I can’t believe we’re at the final episode of the live-action drama adaptation of Ouran High School Host Club. It definitely just flew right by, leaving me with a feeling like it was both lightweight and memorable. Because a movie version is coming up, this final episode isn’t really any closure, but more like the end of a segment while setting the stage for another. I finally have enough material to assess the Ouran story, since I don’t have the manga or anime to fill in the blanks, and all in all it’s quite well conceived. Taking something tonally wacky and absurd, the mangaka Hattori Bisco managed to create characters with heart and sweetness. While not my favorite male-harem manga, or even wacky hijinks cross-dressing manga, Ouran nevertheless turned out to be more than meets the eye. The drama adaptation was a win for me, especially taking into account how it really opened my eyes to some young actors with tons of potential. I’m thrilled I chose this as my first J-dorama to recap. Now on to the final episode!
Episode 11 recap:
Tamaki announces that he is retiring from the Ouran High School host club after the upcoming anniversary party. Tamaki knows he invited everyone to join the club and he’s sorry to leave them. But he knows they will continue to develop their gentlemen’s education without him.
Tamaki will leave the club in the hands of Kyoya, who does not look pleased in the least with this bombshell. Tamaki continues by saying Haruhi can quit the club now.
Tamaki asks Kyoya how much Haruhi still owes the club. Kyoya does his calculations and Tamaki announces he’ll cover the outstanding debt.
Tamaki walks over to Haruhi and thanks her for this period of time she spent with them working so hard.
Haruhi asks Tamaki what is going on? To which Tamaki snaps back that it has nothing to do with her. Hikaru is angered by Tamaki’s tone and words towards Haruhi and has to be restrained from lunging at Tamaki.
Haruhi says she’ll quit the club, but she still intends to pay back her own debt. There is no reason for Tamaki to pay back the debt she owes. Haruhi runs out of the club and everyone runs after her, except for Tamaki and Kyoya. Everyone tells Haruhi that this doesn’t sound like Tamaki at all, and she needs to go back and talk with him to figure out what is really going on. Haruhi stops and replies that this is nothing to do with her anymore.
Tamaki falls to his knees, leading Kyoya to ask him what his grandmother said about Haruhi? Kyoya stands up with an annoyed “argh” and points out that Tamaki can spew out a litany of useless talk but refuses to get to the point. Kyoya correcting guesses that Tamaki’s grandmother used a threat to rescind Haruhi’s scholarship or expel her from school if Tamaki didn’t quit the host club.
Tamaki says Kyoya’s name rather incredulously, shocked that his best friend knows him that well. Kyoya crouches down in front of Tamaki, and then reaches out his hand to grab Tamaki’s cheeks. Kyoya tells Tamaki that it was so easy to see right through him.
Tamaki flashes back to his grandmother threatening to kick Haruhi out because she’s been concealing her gender at school, which is against the rules. His grandmother trades Tamaki quitting the club for allowing Haruhi to stay at Ouran High School.
Tamaki tells Kyoya that his grandmother is right, this time he really did disrupt Haruhi’s life by dragging her into the host club. Other than Tamaki quitting the host club, he doesn’t know how to make things right for her.
Haruhi sits in the library and talks to her dead mommy in Heaven, saying she’s finally been rid of those crazy people. She doesn’t need to engage in weird cosplay anymore, nor participate in odd activities.
The girl guests at the host club notice that Haruhi has been missing lately, and that something appears to be wrong. The host club members all look varying degrees of uncomfortable at hearing this. Tamaki’s dad tells his mom that Tamaki will be announcing his departure from the host club at tomorrow’s anniversary party. She vows to attend the party.
Tamaki is changing into his formal attire while Kyoya looks at him. He’s told the others the truth, that Tamaki is doing this for Haruhi’s sake. They ask if they can do anything to help? Kyoya doesn’t think it’s impossible. He says they’ve got to go all in (gambling terms) now.
