Kyoya Ootori – Ouran’s Eternal Third Son

If you’ve been following along with my character studies for a while, you may know that I choose generally hapless characters. People that just can’t seem to catch a break – or at least not the break I feel they deserve. I have featured a gallery of unfortunate misfits and put upon suckers. So why exactly would I ever pick Kyoya Ootori?

Kyoya_Ootori_with_a_drink

the again, who wouldn’t pick Kyoya?

On the surface, Kyoya has it all and is it all. He’s the smooth collected cool type. A genius and puppet master who makes all the decisions behind the scenes. Like all the members Ouran’s Host Club he’s also ridiculously popular and could have his pick of anyone really. Let’s face it, it really wouldn’t take that much to convince Tamaki. Especially if Haruhi is going to keep playing hard to get…

Sorry, I drifted off there for a second. Point is, Kyoya is a winner in anyone’s book so what’s he doing here? Well you see, when I really think about it, Kyoya never actually gets anything, he just acts like it. What’s more, the most aloof, even occasionally sadistic, member of the host club, is doing it all for his friends.

Let me explain. Kyoya is, in fact, the third son of the very wealthy and very influential Ootori family. And by the completely random bad luck of having been born after his two brothers, he has next to no status. Having grown up in a family where patriarchy is primordial, Kyoya himself also values such things above all else and has therefore worked himself to the bone to prove himself worthy. Even though he knows very well that it’s basically pointless. Even if he does win his father’s approval (a task which is next to impossible even by itself), it wouldn’t change in any way the fact that his brothers are going to succeed everything before he does. No matter what, they will always be more *important* to the Ootori group as a business and to the family itself.

kyouya 2

well that’s a bummer

This unfair state of affairs has been Kyoya’s reality since birth. He knows very well that it’s unfair but he also knows there’s nothing to be done about it. Kyoya’s a reasonable and logical man who knows there’s no point in wasting his energies on something that will give him nothing in return, but he’s also a proud man who feels the need to prove his worth even if it’s just on the principal.

This conflicting drive has got to be exhausting. Actually, we know it’s exhausting, not only has it saddled him with low blood pressure, just try cutting into the poor guy’s sleep time. I dare you. Try it.

And for all his efforts, it’s not exactly as if he’s earned his father’s respect. We don’t see that much of the Ootori family in the anime. However, you would think that Kyoya having turned the host club into an enviable and profitable venture would be impressive to the rest of the clan. Unfortunately, his father wasn’t shy about showing his disapproval of such (I’m guessing disreputable?) ventures both publicly and physically. It was a sad scene, guys. When Kyoya’s dad just hit him like that, it really struck a nerve with me.

kyouya and dad montage

heartbreaking collage by Kyouya-Ootori-Club

You wouldn’t blame the guy for taking out his familial frustrations at school, where he has some measure of control. But he doesn’t, not exactly. It’s hinted that Kyoya is vice president of the Host club by choice, as he prefers to pull the strings from the shadows, but that in effect he makes all the decisions. And that is, in fact, true up to a certain point. But when push comes to shove, Kyoya will defer to Tamaki when the latter really wants something. He also lets his old friend (with a pretty awful home life himself) take pretty much all the credit and a lot of the fun when it comes to the Host club activities. For all the behind the scenes machinations, he takes his duty as second in command, very seriously. And part of that duty is keeping the president happy.

But beyond that, it’s the core of Ouran Host Club as a story, that really underscores Kyoya’s true character. As a reverse harem, the basic premise of Ouran is that everyone is in love with Haruhi, and they are. All the hosts have at some point shown their interest in Haruhi.  The twins even openly pursue her. And Kyoya is not completely immune to her charms. He does let a few words slip here and there that betray both admiration and attachment to a level that is unusually deep for him.

kyoya blushing

maybe not that unusual after all

Yet he is the only leading character to not openly acknowledge his romantic interest in any way. It’s not that he doesn’t have a chance of winning Haruhi’s affections next to Tamaki. He’s not gracefully bowing out to let his friend have happiness. He’s not even throwing his name in. He’s the only one that does not bend to the basic conceit of the plot because it’s unthinkable for him to compete against Tamaki.

