Commoner Haruhi Fujioka has been accepted to the prestigious Ouran Academy on an honor's scholarship. While searching for a quiet place to study, Haruhi comes across what should be an empty music room...but turns out to be the home to Ouran's famous Host Club. Flabbergasted by a room filled with beautiful, extremely forward, superficial rich boys, Haruhi stumbles backwards into a very expensive vase and smashes it into pieces. The tone of the host club immediately changes, and Haruhi is roped into working as their errand boy to pay off the enormous debt that breaking the vase has created (8 million yen, or 80 thousand dollars). Oddly enough, the seemingly nerdy Haruhi is a natural at talking to the girls and keeping them interested, much to the surprise of the other members of the club. But there's something the frumpy dressed, ambiguous Haruhi forgot to mention - this seemingly male student is really a girl!
The Host Club is comprised of 6 extremely handsome high school students, each representing a specific type of male character to cater to their clients: third-years Mitsukuni "Honey" Haninozuka (boy lolita) and Takashi "Mori" Morinozuka (strong, silent type), second-years Kyoya Otori (a cool megane, and my personal favorite) and Tamaki Suoh (the princely leader), and first-year twins Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin (little devil type). Throw in Haruhi as the "natural" type and you have quite harem. Of course since Haruhi is really a female, this makes Ouran a reverse harem.
The anime follows the club through an average school year, exploring culture festivals, holidays, summer vacation, character relationships, and various commoner activities as well. The members of the club (particularly Tamaki and the twins) are obsessed with the aspects of a commoner's life...specifically Haruhi's life, which causes her unending frustration. The boys of the club are fairly stereotypical (though there's certainly nothing "average" about them), but also pretty overboard, which somehow makes them interesting and unique. Mori has almost no lines at all, Honey is cute almost 24/7, Kyoya is constantly cool and calculating, the twins are always mischievous, and Tamaki is always an idiot (though a kind and intuitive idiot). Haruhi however is about as far from the stereotypical female heroine as she can be, which is the entire point. In fact, she's about as uncooperative a heroine as you'll ever see. It's hard to have a romantic comedy when your heroine shows absolutely no interest in furthering the plot in any interesting ways. But that's what makes the show so great, and the characters themselves recognize her eccentricities and do their best to work with them.
It's hard for me to describe just how entertaining this show is. I laugh out loud every time I watch it, and I've seen it through several times. I love the art style and character designs (which are based on Bisco's art). The manga is hilarious too, but I prefer the way things flow in the anime, and the way the jokes play out. The manga is actually a mess as far as a timeline goes, with chapters drawn based on when they came out in LaLa magazine rather than a set time frame for the story (which is a bit problematic since Honey and Mori basically never graduate so they can stay in the club...which is a bit of a joke in itself); the anime streamlines everything and puts the chapters it uses from the manga into sequential order based on the anime's timeline. It creates its own ending (using some events from the manga, and creating others), but leaves it open in a way. Basically, the major issues are resolved, but there's no reason the story can't continue.
I was worried about the English dubbing at first, because it contains two of my least favorite voice actors - Greg Ayres as Kaoru, and Todd Haberkorn as Hikaru. I was also rather skeptical at Vic Mignogna's ability to hit Tamaki properly. In the end, I was rather impressed. Caitlin Glass voices an amazing Haruhi (the difficult to replace Maaya Sakamoto is the Japanese voice), and did an excellent job directing the entire cast. J. Michael Tatum is lovely as Kyoya (oh, be still my heart!), and both Travis Willingham and Luci Christian are great as Mori and Honey (respectively). Ayres and Haberkorn didn't bother me as much as I thought they would. Only Mignogna felt off somehow, using the same voice he uses to voice Fay in Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle. It's not that he was bad; he's a very good voice actor. There was just something off about him that is difficult for me to put into words. If, like me, you dislike English do-overs of theme songs, you'll definitely want to switch to the Japanese dub during the credits. I was not at all pleased with the English versions, but the Japanese versions are good songs on their own.
DVD extras include limited commentary, clean credits, English voice over outtakes, manga previews, and clear cases with double sided sleeves showcasing individual characters (so you can put your favorites on the outside).