Haruhi comes home and her dad asks if it’s true she quit the host club? He heard from Kyoya, and also heard it’s because of Tamaki’s family situation. Haruhi says it’s got nothing to do with her. Her dad says he won’t interfere, but he points out that she’s changed a lot since she joined the host club. When she comes home, she has a variety of expressions, often with many moods. He likes seeing her alive like this.
Haruhi’s dad leaves for work, and passes someone in the hallway, telling that person Haruhi is in the house. The door opens and it’s Kyoya. RAWR.
Preparations are underway for the anniversary party. Nekozawa senpai is there with his sister, who wonders if Tamaki has to quit the host club. The crystal ball says it shall be done.
Kyoya is here to tell Haruhi an amusing story. He asks if she knows what his family, the Ootori clan, does for a living? Haruhi says his family runs a very large chain of hospitals. As the third son, Kyoya doesn’t have any prospects to run the family enterprise. In fact, he’s discouraged from even attempting to make something of himself. At least that is what he’s always thought.
We flash back to Tamaki telling Kyoya why a third son can’t inherit? Why does Kyoya give up without even trying? Kyoya says it’s not about giving up, it’s just a fact that he’ll be working under his two brothers. Tamaki asks him why Kyoya can’t inherit as the third son? Why Kyoya won’t try to surpass his brothers. Why Kyoya is not even trying before saying it’s something that can’t happen?
Kyoya tells Haruhi that Tamaki’s words that day was like a bat to the head, making him realize that he should try his best to surpass his brothers. Living like that is a freedom he still has. And it’s not just him, everyone at the host club has found a measure of peace with their lives because of Tamaki’s influence. Yet now Tamaki finds himself in an untenable situation. He asks Haruhi how she’s felt since she met Tamaki?
Before leaving, Kyoya has one more thing to share with Haruhi. He asks Haruhi to consider why Tamaki was so emphatic about asserting his quitting the club has nothing whatsoever to do with her? He reminds her the party starts in exactly one hour, and then he leaves.
The guests are filing in for the party. Haruhi sits in her living room before getting up to go buy groceries for dinner. She takes out her wallet, flashing back to Tamaki getting in the pond to help her fish it out. As she heads to buy groceries, she keeps flashing back to Tamaki and all the times he’s taken care of her. Finally she starts running.
Tamaki’s grandma and dad arrive at the party. Dad thinks it looks wonderful while grandma derides it as kids playing house. Haruhi tells her mom in Heaven that Tamaki has always embraced her with his generosity and kindness, and now he needs her more than ever.
Tamaki announces that it’s time, just as Kyoya enters the host club dressed in his formal attire. RAWR again. Tamaki smiles at him, and then the boys are off. Tamaki snaps his finger and walks to the door and opens it. All the guests shriek in excitement to see the host club members make their grand entrance.
Tamaki stands on the stage and makes his speech. The host club as been in existence for 2 years now, and he thanks all the princesses for making it such a success. Before the party gets underway, he wants to announce something. Haruhi runs but trips outside the school. Nekozawa senpai offers his hand to help her up. He tells Haruhi that Tamaki appears to have made up his mind to quit the club, but the crystal ball indicates he’s doing this to protect a girl. He wants to protect someone from getting punished by the school.
Tamaki announces to the guests that even if he’s not there, the host club will be the same. The guests wonder what is happening? Tamaki tells everyone to keep supporting the host club, as he’s quitting after today. Suddenly Haruhi runs in and yells out that she won’t allow that to happen! Everyone turns to look at her. Haruhi says she won’t agree to allow him to quit the club.
Tamaki has retained his spirit and happiness the entire time at the host club, which he learned as a way to make his mother happy. But right now Tamaki doesn’t appear to be happy at all. She tells him a host club without Tamaki wouldn’t be happy. She knows he’s goofy and full of himself, but everything he does is to make people happy. But right now if he’s unhappy because of her, she would rather be expelled from school.
Both Tamaki and Haruhi have tears in their eyes as everyone watches them. Evil grandma announces this party is over. Suddenly some guest arrive with their parents in tow, all very wealthy and influential heads of industry.
