Ouran High School Host Club 5 by Bisco Hatori: A

From the back cover:
Haruhi’s top ranking falls and she is in jeopardy of losing her scholarship at Ouran. Each member of the Host Club scrambles to become her tutor, but Haruhi picks a female student, Ayame, to help her. Haruhi’s time is now spent with Ayame, who can’t stand Tamaki. Can Tamaki charm his way into Ayame’s good graces so the Host Club can spend time with their favorite member?

The synopsis above relates only to the first chapter in this volume, which I liked, but it’s the chapters taking place in Karuizawa over summer vacation that are truly wonderful. Not only is the story just cute in general, the twins get a lot of fleshing out, both how they operate together when alone as well as their individual personalities. I never disliked them, but now I’m far more fond of them than before. And more than that, I’m appreciating each one as a distinct, separate character rather than as a unit. Nifty nifty.

The final chapter is alright, I suppose. I didn’t like the little girl at all and actually, when this bit was animated I suspected it might be random filler invented for that purpose. It’s that ho-hum, and is only really worth it for Tamaki and Nekozawa. Now I’m a little worried about what volume 6 will bring. This manga has demonstrated its ability to be awesome; keep it up!

Lastly, I must mention the cute little side panels about the Host Rangers, assigning each club member a color and silly special attacks that they can perform. My favorite: the twins’ “Irresponsible Beam!”

Ouran High School Host Club 4 by Bisco Hatori: B+

From the back cover:
Curious about Haruhi’s standard of living, the Host Club members barge into her personal life by paying her a visit at home. While the guys do their utmost to be polite, everything they do seems to backfire, especially for poor Tamaki! On top of it all, he trips and lands on top of Haruhi—just in time for her father to catch them in a compromising position….

That’s a rather poorly done description of this volume, since the tripping incident happened at the end of the last volume and is where this one begins.

This volume was a little hit and miss with me. I liked episode 13, which concludes the visit to Haruhi’s house and has tons of cute Tamaki bits, and episode 16, with some nice Tamaki/Haruhi interaction. Episode 14 is all about a cavity Hunny gets, and is pretty dumb really, and episode 15 puts the cast in Alice in Wonderland. Although it’s better than I expected, it still breaks the fourth wall and doesn’t have much narrative purpose.

Fully one-third of the volume is a side story called “Love Egoist.” While I was a little annoyed at first by how much space it occupied, I ended up really liking it. It’s kind of a continuation of a side story that was in volume 2, though the main characters are different. Hopefully there’ll be more.

All in all, the good stuff was good enough to outweigh any disappointment caused by the not-so-good stuff, which really wasn’t all that bad.

Ouran High School Host Club 3 by Bisco Hatori: A

From the back cover:
It’s summer break, and the Host Club crew head to the beach, dragging our reluctant heroine with them. When Haruhi stands up to some local bullies and gets tossed into the ocean, Tamaki, the Host Club King, rescues her. But afterward, he’s so mad that he won’t speak to her until she apologizes. Trouble is, Haruhi can’t figure out what she should be sorry for!

Haruhi is such a great leading character. She’s not excitable, clumsy, weepy, flighty, or any other negative trait I’ve seen in a shoujo heroine that was supposed to make them cute. She’s level-headed, sensible, independent, and not at all annoying. If Haruhi were an actual person, I’d probably be a little in awe of her.

I am happy to say that not only was volume 3 better than 2, it was also better than the anime versions of some of these stories. Nekozawa is completely cut out of the anime’s version of the visit to the beach, and the Robelia/Lobelia Gakuen chapter has several differences. Since I thought this one of the weaker of the anime episodes, these differences went a long way in redeeming this story for me.

Coolest of cools, there’s a Halloween chapter that hasn’t been animated! Probably because it hasn’t got a lot of story, but it does feature Tamaki in a completely adorable vampire costume. He’s also in a few other nice outfits throughout the volume. Rarely do I have such a fangirly crush on a bishounen, but I must admit that I really do like looking at him.

Ouran High School Host Club 2 by Bisco Hatori: A-

From the back cover:
The school-wide physical exam has thrown the members of the Host Club for a loop. How can the doctor not discover that Haruhi is a girl?! And once the female customers learn the truth, Haruhi can kiss her job goodbye. But then life at the club will be unbearably boring if she leaves! So the guys wrack their brains for a solution…

This volume corresponds with episodes 3 and 5-7 of the anime. I thought some bits of 7 might’ve been anime-only filler, buuuut turns out they weren’t. I didn’t like this volume quite as much as the first, because it felt like it was getting a little gimmicky. I don’t like manga where things like panda mecha or cages or alligators just randomly appear out of nowhere. The interesting characters and art that’s beautiful and cute in just the right proportion make me a little more forgiving in Ouran’s case, but I hope it doesn’t become a trend.

I continue to appreciate the moments where Tamaki succeeds in engineering happiness for someone the club has encountered, and especially enjoy seeing Haruhi being stunned by Tamaki’s brief flashes of perceptive kindness. “I like good deeds,” one of his thought bubbles declares, as he smilingly observes another success. I like Haruhi and Mori a lot, but at this point, Tamaki is my favorite character. I hope to see more insight and depth for him in the future.

Ouran High School Host Club 1 by Bisco Hatori: A+

From the back cover:
One day, Haruhi, a scholarship student at exclusive Ouran High School, breaks an $80,000 vase that belongs to the “Host Club,” a mysterious campus group consisting of six super-rich (and gorgeous) guys. To pay back the damages, she is forced to work for the club, and it’s there that she discovers just how wealthy the members are and how different the rich are from everybody else…

I’d had the first few volumes of this series for a while, but after seeing how fabulous the anime is, I’ve finally been prompted to read them. I think I’m liking the characters even more since I can imagine mannerisms and voices and all that. Even though he’s such a dork, I totally love Tamaki. He is everything adorable about Ayame and Shigure rolled into a Yuki Eiri-ish package.

Haruhi is an interesting heroine, as well. A little reluctant initially to undertake host duties, she eventually takes to it naturally, with paying off her debt as the prime motivation. She is not as traumatized by her charade as other shoujo leads have been, and has some interesting quotes that illustrate her perspective. For example: “Can’t say that I fully appreciate the perceived differences between the sexes anyway” and “I kinda enjoy having the girls hassle over me. Guess I’m a little bent that way.”

I haven’t done any in-depth comparison to the anime, but things are pretty much the same in the manga. There’s the jealous customer of Tamaki’s, the girl who likes teacups, and the crazy Renge, who I don’t like very much. One interesting tidbit about Haruhi’s family is mentioned that hasn’t cropped up in the anime yet, but I shan’t say more in case they decide to mention it in the future. The best part, of course, is the characters, how they take Haruhi under their wing in their misguided detached-from-reality-rich-boys kind of way, and how they earnestly try to make their customers happy. Could not possibly be more highly recommended.