This is a part of the Great Ouran Analysis, an ongoing, episode-by-episode critical analysis I’m doing of the anime Ouran High School Host Club. If you’re just tuning in, I recommend you start with the introduction post.
Episode 2: The Job of a High School Host!
Congratulations, we’ve made it to episode 2! If you’re still with us, you deserve a big hand. This strange little show may not be for everyone, but I love it, and I hope some of you do, too.
Like most of these early episodes, episode 2 focuses on establishing the Host Club; setting up “normal life,” if you will. These episodes are probably the weakest part of the series, but they’re necessary to really get a feel for the setting of the show. By episode four or five things will start picking up!
In this episode, we get our first real chance to see what a regular week at the Host Club looks like. Haruhi is still settling in, and Tamaki is having trouble accepting her comfort with continuing to be mistaken for a boy. In fact, with an approaching host-sponsored dance, he announces that if she can’t master the waltz in a week, he’ll reveal her gender to the school and force her to go back to doing regular errands for the club, since she’ll no longer be able to work as a host. The show—and probably Tamaki himself—are a little unclear as to whether Tamaki is jealous that Haruhi has stolen one of his regular customers, or if he’s just really attracted to her and wants her to dress as a girl full-time. It doesn’t really matter which, at least for this episode, since this plot line is dropped pretty quickly; it’s really just a plot-device to force Haruhi to attend the dance party.
The customer Haruhi accidentally “stole” from Tamaki, Kanako, has a habit of switching hosts on a whim. As Haruhi gets to know her, the club members figure out that the reason for Kanako’s host-hopping is that she’s trying to catch the attention of her childhood love Toru, who, despite them being betrothed, doesn’t seem interested in her anymore. They concoct a scheme to try and figure out Toru’s true feelings, and in doing so reveal another level of “purpose” for the club. They may be there to entertain, but their real goal (or, at least Tamaki’s real goal) is to make girls happy. Most times, that involves pleasant conversation over tea, but apparently sometimes it also involves elaborate match-making schemes.
Our main big symbol for this episode is teacups. They pop up a lot throughout the episode, since Toru is heir to a china supplier, but are also featured in our big cut-away symbol: Kanako sitting alone in a giant empty tea cup ride, very reminiscent of the Mad Tea Party ride at Disneyland. Indeed, once Kanako and her fiancé have reconciled, we get a shot of the ride all lit up, with Kanako happy instead of dejected. Not the most powerful symbol this show has to offer, but effective nonetheless.
As far as development of our main characters, we do get a few snippets. Tamaki probably benefits the most from this episode; we see that he cares more about the happiness of his clients than about the prestige of keeping them, and that he has pretty lofty goals for this club, beyond just wanting to pass the time and flirt with girls. He’s also pretty into Haruhi, but doesn’t seem to be acting on it the way you might expect a gorgeous, flirty rich boy to. He’s also kind of uncomfortable with her dressing like a boy, and freaks out when she uses male speech patterns (the word “ore” which Tamaki calls her out for using, is a masculine version of the word “I,” and is rarely used by women). Part of their plan to fix Kanako’s relationship revolves around Haruhi wearing a long wig and a dress and pretending to confess her feelings for Kanako’s finance, and it seems like the show is pushing the comparison between Girl Haruhi and Boy Haruhi. Haruhi is much more comfortable in her usual blue blazer than in the dress and heels they foist upon her, but Tamaki is pretty blown away by her transformation. And although nothing comes of Tamaki’s threat to reveal her identity (and really, not much tension is built around it), it does serve as a reminder that Haruhi’s tenure as a host does rely on her identity remaining a secret.
All in all, this isn’t the meatiest episode, but it serves as a good introduction to the club, for both us and Haruhi. We know we can expect elaborate scenery (they set up their usual room as a tropical paradise, complete with foliage and animals), and we know that ultimately, Tamaki and the other hosts really do care about the happiness of their guests. They’re also not easily fooled. One thing I didn’t mention from the first episode was the subplot where one of the guests tries to get Haruhi kicked out by pretending to be attacked (not to mention bullying Haruhi in previous scenes). Just like in that episode, where the hosts were fully aware of their guest’s devious side, they don’t take Kanako’s host-hopping at face value. They see that her cavalier attitude is really covering up an insecurity, and they work to help her.
Next time we’ll get to know even more about these characters, and get to see a test of Haruhi’s devotion to the club, in Episode 3: Beware the Physical Exam!