment and instead… it’s not fun at all.
DEE and ALEXIS: Yeah…
AMELIA: That’s another part of this episode that kind of messed with me was not just the predatory lesbian stuff, but also just like, the gigantic fandom around them was like, “There are three types of women in this show: there are predatory lesbians. There are fawning, like, fangirl sycophants, and there are Haruhi.”
ISAAC: That’s exactly the three categories that I was thinking!
ALEXIS: Yeah, and it’s…
AMELIA: [crosstalk] And we get a little bit of Haruhi’s mom and… that’s about it.
ALEXIS: Yeah, that’s true…
DEE: [slight crosstalk] The manga expands the female cast a little bit so there’s at least more different types of people. Again, Mei is… Mei is a nice touch going forward—
AMELIA: I just remembered Renge exists!
ALEXIS: [slightly deadpan] Oh, that’s true: there’s four.
AMELIA: I can’t stand her! Everytime she shows up and it’s like, “Strong motor!” UGH!
DEE: [shocked; crosstalk] Nooooooooo!! I love her!
ISAAC: I love her!
DEE: I love Renge too!
ISAAC: I love her!
ALEXIS: [groans in mild agreement in the background]
AMELIA: I’m so bored. I am so bored! Like the banana peel shtick is coming out the other side. It’s like the rake sketch: it’s coming out the other side where it’s happened so often that I’m starting to find it funny again, but Renge hasn’t quite hit that point for me yet…
ISAAC: But she drew a doujinshi of them!
AMELIA: I was surprised she showed up in that… that Rangers show on the shopping center rooftop.
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] Oh, that ruled!
AMELIA: [crosstlak] I was like, “Do you need a job? That doesn’t sound right.”
DEE: Renge has a wide variety of hobbies! We don’t see her day-to-day life. We don’t know what she’s up to.
AMELIA: [laughing] Apparently!
ALEXIS: She can love shojo harem stuff. She can also love Sentai—
DEE: Heck yeah!
ALEXIS: —Just like me!
AMELIA: That is absolutely, yeah… That’s like, half my timeline on Twitter.
AMELIA: Let’s—can we talk about that episode a little bit because that was a curious episode. And I… I… Oh, okay, Dee enjoyed this one.
DEE: [teasingly] Oh, please start, Amelia. I see that we have different opinions.
AMELIA: No, no, no, not different opinions, I’m sure, I… Kyoya’s not my favorite. He’s not a character type I tend to enjoy too much. I mean, Tamaki’s like, my favorite, so… And Kyoya really does seem opposite to him. And then Haruhi actually has this moment of insight where she says, “Well actually, you’re really similar.”
The only similarities I could see was that they’re both like, super privileged and sheltered and aren’t used to being outside in the real world. So, I think she tried to act like him showing off his knowledge was a great kindness to the person who is about to get conned, but it just felt to me a little bit like Kyoya showing off.
So, I don’t know. That episode was enjoyable for me, but I didn’t feel like I got any more of a handle on Kyoya’s character or that we learned anything new about him. Whereas the episodes with the twins and with Honey-senpai—like it always feels like we get a bit further, and I didn’t really get that from his episode. Anyone else?
ALEXIS: I think the thing with that episode is that he’s extremely two-faced, is the point of… at least the very last bit where he’s like, “I only do things because they benefit me” and then he’s like—it’s a Sherlock episode, is the thing.
It’s them, “Oh, I knew all along that this woman was married to this extremely wealthy guy that I would love to know!” but actually, just… he didn’t. He was just doing something nice in his own weird, like, nerd way.
AMELIA: [laughs] Yeah.
ALEXIS: So… it’s, it’s interesting—like, it’s a nice little character touch, but it’s not a lot. That’s basically it, is like, “I only do things because I want to.” And then he’s like, “Oh, now I’m just doing this because I can.”
ISAAC: Yeah, I almost thought the more—the thing that added more texture to his character was him being like, an extremely grumpy human being—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] I loved that! [laughs]
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] Yeah!
ISAAC: [unintelligible due to crosstalk] —like that felt much more, breaking down his sort of facade of being a cool guy than anything else in the episode.
AMELIA: And I actually really enjoyed him being like, super rude to Haruhi, actually. And he was just like, “I don’t need to be polite to you; I have nothing to gain from this.” And so he was just really honest in a way he isn’t usually.
That I did enjoy, but it wasn’t… I guess it wasn’t surprising. I never assumed that he was that kind of polite to everyone all the time anyway, because privilege, rich, sheltered people aren’t always, so…
ISAAC: I will… With Tamaki being your favorite, his material was limited in that episode, but his stuff with the dog was just so adorable! It was wonderful!
AMELIA: And he called the dog Antoinette, which is a really cumbersome name in Japanese. I just thought that was great!
ISAAC and ALEXIS: [laughing in the background]
ALEXIS: It’s beautiful.
