Archive for the ‘Shojo’ 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 :)


A Drunken Dream and Other Stories

March 29, 2011

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I was interested in this book as I’d heard that Moto Hagio was one of the pioneers of sci-fi comics for girls as part of the ‘Magnificent 49ers’ group in the 1970s. This group included Keiko Takemiya, and I’d already read and enjoyed Takemiya’s ‘To Terra’, as well as Hagio’s own short sci-fi series ‘They were Eleven’, so thought I’d give this one a go.

When I first received the book, I have to say I was a bit put off by the print format. This is a big hardback volume with some colour pages, and very much reminds of those old ‘A Treasury of 100 Stories for Children’ doorstop-type hardback books I remember from my childhood. I was expecting more of a Viz Signature style slightly-posh tankoubon, so this threw me a bit. In the end though I enjoyed the feeling of reading Hagio’s work at a larger size, and will be keeping this book in part as a 70s shojo art reference book, as much as a story book.

This book is a collection of several short stories. They do not seem to be grouped around any strong central theme or genre in particular (bar the obvious shojo connection), but they can all be characterised by a degree of sentimentality, a focus on emotion, and leaving the reader with something a little bit philosophical to ponder after finishing each story.

The most thought provoking tales are ‘Hanshin: Half God” and “Iguana Girl”. Hanshin centres around a set of conjoined twins: a beautiful one who gets all of the attention but does not have the mental faculties to look after herself, and the more intelligent twin who constantly looks like she’s at death’s door, because she has to prop up her sister. It is very much about the relationship between love and hate, and the fact that it could be possible to both love and hate someone else, or even parts of yourself.

“Iguana Girl” is a story about the relationship between mothers and daughters. In this story the author is directly addressing issues she has faced in her life with her mother completely dismissing her desire to become a professional comics creator (and perhaps in turn, completely dismissing the parts of her daughter’s personality or life choices that she didn’t agree with) – the author talks about this a bit in the interview at the back of the book. I get the feeling that any girl or woman could find something to relate to in this story (and perhaps anyone who has become a mum and wondered why they weren’t automatically the ‘perfect’ mother).

Stories like ‘Bianca’ and ‘Girl on Porch with Puppy’ are rather more sentimental and dated-feeling. However if you are a lover of 70s shojo manga artwork these are lovely to look at, with some of the most striking illustrations in the book.

I also can’t finish this mini-review without mentioning the title story ‘A Drunken Dream’ as its the only sci-fi one in the book! I found the plot a little dated and formulaic (it reminded me a bit of Tezuka’s ‘Apollo’s Song’), but the story nails that pulp entertainment feeling perfectly: science fiction mixed with mythology and a dash of surrealism.

All in all I would definitely recommend this book to those who like older-style shojo artwork. The format means that it can definitely work as an art reference book as much as a collection of stories, though I am a bit dissappointed by the lack of sci-fi here. The slightly surreal and thought-provoking tales remind me of Haruki Murakami’s short stories (though with much more of a female perspective, and a little more dated). But even so, I would recommend this also to people who have enjoyed Murakami’s short stories, or anything involving real life with a twist of the strange.