Ouran Koukou Host Club is a great example of a really popular show that’s all about the moe, but isn’t by Akamatsu Ken and isn’t even made for males. All the main cast are bishi, all of the male bishi have many slashable moments (most prominently the twincest done purposefully by the manipulative twins), and they even acquire a character meant to create or highlight any stray moe moments that might happen. It’s also one of the best examples of a “beautiful people’s club” in anime, and I can’t in good faith start reviewing that tag of anime without pointing this one out as the big contender.
The premise is that the protagonist, Haruhi, stumbles into a Host Club at her extravagant illustrious school for the rich (which she has gotten in via hard work and talent, because she is actually poor). She ends up forced to work there thanks to an accident, and due to her appearance is mistaken for a boy at first, and spends most of the show dressed as one anyway. They really rush the premise establishing, but I enjoyed the first episode anyway.
The show is in great part driven by the antics of Tamaki, the “King” of the host club. He’s got a huge personality, and a foolish streak a mile wide, but he really manages to drive the fun of the show well. He really is the thread holding the characters together, which becomes more and more apparent as the show goes on. Kaoru even starts making overtures about how he must be brilliant to manage to come up with a setting to get them to live happily ever after (and then later bemoans his foolishness for thinking it was anything other that idiocy and luck). The show, by the way, is entirely character-driven. If you don’t like the cast or watching them fool around then you’re not going to like the show. All of the episodes plots are about the antics of the club, backstory about the characters, or developing relationships between Haruhi and one of the other bishi, including the ending. Which was a nice ending, overall. It had a really good build up, climax and message. There is a element of sadness and of happiness and of maintaining the status quo. Also, I adored Kyoya’s role in it, and how he really whipped out his badassery, and learning gradually about it as the show progressed. AWESOME! … As you can tell, he ended up being my favorite character, though honestly, I liked them all quite a lot.
The character designs are stylized and simple, and unfortunately I think they occasionally they stick out against the often extravagant and detailed backgrounds. But the movement and overall animation is smooth and well done, though I don’t really understand the decision making process of their opening and ending’s animation. They don’t really exemplify the show at all, and seem almost the cheapest made thing for the first several episodes. Later on when the quality drops a bit they stick out less, but I was never a fan of more than the opening song. From time to time there is some unusual directing, such as the blinking arrows, which I like and find lighthearted and interesting, but again, nothing mind-blowing or amazing. It occasionally sinks to being cartoon-ish, even adding excessive sound effects and having monkeys and banana peels show up out of nowhere to trip up the cast. Some of it is in good silliness fun and some of it is just low-brow and bleh to me.
Overall, the show is really good at what it does, which admittedly isn’t much. If you’re looking for complexity, or A’s across the board, this isn’t the show. But it is an incredibly entertaining watch if you want some light-hearted fluffy shoujo fun, a little eye-rolling, blatant moe , and some well-done characters. From beginning to end the show has a great feel, delivers fun and foolish antics, silly costumes, unlikely situations, and of course, sparkling bishi. It’s a must-see for the genre, but not really for everyone overall.