AMELIA: Yeah, I did, I did enjoy that, but I didn’t… I didn’t feel like I got as much out of—I mean, when you compare it to the twins’ episodes, and every one of the twins’ episodes feels really strong, to me. Anyway… but… Anyone else think so?
DEE: [high-pitched] Well—
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] Well… I…
ISAAC: Well, they’ve got a really pristine and unique emotional core. Like, the whole… I feel like, just the whole: “we’re seen as one entity” and the tension between “we want to be seen as individuals,” “we don’t want to be seen as individuals” just—it makes their stuff inherently interesting because of that. There’s a tension in what they want that even they don’t understand and it takes someone as clueless as Tamaki kind of, like, busting into that to break it up and draw them out of their contained world a little bit.
ALEXIS: Yeah. Like I… episode 20, the twins’ flashback episode is… like… incredible for me. I love the twins and then that entire episode was just a pile of twins content and I got really excited for the—like, from minute one.
It was just, ah! There’s so many incredible-looking shots, like the looping shot when their—when Tamaki’s like “All right, I’ll do the game, but you have to come to my Host Club,” was like… it was a really good effect.
And then just… there’s just a lot of imagery and it made me think of—forgive me for this, but I can’t think of the storyboard guy who did the stuff that we discussed last episode.
AMELIA: Oh, Igarashi?
ALEXIS: Igarashi! Yes, sorry. What episodes was he on, ‘cause it was the other one—
ISAAC: [crosstalk] I don’t think this one was him. I didn’t look it up, but—
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] —I was curious, just because—
DEE: [crosstalk] —He didn’t do much in the second half. I think he only did the final episode, but I’m sure he was—I’m sure he was in the background, hovering on a lot of the big ones.
ISAAC: [crosstalk] Yeah, that’s [unintelligible due to crosstalk].
ALEXIS: Yeah, ‘cause it just feels like—so much of most of this show is like, gag comedy and visual humor. And then this entire episode is like, ninety percent, just like… long, lingering shots, and crazy imagery. Like, when they’re sitting in the classroom and everyone’s talking shit, and it just starts eating scenery until they’re alone in a black voice. That was fantastic.
AMELIA: I feel like the twins—as you said, Isaac—I think that their emotional core is really unique, which means every one of their episodes feels fresh. It kind of doesn’t feel like an archetype almost because they have nailed this conflict of “We want to be told apart,” “We don’t want to be told apart”; “We want to let people in,” “We don’t want to let people in.” Which… you know, it’s… it’s a unique situation—not unique, necessarily, but within the context of this show and the tropes it’s referencing, it’s quite unique.
But, actually that kind of conflict of identity is just super teenage, and it’s really relatable, even if that’s not your specific issue. So seeing them kind of tussling with this and dealing with people coming up from the outside, and interpreting their identities to them—some in ways they like, some in ways they don’t like… that feels really powerful.
And the scenes that really got me were actually the ones where they turned girls down by tricking them into to saying that they didn’t care which twin they were with—
AMELIA: —and that felt cruel, but at the same time, I completely got their point, as saying, “If you actually liked one of us, then you would only like the one us. We’re not actually interchangeable.” But they have set themselves up that way, so… It’s such an interesting dynamic to watch, and it’s such an interesting journey to map, I guess, to see where they end up.
Where… Just to segue into the date episode where Hikaru actually—or Kaoru—separates them, and kind of—we get to see, the audience gets to see, for the first time, their different personalities, because that’s… I think until that point, you just see them as “the twins”; the unit. In that one, Kaoru actually makes the effort to separate them. And I love that. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
AMELIA: —even though Hikaru was a total brat, it was still really interesting to watch.
ALEXIS: He was a total brat, and then he has such a cute moment at the end. I… I have mixed feelings about them always being like, “oh, we’re going to pull up this only character trait that [Haruhi] has about thunder being bad, and we’re just gonna keep using this so we can get some, like, hurt/comfort juice off of the boys.”
AMELIA: Yeah, yeah, basically.
ALEXIS: It’s sweet, but it’s the same story beat again, and I’m like, ehhhhh, c’mon.
AMELIA: Yeah, it’s entirely fair, entirely fair. And she—in that episode, they made her suuuuper feminine. Like, they put her hair up in bunches that were way too long for how her hair actually is—
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] I think—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] —I was, I honestly though it was a w—
DEE: [crosstalk] —I’m sure those were extensions.
AMELIA: —I thought it was! I thought it was like a wig or something. It looked really hot. It must be August in Japan. What are you doing?
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] Yeah—
ISAAC: [crosstalk] I love—
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] Well, she got—
ISAAC: [crosstalk] Sorry, go ahead.
ALEXIS: She got shanghaied by the twins—their twin maids that they also have. You should go ahead, Isaac.
ISAAC: Oh, no, I was just gonna say the twin maids gave her twintails, and I thought that was extremely clever.
