Unlike the anime that featured an original ending with Éclair Tonnerre, the drama sticks to the source material where Tamaki decides to quit the Host Club for Haruhi’s sake. Having seen both variations, I have to say that I prefer the manga’s storyline, simply because it directly involves Haruhi.
In the anime, Tamaki agrees to his grandmother’s wishes so that he would be allowed to see his mother again, whereas in the manga (and here), he agrees because she threatens to kick Haruhi out of Ouran if he continues to mess with her life by making her cross-dress and take part in the Host Club. It’s a little odd to see Shizue show concern about what Haruhi’s future, but given that the latter’s been admitted to Ouran on a scholarship and is the top student in her grade, I guess she does have to worry about the school’s image. It’s just a little hypocritical when Kyouya/Tamaki are the top of the second-years and Honey/Mori are the top of the third-years, and they’re free to take part in the Host Club, but I guess the standards are different when they come from wealthy families. Nitpicking aside, the end result is Tamaki surprisingly agreeing with his grandmother, deciding to quit the Host Club, and paying off the rest of Haruhi’s debt so that she doesn’t have to take part anymore.
From a dramatization standpoint, I was pretty sold on the way the story was played up, especially when Tamaki kept the real reason from Haruhi by giving her the cold-shoulder and telling her it doesn’t concern her. After all, I was expecting something similar to the forced marriage in the anime — not having realized that was an anime-original ending at the time — which really didn’t concern Haruhi directly. It wasn’t until Kyouya correctly deduced that it was for Haruhi’s sake and told Tamaki that he sees right through his act that I even had a clue that this would be different. It was a refreshing change to say the least, as it made the rest of the episode a lot more enjoyable to watch. I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen and the drama was oozing out from the depressing state of the Host Club. If there’s one thing I could change, it would be to not have Kyouya tip us off that he had a risky plan in mind so that the situation with Tamaki would’ve seemed more dire. The writers may have been banking on viewers to think Kyouya’s plan only involved tipping off Haruhi that Tamaki’s is quitting for her sake, but that didn’t feel like something he’d have to tell the others about.
Again, these are just minor observations. There were actually a lot of little developments in the finale that I really liked, like Ranka’s little talk with Haruhi, Kyouya’s backstory about how Tamaki changed his view on life about being the third son in his family (completing the flashbacks on why everyone joined the club), and of course, Haruhi’s memories of everything Tamaki’s done for her. It was subtle, but there was a fair bit of emotional build-up in those scenes, which really made Haruhi’s tearful plea for Tamaki not to quit — and statement about how she’d rather get expelled — a lot more touching. Yes it was kind of sappy, but when you get caught up in all the scenes of a live-action drama, sappy is good. The only thing I’d knock it for is that the music and everything weren’t quite “good enough” to get me choked up.
As for why I kind of wish they held off on telling us about Kyouya’s plan, it’s simply because it took away from the surprise arrival of all their regular customers’ parents. There was already a bit of foreshadowing that Ayame was going to help in some way, so as per the above, I wish the situation felt a lot more dire for the Host Club. Tamaki’s grandmother was going to put a stop to the anniversary party and the slow-motion entrance of Ayame and Seika didn’t come off as much of a lifesaver as it probably should have. The mood quickly shifted to a lighter one with the hosts impressing all the mothers and Kyouya impressing all the fathers, so the happy conclusion with Shizue overlooking this incident lost some of its impact too. Still, I found the epilogue pretty cute with Haruhi falling for Tamaki’s sweet talk, after which Kyouya got the last laugh by tripping Tamaki into her. It was a little predictable, a little cliché, but not too shabby with the comedic finish. It only feels right to end things off on a lighthearted note.
It was an interesting live-action adaptation of Ouran High School Host Club to say the least. While I wish the Tamaki x Haruhi scenes got me more emotionally involved like Hana Yori Dango, there were still some pretty memorable moments. It’s not all that unexpected given that Ouran does play up the comedic side of things a lot more, so I’d hardly call it a disappointment in that regard. In terms of doing the original material justice, I definitely feel it’s been able to do that. The first episode was admittedly a little hard to swallow, getting used to the idea of all the actors/actresses in their respective roles, but it didn’t take too long for me to get accustomed to it. Yamamoto Yuusuke’s performance as Tamaki captured the essence of his character well enough for me and was pretty key to keeping me watching. Without a believable Tamaki, I dare say this show just wouldn’t have worked.
The amount of material covered was pretty impressive as well, considering that dramas are generally an hour long. They managed to squeeze in episodes about all the host members (including Kyouya in the last two episodes), plus various guests as well. Of those, the most impressive was undoubtedly Totsugi Shigeyuki’s portrayal of Haruhi’s cross-dressing father Ranka, which quite honestly, I had no idea how they were going to tackle at first. There’s no denying that the end result was still somewhat unsettling to watch, but considering that it’s a lot easier to draw a beautiful “okama” than to dress up as one, I think it’s only fair to cut the drama some slack. For me, it’s the performance that matters the most in this crazy context and the drama did really well there. In fact, episode seven was one of my favorites because of Ranka and how faithful it was to the manga/anime. If there’s one thing that this drama did really well, it’s undoubtedly its faithfulness to the source material. It may not be exactly what people imagined — especially if they don’t watch Japanese (or Asian) dramas to begin with — but it does capture the essence of Ouran.
As far as the television series goes, I’m not entirely convinced that it would do so well as a standalone introduction to Ouran though. Hana Yori Dango was a drama I enjoyed without any prior knowledge about it, whereas Ouran was something that I feel a lot of my enjoyment came from having watched the anime first. I already found it a little hard to “accept” the over-the-top Host Club members in the early parts of the anime, which means it would’ve been even harder to take live-action variations at face value. As per the above, it was already hard to get accustomed to the drama having watching the anime, so I really feel that this drama is best targeted towards those who are 1.) fans of Ouran and 2.) have watched live-action dramas before. If that sounds like you, then I would recommend giving this a whirl.
Theme Song Single & Movie CM