Ouran High School Host Club was a series I discovered flipping through different anime titles on Netflix. I gave it a watch and even though it was extremely apparent that it wasn’t aimed remotely at my demographic, it was one of the funniest and goofiest animes I had seen in some time. Flash forward several years and now the creator, Bisco Hatori, is bringing us a brand new manga series called Behind the Scenes!!
Is it good?
Behind the Scenes!! Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
Written and Drawn By: Bisco Hatori
Translated By: John Werry
Ranmaru Kurisu has had a pretty tough life. He’s never had any real friends, causes a lot of trouble, doesn’t feel like he lives up to his family’s strong, hard-nosed image and suffers from all sorts of personal issues. In particular, Ranmaru has a bad inferiority complex and always believes he is causing problems in some way. Now that he’s entering college, Ranmaru’s problems may cause more of a hindrance to his life than ever… but things may be changing as well. When he accidentally walks on to a movie shoot, he runs into a special group called the Art Club, who are all about making the special effects, costumes, and props. These people may be just what needs to become a better person…
From a story perspective, Behind the Scenes!! follows a lot of familiar beats we’ve seen from other series centering around a club: you have a new student at a school who gets swept up into the quirky, silly, but motivated club. At said club, the leader notices the new kid’s talent and makes special note of them. And from there, the new kid learns the ropes of the club, become a valuable member and grows as a person. The first volume of Behind the Scenes!! is very much like that and as a result the story feels a bit lacking in originality. However, like many good series out there with familiar premises and tropes, the writing and execution is able to make it all work notwithstanding.
Character-wise, everyone is very enjoyable and a lot of fun to read about. The main character of Ranmaru Kurisu could potentially be divisive for people given how easily he over panics and freaks out over every little thing (even more so than other characters in this type of story) — however, I find Ranmaru to be well written despite that and I see him as being rather relatable personally. I share (and maybe some of you readers have at one point in your lives as well) some of his worries about being inferior or upsetting others, not thinking very highly of my own work or self, and apologizing for things when I don’t need to — so these flaws (as unusual and melodramatic as they may seem) are understandable.
The other characters are not as complex nor do they have the same issues our lead does, but they’re all fun in their own ways. There’s the leader of the Art Group, Ryuji Goda, a very tough and intimidating individual (at least for someone like Ranmaru) who can be trouble and rather anal retentive when it comes to the group’s work. There’s Ruka Enjoji, the vice president, who is very driven when it comes to her work and very sweet (though a tad odd when it comes to her love for 90 degree angles). Izumi Samura, a laidback and smart guy who is always attracting admirers that he barely seems to care about. Finally there is Maasa Rokubu, a zombie enthusiast with a love for the macabre (and who is not very good with social skills), and also Tomu Tenba, who is super enthusiastic and may have been a criminal at one point. All of them are very amusing individuals and while we didn’t get much of a look into their own backstories, the first volume gives us a great impression of them regardless and drops hints for future stories that can involve them.
Bisco Hatori’s writing overall in Behind the Scenes!! Vol. 1 is great. The storytelling is solid all around and the pacing is just right. While there is plenty of exposition, the manga usually keeps it brief, explains it well, and makes it entertaining in some fashion (like the reactions from the Art Group hearing Ranmaru tell his backstory). The dialogue reads well and there are plenty of entertaining exchanges between individuals. There’s all of the film and special effects knowledge that’s dropped throughout the book that’s both interesting and informative, which is a plus for fellow film enthusiasts. However, the best part of the whole book is its humor. Behind the Scenes!! is so far a pure comedy that’s really funny. There are plenty of hilarious lines and dialogue bits between the characters, like when Ranmaru first meets the club in their room or when he’s getting to know Maasa more as she describes the horror of social events. There’s also visual gags and a lot of funny facial reactions that help sellscenes, like in the last chapter when Ruka is dealing with a very demanding director.
Lastly, there’s the artwork and it looks great as well; Hatori’s art has a lot of the staples you usually associate with Shojo-style artwork — light and dark filters, things made to look like they are glowing, and the way characters are drawn and designed — so thought the style is somewhat standard looking, it’s still eye-pleasing. The layouts are easy to follow, the characters all look unique from one another so you can tell them apart and the humor is depicted well. All in all, while it doesn’t stand out much in the crowd, Hatori’s artwork is easy on the eyes overall.
Is It Good?
Behind the Scenes!! Vol. 1 is a solid start to this brand new series. While it definitely runs the gambit of familiar tropes and ideas seen in many other series out there, it’s execution and strong writing easily make up for these problems. With a fun, likable cast and a great sense of humor, this is a new series that I’m really excited to read more of and find out where it goes next.