AMELIA: Is… is twintails actually what you call it in America? [crosstalk] That hairstyle? No, okay.
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] No, I’m pretty sure that’s Japanese only.
ISAAC: [crosstalk] That’s what you call it in anime, D—Amelia!
AMELIA: Okay. [laughs] I was unaware.
AMELIA: Yeah, I really enjoyed that episode. It was nice to see—for us to kind of get an idea of what the twins were like. When I first saw the title of like “Haruhi and Hikaru’s First Date,” I think it is, I was like, “First date? Where is this going?” That was out of nowhere.
And as always, Tamaki’s response was really weird, and it was kind of—in the Lobelia Girls’ episode as well, his response was really half dad-ly and half boyfriend-ly, and it was just… I really want that to stop being a thing. I really want that to kind of—
ALEXIS: See, I—here’s the thing with the twins’ episode, they kind of get into some of Tamaki’s stuff too, with his like—
DEE: [crosstalk] Yes!
ALEXIS: —illegitimate father. So, he’s like… making a family for himself. In the—
AMELIA: And he doesn’t rise to it at all.
ALEXIS: [emphatically] No!
AMELIA: “Are you just interested in us because of the name? And like, why wouldn’t you wanna hang around with important people since you’re mother’s even missing, right? And you don’t have anyone.”
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] Yeah!
AMELIA: They were really harsh, which I thought was great, and Haruhi—not Haruhi, um, Tamaki just doesn’t rise to it in the slightest. Like, it clearly affects him, but he doesn’t let it get to him. [crosstalk] He doesn’t let it get under his skin and stay there.
ALEXIS: Yeah. But it ends up informing so much of him always referring to himself as “Daddy” and making Kyoya “Mommy.” It’s literally that he’s trying to make up for the family that he never really got to have because his mom’s gone, and his dad’s… apparently a dick.
DEE: Well, and there’s that—there’s that big push in the Newspaper Club where he wants to keep the Newspaper Club together because he says a club is like a family, so if the club breaks up—
DEE: —it’s like families breaking up. And so, yeah, I think that reveal, there in that episode, retroactively informs a lot. And again: I know everything. So, I’m watching these episodes with like… [laughs] quite a bit more knowledge than you guys are.
But yeah, and I think… you know, what you said with the Host—with kind of building a family out of the Host Club. During one of the flashback scenes of him with Kyoya, you kind of get the sense he sort of picked these people specifically. And whether Tamaki is secretly a genius, or just has kind of like, quiet—or just has Idiot’s Intuition, he kind of ends up picking people who—we see this week, from both the Honey episode and the twins’ episode—are also sort of isolated and a little bit apart from the rest of student body, and maybe kind of in need of that community.
So bringing them into the Host Club is kind of like, he kind of adopts these kids who need a place where they can be themselves and work through their insecurities, and it’s really sweet! And that’s what—again, it retroactively hits back to that Newspaper Club episode where all the rest of the Host Club go after this guy and are like, “You will not mess with Tamaki!” Which is such a great moment.
I really like that. I like that sense of that found family and then the little hints you get of some of the blood relatives… Tamaki’s situation; we know nothing about the twins’ parents, they don’t seem to be home ever; Kyoya’s dad is putting excessive pressure on him to excel as the third son in the family, even though there’s sort of this implication that he’ll never be anything but, like, you know, last place.
DEE: So I think there’s a really, there’s a neat—what’s the word? [pauses] Not conflict… give me a sec, I’ll find it… Tension! There we go, I’m there!
ALEXIS: Got it!
DEE: I’m tired, you guys! Uh, there’s a good tension in this stretch between the blood family versus the found family and how these kids are kind of finding comfort, and —
ALEXIS: Ties that matter, yeah.
DEE: Yeah, and enjoyment and comfort in each other’s presence in a way that they don’t necessarily seem to be getting at home.
AMELIA: Yeah, which is something that I always sort of—like this is gonna sound awful, I’m sure, but… They’re really privileged. And, as much as I’m happy to feel sympathy for the characters, there’s also an element of like—I don’t know, are we presenting: Haruhi is so fortunate because she… She may be poor—she’s not poor—she may be only middle class, but at least she’s got a family who loves her, compared to the poor lonely rich boys, because that’s a bit of a trope, too—
DEE: [crosstalk] Hmm… I don’t—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] —And we don’t—
DEE: [crosstalk] …I don’t really think so, though.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Sorry, go on.
DEE: Because Haruhi’s mom is [fumbles a bit] is past, and that’s a big part of her life, is that she spends a lot of time alone because her dad’s out working—her mom was out working when she was alive and now she’s gone, and now it’s just her and her dad now.
And so, I think, if anything, it shows why Haruhi is drawn to the Host Club as well; as this kind of other community that she’s able to make. And that’s not to say that, like—clearly her dad loves her, so much, so it’s not that she doesn’t have a loving home life.
