Sunday, August 07, 2011

Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 16 by Bisco Hatori

Mori's challenge to Hunny isn't just running all over the school- even their fathers have heard about it. While they speculate over the real reasons for the duel, the student body is humming with it. Even the Host Club is making and taking wagers on who will be the real winner. Takashi holds out for Hunny winning, as if Mori somehow manages to win, he will look like a total bully, picking on the much smaller Hunny.

The duel is held the day before their graduation, on a windswept ridge outside the school. And although Hunny fights quite valiantly, Mori is the winner when he plucks Hunny out of the air and puts him down outside the bounds of the judo ring. But what did Mori have to say to Hunny, and what concessions will he wring out of him in return for winning the fight?

At Graduation, Hunny and Mori reveal that they will be coming back to the Host Club- not every day, mind you, but as their schedules permit. Hunny has Haruhi baking ginger cookies for his graduation celebration, but as Tamaki goes in search of her, they literally collide coming around a corner, and in helping her pick up some of the cookies, their lips accidentally meet. Each is rocked by the kiss, Tamaki obsesses over it, thinking only of marrying Haruhi, but remembers that Haruhi doesn't seem to love him, and is sent into despair.

But even as he is forced by his grandmother to move to the main house, Kyoya is investigating exactly what the Suoh family's lawyers are doing, as he suspects they are up to shenanigans. And it is true- she is attempting to split up Tamaki and Haruhi, with the tacit approval of Tamaki's father. Tacit, because she hasn't said outright, allowing him to deny setting her on this course or knowledge of what she was doing.

Tamaki comes to tell Haruhi about his being allowed to move into the main house. She's startled to see him, thinking that he's come to press his romantic feelings on her, and so won't let him in. She's also embarrassed by their kiss, but is genuinely happy when he convinces her to let him in and hear the news. Tamaki thinks that his charm has finally won over his grandmother, but the truth is that she is moving him to the main house to have more supervision, and thus, more control, over him. It appears she has heard of his feelings for Haruhi and is determined to nip them firmly in the bud.

Tamaki only finds out when he goes to the main mansion to meet his grandmother. Though he promised to bring all the servants at the second mansion with him, they know that they will begin working elsewhere when he leaves. Kyoya finds out when he goes to the second mansion to see Tamaki, Not only is Tamaki denied the servants who once took care of him, but even his dog, Antoinette, is taken away, to be cared for by a servant. Additionally, he will not be allowed out of the house to visit anyone else without approval, and to ensure that he keeps his mind on his studies. When he comes out of the meeting with his grandmother, he is congratulated by his father. He asks his father to help him, but his father reminds him that his grandmother is the true master of the Suoh family.

Tamaki's cellphone has been taken away, and the phone in his room connects him to the butler, not an outside line, so he can't even call on his friends for help. Haruhi thinks Tamaki is enjoying himself with his grandmother, but even she doesn't know what is really going on until two weeks later, when she finally returns to school for the new term and discovers the truth. Not only is Tamaki prevented from making personal visits, he must return to the mansion directly after school, and the room in which the Host Club meets is being renovated.

Part of the renovation included changing the locks, so they cannot get back in. Tamaki is still glad to see the other Host Club members before classes, but his attempts to have lunch with him are derailed by a group of first-years wanting to have lunch with him every time. Meanwhile, Kyoya discovers that Tamaki's family is lying about his mother's supposed disease, and the doctor who is supposedly taking care of her isn't actually where he is supposed to be in France. Also, Tamaki's grandmother has been keeping him busy, and demands he quit the Host Club, to which Tamaki reluctantly agrees.

But at a picnic on the school grounds, Tamaki tells the others that he is leaving the club, and tells Haruhi that she need not continue with the club. He will pay off the rest of her debt. Haruhi is shocked and angered and packs up the rest of the food and leaves. Kyoya follows Tamaki and learns the real reason for his leaving. But Tamaki doesn't tell him that his grandmother threatened to have Haruhi expelled for concealing her gender from the rest of the school. Meanwhile Haruhi and the Hitachin twins go the Suoh offices and protest, wanting to meet Tamaki's father.

Back at Haruhi's home, Kosaka. the Suoh's lawyer, gives Tamaki's father a proposal from Tamaki's grandmother. Have Haruhi leave the country and study in the United States... or else. But while Tamaki's father meets with Haruhi and the Hitachins, he is unable to stand up to his own mother and allow Tamaki to go his own way. Then, Tamaki and Kyoya arrive and send the others away. Haruhi, not knowing what went on at home, arrives to do her homework, and ends up crying as she realizes how much she misses Tamaki.

Two short stories round out this volume- one about Haruhi's parents and how they met, and the second about how the Hitachin twins became interested in Ikebana (flower-arranging) and their aunt, who is a famous Kado.

This volume was definitely more tense. Tamaki is slowly being removed from his friends and everything he loves. His incredibly manipulative grandmother is seeking to make him over into her own image, and strangling his soul. In addition, she is trying to manipulate Haruhi's father through his old friend Kosaka. But is he strong enough to prevent her from running roughshod over his wants and needs, or will he follow through with her and die inside while doing it?

Haruhi's future is also on the line, and it's mostly unbeknownst to her, with Kosaka going through her father, and her father keeping her ignorant. But even if her father is a cross-dresser, he's not a pushover, and it remains to be seen how he reacted to this new development (besides dashing his tea into her face). Tamaki's grandmother is pushing at both ends; threatening to get Haruhi expelled, and offering to send her to the states to be schooled. Will either, neither, or both work? I am guessing that if it doesn't work, she'll try something else.

I am seriously starting to hate Tamaki's grandmother, and I suspect that Tamaki's other friends are as well. His father is standing revealed as a man with no backbone, because he won't stand up to his own mother, and she's trying to get Tamaki to roll over and do the same. But is Tamaki made of the same stuff as his father, or is he better and stronger than that? Will his strong-willed Grandmother get her way, or can Tamaki and his friends (and their equally rich and powerful fathers and families, somehow force a happy ending onto the situation? Highly recommended, I was unable to put it down.

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