Kyoya announces that these guests are the parents of their frequent guests. Grandma has to put on a friendly face and greet the esteemed parents, all the while seething and asking what the heck is going on?
The parents take a tour of the host club. The twins show off their design talents with a centerpiece that wows the moms. They even pull their routine and tell the moms they are lonely twins who have put their feelings into this art display. The moms fall for their twin ploy as well. Mori plays the harp beautifully for the moms. Honey has arranged for desserts from around the world for them to sample, as a way to learn about world sweets. Kyoya shows the dads a backgammon set on the table, explaining that the host club learns about world cultures. Even their normal cosplay is to learn about world dress.
Tamaki’s dad says the host club appears to be providing a very happy joy to people. Grandma refuses to accept this and walks out. Tamaki stops her and says his friends did this for him, and these people are the first friends he made since he arrived back in Japan. If she insists on getting rid of Haruhi, he has no choice but to quit the club.
Tamaki grabs Haruhi’s hand and pulls her over to face his grandmother. He says he will always see the host club as a thing of pride. He will always treat his friends as important, Haruhi as important to the club, and his grandmother as his important family member.
Grandma says she let it go this time, but it doesn’t mean she’s accepted the host club or Tamaki. Grandma leaves while Tamaki’s dad gives him a smile and a wink. The guys are thrilled Tamaki doesn’t have to quit the club now, with the twins and Honey running to hug Tamaki. Kyoya smiles that the final attempt battle plan was a success. Tamaki announces that the party will officially start now!
Some dads walk up top Kyoya and his father, complimenting Kyoya’s organizational abilities for tonight’s event. Kyoya’s dad humbly accepts the praise, saying he is someone who values skill. Even a third son like Kyoya has a chance to succeed the family business. Kyoya bows and takes his leave from the parents, but as he walks away, he smirks and says “mission completed.”
Haruhi walks out wearing a dress and all dolled up. The ladies ask if tonight she’s cosplaying a girl. Haruhi smiles and says Hikaru made her put it on. Everyone compliments her on looking so pretty.
Kaoru looks at her from above until Hikaru walks over. Kaoru wonders why they even have the same taste? He think it’s a hassle, but Hikaru tells him that it’s something special that twins have and they ought to treasure it. Kaoru smiles broadly and bear hugs his twin. Mori and Honey look at them and smile. Mori pats Honey on the head.
Haruhi takes a dessert and can’t wait to dig into it. Tamaki stops her and thanks her for what she did earlier. Because of her, he feels like it was the first time he told his grandmother exactly how he felt. But he’s thought about it and doesn’t think she should cross-dress anymore. Haruhi tells him not to worry, the host club is the best way for her to repay her debt. Tamaki smiles, and suddenly he starts to glow in Haruhi’s eyes. She averts her eyes, unsure of why suddenly she can’t look at Tamaki directly.
Tamaki asks her what dessert she’s holding since it looks delicious. Haruhi is so nervous she forks a bite and offers it to Tamaki. A mother chides her for being so rude, saying she must be a commoner. Haruhi starts to apologize and retract her fork, but Tamaki grasps her hand and eats the bite of dessert. He tells her it’s delicious.
Haruhi tells him to stop, everyone is looking at them. Tamaki says it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, to him, Haruhi will never be an embarrassment. The only thing that matters to him is Haruhi. Suddenly Haruhi realizes her heart is pounding and she doesn’t know why. Tamaki realizes it as well, wondering why Haruhi is looking at him like that. He also wonders why his heart is beating that fast as well.
Nekozawa-senpai walks by holding his crystal ball. He points it at Tamaki and Haruhi, intoning that a heart shape is appearing within.
Tamaki and Haruhi are facing each other with thumping hearts, when suddenly the twins push Tamaki out of the way and ask Haruhi if she’s alright? Mori picks Haruhi up and announces that she needs to go to the hospital.
