First Impressions: Ouran High School Host Club

J-doramas have officially gone off the cross-dressing end this Summer, with not one, not two, but THREE girl-crossing-dressing-with-a-bunch-of-guys dramas out at the exact same time. And two are remakes to boot. Where’s the originality Japan? I checked out all three purely out of curiosity, discovering that while two made me run away screaming, one was an insane and infectiously adorable little drama. I never would have imagined that I would be smitten by the live action version of Ouran High School Host Club.

For the record, my verdict on the other two cross-dressing dramas are thus – HanaKimi 2011 is completely unnecessary and a giant waste of everyone’s time, and Ikemen desu Ne (the You’re Beautiful remake) lacks what made the original so charming and addicting (namely Jang Geun Seok and any actor playing an A.N.Gell member that can actually act or have charisma onscreen). But Ouran? Perfectly cast and adroitly presented. Try watching it and not gape at its ridiculousness all the while smiling with a giant lopsided grin on your face.

Ouran is the live-action adapation of the manga, and later anime, of the same name. It’s an understatement to say that Japanese shoujo mangas have a weird fixation on cross-dressing girls involved in implausible situations, and I’ve actually been shying away from these mangas as I’ve gotten older. It’s really not my cup of tea anymore. So I haven’t read Ouran nor watched the anime, but I know plenty of folks who love it to pieces. I checked out the drama on a whim, mainly to see if I’d hit the trifecta of suck with respect to all three cross-dressing J-doramas this Summer, only to be charmed by Ouran’s brand of manga-insanity mixed with quirky characters and an implausible premise.

Scholarship student Fujioka Haruhi attends prestigious Ouran Academy where the richest of the rich students all go. She dresses like a boy simply because it’s convenient, with no intention of cross-dressing or concealing her gender. One day, as she’s looking for a quiet place to study, she stumbles upon the Ouran High School Host Club, which is exactly what it’s name implies. Consisting of 6 rich and handsome young men, the club caters to the girl students of the Academy as a place to entertain and be entertained. In a very chaste way, of course.

Haruhi accidently breaks an expensive vase and finds herself forced to be a host to pay back the cost of the vase. The boys quickly discover she’s a girl, but adore her to pieces so elect to keep her gender a secret so she can continue to hang out with them. Led by Suou Tamaki, the host club is populated by what might be realistically described as a bunch of freaks (Tamaki being a complete drama queen and utter tool at times), but really all the characters have such an underlying layer of sweet charm. Two episodes in, I’m completely enjoying this crazy little assembly of kids and their oddball interactions.

Harui is perfectly played by Kawaguchi Haruna, in that she’s totally no-nonsense yet rolls with the punches. She reminds me so much of Horikita Maki‘s turn as a cross-dressing girl in the original HanaKimi, in that she’s so insanely cute that no one can possibly mistake her for a boy. But in Ouran, Haruhi never tries to be a boy, she just happens to get mistaken for one and roped into being a host, and from there she just performs her hosting duties matter-of-factly.

Yamamoto Yusuke is stealing the show as Tamaki, he of the oh-so-dramatic declarations and the man with a rubber face. Haruhi and Tamaki are of course the OTP, and their interactions are so cute, with Tamaki harboring a crush on Haruhi the moment he discovers she’s a girl, and Haruhi simply wanting to get her hosting duties done with and her debt paid. But I’m sure she’ll discover the boys of the hosting club are all much deeper than they initial appear, and of course will likely become wonderfully supportive classmates as the story goes on.

Ouran isn’t anything to write home about, so far it’s simply a solid live-action adaptation of a manga. I can’t stress enough how far-fetched the drama is, because the source material unfolds in a manga medium, which allow for greater liberties. Be prepared for an extreme dose of the silly when you are watching it onscreen, but all wrapped in a layer of genuine mirth and affection.

The directing is so smooth and effortless that the silliness blends in so well with the down-to-earth presentation of the glorious world of Ouran High School. While I don’t have a craving to go read the original manga nor am I chafing to get more episodes of this drama, I find it’s such a sweet little drama that I just want to pinch its cheeks for being so, well, cheeky. I give Ouran a thumbs up for delivering what it set out to do, and making a new fan out of me.


First Impressions: Ouran High School Host Club — 40 Comments

  1. I simply eager to watch ouran just because of yamamoto yusuke.since he just had small screen at hanakimi I knew it he would be big.