But I think that there is also that sense of isolation and loneliness in terms of not just being… very smart and studious, like we saw in the Wonderland episode, where she focuses on that, but also in being the quote-unquote “commoner” in this school full of rich kids. So it kind of makes sense that Tamaki would want to bring her into the family and make sure she has a place as well.
ISAAC: Yeah, and I do… I feel like the respective isolation that a lot of the characters have isn’t necessarily borne out of their privilege, if that makes sense. Like, the twins—the reason they’re isolated is not because they come from a rich family, but because they’re identical twins and no one can tell them apart. Or—and I guess we haven’t really gotten enough into Tamaki’s episode to see that—but, like, Kyoya’s is not necessarily, again, because of privilege, but it’s because he has older brothers who have been really successful and he’s sort of been diminished because of that.
So, I mean I guess I can see where you’re coming from, Amelia, in saying, you know, it’s kind of like the “privileged rich boys who are lonely” trope—almost like that character that Tamaki adopts in the film episode really early on, like “the lonesome prince.” They sort of fit into that, but I feel like the way the show treats their emotional states and the complex that they have internally, like it’s—to me, it seems to be very intentionable… intentional… “intentionable”?
ISAAC: Intentional about, kind of, drawing a line, a clear line, between: well, what are their complexes or whatever, and you know… a lot. I’ve actually been pondering this over the course of the show, that the whole, like, privilege and dynamic between rich and poor—or rich and commoner, is—a lot of times I feel like it’s more window dressing to this show than anything else, and they mine it more for comedy than anything serious.
I think I sort of lost the train of where I was… of a point along the way, but there’s some thoughts.
DEE: You made some points in there. Yeah, I do think the show does keep going back to the idea of privilege a little bit, though. Again, in this stretch, I think it treats it a little bit more seriously.
Especially with, like, that Newspaper Club episode, where you see this club president who’s also under some pressure from his family in terms of having a younger brother who might, you know, become head of the household instead of him. He’s wielding this privilege to basically blackmail the other members of his club to do what he wants. And he’s trying to take Tamaki down because he’s sure everyone abuses their power the way he’s doing.
But then you see—you know, we’ve seen throughout the show that Tamaki uses the Host Club to try to make other people happy. And then Kyoya in his episode uses this, you know, weird esoteric knowledge he has of pottery to make sure this older woman doesn’t get cheated.
So, I think there is kind of a—it’s a very low-key undercurrent, but there is kind of an undercurrent in this stretch that’s like: “when you do have that privilege, how do you wield it? Is there a way to wield it responsibly so that you’re helping people instead of hurting them?” I think that we do see—again, in this stretch in particular, we see the Host Club more responsibly wielding that power, especially our two parents, Tamaki and Kyoya.
AMELIA: Okay, I think the one thing we haven’t looked at yet is Honey. Honey’s episode.
DEE: [teasingly dejected] I mean, I didn’t get to talk about Kyoya at all. You guys moved on before I could. But it’s fine.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] You’re welcome to talk about Kyoya right now.
DEE: [teasingly dejected] No. No. It’s fine.
DEE: I know I’m operating off more information that you guys are, so I’m gonna try to be careful about how I talk about this. What I love about the Kyoya ep is: I really like his relationship with Haruhi, because I think they’re both very blunt, insightful people.
So, having the two of them interact for a day where they’re basically just like, reading each other and calling each other out on, you know: “Oh, I bet you’re thinking about this!” “I bet you’re saying this!” And it’s like, “No I wasn’t! (I totally was.)”I like that dynamic because it’s—again, it’s very different from any of the other relationships that I think we see in the Club.
I like that sense of respect that builds between the two of them over the course of the episode, where they kind of acknowledge that the other person gets them in a way that other people don’t as well. And I like… To me Kyoya is—you know, we talked about: everybody has two characteristics.
I like that Kyoya is kind of like—we’re getting, like, a triple layer with him, where we have him in the Host Club where he’s sort of the very coolheaded, considerate member who kind of takes care of everybody. And then we have him behind closed doors where he’s a lot more callous. And then you find out that well, okay, maybe that callous bit is kind of an act too, and he actually does really care about the Club.
And so then you… you know, his relationship with Tamaki and the way he always capitulates and helps him out. Like, in the Newspaper Club episode, when Tamaki just keeps giving them puppy eyes. Finally, even Kyoya’s just like, “Fine, we’ll do the thing you want. But I know what these guys are up to, so I am going to protect you from the shadows.”
So I think that episode gives you more insight into the way he operates. And I think that we haven’t really seen him interact with Haruhi outside of a few side conversations. So getting them to call each other out on their bullshit is really fun—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] —Or him pinning her on the bed?
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Him pinning her on the bed was a pretty solid— [unintelligible due to crosstalk]
DEE: God, okay! That was a shitty episode! That was a shitty episode that was intended to show you “oh, Kyoya will put on the face of the bad guy to help other people.” It was just—it was done terribly because it was a bad episode.
