A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ouran High School Host Club is an anime series that launched in 2006 adapated from the manga of the same title by Bisco Hatori. The series features sexual innuendo that will go over the heads of young viewers, as well as lots of LGBTQ+ subtexts throughout, some of which feels dated by today’s standards. The word "crap" is used from time to time, and there's some bullying and classist comments. Smoking is occasionally visible, too.
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What's the story?
Based on the book series of the same name, OURAN HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB is an animated show that parodies the traditional characters and common tropes Japanese shojo (romantic) manga and anime is known or. Haruhi Fujioka is a new and brilliant "common" student at the elite and luxurious Ouran High School, where he prefers to be left alone to study and think about his late mother. But the search for a quiet space leads him to an exclusive club run by the school’s most handsome boys, including Tamaki Suoh, the group’s popular titular president, devilish twin brothers Kaoru and Hikaru Hitachiin, the diminutive Mitsukuni "Honey" Haninozuka and his cousin Takashi "Mori" Morinozuka, who behaves like his big brother. Rounding out the gang is Kyoya Ootori, the club manager, fundraiser, and real power behind the group. Together, they're dedicated to marketing themselves as gentlemen, and as such host receptions, teas, and dances to entertain young ladies with charming and, when desired, romantic conversation. But when Haruhi accidentally breaks one of their prized possessions, he ends up in their debt, and unwittingly finds himself caught up in the group’s antics. But Haruhi isn’t who he seems, and soon some of the Host Club members find themselves thinking differently about their new member.
Is it any good?
This fun and edgy series, which is dubbed in English, is an early fujoshi, a humorous anime featuring a predominantly male cast and suggestive LGBTQ+ subtexts designed to appeal to gay relationship-loving (a.k.a. "shipping") fangirls. Haruhi’s gender-ambivalent presence, which pushes against more traditional female shojo roles, is a big part of the overall narrative, especially as it relates to the young women the Host Club caters to. But the young men also challenge the stereotypical roles male characters play in traditional teen-oriented fantasy romances. Their over-the-top personalities and antics also serve as fronts that hide their own complex life stories.
Ouran High School Host Club, which was originally released in 2006 (and first aired in the United States in 2009), has an important place in Japanese popular culture, because it set the standard for the genre. Much of the narrative still works today, but some of the LGBTQ+-related humor feels a bit dated. At times, the overall innuendo is a little over-the-top for young Western teens, even though a lot of it will go over their heads. But it's entertaining, and it reveals how Japanese manga and anime storytellers have pushed the envelope and evolved.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Ouran High School Host Club employs suggestions of potential LGBTQ+ relationships to entertain teen female fans. Is this type of narrative as unique today as it was back in 2006? Do U.S. audiences interpret fujoshi stories differently than Japanese audiences?
The name "fujoshi" was once considered a derogatory term, meaning "spoiled girl." How has this term been reclaimed over the years in Japanese culture? Are there any Western storytelling genres that have experienced a similar evolution?
What's the difference beteween anime and manga? Is there one you like better? How are they similar?
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