Whenever I’ve watched Ouran High School Host Club there’s always been one burning question on my mind; a question which I’m sure many others have pondered upon as they watched lead character Haruhi mingle among the flamboyant hosts of Ouran High School, pretending to be a man as her friends fall in love with her. That question, of course, being “I wonder what this series would be like if all the characters had guns?”
Well after nine years of thinking, the answer has finally arrived in the form of Aoharu x Kikanjuu, the latest manga adaptation from studio Brain’s Base. At long last such a groundbreaking question need not be left to the realms of fan fiction.
Hotaru Tachibana is a high school president known for their strength and a keen sense of justice. However, despite a fondness for the school’s male uniform, Hotaru is actually a girl. One day when Hotaru is moving in her new flat, she meets her new neighbour Masamune Matsuoka - an attractive blonde man who quickly riles up Hotaru with his unabashed demeanour.
The next day in school Hotaru finds her best friend is broke after attending a host club, which she immediately storms down to believing her friend was conned out of her money. There she finds Masamune, who in turn challenges Hotaru to a “survival game” using toy BB/Airsoft guns. Despite her skills and confidence Hotaru is soundly defeated, resulting in her having to join Masamune’s survival game group “Toy Toy Gun” in order to pay off the damages she did to the host club. However, at the same time Hotaru is still trying to conceal the fact she’s actually a girl from the clueless Masamume.
So yeah, sounds rather like Ouran High School Host Club with guns doesn’t it?
Thankfully after the first episode these obvious comparisons begin to fade, as the show goes off in its own direction and takes a few unexpected turns along the way. The monetary debt that roped Hotaru into Toy Toy Gun has been completely dealt with by the third episode, leaving her to continue with the survival games by her own volition rather than it be used as a crux to ensure her continued participation. Meanwhile Hotaru’s identity as a girl still hasn’t been outed, with the show possibly looking to play that element out for as long as possible. This might be irritating if Aoharu x Kinkajuu was specifically trying to play up a romance angle, but right now it feels more preoccupied with the survival game side of things.
This is exactly where the show seems to have its heart in the right place, but hasn’t done quite enough yet to fully sell the premise. It’s hard to deny that the writers don’t have a passion for the subject - there’s a real attention to detail evident when it comes to gun models and which ones are best suited to certain team roles. However, while these details are sure to appease the gun and Airsoft fanatics amongst the audience, there’s not a whole lot of visual payoff for everyone else. For example, the first face-off between Hotaru and Masamune offers high-paced excitement which the following full survival battle doesn’t follow up on, instead mostly hinging on a last minute display of Hotaru’s physical prowess.
The characters are also a bit hard to pin down at this point, with none of them really seeming to settle down into a comfortable position. Hotaru fluctuates between being painfully smug (which makes the result of the first episode all the more satisfying) and unbelievably naive, while Masamune doesn’t feel like much more than the glue holding everyone together once his host persona is discarded. The main offender however is Toru Yukimura, the third member of Toy Toy Gun who is introduced properly during the second episode. While this first appearance paints him as a distrusting schemer who seems wholly unlikeable, his act is all forgiven by the end and in the following episode he seems more like the stereotypical otaku comic relief (the character being a manga artist that specialises in ero works). With the introduction of individuals who will presumably be Toy Toy Gun’s main rival at the end of the episode that darker side emerges again, but the jump from one personality to the other makes it feel like two separate characters that don’t feel like they quite connect in the way they should.
Coming from the studio responsible for visual delights such as Durarara!! and Mawaru Penguindrum, it comes as no surprise to see that Aoharu x Kikanjuu doesn’t falter in the animation department. While perhaps not as unique in style as the aforementioned examples, it still manages to look equally as crisp with some good-looking character designs. Credit where it’s due in the handling of Hotaru, who’s reveal as a girl would probably come as a big surprise if the voice acting didn’t heavily imply it.
While these first few episodes of Aoharu x Kikanjuu are certainly fun, they barely feel like they scratch the surface of where exactly this show is going. The patchwork set up seemingly derived from other shows looks to point it in a rather predictable direction, only for it steer off in a different direction when certain plot points prove to actually be little more than set up. Likewise these episodes are all about characters, despite their relationships suggesting that the show is going to be driven by the subject matter than the characters themselves. It’s a bit of a strange approach that doesn’t give you a whole lot to actually go on so far, but it does on the other hand give you the perfect reason to continue watching.
You can currently watch Aoharu x Kikanjuu in streaming form on Viewster.