AMELIA: [laughs wryly]
DEE: But yeah, so I just—I like the kind of “fish out of water” quality to it, and that sense of, again, the different masks and the artifice that these different guys put on and the way Haruhi is able to peel those layers back, and how the show peels those layers back. This won’t be the end of Kyoya. Spoiler alert. So…
[Laughter and groaning]
DEE: We’ll get some more from him, too.
AMELIA: And I actually think that—I mean, one great side effect of podcasting like this is that very often I’ll walk away rethinking my first impressions. And chances are, when I watch this episode again, I’ll actually enjoy it much more because of what you’re saying here. So, like… I felt slightly, slightly nonplussed about it, but it wasn’t—I mean it was nowhere near my reactions to, like, the Lobelia Girls’ episode or anything like that.
DEE: [crosstalk] Sure.
AMELIA: And there was a lot in that episode that I did like, but Kyoya as a character just hasn’t grabbed me yet. So I’m pleased that we’re gonna get more of him; a little bit more focus on him.
DEE: Yeah. A lot of his best material is in the manga—Kyoya’s my favorite character, by the way. Uh—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Oh, really? Okay.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yes, a lot of the—
DEE: No, it’s okay! A lot of the reasons for that are because of things that don’t make it into the anime, unfortunately. But—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Aw!
DEE: —well, we do get more of him in the anime, so I think—I think by the end of the next stretch of episodes you’ll maybe have a slightly better idea of why I like him as much as I do.
AMELIA: That must be so frustrating, though!
DEE: Oh no, it’s okay! I get it! I had the same… He did not become my favorite character for, like, maybe it was like my second watch-through, and also reading the manga. He’s a slow burn. [laughs] So it’s all good.
AMELIA: Excellent! Okay, Honey-senpai: let’s finish up looking at his episode, which was all about how to be a “real man.” How to be a real fighting man—even if you’re, like, four-foot-tall and blonde and adorable and really like cake and bunnies.
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] And have—
DEE: [crosstalk] But no, you can’t like cake and bunnies. That’s not manly!
AMELIA: Not allowed! Not allowed!
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] Yeah—
AMELIA: You have to eat steak! But, oh, I felt so sorry for him when he’s got this big plate of steak and he’s just looking tearfully over at these girls and their cake.
AMELIA: Like, that would be me!
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] But him holding back so hard that they’re just like, thoroughly enamored with him was very cute. And then just… ah, um… I had a thought, and I lost it. [laughs]
AMELIA: My favorite part of that whole episode, actually—this is slightly off-topic, but my favorite part of the whole episode was when Mori’s like, “I know exactly what’s gonna happen: he’s gonna let him win. He’s doing all of this for his brother’s good.” And he just like, trounces him!
ALEXIS: He just ruins him!
AMELIA: And Mori’s like, “I had no idea; who is this person?” It was great! That would totally be me!
DEE: [crosstalk] Poor Mori. Mori finally gets a whole speech and it was for nothing.
ALEXIS: I know, right?
AMELIA: It was great, but his actual—like, the character of his brother, I don’t know. It kind of… it felt a little bit stale to me.
AMELIA: We could kind of see where it was going. And then they had this whole, “He’s an alien! He eats cake in the middle of the night!” And I was like, “Ugh, I thought you were going to subvert things a little bit more than that.”
I think Ouran’s just set the bar higher now, so I expect more of it, but this reminded me a lot of the episode with Shiro, almost. Like, we just had that character type on the screen.
ALEXIS: Oh, yeah!
AMELIA: I was like, aaaah, it’s… we’ve looked at this character before, and I know it was a different context and it was a different character dynamic, but… We’ve kind of seen Honey in competition with someone else, from a Host Club perspective. And seeing him in reluctant competition with his brother—it felt like there was more they could do there to say something more meaningful than they did. But—
DEE: [crosstalk] How’d everyone else feel?
ISAAC: [crosstalk] I agree with that, but, on the other hand, they do a really good job of presenting the like, cake occultism as like… something kinda weird. [laughs] Like with the—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] They did!
ISAAC: —with the candlelight and like, the cake. I’m like, “Okay, I sort of get where his brother’s coming from.”
AMELIA: [laughs] They did do a great job of that! The Ouran aesthetic never disappoints. But the actual character, himself… I don’t know, I expected a bit more from Honey’s brother, I guess.
ALEXIS: Yeah… I remembered my thought! Which was: I do appreciate that Honey is literally so dangerous, even with just cake instead of, “Oh, I have to be this ultimate manly boy so I can learn the Hanizuka-style as my family intended.” No! “I’m strong enough to basically murder my dad and make Japan afraid of me, even with cake and bunnies!” So, yeah —no, masculinity, whatever! Who’s that!
