Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

Ouran High School Host Club

July 8, 2011

 

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:

(5 stars)

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 :)

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Emma

April 27, 2011

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sadly out of print now with the demise of CMX, ‘Emma’ is a beautiful 10 volume manga series which centres around a love story between William, the son of a wealthy businessman, and a maid called Emma.

The author perfectly captures the bittersweet nature of their romance (seeing as it was practically unheard of in Victorian times to form close relationships like that between class boundaries), and this main plot forms a very strong opener and backbone for the series as a whole.

However, Emma does not purely focus on the two main characters: a lot of thought and detail is put into the side characters who help, hinder, or otherwise cross paths with Emma and William, plus the many places they inhabit. The comic is set in an intriguing and believeable version of Victorian England, which is quite a feat considering the creator, Kaoru Mori, had not even visited England until she had finished at least 2 or 3 volumes of the series.

The artwork for Emma is some of the best I have come across in manga: the style of pen and inkwork used (especially in the backgrounds) perfectly suits the Victorian setting. The characters are beautiful and, to me, felt like they are drawn by someone who delights in studying the human form (which is later evidenced by Mori mentioning ‘drawing hands and hair to my heart’s content’ in one of the afterwords).

The main love story plot finishes off at the end of volume 7 (though it is brought back right at the end of volume 10 to cap off the series). Volumes 8-10 focus solely on the ‘private lives’ of some of the side characters, and these volumes are some of the most satisfying reading for a comics fan in my opinion. Mori lets her hair down a bit and produces some very interesting, more experimental, chapters. For example, there’s one chapter that is a series of vignettes centred around the distribution of ‘The Times’ newspaper – who reads it, and its other many uses in Victorian society (like wrapping fish and chips, or of course prviding a comfy seat for a cat).  Chapters like this reminded me of Will Eisner’s ‘New York: Life in the Big City’ collection – intriguing observations of people’s daily lives.

So yes, if you can get your hands on it, I would greatly recommend this comic – it is a million miles away from stereotypical exploitative maid-fetish manga, and extremely high quality work.