Even within a community as tight and niche as the anime fandom, there are certain subcategories of Japanophilia that cause even the average otaku to raise an eyebrow or two. Dolfie collecting is one, as well as having a soft spot for body pillows or yaoi; but the single most alienating fandom for many is the J-drama one. Often associated with tearjerker plots and a strong focus on handsome young men with abs, it is understandable that J-dramas are often categorized under ‘guilty pleasure’, even by fans. The main reason why I have never ventured into the realm of Japanese live-action, however, is that it’s not animated. One of the main reasons why I love anime is the fact that animation thrives on spikey blue hair, fluffy mascot characters and over-the-top humoristic quirks. The elements that make anime unique often have to do with the animation, which is why I never thought that being an anime fan would automatically make me a fan of any sort of televised entertainment from the land of the rising sun.
All was good in the world of caring sod all about J-drama, but then came a surprising announcement: one of my favourite anime of all time, the fabulously campy and hilarious Ouran High School Host Club was getting a live-action incarnation. Strange, because Ouran was just one of these shows that heavily relied on its animation to create an identity of its own. Sparkles, rose petals, super deformed characters, over-the-top antics and Tamaki’s infamous reactions are things that immediately pop up in my head as soon as someone mentions Ouran. How could that possibly be made into a live-action series without being completely ridiculous? The answer was surprisingly simple: by just doing it. The Ouran High School Host Club drama might lose all of its cinematographic credibility with its overacting and offbeat special effects, but all of the charm of the source material is still intact. This show will wear the reputation of being So Bad It’s Good like a medallion.
Watching Haruhi, Tamaki and their clubmates come to life takes some getting used to. Performances are often inconsistent with characters sometimes acting genuinely brilliant –read: hammy– and sometimes just standing around nervously, waiting until they can blurt out their next line. In fact, the only performance that could be classified as consistent is Haruna Kawaguchi’s role as Haruhi, which is consistently bad. As expected, Tamaki steals the show once again, and while Yuusuke Yamamoto’s version of the Host Club King is devoid of any kind of nuance, it’s hard not to notice his utter glee when he gobbles up all of the scenery for himself.
Content-wise, the live-action Ouran High School Host Club stays close to the original work by Hatori Bisco, even closer than the anime on occasion. A lot of the plot and jokes you will have seen before in the Bones anime, but seeing all of it played out by people of flesh and blood makes it refreshing enough to keep you coming back. If the latest episode is any indication, it looks like the drama will cut, paste and mix up some scenes as well, as it combined scenes from an all too familiar anime episode with a plotline from the manga that never even made it into anime format. Without going into too many details, I’m a bit surprised that said plotline never made it into the anime, because it sheds some much-deserved light on pretty much the purpose of the Host Club in general.
While the Ouran High School Host Club live-action adaptation might divide people and won’t force a breakthrough for drama into the ‘mainstream’ anime fandom, I do recommend fans of the anime give it a try. The sheer campiness of it all is a thing to behold and enjoy, as long as you are willing to take this entire show with a grain of salt. It isn’t really drama, but then again J-comedy does sound kind of corny. Recommended.