My rating (so far) 5 out of 5 stars.
This review is a bit of a saga – it has three updates (at volumes 1, 3 and 9). And even then it isn’t finished because the series is 18 volumes long, so there will definitely be at least one more update to come! (I’ll try and keep it to just one more)
After reading volume 1:
(Rating: 1 star)
I couldn’t stand the art (having seen the anime first), and ended up selling my only volume off at a con bring and buy without even finishing it! Glad I went back to it though…
After reading up to volume 3:
(Rating: 4 stars)
I can imagine that most manga/anime fans will have probably seen or heard of the anime adaptation of Ouran before picking up the manga. Those wanting more of the same should be pretty happy with the manga, as it follows the anime almost to-the-letter so far, plus there is the certainty of new material that goes beyond where the anime series finished.
Ouran High School Host Club is basically reverse-harem shoujo crack at its finest: a normal teenage girl is mistaken for a boy, knocks over an expensive vase by accident and somehow winds up paying off her debt by masquerading as a boy and becoming part of the school’s Host Club – where filthy rich pretty boys with too much time on their hands entertain filthy rich pretty girls with too much time on their hands.
So the series is about a normal (albiet quite sharp and cynical) girl, who spends her time surrounded by a doting group of various beautiful boys: what’s not for a teenage female reader to like? And yes, it sounds kind of rubbish when you explain it like that, but there are 2 great things that make Ouran deserving of its 4-star score!
1. Character depth and relationships: outwardly the Ouran characters are pretty shallowly designed – there’s your glasses-wearing guy, stoic guy, babyface guy, twins etc. etc. but once you get into reading the series their personalities, backstories and interactions with each other make them much more unique people (albiet still comedically over-the-top people).
2. Sense of humour: the way the author plays with the boundary between normal (‘poor’) people and the filthy rich Ouran students is hilarious, plus some funny moments come simply from the range of character traits of the Host Club members, and subversion of them.
The only thing that lets the manga version Ouran down for me is the artwork – originally I was really turned off by the art style in issue 1 as the characters seemed way uglier than their anime counterparts. However, the giant eyes do get steadily downplayed as the series goes on, and after flicking through a random copy of vol. 10 in the shops one day I could see that the art did eventually converge more with the look of the anime.
After reading up to vol. 9:
Absolutely loving this manga series! The art has got a lot prettier and more consistent now that I’m on volume 9, making it easier to read and more enjoyable all round.
So far there has only been one chapter with events that I don’t recall from the anime – everything else is very similar, and with the improvements to the artwork I’m enjoying the manga now at least as much as the anime, which is just what I wanted from it.
What I love about reading manga over watching anime though is that you do it at your own pace, so I can read quickly past some of the silly school side stories but savour the moments of character development and chuckle-able funny bits :)