Recently a friend of mine showed me the live action Japanese Drama or Jdrama for short of Ouran High School Host Club based after Bisco Hatori’s manga series. I saw the first three episodes of the Jdrama and my general impression of the Ouran live action is––unusual and not quite to my liking.
For anyone not familiar with Ouran, the story is centered around a girl named Haruhi Fujioka who finds herself saddled with a large debt to the Host Club after she accidentally breaks an expensive vase in the music room where she meets the Host Club members. To pay off the debt, Haruhi has to pose as a boy and work as a Host Club member. The Host Club is led by a beautiful but highly dramatic boy named Tamaki Suoh. Rounding out the rest of the members are the financially savvy, evil mastermind Kyouya Ootori, the mischievous twins Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin, silent and strong Takashi “Mori” Morinozuka, and finally the unnaturally youthful, cake loving Mitsukuni “Honey” Haninozuka.
A lot of what goes on in the Ouran Jdrama has a lot of weird and poorly done special effects that don’t translate well in a live action setting. For instance, the actor playing Honey-sempai is obviously an adult actor trying to project the original manga/anime character’s unusual youthful, grade school appearance despite being the eldest of the Host Club members. There are moments in the live action drama where Honey-sempai would hop on the back of either Mori or Haruhi. In mid-jump you see the actor playing Honey-sempai shrink down to chibi (small) size and then land on the back of either one of the characters I just mentioned. This effect looked awkwardly done.
Other effects that don’t translate well in an Ouran live action setting is when Tamaki gets his ego bruised or deflated by Haruhi. In the manga/anime Tamaki would get slammed or pinned down by the very words Haruhi uses to bruise his overly inflated ego. Or in general some overly done theatrics would be on visual display when Tamaki gets all drama king on the entire Host Club. The Jdrama tries to translate this in a live action setting by seeing the actor playing Tamaki get his whole body slammed against the wall or flattened by a word Haruhi has uttered spelled out in Japanese. I wish I could find a screen shot to demonstrate what I’m talking about, but you would have to at least see one episode of the Jdrama to understand.
Another issue I have with the Jdrama is how a lot of the Japanese actors chosen for the roles don’t quite match well with the look of Bisco Hatori’s characters. Of course having real people play characters based off of a manga/anime isn’t going to be a perfect match, but it can be close.
When a live action Jdrama was done for Hana Yori Dango a few years ago, I had no complaints over the Jdrama. It was well done and the actors selected were good matches for their manga/anime counterparts. Ouran is a whole other issue. I don’t mind the actors they chose for Haruhi, Kyouya, and Mori. They didn’t bother me so much. Who did bother me were the ones chosen for Tamaki, the twins, and Honey-sempai. I think the studio who did the Jdrama will never find the right actors to fill these parts. It’s next to impossible I think. Tamaki is the worst of the bunch.
The actor playing Tamaki in the Jdrama is not particularly good looking. The way Tamaki is drawn and described, he is the embodiment of a pretty boy. The actor playing Tamaki isn’t very striking.
As I watched the Jdrama I couldn’t help but think how uncrush worthy this guy is. If a guy like him were considered popular at my high school, I really wouldn’t get what the fuss was about. If you want to get technical about the Tamaki character, he has blond hair, blue eyes, and is a half-Japanese, half-French rich boy. For obvious reasons, the studio would not be able to cast an actor who fits this bill in Japan. They would have to go with a close enough actor for the part. Between the live action Tamaki and the manga/anime one, I would definitely swoon over the drawn one.
Ouran High School Host Club as a live action series just doesn’t work. There’s a reason why this series works better as an anime in my opinion. A lot of the crazy, over the top stunts that happen throughout the manga can be done as an anime. There are no restrictions in animation. You can defy logic and gravity.
What the Jdrama does just breaks the enjoyment of the story for me. Clearly the effects they are doing in the Jdrama is taking a literal translation of the animation and manga drawings and trying to make it work for live action. It fails miserably. I would have been happier if a studio in Japan decided to make another season of the Ouran anime. The anime was delightful to watch from start to finish. Where they ended it, a studio could have easily continued with the anime based on what Bisco Hatori has already published in her manga volumes.
If I have the chance I may just watch the rest of the Jdrama until the end for curiosity’s sake. I doubt I will suddenly like the live action based on what I have seen so far, but I do want to see how they handle the romance between Haruhi and Tamaki when they put all the craziness aside and get serious.