Kyoya walks up and says that before Haruhi heads to the hospital, there is a row of guests wanting to dance with her. Tamaki tells everyone not to touch his Haruhi. Before he can rush over to extricate her, Kyoya sticks out his foot and trips Tamaki, causing him to lunge forward and plant a kiss on Haruhi’s cheek.
Everyone gasps in shock. Tamaki draws back, worried that he’s upset Haruhi again. Kyoya gives a smirk and a grin.
Haruhi says she really doesn’t like this Tamaki, and sends him flying with a word attack so that he ends up pinned against the wall like a frog.
He cries out for his Haruhi, while everyone gathers below to gape at him.
Haruhi stands in the back, and instead of looking pissed, she lets out a big smile as she looks up at Tamaki.
Thoughts of Mine:
Let me start with the story, which I think the drama version did a great job of presenting each vignette in a very limited amount of time. I got a peek at all the characters and their stories, enough to feel like I got to know the denizens of the Ouran High School host club. I love how this story is ultimately so positive in spirit and uplifting in its message. Be honest with who you are (Honey), accept your uniqueness (the twins), don’t limit yourself (Kyoya), embrace the unexpected (Haruhi), and live with a loving heart (Tamaki). So many mangas aim to entertain with plot situations without the ability to actually say something meaningful at the end of the day, which Ouran managed to do even if it was exceedingly simplistic. A story about friends who care about each other and help each other is never a bad thing.
Acting-wise, this entire show rested on the shoulders of Yamamoto Yusuke. In the last episode, it was even clear to me that Kawaguchi Haruna’s acting is still very green, and she can’t possibly approach Yusuke’s ability to really channel the emotion. In the scene where she cried out for him to stay in the club, she tried hard, but her performance felt forced to me. Whereas Yusuke just nailed his reaction shots. It’s clear that the two best actors, Yusuke and Daito Shunsuke, are that good in their roles because they just have much more acting experience. But I think Kyoya as a character was a walk in the park for Shunsuke, whereas Tamaki really is such a hard character to nail the excess and the calm moments both that Yusuke had the heavier burden to carry.
Character-wise, perhaps it was Shunsuke’s electric performance as Kyoya, paired with his sizzling chemistry with Haruna, that made Kyoya the most interesting host club member for me. I appreciate how his backstory got revealed in very mellow and limited ways, but added quite a lot of depth to him. He’s sorta the black horse of the host club, and he and everyone else knows it. I almost always go for the dark and broody male lead over the sunny and bright male lead if the story has the two tropes paired up against each other. Some of the classic shoujos that slayed me with second lead shipping was Nana no Iro Majikku and Ai Boy from Asagiri Yu and Princess Army from Kitagawa Miyuki, where I headdesked myself into an oblivion loathing the main guy leads in all three stories and weeping copious tears for the awesome cold and repressed second male leads.
I really believe Tamaki-Haruhi as the OTP makes sense, and Yusuke and Haruna have a very sweet chemistry that suits a shouja manga teen love story quite well. The problem for the Ouran live adaption is that Shunsuke and Haruna have a very unexpected and adult chemistry with each other, one that is intensely palpable and feels quite out of place for a story like Ouran. So it affects the mood considerably, when their scenes are tinged with this awareness that ought not be there, and throws the OTP into the background unexpectedly. In the end, the story does bring the OTP back to the forefront, but it doesn’t have the impact it ought to when the thunder has been somewhat stolen by the second lead and the heroine always looking like they ought to be horizontal rather than talking.
Back to Ouran episode 11, which ends with Haruhi realizing that she sees Tamaki as a male of the opposite sex for the first time and the host club uniting to conquer one final big obstacle, was a great way to end the drama series and leave plenty of narrative for the movie version coming out in Spring 2012. I’ll be watching that for Kyoya more than anyone else, but ultimately I find any time spent with Ouran entertaining and rewarding. I don’t feel cheated with gimmicks, but rather the silly plot shenanigans are simply the superficial cover for a sincere story about friendship and growth amongst a group of super-rich, ridiculously handsome high school boys, and the girl who finds her niche amongst them.