Haruhi Fujioka is a scholarship student at the prestigious Ouran Academy, a fictitious high school located in Bunkyo, Tokyo. Looking for a quiet place to study, Haruhi stumbles upon the Third Music Room, a place where the Ouran Academy Host Club, a group of six male students, gathers to entertain female "clients". During their first meeting, Haruhi accidentally knocks over and breaks an antique vase valued at ¥8,000,000 (US$80,000 in the U.S. English manga) and is told to repay the cost in service to the club. Haruhi's short hair, slouching attire and gender-ambiguous look cause her to be mistaken by the hosts for a male student. The hosts all agree that Haruhi would be a good host, thus making her join the host club. Ultimately she agrees to join the Club as a host herself (dressed as a male) in order to pay off her debt. She agrees to join since she does not mind hosting as long as she can pay the debt off faster. The hosts do later find out that she is, in fact, a girl. They keep this a secret, so no one will be able to tell. The Ouran Private Academy encompasses kindergarten to twelfth grade (along with a university). Most students come from wealthy families, but in special cases, merit scholarships are granted to exceptional students from a lower income bracket. The school's unofficial motto is "Lineage counts first, wealth a close second," meaning students with stellar family backgrounds but low socioeconomic status may be given top priority over those from rich families with lesser pedigrees.
Other than Haruhi, the other members of the club consist of the president Tamaki Suou, a student who treats Haruhi like she is his own daughter and is hugely jealous of anyone else who approaches her; Kyoya Otori, the bespectacled calculating vice-president who serves as the brains of the club; Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin, a pair of mischievous identical twins who like playing tricks on the other club members and playing up a homoerotic angle on their relationship; Mitsukuni "Honey" Haninozuka ("Hunny" in the manga), a small, cute boy who has a great passion for stuffed animals and eating cakes; and Takashi "Mori" Morinozuka, a tall, quiet boy who is protective of Honey. All the characters are parodies of shojo manga characters, with Haruhi serving as the "natural" type, Tamaki as the "princely" type, Kyoya as the "cool" type, the Hitachiin twins as the "little devils", Honey as the "cute shotacon" type, and Mori as the "strong, silent type".