DEE: I think Ouran really struggles when it’s trying to talk about gender identity, but I think it does a really nice job with gender presentation and ideas of what it means to be feminine versus masculine and how those ideas are kind of silly at times. I think… I’m really just kind of meh with Chika, Honey’s little brother. He just kind of exists as a character for me.
But I do like the undercurrent in this episode about like: Well no, you can be a martial arts master and also be tiny and adorable and love to eat sweet things and carry a stuffed bunny around with you. That doesn’t decrease these masculine qualities you have. You can have a combination of qualities—both feminine and masculine—and that’s who you are, and it’s okay to be who you are.
And I like that Tamaki gives him a little speech about how, like, it’s important to be true to yourself. So yeah, I just like it when Ouran touches on those elements, and I thought it did a nice job of that here, even if it did veer into the absurd. Because it is Ouran, after all!
ALEXIS: Yeah. [laughs]
AMELIA: And actually the moments of the absurd were probably my favorite moments, so it’s—
ALEXIS: I did, like—as a goof, I kind of enjoyed the alien thing just because that… that many cakes is too many. It’s goofy, but hey: what isn’t about this show, especially Honey?
AMELIA: [crosstalk] This is true. I think I just wanted more. I thought if they’re having—it felt like the setup for something that could have been more interesting. Same with Haruhi showing up at an all-girls school. I think my biggest disappointments in Ouran in general [is when] they have a scenario that seems like it could be used for something really interesting, and they don’t do… they either don’t do enough with it, or they do too much that’s kinda uninteresting to the point of offense, as was with the Lobelia Girls’ Academy.
And in this case, it’s like: okay, you’ve got his younger brother who is more conventionally masculine, who is like, feeling—it doesn’t seem like he’s embarrassed of his brother, it just seems like he doesn’t respect him. But at the same time, he’s also not as good as him. And as the twins said in the episode, like, “Oh, it’s just an inferiority complex.” Okay, that’s all it is—
DEE: [crosstalk] The show does—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] —and that’s… sorry, go ahead.
DEE: [crosstalk, initially] —the show does kind of lampshade it. They’re like, “This is boring! This is very typical!”
AMELIA: Yeah, but you’re Ouran High School Host Club. And again, it’s just because it set the bar so high for me now. Like, I expect more of it. And especially this late in the day when we’ve already seen glimpses of what Honey can do, and… kind of little glimpses of the backstories of the others, which are all quite interesting. That was just a little bit lukewarm for me. Does Honey get any more episodes? [pauses] Dee?
DEE: Oh! Um, I don’t… Not really.
AMELIA: Aw. Okay.
DEE: He has a little bit more in the manga.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] It’s fine.
DEE: Honey and Mori are very much more supporting characters than the other members of the Host Club. They’re older, they have their shit together a little bit more—
AMELIA: [laughs] This is true. I mean, I’ve enjoyed the Honey-senpai episodes until now very much
AMELIA: So this is just—
ISAAC: Yeah, I think if they had spent maybe more time in Honey’s headspace—because really, that episode sort of happens around him. He’s very passive in that episode.
And even just, like, getting a little bit more about how he thinks about his brother or how he thinks about the situation he’s in… But I think the way the episode ends up with him smiling at the camera and being like, “I like cake and rabbits!” is sort of like… It sums up: this is this character; and also, he’s a weapon of mass destruction. And that’s the two pieces to him, which is fine.
But yeah, I agree with you, Amelia. I think—it seemed to me, I was like, “Oh, so when are we gonna get into the juicy shoujo drama of this?” But it just never… it never came.
DEE: [laughs wryly]
AMELIA: Right, exactly. Okay, we should probably start wrapping this up. But we’ve got six episodes left: episodes 21 to 26! What does everyone wanna see from them? Alexis, what do you want out of this?
ALEXIS: I really want them to stick the landing with the… however they end this. Like… it’s probably Tamaki, but… you know. I really hope—
AMELIA: You mean like a shipping thing—
ALEXIS: Yeah! Look, it’s a shoujo, and even though they’re playing up not adhering to these things and trying to subvert as much of it as they can, I still feel like there’s gonna be an ending that involves someone kissing somebody. So…
ISAAC: That happened in episode 2, though!
ALEXIS: That did, but it doesn’t matter if it’s your second or third kiss; they’re still gonna get it. So—
AMELIA: That’s what the Lobelia Girls’ said too.
ALEXIS: Exactly. I figure, like… I don’t know. I really just wanna see where this goes. I’m in. I’m still in, even after the fuckin’ Zuka Club. So let’s go.
ALEXIS: I’ve run out of ideas about this show. It’s just like: all right, I’m in, let’s go, whatever.
AMELIA: I understand that completely. Isaac, what do you wanna say?
ISAAC: I want, like, a full Tamaki episode. I just want the Tamaki Content that we’ve been sort of denied because we’re getting it in these little bits and pieces through other characters, and I just want an episode about him. And then I want that to resolve by him and Haruhi coming to a deep understanding of each other and then progressing to the shipping ending.
