Why Anime stands the test of time

Why Anime stands the test of time

When it premiered in 2006, Ouran High School Host Club may have come across as just another shojo anime whose heroine was surrounded by pretty boys. But even 16 years later, the show is still available on Crunchyroll and Netflix, the author is constantly invited to anime conventions and articles are continuously written about it, proving that Ouran High School Host Club now deserves cult classic status. Rumors of a second season have hardly died down, and fans are clamoring for a continuation of the beloved story of Haruhi and her friends.

In a medium saturated with content, with hundreds of anime coming out every year, is it worth going back nearly two decades to watch an anime? There are plenty of shojo series, the reverse harem genre gathers more and more entries every year — most recently, the excellent Romantic killer – and you only have so much time to watch TV. But, Ouran High School Host Club is not your average anime. Designed as a parody of shojo titles, the show features excellent character development, a humorous yet thoughtful exploration of gender norms, and an examination of the value of friendship that puts some recent anime to shame.

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Ouran High School Host Club was ahead of its time

Haruhi Fujioka in Episode 1 of Ouran High School Host Club

In 2006, when Death noteMisa Amane embodied the worst tropes of female characterization, Haruhi, Ouran High School Host Clubthe main character, worked like a breath of fresh air. Unintentionally ahead of the curve, Haruhi was a girl who wore men’s clothes because she wanted to and didn’t care if people addressed her as a woman or a man. It’s been noted before: despite the absence of a label – perhaps due to the lack of it at the time, at least in common parlance – Haruhi may be one of the first non-binary characters in anime. In addition, she is intelligent, responsible, strong and confident; all qualities that women in anime often lack.

Moreover, Haruhi’s character is not the only instance of queer representation. Her father is a professional cross-dresser who constantly tries to defend the dignity of the job. Undeniably included for comedic purposes, as for everyone Ouran High School Host Clubthe characters, that’s not all he is – cross-dressing is as much a part of his identity as his role as a loving father and loving husband. Likewise, the girls of Lobelia Academy, a modern parody of a Sapphic institution, are not played solely for laughs. At the end of the first episode featuring them, the boys from Ouran dress up as women to win back Haruhi’s favor. They don’t do it to make fun of their opponents; rather, one could argue that their choice reflects a desire to recognize the value of Lobelia’s worldview and a need for change in order to be worthy of Haruhi’s affection.

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OHSHC is a very empathetic show

Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin from Ouran High School Host Club

Another instance of queer representation that seemed problematic to some actually hides one of the Ouran High School Host Clubits greatest qualities: its empathy. The Hitachin twins Hikaru and Kaoru, with their theatrical incest charade, certainly play with the audience’s love of taboos and may annoy people because theirs is an act of queerbaiting. However, their “brotherly love” demeanor masks deep issues of isolation and alienation. Ever since childhood, the twins have only had each other – no one has really tried to connect with them or understand their differences. Their action therefore seems both a taunt and a cry for help, which is eventually heard by Haruhi – the only person who manages to separate them and therefore truly get through to them.

These quirky characters with troubled pasts and presents populate the world Ouran High School Host Club. From Haruhi and the Hitachin twins to Haruhi’s father and the girls at Lobelia Academy, the series uses these characters for comedy but never fails to love and cherish them. The anime’s most obnoxious character, Tamaki, ends up being the most adorable too – he’s flamboyant and egotistical, but his flamboyance masks a deep-seated loneliness, and his love for his friends is often touching, especially when demonstrated through subtle gestures he makes . How can one forget Tamaki’s willingness to quietly help Haruhi through the thunderstorm?

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Ouran’s value of friendship acts as a catalyst for growth

Hikaru-Haruhi-Ouran

The exploration of friendship as a catalyst for growth is without question Ouran High School Host Clubhis highest achievement. Hikaru is the most obvious example of this, though not the only one. Revealed by his jealousy of Haruhi’s childhood friend, Hikaru learns that he is ready to open up to others besides his brother. As Kaoru eloquently puts it, Hikaru must learn to care for people instead of treating them like toys. It is Haruhi’s talent for understanding her friends, as well as the help of Kaoru and Tamaki, that finally manages to change Hikaru. This happens to most of the characters in the show, and usually because of their friendship with Haruhi. After all, Haruhi is the show’s true masterpiece: a strong young woman, compassionate and empathetic, and proof of how positive human relationships can be when one is willing to listen and understand.

However, the message would not have the same impact on the viewer if it did not come coated with a layer of humor and laugh-out-loud moments. Tamaki’s eccentric ways, Kyoya’s manipulative tricks, and Honey’s unquenchable thirst for sweet things all contribute to the audience falling in love with the characters, only to be surprised by their unexpected depth. The anime plays on the huge gap between the club’s and Haruhi’s experiences of life – the former being spoiled heirs to rich families, the latter an average girl. The comedy of the hijinks that inevitably follows is only heightened by instances of meta-narrative, such as when Tamaki complains in one of the episodes that one of the characters is adding “sound effects” to his moment of desperation.

Even 16 years later, it’s rare to come across an anime that so skillfully combines comedy and drama, funny moments and instances of character growth. Whether a second season is in the works is still unclear, however Ouran High School Host Club is definitely worth watching again. As for new viewers, they’ll be pleasantly surprised by the show’s lovable characters, with their many quirks and irresistible flaws.

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