  2. 1st, yeah it’s good actually although i was expecting that tamaki more handsome? oh well…the manga and anime are good so u should check it out.

  3. I so agree with you..I DL all 3 reverse-harem liveaction, to see which is better.. and Ouran win it by a landslide. Though kinda disappointed that Yamamoto Yusuke played Tamaki’s role for the reason that I dont find him that good-looking but acting wise…he nailed it..(of course..He is a VETERAN)Its fun to watch his adoration to Haruhi.. and I’m pretty sure OHSHC is the reverse harem to watch for:)

    • yeah i have to admit that he’s acting is good and the show is also entertaining, i really love the effects, makes it more similar to the real anime or manga ^^

  4. Just watch the first episode, but it’s make me love this drama,..
    I think more excited than the anime,..hahhaha….LOL..
    LOve IT =))

  5. Ouran HSHC is my ultimate anime of all times so i am definitely watching this:D and glad that Koala unnie liking it:D


    • Koala Unnie, my comment after watching the 1st ep: you should definitely watch the 1st ep of anime (which i dont know how many times i watched that 1st episode years ago when i didnt even know what the heck is a torrent and youtube was my hero!)
      it would have been better if you could have watched before live action but anyways^^

      • I don’t know y back then, I forced myself to watch the anime, just bcuz it seemed popular, but man after a few episodes I just couldn’t get enough of it, the characters just kept getting more interesting, even when they got serious. (Like fruit basket and school rumble but this one never get serious 😛 ) Like there’s more to those shows then we think there are. I felt the same about the 2006 hanakimi, where it was much more entertaining then you’d ever think it would be

  6. Actually i didn’t like the dorama version cos the anime was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo charming. i think the main problem is with Tamaki’s acting, which was not as natural as the anime version and of course the fact is tt the animated Tamaki was soooooooo charming that i just can’t forget him! hopefully, he’ll get the grip of it and be more natural.
    it’s really hard for them to match up to the level of the anime/manga but i guess one can only hope? 😉

    • LOL agreeing on anime’s charm after watching the first episode:D

      actually tamaki’s acting is better than haruhi’s in the live action but both of them dont get close to anime of course:D i had a glimpse of anime tamaki’s talking style on live action tamaki so hope he gets better.
      and what the hell is wrong with Honey sempai getting smaller! they shouldnt have done that imo.

  7. i really like this it so cute really and funny entertaining …… i also like youre beautiful but of course no one beat jgs hehehe , and hana kimi just watching it wishing that i can watch toma in a funny drama soon

  8. I was like you, wasn’t sure what to think and I haven’t read the manga (I already started now) but I gave Ep 1 a try and I was TOTALLY HOOOKED.. I Love it to a TEE!! I Saw episode 2 yesterday and was like wanting more… the cast all fit their characters so its great.. I just wished it was at least an hour or 45 mins.. instead of the short 25 to 30 mins of each episode.. All in all, its good, for those of you who haven’t watched it, you should! 🙂

  9. ARGH~~~~my all time No.1 anime!!! Tamaki-kun~~Honey senpai and his cake-y~~Haruhi~~
    Everyone who hasn’t watch this anime must must must i repeat MUST watch this. With the bonus of Mamoru’s perfect voice for Tamaki! Can this get any better. Think i have repeated the anime least 8 times over the years. And maybe 20 times for particular scenes…
    Now back to the drama. When i first come across the news that host club is going to remake into a drama 4 weeks back, i was in a roller coaster mode. From excited to calm to disappointed to happy.
    Excited – i have always complain to all my friends why are there so many anime remake but never my host club and here it is now!!!! My conclusion is that the characters in anime are so perfect and charming that it simply can’t be played by human. I mean…seriously how and where do you find a Tamaki?!
    Calm – I keep myself calm after a few days of excitement by telling myself to have LOW expectations like REALLY low. My supreme love for the anime will most probably make me hate the live action and I really do not want to ruin it.
    Disappointed – After the teaser… Tamaki doesn’t look like that, Haruhi doesn’t look like that, Honey senpai doesn’t, Hikaru and Kaoru are not like that……i will just name 5 since i’m bias. From low expectations it then drop to merely zero expectation left.
    Happy – So I have watched Episode 1 (took me lots of courage). Now that the actors are all playing the characters (the teaser I watched was more like a news interviewing them so they were their normal self) it wasn’t as bad I thought!! I wouldn’t say it is good but I think they have already did what they can do best. I agree with someone above that Yamamoto’s acting is good. Seeing how crazy and wide range Tamaki’s character can be, he portrayed quite well so far. I am looking forward to see how he is going to play the father and his precious daughter scene!! Oh oh~~ not forgetting the puppy eyes!!
    Off to watch episode 2~~

