Ouran High School Host Club

Autoethnographic Experience of OHSHC

Ouran High School Host Club was probably the 4th or 5th anime series I ever watched and is vastly different from the rest. The first episode I tried to watch the English dubbed version and it just didn’t sound right to me, I could tell a lot of the lines just didn’t exactly match up so I switched to English subtitles. The story line is kind of hard to explain, the plot summary on IMDB says “At the ultra prestigious Ouran High School, Haruhi Fujioka looks for a quiet place to read and walks into an unused music room, and accidentally stumbles across the notorious Ouran High School Host Club, a group of boys who entertain the girls of the school for profit. When Haruhi accidentally breaks an expensive vase belonging to the wacky Host Club, she is made to serve under them until her debt is paid off. Haruhi is soon made a Host, but in order to pay off what she owes, she must continue to allow the Host Club’s customers to believe she is a boy.”

I definitely started watching it because it was fun, silly, colourful and a little bit ridiculous. But I continued watching because of the intelligent use of satire as well as Haruhi who is such a strong female lead character who is constantly rolling her eyes at these boys who are just so ridiculous and foreign to her. It’s so refreshing to see the teenage boys being viewed as the crazy ridiculous characters, that being said there are plenty of strange and silly girls in the show too.

After watching the first few episodes I had to do some research to find out what Host Clubs were and if they actually existed, so that I could understand the show better considering Host Clubs are a foreign concept to me. They do in fact exist but from the personal experiences I read online they aren’t nearly as fun and glamorous as Ouran High School Host Club might lead you to believe.

For my digital artefact I have chosen to do character profiles to highlight the different characteristics of anime that are used and parodied in the show. These character profiles will be formatted in to a tumblr because tumblr is a platform used by lots of fans for sharing photos, gifs, thoughts, fanfictions. I think because it’s such a widely used platform for fans it’s the most appropriate place to profile characters.

The tumblr is obviously not finished yet but when it is it can be found here… The Faces of Ouran High School Host Club.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816397/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl

Western perspectives on OHSHC

Western perspective of Ouran High School Host Club is varied. Many forums and comment sections on the topic of anime, particularly for first time viewers of anime carry the same attitude “don’t start watching anime with Ouran High School Host Club”; reason being that you’re going to be watching this brilliant but weird show that just won’t make sense to you yet. The contrasting Western perspective on the show is pretty well displayed in the video I referenced in my blog post “Ouran High School Host Club… again.” on digital storytelling. The video has an anime fan who is all about Ouran High School Host Club and someone who is new to anime who says it’s just weird.

For Western viewers I think it’s such a great insight in to certain aspects of Japanese culture that aren’t really well known and are also such a contrast to Western culture. It’s also a way for Western audiences to be able to understand why things like otaku, doujinshi, Boys’ Love and yaoi are so hugely popular.

Ouran High School Host Club is a combination of genres – drama, harem, romance and comedy. Sometimes with animes the comedy aspect is not necessarily translatable to Western culture but I think with Ouran High School Host Club it does work very well. Often the comedy of anime can be that Western viewers are watching and laughing at the “quirkiness” of the show rather than the jokes of the show. Anyone who watches it and is either well out of their teenage years, or just out of them or wishing they were out of them can relate. It’s obviously over exaggerated, as is the nature of shōjo animes, but that’s what makes it so hilarious.

The whole idea of my autoethnographic study is to explore how prior knowledge can affect your experience. Without an understanding of anime characteristics and stereotypes the point of the show is completely missed. Many anime fans who start watching the show believe it to be a silly romantic anime but after watching discover the complexity of the show through its satire and social commentary. My own personal experience definitely followed along those lines; I had no idea what I was getting in to when I first started watching it. I’ve since watched the series again and I swear it gets better every time.

Boys’ Love & Yaoi

Hitachiin_Twins

Boys’ Love is pretty much what it sounds like; it is anime that depicts beautiful boys or bishônen, “androgynous beautiful boys who love other beautiful boys” (Walker, 2006, p. 842). As I’ve explored in my 2 previous posts about “Otaku, fan culture and fan fiction” and “Sexuality and Gender”, “Boys’ Love” is another way “readers can experiment with romance and sexuality through identification with the beautiful boy characters… necessary because shōjo readers were not able to “positively accept their own sexuality as women”” (p. 842).

Yaoi is related to Boys’ Love however is not the same thing. It is an acronym for “Yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi’ which roughly translates as ‘No build-up, no foreclosure, and no meaning’ (Kinsella, 1998: 301). The acronym has also generated a backronym: ‘Yamete! Oshiri ga itai!’, whose English translation ‘Stop! My ass hurts!’” (Zanghellini, 2009, p. 160). It is similar to Boys’ Love in that it centers around homoerotic love however Yaoi is fan created, as such it is often more sexually explicit.

Ouran High School Host Club isn’t specifically an example of Boys’ Love or Yaoi but it displays elements of both. All of the members of the Host Club could be classified as “beautiful boys”, although it is not technically homosexual as Haruhi is a girl, Tamaki demonstrates an element of “beautiful boy” in that he shows romantic feelings towards Haruhi both when she is dressed as a boy and when she is herself. The Hitachinn twins, Hikaru and Kaoru, illustrate more of the Yaoi elements such as incestuous nature, for the Hitachinn twins it is cleverly termed “twincest”. “Twincest” is a popular element of Yaoi, romantic and sexual interest being exhibited between two unlikely characters – brothers.

As I’ve said in previous blog posts, when you first watch the show, if you’re unaware of these characteristics that can be found within genres of anime the show can appear to be extremely bizarre. Which is why these blog posts are explaining the different characteristics and how the show parodies them.