ISAAC: That’s my dream!
AMELIA: Now, you couldn’t see it, but I was just mouthing “Yes!” the entire time you were saying that. That is totally what I want! Especially, we—now, we got a little glimpse into Tamaki’s background, and we know that he’s half-Japanese, half-French, and now we know that his mother is missing.
So that’s actually a really solid point of connection and understanding for him and Haruhi, should Haruhi actually become aware of this, which I don’t think she is yet. That’s the kind of thing they could have a proper, sincere conversation about. Tamaki kind of does sincerity in little pockets and—yeah, I would love to see an episode that digs into Tamaki just a little bit more.
He is still my favorite! I think they’ve done such a good job with his character, and even though I’d like to see him drop this “dad” thing, you guys are all absolutely right, talking about how he views family as a concept, and how he treats the people around him through that lens. That’s something that I’m actually going to keep in mind for the next six episodes. I think that’s such a good point. So, maybe I’ll mind the “daddy” stuff a little bit less. I found it so cringey, but maybe it’ll be a little bit better these final episodes.
I’d actually also quite like to see the rest of the student body know about the fact that Haruhi is not a cis male student. I’d like them to accept her full gender identity and not see it as a problem, because that’s something they’ve kind of gone to lengths to hide, and it feels incomplete to end this series with it still being a secret, and still something that Haruhi has to conceal.
ISAAC: She should wear hair pins again, and… and then everybody realizes it.
AMELIA: Oh right!
ISAAC: I like the hair pins, the hair pins were really cute!
AMELIA: It occurred to me, actually, in that episode where she gets kidnapped, and her dad’s like, “Well, she’s gone out with some female friends of hers” we don’t actually see Haruhi’s friends very much. Like we don’t—we don’t see that she has any friends from her previous school even though they said she’s really popular.
And then we meet Arai-kun, and he’s clearly really liked Haruhi, and she seems to have been known for being kind of beautiful and intelligent. Like, how would she not have a ton of friends that she sees?
And because she’s presenting male in school, and she doesn’t seem that bothered when she’s out of school—like, again, she probably doesn’t seem to associate with people from Ouran outside school. So who does she spend friendship time with except the Host Club? It feels like a bit of a gap.
ALEXIS: I think the answer is “nobody,” just because she’s been studying so much and her entire dream has just been, “Oh, I’m gonna be a lawyer. Bye!”
AMELIA: I think that’s a shame.
ALEXIS: Yeah, it is. Honestly… it—yeah.
AMELIA: It feels a little bit… I don’t know, for her… for someone like Haruhi to have no friends from her middle school and to continue not seeing friends—
DEE: Did this—
AMELIA: I can’t just—sorry, go ahead.
DEE: No, no, no, I didn’t mean to interrupt. I… I think this must be something that happened as an aside in the manga, not as an aside in the anime, because probably one of you would have remembered if it was in the anime.
There is a casual reference in the manga to the fact that Haruhi does still like—no, it’s in the scene with Arai! When she talks about—when Arai is like, “Have you kept up with anyone?” and Haruhi’s like, “Yeah, I still hang out with some of my friends.” And she mentions like—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Oh, you’re totally right! Yeah, yeah, yeah!
DEE: She mentions one girl by name, and she’s like, “Yeah, the two of us chat on the phone a lot and we get together sometimes.” So, it’s kind of like Haruhi does have this—much like Renge, with her Super Sentai Show, we don’t know everything Haruhi’s up to!
AMELIA: [crosstalk] This is true, this is true. I take it back!
DEE: So it’s sort of implied that she does—I don’t get the sense she had a hoard of hangers-on; like, was the popular kid in school—but it does sound like she had some close friends who she’s still in contact with. They just don’t come in contact with the Host Club necessarily, which… Haruhi might have done on purpose.
AMELIA: Haruhi definitely did it on purpose.
AMELIA: Like, why would you introduce your friend to that group of weirdos, c’mon!
DEE: [crosstalk] How do you explain them? “These are my friends. Long story about them…”
AMELIA: No, you’re absolutely right. I totally take it back.
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] Sorry, that just made me remember. In the episode with the friend who she accidentally turned down—him asking how he knew them, and Haruhi says, “Host Club.” “Oh yeah, baseball?”
AMELIA and DEE: “Softball!”
AMELIA: He says, “Hosuto-bu? Oh, sofuto-bu!” [laughs] That was another moment I laughed out loud! His expression was so innocent like, “Oh wow, that’s really great!”
AMELIA: Yeah, I suppose the reason I completely forgot about that is [it’s] so throwaway and we don’t really see Haruhi grounded outside her family, I suppose. And I would—it feels right now that, like, her family life is very compartmentalized from the Host Club, and when the Host Club shows up in her family life, it’s really weird, and it’s crossing boundaries, and it’s just kind of… uncomfortable somehow.