He has decided to quit before he even starts. And so, he never even gave himself a chance in the first place. For a romance anime, not getting the girl is one thing. Not even trying, well that’s just an all-out failure.

It’s difficult to see Kyoya as a victim because he refuses to see himself as such. He’s impassive and nearly perfect. His façade is so great, it may not even be a façade anymore. As far as anyone is concerned, Kyoya has everything. But I see it. The little injustices that add up. And all I have to say is, if ever Kyoya needs to vent a little, he should call me. Or if he doesn’t. He should just call me is what I’m saying.

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Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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22 Responses

  1. Ty-chama says:

    OK, so it has been close to five years since I last watched OHSHC, but one scene sprang to mind while reading this post. It’s the scene where Kyoya almost forces himself on Haruhi. Even after you learn why he did it, to prove a point about her being more vulnerable than she realises, this seems so uncharacteristic of him (I mean, he’s cool and collected, to a fault). After reading your post I can’t help but wonder if this was a rare instance in which his frustration, with all of the things you described, reached a boiling point? Maybe he wanted to prove to himself that he could have what he wanted, if he were to just reach out and grab it?

  2. Ah my heart broke 😭 he was always my favorite (well most anime boys with glasses are lol). Really nice and engaging post btw!

  3. Krystallina says:

    Kyoya’s such an interesting character. Great post!

  4. Kat Sade says:

    Did you ever happen to read the manga? I really wish the anime had been able to show EVERYTHING that happens with the characters. I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t been able to read it yet but I will say Kyoya doesn’t disappoint… I mean does he ever? XD

  5. A Library Archivist says:

    My favorite ep of the whole series is when he wakes up in the multistory department building and doesn’t remember how he got there. 2nd favorite is the beach ep in Okinawa. 3rd is the mountain resort episode, and 4th is the home visit. Those were wonderful. This series is in my permanent top 10 along with Cowboy Bebop and Martian Successor Nadesico and GITS TV, and Rune Soldier Louie and Sakura Quest and Yuru Camp and ToraDora and several other worthy shows. But Ouran is up there in the top 10 because so many people can watch it and understand.

  6. njmckay says:

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Kyouya! I loved the episode with the behind the scenes look on how he and Tamaki became friends. That’s backstory is wonderful and shows how much of a remarkable and wonderful friend he is.

  7. Dawnstorm says:

    It’s about time I re-watched Ouran. I remember so little.

    • Irina says:

      I thought it was charming. I liked the commoners coffee gag a lot

      • Dawnstorm says:

        I remember liking it, too. The characters, down to the side-charaters (like that guy with the handpuppet), were great. I just don’t remember very much about the plot. For example, I read your post and couldn’t remember Kyouya’s backstory at all. I have a very vague re-collection of “commoner’s coffe”, but I can’t place it. (Was that when they visited Haruki at home? Was it an earlier gag, an “establishing gag”? I can’t remember. I do have some sort of amorphous recollection, but I’m unsure if I’m mixing it up with anything else, equally vague.)

        That said, the moment I watch the show it’ll all come back to me. That’s how it usually goes with me. It’s usually not gone, just buried.

  8. Karandi says:

    I think he did earn his father’s respect by the end based on the conversation between Kyouya’s and Tamaki’s fathers. Not that he bothered to acknowledge that to Kyouya.
    I kind of see Kyouya as the one most likely to find his own happiness though. He was trapped in the mould of the third son, never wanting to out-shine his brothers, and then Tamaki happened. Kyouya found other avenues to flex his mental muscles in and show off his talent and he’s been running with it ever since. I think ultimately he’ll find a place for himself that he created with his own effort and he’ll actually be happy with that. Happier than those who are simply given something. Then again, that’s just how I saw him.

  9. 7mononoke says:

    Excellent and insightful! Kyouya is my favorite of the Ouran hosts. 🙂

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