I’d like to point out that Ouran High School Host Club is a very innocent show. Boys’ Love and Yaoi can be very explicit and as such come under a lot of censorship, particularly in the Western world, for depictions of underage “romantic” relationships, non-consensual sex etc. Ouran High School Host Club is very inoffensive and rather parodies these aspects of otaku fans.

 

Reference:

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.

Walker, J, 2006, “Beautiful, Borrowed, and Bent: “Boys’ Love” as Girls’ Love in Shôjo Manga”, New Feminist Theories of Visual Culture, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 814-870.

Zanghellini, A. 2009, “Underage Sex and Romance in Japanese Homoerotic Mangae and Anime”, Social & Legal Studies, vol. 18, no. 159, pp. 159-177.

Sexuality and Gender in Anime

Haruhi

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.

Reference:

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.

Otaku, Fan Culture and Fan Fiction

Otaku Meme

According to the Otaku Encyclopaedia, the English equivalent of Otaku is “geek or fanboy. A hardcore or cult fan.” However it has a lot more meaning than that, in Western culture it has always been a positive notion to associate yourself with however it wasn’t until the early 2000s that Japanese negative connotations associated with Otaku started to fade (Galbraith, 2009, p. 171-173). Simply put it is someone who is a fan of anime, manga, video games and technology. “Otaku have come to represent a “Peter Pan syndrome, or the refusal to grow up and take on adult social relations. […] Without social roles, otaku had no fixed identities, no fixed gender roles, and no fixed sexuality (Kinsella 308-12, 314)” (Darlington, 2010, p. 13). The Otaku world is a place where young Japanese people can express their true fantasy through creating their own amateur manga, dressing in costume etc. and because of this Japanese mainstream culture has looked down on it. Darlington states that the mainstream culture views it “as a symbol of dangerously misguided youth, has created its own counter-economy by producing narratives that undermine the values of the society that looks down on them.” (2010, p. 10).

An important part of otaku is the fan fiction created, the Japanese term for this is doujinshi, and it is hugely influential. The fans take the original characters and place them in “new stories, alternative couplings, or parallel worlds” (Galbraith, 2009, p.65). Fan fiction is nothing new, it very much exists in the Western world too, take for instants 50 Shades of Grey which is definitely the most successful work of fan fiction for Twilight. Doujinshi is so popular that it has its own convention called Comic Market which was established in 1975 for otaku to attend and “distribute amateur manga” (Darlington, 2010, p. 10). In Japan fan fiction is an industry in itself, no only does it have the convention but also bookstores and publications and is almost branching out on its own separate from mainstream manga.

Having background knowledge of otaku and doujinshi is important for understanding Ouran High School Host Club because the most significant element of the show is its play on otaku culture.

 

References:

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.

Galbraith, P.W. 2009, The otaku encyclopedia: an insider’s guide to the subculture of cool Japan, Kodansha International, New York.

 

OHSHC – Laying the groundwork.

ouran_highschool_host_club_by_miraby-d7byxtt

Ouran High School Host Club is a difficult show to wrap your head around. It deals with host clubs, twincest, “boys love”, gender fluidity, fan culture, cross-dressing and a multitude of other interesting themes. I’m going to use my blog posts as well as character profiles in order to lay the groundwork for my major work which will explore how Ouran High School Host Club is a parody of anime… while being an anime. It’s interesting that in order to understand the show and the show’s humour you need to have an understanding of anime. As such it’s an interesting anime to examine in a Western setting because anime does not have the same level of following as it does in Asia.

I’m going to create character profiles as a way of exploring the different characteristics of anime that the show examines. For example the character of Fujioka Haruhi is the perfect image of gender fluidity as she cross-dresses as a boy for majority of the show. The character profiles will be compiled on a blog.

The blog posts will look at the following:

1. Otaku, fan culture and fanfiction

2. Sexuality and gender

3. Boys love

4. Western perspective

5. My autoethnographic study

Ouran High School Host Club… again.

SourceFedNerd has a segment called “Anime Club” hosted by two people, one who loves anime and one who hasn’t seen much or any anime, and they talk about their experience with watching the show. This video is an example of autoethnography in the form digital storytelling in that it is two people talking about their experience of watching “Ouran High School Host Club” (which relates to my own personal autoethnographic study). Meg Turney (who enjoys and regularly watches anime) explains the show to give both Ross Evertt (the anime novice) and the audience more understanding.

They use video as their digital media and the platform of choice is YouTube. Through this medium they are able to speak directly to the audience about their experience with watching Ouran High School Host Club and are also able to communicate with their audience about what the members of their audience experienced when watching said show. This creates an ongoing conversation in the comments about other peoples personal stories relating to anime and how they felt about it. Most of the comments on this particular video all said that “Ouran High School Host Club” was not the anime to start with for someone who is new to anime, which I absolutely agree with because it’s a parody so you need to have an understanding of anime clichés to grasp the humour. Other than that being the main comment others focused on listing reasons why the loved the show as well as suggesting other shows to be watched on Anime Club.

Through watching this example of digital story telling and hearing Meg and Ross’s stories regarding anime it’s very relatable to me because I myself experienced a similar thing. Ouran High School Host Club was not the first anime I ever watched and I was already aware of the fact that the show was a little bit out there the first time I watched it however I still experience moments of “what the hell is happening”; particularly in relation to the concept of a Host Club itself as well as the use of “twincest”. It was interesting to hear two different experiences because my own experience sat somewhere in the middle; a combination of “this is the weirdest show I’ve ever seen” and “I love this show!”.

Has any one else seen Ouran High School Host Club? Or hear of it? Or had that experience of “what is this weird anime I’m watching” with another show?