At a Glance: Ai Yori Aoshi
As an anime fan, the harem genre has kind of been the bane of my existence from day one. They seem like they only exist as wish fulfillment fantasies for straight male viewers. Most of the worst anime stereotypes and clichés happen in this genre. The harem usually consists of a stereotypical boring male anime protagonist, paired with various girls who are types or tropes more than they're people. None of the characters are multi-layered and the shows are usually painfully boring as a result, especially for the seasoned viewer who knows the result.
Now, even though Ai Yori Aoshi is a harem anime, and it does have some of the aforementioned problems that permeate the genre, I basically liked this show anyway.
In it, Aoi, a sweet, feminine, traditional type of girl, is in love with Kaoru, our Bland Male Protagonist. I found her to be a bit annoyingly passive, but her sweetness is put into contrast by additional characters, such as Miyagi, an independent businesswoman who makes sure Aoi is not being exploited or treated unfairly by anyone, and Tina, a loud, drunk, stereotypical American (from a Japanese perspective). Because the characters are so different, they play off of each other comically very well.
Ai Yori Aoshi
Manga by Kou Fumizuki
J. C. Staff
Number of Episodes:
36, +2 Bonus Episodes and a Christmas Special
One thing is that this is a very Japanese show. What that means for Western viewers is, a lot of the things in it that have to do with honor, familial duty, traditional values, and the Japanese perception of foreigners might not connect as well. I know that the first time I watched these first few episodes, some things didn't make any sense to me at all. Like the idea that it would be a "scandal" for two unmarried adults to live together, when in America, it's very common and normal for that to happen. It's interesting that Japan on one hand has such an abundance of pornography, and on the other hand has a very conservative outlook towards gender and sex at times. Tina is also kind of a bad stereotype of Americans and other Westerners from the Japanese perspective.
Other than that, it is a cute and charming show. It's less raunchy and more sweet than other shows in the harem genre, similar to No Need For Tenchi. It's funny and cute and I'd definitely recommend it for fans of this type of anime.