Manga, like fiction in general, doesn’t always give us the best female characters. Many female characters’ minds are filled with thoughts about appearance, such as if their chests are too small or if they should diet, and their aspirations and dreams seem limited to those that involve guys, everything a girl is supposed to think about in a nutshell so to speak. No surprise, they often are unable to handle anything more than making a meal or doing the laundry by themselves and sometimes the heroine can’t even do that.
Not Haruhi Fujioka, the blunt and independent heroine of Ouran High School Host Club, a romantic comedy about a “commoner” on a merit scholarship at the ritzy Ouran Academy who, after knocking over a vase and being mistaken for a guy, is commandeered into becoming part of the school’s host club (a place where, in this case, beautiful/handsome young men converse and entertain patrons) to pay off her debt. Of course, shortly after joining, the boys of the club all realize that Haruhi is, in fact, a bona fide girl. Yawning at the prospect of yet another heroine forced to cross-dress while surrounded by beautiful boys who will surely fall in love with her, one by one? Well, Ouran does things a little differently.
The keyword in the description is comedy. This series satirizes a lot of trends and stereotypes seen in manga such as harems, cross-dressing, and the types of characters that show up in the romance genre. For example, it is not uncommon to see characters in the romance genre divided between the characters involved in the romance and the romantically uninvolved side characters. In Ouran, the male lead of the story, Tamaki, literally draws a line on the floor to separate himself, the self-deemed love interest, from the rest of the main cast who he labels the “sexless” characters. Or how about the scenario where a love interest is thrown into a rage when someone causes the poor, defenseless heroine to cry? In this series, a fight occurs when it looks like Haruhi has been hurt and is crying, only for it to be revealed that she was not upset, her contact just popped out.
The characters are equally entertaining. While Tamaki is prince-like in many ways, he’s also a narcissist and a (well-intentioned) idiot who
is so blind about his feelings for Haruhi that he believes he has fatherly feelings for her; Kyoya is the “cool-type,” but is also propelled by making a profit and known as the “Shadow King” for his puppet master behavior; despite being a senior in high school, Honey looks and acts like a kid from elementary school yet is a master at martial arts and incredibly scary if woken up. The list goes on, but these are the types of characters you get with Ouran High School Host Club.
So, it is no surprise that the heroine of the plot is not so typical either. In many ways, I feel like Haruhi is almost the antithesis of a majority of heroines. She is intelligent and has dreams of becoming a lawyer rather than dreaming of boys; she’s independent and not afraid to speak her mind. This all comes through in the story, like the reason she attends Ouran Academy. Haruhi wanted to go there to get her closer to reaching her dream and achieved this through her academics. Compare that to heroines who choose schools based on how cute its uniform is. I also want to add that I’ve seen spunky heroines and meek heroines, ditzy and misunderstood, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across a heroine who is blunt and somewhat apathetic like Ouran High School Host Club‘s lead. It’s good (and amusing) to see such a different personality!
Because of this, like the story itself, Haruhi is put into classic manga scenarios, but usually handles them rather differently than your average manga heroine. For instance, if a female character with long hair has to cut her hair, it’s seen as a sacrifice (Sakura from Naruto, Keiko from Yu Yu Hakusho). In Ouran, Haruhi used to have beautiful long hair, but after a neighborhood kid stuck gum in her hair, she cut most of it off without batting an eye. The boys of the series regret the loss of her long hair, but Haruhi could care less. While I probably would be in the former category if I suddenly had to cut my hair, I love Haruhi’s attitude. She is removed from social pressures about appearance.
Another example is how Haruhi handled being mistaken for a boy. I have seen the cross-dressing scenario in manga before, but her reaction to the situation is unique. She doesn’t care about dressing like a guy. In fact, right after all the boys of the host club have finally realized that she is really a girl, she says, “I don’t really care if you guys recognize me as a boy or a girl. In my opinion it’s more important for a person to be recognized for who they are, rather than what sex they are.” (Episode 1, anime version) Seeing people for who they are on the inside is something that Haruhi brings up multiple times throughout the series. Can you imagine what fiction would be like if we saw more heroines with attitudes like this?
This outlook applies to her attitude toward the host club members as well. Instead of being one of the masses who can’t help but be charmed by the beauty of the boys of the host club at first glance (a scenario that appears in other manga in a non-comedy setting), Haruhi sees them for what they honestly are, the good and the bad. The audience is often treated to her humorously blunt insights such as when Tamaki goes on a rant about his beauty, Haruhi honestly thinks hard on the right word to describe him and comes up with “annoying,” instantly deflating his ego like a needle to a balloon.
The series is not without some problems. One such problem occurs in an episode in which, after Haruhi stands up to a couple of male bullies and is hurt in the process, a couple of the characters, and thus the story, focus too much on the fact that Haruhi was a girl going up against guys and the physical disadvantage she has as a girl instead of the idea that she needed to learn that she can rely on others sometimes, which I think was the main point of the episode. However, my overall impression of Ouran High School Host Club and its female lead are very good. So, if you’re sick of stereotypical heroines and plots or just want something a little different and fun, check out Ouran High School Host Club! You can watch the anime for free and legally on Hulu.com, but if you want the complete story, be sure to pick up the 18 volume manga series it is based on.