The live-action Ouran Hight School Host Club drama is here and boy is it a doozie. I thought an eccentric Suou Tamaki voiced by Miyano Mamoru was a bit much, but Yamamoto Yuusuke takes it to another level. Don’t even get me started about the twins, Hitachiin Kaoru and Hikaru, played by real-life twin actors Takagi Manpei and Shinpei respectively, who take their forbidden love act to uncomfortable extremes. That’s the number one thing that I wasn’t looking forward to at all. 3D can be pretty dangerous.
At the center of all the antics, we have poor Fujioka Haruhi (in every sense of the word poor), played by Kawaguchi Haruna. For those completely unfamiliar with the 26-episode anime that aired back in 2006 and the 18-volume manga that was published from 2002 to 2010, the quick rundown the premise is that Haruhi is a commoner, who enters the prestigious school intended for the rich, Ouran Academy, on a scholarship. She’s often mistaken for a guy since she doesn’t care about her appearance and only hopes to pass the next three years of high school as unnoticed as possible. That all changes when she enters the No. 3 Music Room in search of a quiet place to study, only to find a host club run by Tamaki. She inadvertently breaks an 8 million yen vase and winds up working in the club to pay it off. Most of the other members — vice president Ootori Kyouya (Daitou Shunsuke), the aforementioned twins Hitachiin Kaoru and Hikaru, and third-year seniors, Haninozuka Misukuni a.k.a. “Honey” (Chiba Yuudai) and Morinozuka Takashi (Nakamura Masaya) — initially believe that Haruhi’s an unattractive guy, but when the glasses come off it’s a whole different story. Most of them realize that she’s a girl fairly quickly, except Tamaki who finds out last and falls head-over-heels in love with Haruhi even more.
If you’ve never watched a Japanese drama based on a manga/anime, Ouran High School Host Club will probably be too much to take in. It actually took me a while to get accustomed to all the actor versions of the characters, even though I’m familiar with both the anime and these shoujo drama adaptations in general. Once I did, I was pretty impressed by Yuusuke’s performance as Tamaki. The only other drama I’ve seen him in is Hanazakari no Kimi-tachi e, where he had a relatively soft-spoken role, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Also, Tamaki’s not exactly the easiest type of character to play — often going off on a complete tangent when no one even cares to listen — yet Yuusuke brings out all his sudden mood changes remarkably well. He’s goofy and eccentrically idiotic, but that’s the way his character’s meant to be as far as I’m concerned. Throw in some CG effects to give it the anime-esque feel and we’re golden.
Haruna on the other hand is in more of a “reactive role” as Haruhi, since she gets caught up the host club’s pace more often than not. Because of that, she didn’t really leave much of a first impression other than she definitely looks the part. As for the others, Kyouya’s calculating like he should be and Mori is tall and quiet, leaving Honey as the last role that I wasn’t sure how it would play out. I had enough difficulty getting accustomed to an anime character who looks like a cute kid, so it was even harder with a 21-year-old actor acting like one. At first, I found Yuudai befitting of Honey’s character, but still incredibly awkward to watch. To the drama’s credit, they did make it somewhat easier by making a gag of how Honey seems to shrink in size, and even got a child body double to that end when he’s seen from behind. It definitely helps but I’ll still need a couple of more episodes before I’m used to the live-action version of him.
Much like the manga and anime started off, we’re given a quick introduction to the characters and shown how Haruhi gets dragged into the host club, before everyone makes a big deal out of instant coffee because they’re all filthy rich and never had it before. That had its fair share of quirky moments and then things got kind of ugly care of a jealous Ayanokouji Seika a.k.a. “Princess” (Ookawa Ai). Both aspects were pretty entertaining to watch, since it’s fun seeing how certain scenes are adapted. I was surprised to see Black Magic Club president Nekozawa Umehito (Ryuusei Ryou) and his cat hand-puppet Beelzenef get as much screen time as he did though. It seemed to suggest that he’s going to be a much more regular character in this drama. In any case, I like what I see and got a really good laugh out of Tamaki’s shock at the end. I’m going to go out on a limb and say female audiences that Ouran High School Host Club is targeted toward will appreciate the real-life fan-service too. There’s plenty more of that next time, when Haruhi has to somehow slip past a physical examination as a guy after becoming so popular with the female students. It’s like Hanakimi all over again now that I think about it. I can’t say that’s a bad thing though.