And it would be quite nice—what the reason I was kind of saying all this was because I’d quite like to see Haruhi a bit more grounded in school. So, we know Haruhi the Honor Student. Haruhi is known for that. Haruhi the Host. Haruhi is known for that. But just Haruhi the Person? That’s something they’re still kind of hiding because they don’t want to give her gender identity away.
DEE: At school, yeah.
AMELIA: Yeah, at school, at school. So it would be nice to see Haruhi allowed to just be herself at school without having to be protected by the Host Club.
DEE: I… I might disagree with that. And we’re running late on time, so this might not be a great time to get into a debate. [laughs] I don’t get the sense that Haruhi is pretending. I get the sense—like, I mean, Haruhi is male-presenting; Haruhi isn’t telling people, “Yeah, I’m a girl.” But I get the sense that she’s still just being herself.
AMELIA: I agree with you, and I think I must have phrased it badly, because that’s not what I meant. I guess, just the fact that other people aren’t able to see Haruhi, and that instantly puts a wall around her. And I guess the Host Club are the ones kinda complicit in keeping that wall there.
And… I guess Haruhi’s lack of connection with people—which ties into the independence that we’ve seen from her—I want that to kind of… not breakdown, exactly, but soften a bit. Like, we only really see her connecting with other members of the Host Club, and even then it’s… I don’t know.
The Host Club is such a weird environment. I just want to see a bit more of a bridge between Haruhi and the weird Host Club bubble and Haruhi the future lawyer. There’s a big gap at the moment because we are in this—well, I mean, it’s a comedy anime, but at the same time, it has so much emotional heart that to end this series with her still being kind of concealed in this way feels a bit… strange to me. So…
ISAAC: Amelia, I’m having flashbacks to that episode where Renge first appears and Tamaki’s fantasy of, like, her and Haruhi having a girly friendship out on, like, a field of grass with the wind blowing. That’s what your wish reminds me of. But Tamaki is your favorite, so…
AMELIA: Tamaki is my favorite, but that doesn’t mean I want Haruhi to be friends with Renge necessarily.
ALEXIS: [teasing, pained noises] Oh…! Ah…!
AMELIA: [laughing] I’m sorry, I don’t like Renge.
AMELIA: It’s okay, it’s okay!
ISAAC: [sing-song] Brutal!
AMELIA: Okay, we’re gonna have to wrap this up! Dee, has anything surprised you about today, or did it go pretty much as you would have expected?
DEE: [faux-sadly] I thought you guys would like Kyoya’s episode more…
DEE: Well no, to be fair, I really—that is an episode I’ve come to like more. Kind of like the “Haruhi in Wonderland” one, I think it is more rewarding on a rewatch. So I guess it doesn’t actually surprise me that much that you were just okay with that one.
No, this, again, mostly went kind of the way I thought. The Lobelia episode was Bad, and the others were Good! So… yeah.
AMELIA: Very accurate statement. And, I guess, you’re looking forward to us finally getting to the end so we can talk properly about the whole series.
DEE: [crosstalk] I’m very excited to talk about the last stretch of episodes. There’s a lot in there that I like a lot, so…
AMELIA: Excellent! I’m very much looking forward to it; I think I speak for all of us on that one. It’s been such a delight so far, even with the occasional pockets of extreme badness, it’s still—like Alexis said, you know, I’m in.
AMELIA: Nothing has been a deal-breaker yet, and that’s despite there being some really horrendous content—and I completely understand if it’s a deal-breaker for other people, I really, really do. It’s still okay for me. I’m still looking forward to seeing more episodes; looking forward to getting to the end and talking about it properly.
ISAAC: Yeah, a lot of anime string out their really bad content, like, through all their episodes, and Ouran is nice because it condenses them into like, twenty-five minute segments that you can forget about after they’re done.
DEE: [crosstalk] You can just—
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] Yeah—
AMELIA: You could totally skip them in a rewatch, couldn’t you?
DEE: Pretty much!
ISAAC: [crosstalk] Oh, definitely!
ALEXIS: [crosstalk] Definitely.
DEE: There’s a few little touchstones in them, but it really doesn’t matter. You could very easily skip the three bad episodes. Which I usually do, so…
AMELIA: Don’t blame you at all.
Okay, just a little house-keeping then, just to wrap up. If you like what you heard today, you can find more of our work at www.animefeminist.com. You can find us on Twitter at @animefeminist. You can find us on Facebook: facebook.com/animefem. We have a Tumblr: animefeminist.tumblr.com.
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Thank you so much to Alexis, Isaac, and Dee for joining me. And we’ll be back next time with the final episodes, 21 to 26.
DEE: Earn yourself some Refreshment Level Points!
DEE: Had to end on something!
AMELIA: I was waiting!
DEE: Ten! +10 Refreshment Points!
ALEXIS: Oh, perfect!
AMELIA: [laughter] I was waiting for you to say something!