I have a soft spot for high school anime even though many of these shows have tired plots and feature characters who need to have some sense slapped into them. Nevertheless, Ive found several gems while rooting among the dung heap.
One show that will be wrapping up soon in Japan is Ouran High School Host Club. It’s cute and funny although a relative wailed that the episodes were pointless and lacked an overall plot. Puhleez. The show is character-driven.
In order to pay off an expensive vase she broke, Haruhi Fujioka pretends to be a boy and entertains girls as part of the host club at Ouran High School which is a place of learning for the ultra-rich. She attends said school on a scholarship. The clubs members first treated her like a gofer then they realized she cleans up well so she became a host. But she’s a girl so they hide that fact from their clients.
Haruhi actually doesn’t give a rip about being a girl and seems to be dense when it comes to boys. I like her because she doesn’t fit the mold of the shoujo heroine who talks like a squeaky mouse and who blushes or stammers whenever a boy calls her name.
I must admit, a host club was an alien concept to me. I guess it’s like being an escort at a club where you entertain the ladies. In this case, the setting is a rich high school and the host club members are good-looking affluent boys who fill a niche the girls fawn over like the “cool guy” or the “silent type”. They flirt but thats all they do.
I find it ironic that I like Ouran because it can be viewed as a reverse harem – theres a heroine and several potential suitors. However, the heroine is anything but typical. Just watch it for fun. There are a few episodes that are heavy on the angst since it deals with the back story of the characters.
Another show worth a look is “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”, which is based on a series of novels. Its only 14 episodes and like Ouran, has drawn quite a following.
Haruhi Suzumiya is pretty, can play a lot of different sports, breezes through tests but can be very eccentric. She forms a club to look for aliens, time travelers and those with ESP. With the exception of Haruhi and the narrator, a boy in the same class as her, the other SOS club members aren’t human. Yep, you guessed it right. One is an alien, one a ditzy time traveler and one a boy with ESP.
Haruhi doesn’t know that though. And these beings view her as either a God, a crack in the time space warp or someone who can create data out of nothing. In short, she’s a special being who can recreate the world to her wishes. She doesn’t know that either and heaven help them when she does.
The show is funny most of the time and part of its charm is the way the narrator, a boy nicknamed Kyon, views Haruhi, the club and her crack-brained schemes. The show also jumps around a lot so the timeline is confusing. Hint. Listen to Haruhi in the previews and not to sensible Kyon.
One show that has been out on DVD for years is His and Her Circumstances which tells the tale of Yukino Miyazawa and Souichirou Arima who meet in high school, opt to change themselves and become a couple. They are smart, athletic and viewed as model students. But they are hiding behind masks.
Miyazawa is addicted to praise from teachers and other students so she studies like a maniac and runs laps in secret. She also claims to listen to classical music and pretends to read literature while using the books cover to hide a financial magazine.
Arima was abused by his mother and abandoned by his parents. He was raised by his aunt and uncle but the rest of the family thinks hell turn out bad just like his biological parents. So he strives to be the perfect son and student. Yet he harbors deep insecurities.
His and Her Circumstances is about first love, family, friendships and the choices we make. I recommend the show even though it ends with a whimper because the anime concluded long before the manga did. There are also a couple of episodes that came out of left field.
Another oldie but goodie is Fruits Basket. But Im not sure if Fruits Basket can be called a high school anime since the story is primarily about Tohru Honda and the Sohma clan. She and several of the characters are in high school though.
Tohrus mother was killed in an accident so she ended up living with her paternal grandfather. When the house underwent remodeling and Tohru needed a place to stay temporarily, she pitched a tent in the woods rather than impose on her two friends.
She was found out by her classmate, Yuki Sohma, who lives nearby with his cousin, Shigure. She agreed to cook and do household chores in exchange for room and board there. Kyo Sohma also joined their household.
The twist is that the Sohmas are cursed with the spirits of the Chinese Zodiac and a cat. If they fall ill or get hugged by someone of the opposite sex, they change into their animal forms. They revert back to normal but sans clothing of course. The show is at turns funny and dramatic. The writing is solid and many of the characters are complex.
So there you go. What more could you want in an anime? Japanese school girls, some chuckles, a bit of angst and characters with depth.
– Ruby G.