  10. The first episode was awkward to me. It felt like everyone was trying just a bit too hard to be the characters instead of just being the characters. The second episode was definitely better and felt more natural. Having read the manga and watched the anime, Yamamoto Yusuke is a bit weak on giving off that aura of being a lord/leader/prince that Tamaki has, but is pitch perfect when displaying Tamaki’s whiny, overly emotional, off-the-wall self.

  11. LOL I thought the live-action will be kinda silly cause I’ve watched the anime and I can’t really think of it being acted by real people. LOL Cause there, it would end up being silly. Haha!

    But since Koala said so, I think I will check out this drama. 🙂

  12. Ouran is soooo cute. I really like it a lot. I was uncertain if the live version would be any good. I love the anime to pieces but I’m totally smitten with this adaption.
    I haven’t watched Ikemen desu Ne yet, but I actually plan to.
    Hana Kimi 2011 is somehow weird but good, it’s not a total remake of the original 2007 version. The setting remains the same but their take on the story is different and quite fresh, so a thumb ups from me!!!! Although I do find it odd that they remade Hana Kimi when the one from 2007 isn’t that old.

  13. oh whaaa….

    i have been slacking on my non-korean dramas for a while that this news caught be completely by surprise. Well, I guess it was bound to happen in the future with Japan’s obsession with crossdressing mangas. I remembered the anime first aired and I also remember going gaga over it. So much so that I even read the manga. Even now I can’t pick between Tamaki or Hikaru (slightly more fond of the latter).

    I’m a little scared to watch this drama because I did love the anime and manga and I really don’t want to see it butchered.

  14. When I heard that they were gonna make a live-action of this manga/anime, I was like “yeah, right…”. Surprisingly, they pulled it off. Can’t wait until more episodes with all the craziness.

  15. Dear Koala,
    I’m happy to see so much love for the Ouran dorama but I must disagree with you about Ikemen Desu Ne. It doesn’t suck at all. Actually, I think it’s on par with the original. It’s true that Tamamori Yuta is not Jang Geun Suk but he fits the character and delivers which is enough. On the other hand, while Takimoto Miori matches Park Shin Hye in performance, her Mio/Miko is waaaaaaaaaaaay better character than Mi Nam/Mi Nyeo. Mi Nyeo was a bit too stupid for my liking. The supporting cast doesn’t disappoint either. I saw some complaints that the boys are not pretty enough but that’s subjective. I personally have no problems with the way they look.The only thing I really miss is Jolie but I can live with that because the Japanese Jeremy has much less screen time than the Korean Jeremy.I don’t know if that will change in the future. Also, the dorama moves faster than the original which to me is always better. Overall, Ikemen Desu Ne turned out better than expected so I hope that you and the other undecided viewers give it a chance.

    • I agree. I had my doubts about their looks in the beginning but in the beginning of the second episode, Yuta’s devilish grin totally reminded me of Jang Geun Seok! I don’t quite like this Jeremy but that might just be my Hongki bias 😀 I definitely think Ikemen Desu Ne is worth watching, especially since I read somewhere that Jang Geun Seok is gonna be cameoing.

      Also I totally LOVE Ouran High School Host Club! Yamamoto Yusuke is so awesome in these comedies!<3

  16. yay! first watched it on anime.. and now.. live action!! XD
    tamaki.. he’s supposed to be the most handsome among the hosts,,,,not so good looking, but i like his acting.. he’s so funny, that the role really looks suit on him,, starting episode 1.. i’m hooked! just finished reading the manga.. and looking forward to their next episodes!

  17. I really like the live action of Ouran.. I mean I love the manga, and the anime was good, save for some characters that weren’t really needed…. LoL The drama is doing the manga//anime justice so far. It’s cute, it’s quirky, it’s just a nice show to just giggle at.

