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I was a little reluctant to purchase this box set as anime that is particularly popular in the mainstream sense is usually very bland, generic and really isn't as good as the manga version but an entire series for under £10 couldn't be bad I remember when you had to pay £19.99 for a single anime disc that sometimes only had 3-5 episodes on it, anime has significantly reduced in price since the days when I started collecting it. I was pleasantly surprised with this series however even if it isn't as good as its manga.
(The host club is where the young handsome men of the school serve young ladies with too much time and money teas and cakes and mildly woo them for a small fee, they also dress up in period clothes and generally different themes representative of the season or occasion , for instance cherry blossoms and samurai in the Spring)
The plot goes as follows Haruhi whom has received a bursary to attend the most prestigious school in the country for rich snobby kids who spend most of their time drifting through school with too much time on their hands. Unfortunately for Haruhi she has to wear her father's old uniform since her family doesn't have enough to buy a new one for her and due to her slim body shape she is mistaken for a male student. Unfortunately this does not go in her favour as when she is trying to find a quiet place to study she ends up in an all boy school host club, knocks over a priceless vase and ends up owing the school thousands of pounds in damage, in order to pay this off she herself must work as a male host and attract female customers to pay off her debt. Needless to say the plot contains lots of cross dressing on both sides and homo erotic jokes and themes (after all her father is a cross dresser himself that works at a bar) in light comic humor, the rating is for 15+ but there is never any real nudity just suggestive themes so that may be a bit of a severe rating as the manga goes a bit further.
The character structure reminds me a bit of that of the fruits basket anime and manga you have a tall dark and mysterious boy and short cute blonde boy host Mitsukuni and Mori which remind me of Hatsuharu and Momiji characters of Fruits Basket and Kyoya the real brains behind the host club reminds me of the fruits basket character Shigure as although they seem calm and organised from the outside behind closed doors they are struggling to cope with the pressures of maintain their cool and collected image. Another similarity is that both Haruhi the heroine of Ouran and Tohru Honda of fruits basket are both high school girls who have lost their mothers and have become retrospectively downtrodden by the world just to be rescued by numerous handsome men. The ideal scenario for female audiences who loved their Disney movies it even parodies some of these traditional stories with mild references.
Needless to say this a structure used in a few different manga stories that has worked over and over again for the female market where one girl is faced with threat of falling in love with numerous handsome men from all different fetish perspectives. In saying that it is all about the relationships that develop between the characters there is very little school work seen being done in this anime or even studying for that matter it's a wonder anyone ever graduates from this school I will tell you that!
The plot also develops quite well though in that the more you watch the more you realise that it isn't all hearts and roses as each of the characters has a bit of a dark past and the only thing holding them together is the host club which Haruhi seems to cement further, though all of the boys are afraid to make a move in case they damage what they have, if Haruhi turns them down it could lead to awkwardness and failure of the club, if they make Haruhi fall in love with them the club could fail because of feelings of distrust or jealousy and revealing to the rest of the school that Haruhi is actually female. Meanwhile Haruhi remains relatively oblivious to it all concerned mainly with paying of her debt.
In terms of the storytelling of the anime there are some differences, the manga goes a lot deeper into character development and the anime has a lot more filler when watching there series the second or third time I end up skipping episodes as they seem kind of unrelated to the direct storyline. The manga is so much longer though than the anime which is shortened version but in my opinion they could have just done away with the side plots and concentrated on just one or two main relationships though but that's just my feeling.
The DVD comes in dual language so you can watch the anime in English or Japanese with subtitles although I have to say that the English is very nicely done so I don't think you would miss out by watching it either way although with all anime the subtitles are always going to be slightly different than the anime due to lip matching.
Overall I have to say I did enjoy it though even if the stereotypes of the rich characters are stretched very much to the extreme. For instance the host club only tries pot noodles and instant coffee for the first time when Haruhi goes and does their shopping for them. Or the fact that Haruhi actually cooks and doesn't actually have servants and lives with her cross dressing dad in an ordinary apartment. It also assumes that all wealth kids are ridiculously beautiful and gorgeously handsome.
The DVDs also have some extras such as other anime previews interactive menus; clean opening and closing scenes with ought text. I think £10 or less for 26 half hour episodes is really good value however though I would read the manga too as it does go into more depth and fills in some of the gaps that the anime may not explain fully.