Sexuality and gender both play a huge role in “girls anime” or shōjo anime, and it is especially important in otaku and doujinshi because it is here that we see both sexuality and gender tampered with even more so. Bishônen (or beautiful boys) is an element of anime that “rapidly became associated with adolescent explorations of gender and identity” (Darlington, 2010, p. 5). Essentially teenagers, in particular young girls, use these male characters and their relationships (platonic or otherwise) to project their own desires (p. 6). Through doujinshi fans are able to take the characters that they love and write them in to their own stories which push the boundaries of sexuality and gender.
This kind of attitude is outwardly explored in Ouran High School Host Club. It incorporates cross-dressing, homosexual lust and attraction, “twincest” and also makes use of the typical stereotyping seen in the boys love genre. The main character is a girl cross-dressing as a boy, and then each of the boys in the host club play different roles of the “Cassanova” figure, the “kawaii” one, the “strong silent” one, and the quiet intelligent one. Tamaki (the “Cassanova”) is a character who represents questioning ones sexuality as he often finds himself attracted to Haruhi both when she is herself and when she cross-dress as a boy. Ryoji “Ranka” Fujioka (Haruhi’s Dad) is a transvestite and “entertainer” at a bar thus another example of a cross-dressing character.
As Darlington states “Ouran engages two important aesthetic traditions, both of which explicitly question traditional sexualities and gender roles, the queer practice of camp and the fan practice of parody”. In order to understand Ouran High School Host Club and its humour you need to know what conventions they are parodying. Without an understanding of how sexuality and gender are portrayed in anime and then exaggerated in otaku and doujinshi the ingenuity of the show is missed.
Exploring this aspect is important for my autoethnographic study as the experience you have watching the show is dependent on what prior knowledge you have. As I’ve shown before in this post an anime amateur won’t get the full effect of the show instead it will just be the most nuts and funny thing you’ve ever seen.
Darlington, T. 2010, ‘The Queering of Haruhi Fujioka: Cross-Dressing, Camp and Commoner Culture in Ouran High School Host Club’, Interdisciplinary Comics Studies, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 1-19.