    The remakes of Hana Kimi, and You’re Beautiful….pffffft… not really liking them at all. I honestly do not understand why they had to remake Hana Kimi, I swear the cast tries WAY to hard to be who the original cast was. I don’t find any of the guys good looking all and all I don’t like really anyone in the new Hana Kimi, it’s just a cheap imitation if you ask me, with bad acting.

    Ikemen desu Ne, eh… not really feeling this one either. I don’t think the main actress is cute like Park Shin Hye, and yeah the guys are just not cute enough for me… I am really let down with those 2 remakes, however Ouran… that one I am totally loving. Just wish the episodes were longer.


  18. Lol, I didn’t expect see this dorama here. I’m watching it fr Yusuke kun^^ and for keeping up my Japanese(slang, current expressions and so on) . I didn’t know anything about Anime myself. So far, so cute.

    By the way, there’s the 4th a girl-cross dressing (to conceal her gender in this one) dorama on NHK this season. Because it’s by NHK, I wasn’t going to watch, but somehow ended up watching it because it takes place in Okinawa, then 琉球王国 governed(pressured?) by both清国 and 薩摩藩. Stuff I don’t know too much about, so very intriguing for me. Now, I want to get a book or two about it as well.

    Oh, and thanks to your warning, I’m not watching other two doramas. I didn’t want to get disappointed.

  19. Aw, you didn’t like Hana Kimi 2011?? I love it, especially after watching episode 2 and 3. How about giving it a second chance?? I admit that the first half of episode 1 was difficult to get through but it gets really good after that.

    I’m also watching Ouran HSHC, and between Ouran and Hana Kimi, I have to say Hana Kimi is the better one of the two. It’s not as random and crazy as the 2007 version, but it is good in the way that there is more of a plot to focus on (the closing of the school), the characters have more issues to deal with and there are a lot of hearts in it too. It’s a typical high school drama that deals with friendships and the chemistry between Sano and Mizuki is also a plus!!!

    So, I am definitely recommending you to give Hana Kimi 2011 a second chance!!! Please try it and not discriminate it so much.

    • I think he’s the best choice for Tamaki. True he’s not really that handsome for me too but I find him adorable, I’d rather have him than a handsome guy who wouldn’t be able to act as random and as funny and as silly as him. He really is making the show totally awesome for me.

  20. My roommate and I are cackling with glee while watching this! Particularly the twins, I was hoping they’d go there….but not really expecting them to go THAT far. I feel kinda dirty watching it…but still cackling. And they are so perfect in being little instigators. Japanese Weasley twins. Tamaki isn’t quite as handsome as I’d like, but I think the hair is the issue. Too much product. Reminds me of Hyun Bin in Sam Soon. Kyoya is everything he needs to be..*drool*. Mori-senpai is awesome.

    We’ve watched the anime twice, so even though we haven’t found subs we’re enjoying it. And doing the whole, “eep can’t wait for the episode where [insert anime/manga style ridiculousness here], bwahahaha!!”

    Great bit of summer uber-fluff.

  21. The manga and the anime were funny hopefully the drama is funny to watch…The characters don’t look to handsome like in the manga n anime but will see if its any good…

  22. I personally love the ouran live action episodes so far. The Hana Kimi 2011 episodes are only keeping interested out if curiousity of the story differences, and the fact I am a Hana kimi die hard fan, and I will not waste anymore time on the Ikemen desu ne episodes. The characters are not charismatic enough for me. Huge disappoint there. Recommended remedy for all who watch the remake of ur beautiful, rematch the Korean version and pretend the japanese version never existed!

  23. I read Ouran years ago and are a Yamamoto Yusuke fangirl so I am totally looking forward to this…I just forgot when it was coming on…so I’ll be sure to DL or stream and watch ASAP!

    Also looking forward to ParaKiss on DVD for Yamamoto Yusuke LOL. That drama he did with Maki Horikta totally won me over to him. Though honestly I’d still watch it because the OTP guy in that is playing George in ParaKiss and Sunako in it too so I’m excitd

    • OMG…I love this show. The use of CGI is AWESOME! The metaness of actually commenting on the crazy is the best. In the manga Haruhi calling him annoying had a visible impact on Tamaki but this drama makes it so much more awesome.

      It reminds me of how I liked the transition of Sunako’s nosebleeds into headbutts for an active version of her reaction for the live action

  24. Thanks for writing your impression. I had heard about the live action, and I wanted to watch it, but I was afraid I would hate it because I loved the anime. I didn’t want to see the live action adaption ruin the anime because most adaptions aren’t as good as the original anyway. But I decided to watch the first episode and it was amazing. Lol I loved the actor that played Tamaki even if he wasn’t as good looking as the anime one. But it would be irrational to expect him to be as good looking because he was animated. I found him endearing and cute. The twins are real live twins but they don’t look identical. However, they are similar looking enough. Watching the actor playing Honey was awkward, but I like how they used his shrinking in size as a gag and that they used a double for scenes when he needed to look smaller. Over all I really enjoyed it and it reminded me of how much I loved the anime. Thanks again.

  25. I loveeeee Ouran HS!!! (the manga)
    Having watch the 1st episode when it was out (raw), I truly enjoy the show.
    I haven’t been able to watch any other show with Yamamoto Yusuke before, as he had to be forever Kayashima Taiki for me (Hanazakari no Kimitachi e 2007). But starting from this, I think I might give Ninkyo Helper a try just for him. (even in Atashinchi no Danshi, I can’t stop thinking about his Hana kimi character ^^)

    With all this gender mash up J-dramas, I actually starting to watch a “non-gender” drama ;literally non gender as in intersexual. Have you heard abt this show Koala? It’s called IS – Otoko Demo Onna Demo Nai Sei , quite interesting, but then again I’m only on episode 1 at the moment

  26. Hi Koala. I haven’t been here for awhile. Hehe! I’ve lacked the taste for dramas after Lie To Me. But isn’t OURAN so adorably cute!!!? It does make me feel like I felt about Hana Kimi before. I love Tamaki and I love him both in the live action and in the anime. I hope they have an SP for this. 10 episode or so won’t cut it.

    I strongly recommend Zenkai Girl as well. Nishikido Ryo is so cute, the acting is solid, the story flow is smooth, and the kids are adorable. There’s also a love story right from the 1st episode which is a bit straightforward for a japanese comedy, it is a bit one-sided on the part of Ryo’s character right now cos the girl is in denial but I really have a great feeling about this. I’ve watched 3 episodes so far and I want more!!!

  27. this sure made this j-dorama season more watchable . . . been a manga fan . . . but i never thought that they would have this live-action fun as the manga . . . i love those CG that they have done . . . makes it more manga-like . . . thanks koala . . . for writing about it

  28. i’m quite hooked with this drama ^_^.. can anyone tell me what day is it being shown in japan? is it just once a week?? I couldn’t get details online.. thanks in advance…

  29. Koala-san, Have you ever read Ouran High School Host Club manga? I see you noticed that you hadn’t…but what about now?
    I dont think Haruna-san acts well in this drama, yup, you said Haruhi didnt try to be a boy…but everyone mistook her for a boy and she roped into as a host…I agree. But Haruna, her acting is
    affected manners…It’s not Haruhi….she doenst look like a boy at all…from appearance to her gestures…and her Haruhi’s characteristics is not Haruhi by any means, so who can mistake her for a boy? Haruhi in manga, her appearance doesnt look like a girl much…and her gestures are, of course, not like a girl…I dont care about Haruna’s appearance…but her acting…I’m totally disappointed…

    Tamaki, of course, is perfect, I dont doubt about acting skills of Yamamoto Yusuke ( or Yosuke as you said) any more…the others are quite faint…I dont have much impression. Daito Shunsuke, you think he acts well? Kyoya is not cool and not like a devil at all…He just tries to be Kyoya constrainedly…his smiles are so warm, not devilish…I think Hikaru, Kaoru, and Honey-sempai are acting better than Shunsuke and Haruna…

    *Ikemen desu ne: you said the actors and actress are not good as the others in Korean version, I dont think so…Mio and Ren act much better than Park Shin Hye and Jang Geun Suk…the Ikemen desu ne’s script is more logical and interesting than You are Handsome…that’s all what I think…

    *Hana Kimi 2011: except Acchan (as Mizuki) and some non-main characters, all the others act so well, especially Aoi Nakamura (as Sano), I think he acts more impressively than Oguri Shun…the script is good, too…I dont know why you dont like it.

    I’m not good at English, so if you dont understand what I mention, I give you an apology…and maybe my opinion and thoughts are not similar to you guys, so sr if you find me crazy or abnomal…I just want to give my ideas…

    Look forward your new post about J-drama…*smile*

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